Sunday, August 31, 2014

BRP Ramon Alcaraz participates in 'Kakadu 2014' gunnery exercise in Australia

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): BRP Ramon Alcaraz participates in 'Kakadu 2014' gunnery exercise in Australia
BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's most modern warship, was one of the naval vessels which participated in the "Kakadu 2014" gunnery exercise last Aug. 30 in the seas of Darwin, Australia.

Ensign John Windy Abing, Philippine Navy public affairs officer for "Kakadu 2014," said BRP Ramon Alcaraz fired its 76mm Oto Melara gun while in a formation with HMAS Sydney and JS Hatakaze.

"Kakadu 2014" is expected to further boost the PN's surface warfare capability. It is the largest naval maneuvers hosted by the Royal Australian Navy.

Twelve nations are participating in this activity which started Aug. 25 and will end on Sept. 12.

The participating countries with navy ships/aircraft are Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Pakistan and Australia while Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vanuatu, South Korea, and India deployed personnel as observers.

It is held at the Northern Australian Exercise Area.

"The PN’s participation is expected to enhance its surface warfare capabilities and interoperability with regional navies. It will also be an opportunity for the PN to enhance cooperation, camaraderie, and good working relationship with the participating navies," Abing said.

He added that this is the second time the PN has sent its ship to participate since the exercise began way back in 1993.

The first time that the PN sent a ship was in 1999. PN observers were also sent in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

It can be recalled that in March 2014, Alcaraz’s sister ship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) was also sent to Indonesia to participate for the first time in the Multilateral Naval Exercise codenamed “Komodo” which was participated in by 16 countries.

The PN’s participation in multilateral exercises is an affirmation of its commitment in collaborating with other navies to promote peace and stability in the maritime region.

Message of GPH peace panel chair for talks with CPP/NPA/NDF on observance of 11th National Peace Consciousness Month

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Message of GPH peace panel chair for talks with CPP/NPA/NDF on observance of 11th National Peace Consciousness Month

"Peace is a collective aspiration. It is not the task of government alone. It is in solidarity that we aspire for peace; it is also in solidarity that we should work for peace.

We celebrate this year’s National Peace Consciousness Month aware of the gains of our Government's peace processes with the different armed groups in the country, but deeply cognizant of the need to move forward in our negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).

This year’s theme “Nagkakaisang Bayan para sa Kapayapaan,” encourages every Filipino -- rebel, soldier, student, housewife, professional -- to transcend ideological boundaries and respond positively to our people's yearning for peace.

Time and again, we have asked the CPP/NPA/NDF to join us in searching for fair and peaceful solutions to the issues that divide us. We have asked them to engage in talks that have a clear agenda and time-table, to talk not just for the sake of talking, but to reach specific agreements that will lessen if not eradicate the violence on the ground.

History has shown that it is through earnest dialogue, not armed violence, that we can create peace.

Government's doors have always been open to peaceful dialogue; we have not lost hope that we and the communist rebels will return to the table.

On this Peace Consciousness Month, let us take the time to reflect on our individual roles in creating peace in our families and communities, and pushing for and sustaining the gains we have already made in creating peace in our country.

There is nothing stronger than a nation uniting under a singular aspiration."

Statement of GPH peace panel chair in talks with MILF on observance of 11th National Peace Consciousness Month

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Statement of GPH peace panel chair in talks with MILF on observance of 11th National Peace Consciousness Month

"The Government of the Philippines (GPH) panel joins all peace advocates this September in the observance of the 11th National Peace Consciousness Month.

We celebrate the fact that, this year, we reached a major milestone in our nation’s history with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

We know that implementing everything in the signed accord would not be easy. But we are not deterred by the many challenges that lie ahead.

We remain steadfast in working toward our common goal of ending strife among our brethren, building unity instead of enmity, and putting in place the norms and institutions that shall serve as our instruments for good governance, prosperity, and security in Mindanao and the whole country.

It took trust and steadfastness on the part of Government and the MILF for us to have reached this far in our peace process.

Since the signing of the CAB, we have come closer to a well-developed vision of an autonomous Bangsamoro government that would work harmoniously and effectively with the Central Government and its constituent parts. The elements and modalities for this would be spelled out in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that the President will be transmitting to Congress.

We have instituted the various mechanisms on the ground that would undertake the socio-economic, security, transitional justice and reconciliation initiatives that we committed to jointly undertake in the Annex on Normalization of the CAB. Altogether, these programs would facilitate the transformation of erstwhile conflict-affected areas into demilitarized, productive communities of empowered men, women and children.

We enjoin everyone to keep the faith and accompany us in this journey, and thank those who have shown us goodwill and supported us in different ways, especially during the critical times.

Sustaining these efforts requires our unity and collective will. Peace is the way. Let us continue to choose peace."

Gov’t: Bangsamoro to promote collective security, respect diversity

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Gov’t: Bangsamoro to promote collective security, respect diversity

Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has said that the future Bangsamoro region in southern Philippines is envisioned to have a secular and democratic government.

It will promote collective security, not cradle threats of religious extremism as espoused by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other regional violent groups like the Jemaah Islamiyyah (JI).

“The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) aims to establish genuine autonomy in the south that respects the diversity of the people in the area, the basic rights of all, and collective security,” said Coronel-Ferrer.

“The intention is to put in place a better system that would be able to address security issues, such as those that involve extremist groups that may try to move in and out of these territories.”

The CAB, which was signed on March 27, is the product of the more than 17 years of negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is the legal instrument that will entrench the Bangsamoro region upon its passage by Congress and ratification in the envisioned core territory.

Coronel-Ferrer aired optimism that the “implementation of the CAB, which includes a normalization process, can contribute to enhancing collective security in Mindanao and in the country, as well as security cooperation with neighboring countries.”

“Alongside the creation of Bangsamoro, the normalization process will be jointly implemented by the government and MILF that aims for the return of conflict-affected communities in Mindanao to a peaceful life and pursue sustainable livelihoods free from fear of violence and crime,” she explained.

Normalization process has three main components, namely security, socio-economic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation.

The security aspect of normalization includes policing, gradual decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons, redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from or within the conflict-affected areas, and the disbandment of private armed groups.

For Coronel-Ferrer, the country now has an “opportunity to institute an autonomous government that will be stronger and more functional, and will make people feel that the right to self-determination is a right that can be realized through co-existence.”

She says there is now “a great opportunity to think about a future where there will be less political violence, less guns on the street.”

Acknowledging that there are other armed groups that want the peace process to fail and are jumping on any sign that might indicate failure, Coronel-Ferrer said they have not succeeded since "the political platform for them to be able to generate wider support is not there, precisely because the peace process is moving forward."

On their website, Luwaran, the MILF said that the group “condemns barbarism and savagery whether done by other groups, including the ISIS, or even by its own members.”

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim conveyed that their group advised their members to not get involved in that problem and focus on the progress and better prospects of peace efforts on the Bangsamoro.

AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, on his part, assured that the threat of ISIS is not in the country.

Meanwhile, while the review and discussions on the draft BBL continues with the aim of submitting to Congress a mutually accepted draft that will be endorsed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Cardinal Orlando Quevedo in Cotabato affirmed support for the “imperative” for peace between GPH and MILF to be successfully realized.

Car bomb found at NAIA3, four suspects arrested - authorities

From InterAksyon (Sep 1): Car bomb found at NAIA3, four suspects arrested - authorities

Four people were arrested after a bomb was found in a van parked at Manila's international airport, authorities said Monday.

The utility vehicle containing an "improvised explosive device" was found at the airport's terminal three car park at about 1:45 a.m. (1745 GMT) Monday, said a short report released by the National Bureau of Investigation.

Initial police reports said that the suspects were arrested while their vehicle, a white Toyota Revo with plate number WMK129, was parked at the terminal’s parking area B.

Sources said that the apprehended vehicle contained several gallons of gasoline and explosive materials.

"Four suspects were arrested," said the report, which was released by the airport's media affairs office.

The report gave no other details, and did not identify the suspects or say if the bomb had been safely dealt with.

The terminal, which for many years served only domestic flights but recently also began hosting international airlines, was operating as normal on Monday morning.

Airport authorities declined to comment on the incident as they said follow-up operations are ongoing.

Moro women to sign MOA with jail management to intensify Dawah in city jail

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 31): Moro women to sign MOA with jail management to intensify Dawah in city jail

In its bid to intensify Dawah (preaching) among the Moro inmates in General Santos City Jail, the Muslim Women of General Santos City (MUWOGEN) is set to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)-Gensan within this month of September.
Aida Seddic, MUWOGEN President, said their group decided to consider the conduct of weekly Dawah in the city jail upon the request of the male and female Moro inmates.

In the past couple of years, MUWOGEN officers and members used to reach out female Moro inmates once every Ramadhan bringing Iftar (food taken to break the fast) and conducting Dawah session for their sisters in faith in the correctional facility.

Seddic said the inmates need spiritual guidance. “In our Dawah session conducted a day after the Eidul Fitr, we gave inputs on Islamic values and the essence of covering the Aurat.”

She also learned that some Moro inmates attend preaching activities by some Pastors. “We believe that as Muslims, we have social responsibility to bring Islamic education to our brothers and sisters in the city jail.”

Created in 1995, MUWOGEN is the longest surviving and most active Muslim women group in General Santos City.

It was organized by Muslim women professionals, housewives, businesswomen and community leaders who saw the need for them to be united and help in addressing issues affecting the Muslim society.

Seddic disclosed that their group will tie up with some Asatidz who can volunteer to handle Muhadharah for male Moro inmates.

“We have Ustadza Mariam Cayanong, an Arabic teacher and preacher, who will take charge of the women,” she added.

Seddic said the weekly preaching session will start once the MOA is signed. “There will be two separate venues, one for the male and another for the female,” she said.

She is confident that their officers and members will continue supporting the program through provision of snacks and mobilization.

Armed group raids guard post in a Bukidnon

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Sep 1): Armed group raids guard post in a Bukidnon

SUSPECTED members of the New People's Army (NPA) swooped down on the security post of a privately-owned subdivision in Bukidnon and took away their firearms shortly before noon on Saturday, authorities said.

The military said around 40 to 60 Maoist insurgents raided a subdivision in Barangay San Miguel, Manolo Fortich town around 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Major Christian Uy, Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesperson, said armed rebels from the Guerrilla Front 4B disarmed security guards manning the outpost of Pineapple Country Homes.

Uy furthered the NPAs carted away four shotguns owned by the guards before fleeing toward Barangay Santo Niño in Manolo Fortich heading to a boundary of Malitbog town.

He added the military and police established road blocks along the major highway in Manolo Fortich while rebels also put up blocking forces on the interior roads leading to the subdivision in the village of San Miguel while the raid on the security outpost was in progress.

Uy added the guerrilla members' purpose was only to steal firearms since there was no other report of damages.

In a report of the Philippine News Agency (PNA), police said residents in the village scampered and padlocked their houses as the raid progressed.

Uy said the Philippine Army's First Special Forces Battalion has been deployed to conduct pursuit operations and prevent the rebels from staging another attack in Manolo Fortich and Libona towns where a good number of multinational companies have been operating.

In 2013, NPA rebels raided and burned equipment owned by Del Monte Philippines Inc. (DMPI).

Last week, they also raided the company’s banana plantation in Tubay town in Agusan del Norte.

Lately, the Maoist rebels staged series of raids in Bukidnon and executions on politicians who allegedly had been actively campaigning against the communists.

‘Prisoners of war’

In a YouTube video uploaded by Ang Kalihukan, the official publication of the NCMRC, on Saturday, two officers of the AFP who were seized by the NPA rebels last August 22 in Impasug-ong town in Bukidnon appeared on video pleading for the Philippine government and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help their immediate release.

"Akong panawagan sa opisyales sa gobyerno labi na sa AFP nga unta matabangan ‘mi makagawas sa among kahimtang nga naa ‘mi sa kamot sa NPA. Unta masabtan nila among sitwasyon karon nga naa ‘mi sa lasang. Unta tabangan ‘mi nila unsaon pagpadali ug pagawas (We are calling on government officials, especially the AFP officials, to help free us from the hands of the NPA. We hope they understand our situation since we are held captive here in the mountains, and that they will help us for our immediate release)," Private First Class Jerrell Yorong, one of the captive soldiers, said in the video.

Private First Class Marnel Cinches assured his family that they are taken care of by the insurgents.

Yorong and Cinches of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) under Bravo company were captured by the NPA and considered by the rebels as their prisoners of war.

Lieutenant Norman Tagros, 8IB's Civil Military Operations chief, told this paper previously that Cinches and Yorong were not in uniform and unarmed when the insurgents in bonnets flagged them down on board a motorcycle.

The captives are assigned under the Community Organizing for Peace Development in Barangay Bontongon, Impasug-ong.

In an emailed statement, Allan Juanito, NPA-North Central Mindanao Region spokesperson, said Cinches and Yorong are being investigated on possibly committing human rights violations against the people in the communities where they had been assigned and if there are other complaints against them too.

Kahumbo shot dead in ‘black ops’

From The Star Online (Aug 31): Kahumbo shot dead in ‘black ops’

KOTA KINABALU: Notorious cross-border kidnapping mastermind Apo Kahumbo was shot dead by Philippine security forces within 72 hours of his arrest in what is suspected to be a black operation to prevent his eventual release.

The 44-year-old was killed when he purportedly tried to escape while being escorted under heavy guard from a court appearance in Bongao, the administrative capital of Tawi Tawi islands in southern Philippines.

Tawi Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido confirmed yesterday that Mobin Sahibudin Hailil alias Apo Kahumbo was killed by Philippine police on Friday.

He said investigations would be carried out on the shooting of Kahumbo, who was arrested for illegally possessing a .45 Colt loaded with six bullets and an MK2 grenade at a mobile checkpoint at Sanga Sanga village in Tawi Tawi province on Tuesday.

A Philippine police report seen by The Star stated that two security teams from Bangao had escorted Kahumbo to the provincial prosecutor’s office to charge him with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

According to the report, Kahumbo was charged before a judge and later transported along a road at Pagasa village in Bangao to the provincial jail.

“The suspect pulled the firearm of a security team member and resisted. That gave reason for the security team to shoot Kahumbo, resulting in his instant death.

“Team medics immediately applied first aid and brought Kahumbo to the hospital but he was declared DOA (dead on arrival).”

Intelligence sources in Philippines and Malaysia suspected that Kahumbo might have been killed in a “Black Ops”.

They said that it would have been difficult to find him guilty in court as he had the protection of someone influential in southern Philippines.

“It would be difficult to find him guilty on either illegal possession of weapons or kidnapping.

“Security forces know that he would eventually be freed and that is why they executed him,” said one source.

Kahumbo is believed to be one of the masterminds behind several cross-border kidnappings and was a member of Abu Sayyaf, which held hostages snatched from Sabah until ransom was paid.

Kahumbo’s base of operations was the Tawi Tawi chain of islands, less than a half hour from Sabah by boat.

Kahumbo and his group of gunmen were also connected to the notorious gang of kidnappers headed by the Muktadil brothers, who are believed to be responsible for the recent spate of kidnappings from Sabah.

The sources said Kahumbo might have been involved in the Pulau Mabul attack on July 12 when Filipino gunmen shot dead Marine Police Kpl Abdul Rajah Jamuan, 32, and kidnapped his colleague Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26.

Cross-border kidnappings unlikely to cease despite mastermind's death

From The Star Online (Aug 31): Cross-border kidnappings unlikely to cease despite mastermind's death

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian and Philippine intelligence agencies do not expect the death of kidnap mastermind Apo Kahumbo to have much impact on cross-border kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah.

According to them, the key kidnap-for-ransom groups are lying low and waiting for an appropriate time to strike again.

"The abduction threat in Semporna, Kunak and Lahad Datu is still there as the main group in southern Philippines has yet to be eliminated," a Malaysian intelligence source said.

"The Muktadil brothers are still alive," he added, referring to the family that security forces believe is behind most of the kidnappings in Sabah's east coast.

On Aug 23, police named them as the main suspects in a series of cross border kidnappings and murders in the area.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abd Rahman identified two of the six brothers as Nilson Muktadil, in his 30s, and Badong, in his 40s. He said that authorities are trying to identify a third person, believed to be their accomplice.

Badong, the leader of the Muktadil brothers, is said to be a protégé of Mobin Sahibudin Hailil, also known as Apo Kahumbo.

In Friday, Kahumbo was shot dead by Philippine security forces within 72 hours of his arrest in what was suspected to be a "black operation" to prevent his eventual release.

The 44-year-old was killed when he purportedly tried to escape while being escorted under heavy guard after a court appearance in Bongao, the administrative capital of Tawi-Tawi islands in southern Philippines.

Tawi-Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido said investigations would be carried out on the shooting of Kahumbo, who was arrested for illegally possessing a .45 Colt handgun loaded with six bullets and an MK2 grenade at a checkpoint at Sanga-Sanga village on Tuesday.

Intelligence sources believe the Kahumbo gang, the Muktadil brothers and a group known as Anjang-Anjang were supporting each other to carry out cross-border kidnappings.

They said Kahumbo's role was to transport hostages to Jolo island and hand them over to the Abu Sayyaf group.

A Philippine intelligence source said the death of the 44-year-old Kahumbo might "reduce to a certain extent" the kidnapping threat from southern Philippines.

"But it is almost impossible to reduce the threat to zero. There are other kidnap-for-ransom groups which are more aggressive than Kahumbo," he added.

Intelligence sources fear copycat groups could emerge due to the lucrative ransoms received for hostages snatched from Sabah.

Hostages taken from Sabah are considered to be of higher value than Filipinos kidnapped in southern Philippines, they said.

The sources said the death of one or two leaders of the kidnap groups would not jeopardise the safety of the hostages held by Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who expect to collect a high ransom for them.

Two Malaysians – Konstable Zakiah Aleip, 26, who was abducted in Pulau Mabul on July 12, and Chan Sai Chuin, 32, from a fish farm at Kampung Sapang in Kunak on June 16.

They are now being held in Jolo island by Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alhabsi Misaya.

Phl-US observe 63rd anniversary of MDT

From the Philippine Star (Aug 31): Phl-US observe 63rd anniversary of MDT

The United States highlighted yesterday the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines and reiterated its “ironclad” commitment to defend its former colony.

“Today is the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Philippines and USA Mutual Defense Treaty. Our commitment is ‘ironclad’ – Pres. Obama,” US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said on his Twitter account in celebration of the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the defense agreement which provides the framework for the Philippines-US military cooperation and partnership.

The US said the MDT serves as the cornerstone of the relationship with the Philippines and a source of stability in the region.

Under the MDT, the Philippines and the US are committed to defend each other in case of an armed attack on the territory of either of the parties, or on the island territories under its jurisdiction in the Pacific or on its armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.

During his visit to Manila in April, US President Barack Obama said his country has an ironclad commitment to defend the Philippines from aggression.

Soldier killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf

From ABS-CBN (Aug 31): Soldier killed in clash with Abu Sayyaf

An Army Special Forces officer was killed in a clash with members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in Lantawan, Basilan on Saturday night.

The victim was identified as Capt. Mark Zember Gamboa, commander of the Army's 14th Special Forces Company under the 4th Special Forces Battalion.

A military report said Gamboa and his men were on a combat patrol at the vicinity of Basak Tiki in Barangay Calagusan when the fighting broke out with an undetermined number of terrorists at around 6:20 p.m.

The terrorists were led by one Halang, alias Commander Jeck.

It was not clear whether anyone from the terrorist group was killed or injured.

Gamboa, a member of the Junior Chamber International-Basilan, Inc. (JCI), died from gunshot wounds.

“He died in the line of duty, serving the community he has grown to love and care for. He will be missed. His selflessness and friendship will be remembered,” the JCI said of Gamboa, a native of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

The attack came after an August 21 ambush in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan, where 10 soldiers from the government were injured.

The ambush in Ungkaya Pukan was perpetrated by an Abu Sayyaf group led by Furuji Indama, who was reportedly out to avenge recent losses his group suffered from the military.

NPA releases video of abducted soldiers

From ABS-CBN (Aug 31): NPA releases video of abducted soldiers

[Video: NPA releases video of abducted soldiers

The North Central Mindanao Regional Command of the New People's Army (NPA) on Sunday has released a video of the two abducted soldiers in Bukidnon.

The two soldiers identified themselves as PFC Marnel Cinches and PFC Jerrel Yorong.

The soldiers' hands were tied, and they were shown reading something from a piece of paper.

They are appealing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and government officials to pay attention to their condition to facilitate their release.

They also told their families not to worry as they are safe and are treated well by the rebels.

Both Cinches and Yorong are members of the Bravo Company of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. They were abducted last August 22 while performing community service in Barangay Bontungo, Impasug-ong in Bukidnon.

Meanwhile, Major Christian Uy, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, expressed relief that the two soldiers are safe and alive.

He also asked the rebels to release the soldiers as they were unarmed and were only helping the residents in the area.

DILG provides livelihood assistance to 66 ex-rebels in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 31): DILG provides livelihood assistance to 66 ex-rebels in Bukidnon

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II on Sunday said that a total of 66 former rebels and their families have received livelihood assistance worth P65,000 each under the government's Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Roxas along with Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. handed the checks to the former rebels during simple rites held at Camp Osito Bahian, the home of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, also known as Peacemaker Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, based in this city.

Twenty-six of the former rebels have returned to the fold of the law as early as 2009 while the latest batch of 40 were among those who laid down their arms on March 22, 2014, Roxas said.

During the program, Zubiri pledged to provide additional livelihood support of P50,000 for each of the 66 former rebels.

He appealed to Roxas to help facilitate the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In behalf of the government, Roxas welcomed the rebel returnees to the fold of the law.

The DILG Chief said the implementation of CLIP in partnership with the local government units (LGUs), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), PNP, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and civil society organizations (CSOs) demonstrates the Aquino administration’s commitment to pursuing peace and development amid the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

CLIP is being spearheaded by the DILG as part of the government’s peace and development efforts across the country.

He urged the CLIP beneficiaries to undergo counseling to be prudent and wise in spending the livelihood support awarded by the government.

"Sa ayaw at gusto nyo, magiging ka-partner nyo si Mar Roxas para hindi na kayo kailangang bumalik sa bundok (Whether you like it or not you will partnered with Mar Roxas and you will not go back in mountain) ," Roxas said.

He said he will help find ways for the former rebels to find sustainable source of income for the former rebels.

He also promised Zubiri to help facilitate the resumption of the peace talks with the NDFP.

Roxas said that the government remains steadfast in its resolve to address the insurgency problem in the country through good governance and reform anchored on the “Daang Matuwid” thrusts of the Aquino administration.

The DILG’s role in the peace and development efforts of the government was institutionalized by the signing of the the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2014-01 between the DILG and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on May 15, 2014.

Before CLIP, the government has implemented similar programs to encourage former rebels to return to the fold of the law. These include National Reconciliation and Development Program ( RDP) in 1986, New NRDP in 1992; National Program for Unification and Development (NPUD) in 1994, and Expanded NPUD “Balikloob Program” in 2000 and the Social Integration Program implemented from 2007 until 2010.

The event was highlighted by the ceremonial turn-over of firearms of the former rebels to government authorities and pledge of allegiance to the Constitution, which was witnessed by officials and representatives of CLIP-implementing agencies, which incidentally marks the Centennial Anniversary of Bukidnon.

Among those turned over were long and short firearms belonging to the former rebels, including M-14 and M-16 automatic rifles.

Joining Roxas and Zubiri, who is also the chairman of the Bukidnon-CLIP committee, are Senator Teofisto Guingona, DILG Region 10 Director Atty. Rene K. Burdeos, P/Chief Supt. Isagani F. Genabe, chief of the PNP Region 10 Office, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 10 chief Supt. Lindy C. Lauzon, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) Region 10 chief, S/Supt. Cesar F. Balderas and Col. Francisco Pabayo, the Commanding Officer of the 403rd Infantry Brigade.

Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights foil Syrian rebels' ramming attempt in Position 68

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 31): Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights foil Syrian rebels' ramming attempt in Position 68

Despite being outnumbered two-to-one and facing a breach in their defenses at Position 68 at the Golan Heights, the 40 Filipino peacekeepers manning the outpost bravely stood their ground and literally made their escape using the cover of darkness early Sunday morning (Syrian time).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Peacekeeping Operations Center head Col. Roberto Ancan reported that the situation of Filipino forces in Position 68 got graver when three Syrian rebels' pick-up trucks mounted with ZSU-23 anti-aircraft guns tried to ram the gates of the outpost in an attempt to breach the defenses.

"They rammed the gates of Position 68 using three pick-up trucks equipped with ZSU-23s in an attempt to breach the defenses but our soldiers fought and fired, preventing them from making a breakthrough," he said in Filipino.

The Filipino soldiers' seven-hour long firefight with the Syrian rebels started at 6 a.m. Saturday (Syrian time).

Over 100 Syrian rebels made this attack. It was not immediately clear whether they sustained any casualties in their fight with the Filipino soldiers.

Reports from the ground initially stated that Position 68 was surrounded from all sides by the Syrian rebels.

Mortar rounds were also fired by the insurgents in a bid to force the Filipinos to surrender.

However, this proved to be of no avail as Position 68 was heavily fortified.

Aside from the bravery and determination of the Filipinos to stand their ground, Ancan said the Syrian military's providing indirect fire (artillery) support to the Filipinos prompted the rebels to halt their attacks and seek cover.

He stressed that this was done after the Syrian rebel positions were provided to the Syrian military.

Ancan said that 40 Filipino troopers manning Position 68 were able to make their getaway aided by the cover of darkness.

Most of these individuals are trained Scout Rangers.

Ancan also disclosed that they are still to determine whether casualties were sustained by the Syrian insurgents which were said to consist of members of the Al-Nusra Front, a known affiliate of terror group Al-Qaeda.

The Filipino soldiers managed to make an escape from their Syrian attackers at around 1:40 a.m. Sunday (Syrian time), taking with them all their equipment and arms.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said that the Filipinos' escape from Position 68 was aided by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), Syria, Israel, the United States and Qatar.

He added that the 40 Filipino troopers from Position 68 hiked some 2.3 kilometers to more secured UN positions in the Golan Heights which the Philippine contingent reached after an hour and 40 minutes of walking.

Prior to this, Zagala said that Syrian rebels negotiated anew with the Filipino troopers, asking the latter that they surrender their weapons in exchange for their safe passage.

But again, the Filipinos in Position 68 rejected this demand and stood their ground.

Ancan also declined to comment on whether the Filipino soldiers will be redeployed to Positions 68 and 69 once the situation stabilizes.

But he said that doing so would result in the Filipino troopers holding a "disadvantaged position."

Ancan also stressed that the UNDOF will need to coordinate with the Philippine government before ordering the deployment of Filipino troops in the above-mentioned outposts.

"That will be a matter for the government to decide as it is of national interest to ensure the safety and security of our troops," the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center head said.

Ancan also said that they have no information on the whereabouts or conditions of the 44 Fijian peacekeeper troopers who were earlier captured by the Syrian rebels after yielding their weapons last Thursday.

The stand-off resulted from the refusal of Filipino troopers to surrender their arms and positions in the Golan Heights.

Prior to the assault on Position 68, Ancan said that Filipino soldiers in Position 69, numbering 35, were extricated from their location with the help of Irish troopers equipped with armored personnel carriers and other Filipino troops from Position 80.

He added that this attempt was greeted by sporadic fire from the Syrian rebels but despite this harassment, all of the men manning Position 69 were safely extricated.

Ancan attributed the success of this operation to the fact that the Syrian rebels were only organizing during extrication attempt and were unable to offer serious opposition.

He also stressed that the rebels did not have time to place landmines near the gates of Position 69, unlike what they did in Position 68.

Troopers from Position 69 were immediately taken to Camp Ziuoani where they were later reunited with Filipino soldiers manning Position 68.

Officer killed in Basilan clash with ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 31): Officer killed in Basilan clash with ASG

A military officer was killed following an encounter with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands in Basilan Saturday evening.

The incident took place 6: 20 p.m. in the vicinity of Sitio Basak Tiki, Barangay Calagusan, Lantawan town, Basilan.

Killed in the clash with ASG terrorists led by one Halang alias "Cmdr Jeck" was a certain Captain Gamboa.

The former was heading the security operations against the terrorists.

In the issuing firefight, an undetermined number of casualties were inflicted on the ASG.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights now ‘repositioned’ in safe camp --Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 31): Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights now ‘repositioned’ in safe camp --Palace

After almost a two-day standoff with Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebels, the Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights are now safe and repositioned in Camp Ziuoani, a Malacanang official said on Sunday.

“As of 7:00 a.m. today, lahat po ng mga Filipino peacekeepers mula sa Position 68 at Position 69 ay naka-reposition na sa Camp Ziuoani,” said Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a press briefing over radio station dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

On Aug. 29, Syrian rebels overran the position of Fijian United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), taking their firearms and holding the 44 Fijian peacekeepers hostage.

Since then, the rebels advanced and surrounded the positions held by Filipino peacekeepers, until they attacked on Saturday (Aug. 30) morning.

The Filipino peacekeepers early Sunday morning were able to escape and reposition themselves in Camp Ziuoani.

Coloma said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang lauded the Filipino peacekeepers for their gallant effort in defending their positions.

“Pinapurihan nina Secretary Gazmin at General Catapang ang ating mga magigiting na kawal sa kanilang matatag at ‘di matinag na determinasyong ipagtanggol ang lugar sa Golan Heights na sakop ng kanilang responsibilidad. Patunay ito sa determinasyon ng Pilipinas na gampanan ang commitment nito sa United Nations,” said Coloma.

The Communications Secretary also thanked the nation-members of UNDOF together with the government of Syria, Israel, Qatar and the United States for their support to defuse the tension in Golan Heights.

The UNDOF is composed of 1,223 troops from six countries: Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

Inside Filipino troops' 'greatest escape' in Golan

From Rappler (Aug 31): Inside Filipino troops' 'greatest escape' in Golan

The crisis that began with the standoff on August 28 is over for now – but the situation in Golan Heights remains tense as Syrian rebels continue holding 44 Fijian peacekeepers

WAR ROOM: In Manila, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was closely monitoring the situation in Golan Heights. Photo by AFP-PAO
WAR ROOM: In Manila, the Armed Forces of the Philippines was closely monitoring the situation in Golan Heights. Photo by AFP-PAO

For an hour and 40 minutes, under the cover of darkness, about 40 Filipino peacekeepers evacuated their post in Golan Heights and stealthily walked 2 kilometers to another UN post carrying the firearms and ammunition that the Syrian rebels wanted them to surrender, and some personal belongings.

It was midnight in Golan on a Sunday, August 31. It was quiet and cold. There was no telling if one of about 100 Syrian rebels, who earlier engaged them in a 7-hour heavy firefight, will catch them leaving Position 68 from the back.

But there was no resistance. A ceasefire was in place and the rebels, it seems, have taken shelter from the cold, officials said.

In Manila, it was 5 am. About 20 generals were gathered inside the war room in Camp Aguinaldo, monitoring every step of the way. The mood was tense while Colonel Roberto Ancan, commander of the peacekeeping operations center in the Philippines, was on the phone with one of the troops.

"I have a contact with the troops on the ground. We were verifying what their plan was. The chief of staff was also on the situation, approving their respective action," Ancan told reporters after the mission.

When they got confirmation that the troops reached a secure location, the generals burst into applause.

Catapang's first crisis

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr called it the "greatest escape."

"It came to a point that we have to leave in the middle of the night. We escaped from the Syrian rebels in the middle of the night while they were sleeping," said Catapang.

The chief of staff, flanked by the other generals, appeared before the media shortly after the successful escape mission, all tired but proud.

It was Catapang's first major crisis after assuming command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in July.

The crisis that began with the standoff on Thursday, August 28, in 2 Filipino-manned UN posts is over for now. But the situation in Golan remains fluid.

"The situation on the ground is calm but tense," said the United Nations in a note posted on its web site on Sunday.

Syrian rebels are still holding 44 Fijian peacekeepers and have been attacking other UN posts.

Heavy firefight

The peacekeepers are neutral forces tasked to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and Syria. No military forces except the UN peacekeepers are allowed in the area of separation.

As the internal conflict in Syria escalates however, the peacekeepers have been caught between Syrian government forces and the rebels.

The troops were earlier ordered to stand their ground against the Syrian rebels, including some linked to Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front. The United Nations was initially confident of its backchannel talks to end the standoff. But the heavy firefight that erupted on Saturday, August 30, changed the situation.

"UNDOF reports that armed elements also attacked UN Position 68 with mortar and heavy machine gun fire. The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position," the UN said in a post on its web site.

It was suddenly war. On board 3 pick up trucks, the rebels rammed the gate of Position 68 and subjected the encampment to mortar fire. Also mounted on the pick up trucks are ZPU anti-aircraft machine guns. The gate was a safe distance from the encampment itself.

"Our troops fought back bravely and successfully held their positions after a seven hour firefight. This attack prompted UNDOF to reposition our troops to a more secure position within the mission area," Catapang said during the press briefing.

About a hundred rebels took different positions around Position 68 but the UN encampment is well-fortified and the troops were well-armed themselves.

It would have been a harvest for the rebels if the Filipino troops surrendered them. They have M4 assault rifles, M60 light machineguns, K3 squad automatic weapons, and Caliber 45 pistols.

Catapang said the Filipino troops fired at the rebels in self-defense. Syrian government forces also came in to provide fire support, which was crucial in preventing the rebels from closing in. Foreign militaries – US, Israel, and Qatar – also helped during the firefight to ease the tension on the troops.

After 7 hours, the firefight died down. The UNDOF hatched the escape mission.

Other posts evacuated

Filipino troops have evacuated at least 3 positions in Golan. They have been likely overran by rebels, but the troops are all safe.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United Nations will not compromise the safety and security of our troops while in the pursuit of their duties. It is in our national interest to prioritize their safety without abandoning our commitment to international security," said Catapang.

There are over 300 Filipino peacekeepers in a number of UN posts in Golan Heights. All 72 who figured in the standoff – troops in Position 68 and 69 – are safe in Camp Ziuoani, another UN post inside Golan Heights. (Note: The number of Filipino troops in the standoff have been repeated adjusted from 81 to 75 and then to 72.)

Irish peacekeepers

The other group of 35 Filipino peacekeepers in Position 69 – located 4 kilometers away from Position 68 – were able to evacuate earlier on Saturday.

Fellow Filipino peacekeepers from Position 80 in southern Golan and Irish peacekeepers manning armored personnel carriers trooped to Position 69 to extricate them. The UN said rebels fired upon the convoy.

All the troops in Position 68 and 69 are now in Camp Ziuoan. It is not clear if the troops in Position 80 joined them or they retured to their post in southern Golan.

A 4th group of 58 Filpino peacekeepers in Position 60 located in northern Golan evacuated on Friday as contigency measure. They relocated to the UNDOF headquarters in Camp Faouar. (READ: UN orders 58 other peacekeepers to leave posts)

Filipino peacekeepers also man Positions 62 and 85. There are no updates as of this posting.


The incident happened as the Philippines is finalizing the pullout of its troops in the area precisely because of the escalating internal conflict there. The troops' tour of duty ends in October.

The Philippines started to deploy peacekeepers to Golan in 2009. It already considered pulling out its Golan peacekeepers after the kidnapping incidents last year but was convinced by the UN to stay inspite of continued withdrawal of countries like Australia, Croatian and Japan. Escalating internal violence prompted the new decision to pull out.

After the firefight, it may be difficult for them to return to their posts however. "We already engaged them (rebels) in a firefight. It's hard to go back there again. We will be at a disadvantaged position," an official said.

Q and A with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “We will try to work out every effort to make armed struggle the last option”

From MindaNews (Aug 31): Q and A with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “We will try to work out every effort to make armed struggle the last option”

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim was looking forward to his trip to Hiroshima, Japan on the third week of June not only because he was going to address the 6th Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao (COP 6) seminar on the theme “Post Agreement Implementation: Building Capacities for Peace of the Bangsamoro Stakeholders” but also because he would meet again with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, whom he last saw on March 27, 2014 at the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the gardens of Malacanang.

Japan is historic for both leaders as it was in Tokyo on August , 2011 where Murad, on invitation of President Aquino, first met, and agreed, to fast-track the peace process so that the a peace agreement would be signed first half of the President’s administration (2010 to 2013) and implementation would be done in the second half (2013 to 2016).

In his keynote address at the COP6 on June 24, Aquino lauded Japan’s decision to host his 2011 meeting with Murad despite the fact that it was, “admittedly a risky move, especially since there was no certainty that negotiations would succeed.”

Aquino said the 2011 meeting happened “at a crucial time” when talks with the MILF had reached a “difficult standstill, and I had broached the idea of directly meeting with Chairman Murad to move the discussions forward.”

“To their credit, they responded in the affirmative. In hindsight, to us, that was the turning point in our narrative to secure a just and lasting peace. Trust was established between brothers, and genuine dialogue was possible,” the President said.

“Trust” was also mentioned by Murad in the keynote address he delivered on June 23. “While trust is built at the outset of the bargaining process, we cannot discount the possibility of that trust being broken after all has been said and done, despite the shaking of the hands and the exchange of pulpy promises. In all honesty, it is when those promises are actually kept that the parties anticipate that the real and meaningful consequences will follow,” he said.

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair. MIndaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair. MIndaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Murad and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal were seated onstage along with Japanese and Philippine government officials while the President delivered his speech on June 24.

Throughout Aquino’s 17-minute speech, the two MILF officials looked crestfallen, and distant. It was only after the President left when MindaNews learned that they had met with the President for about “15 to 20 minutes” before his speech.

Murad and Iqbal said they raised “concerns” over Malacanang’s proposed revisions to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to the Office of the President on April 22.

The “concerns” must have been so substantial that two months after that Hiroshima  meeting – within which the peace panels held a total of 21 days of “workshops” in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Davao between July 8 and August 10; the President met with the BTC on July 24; and finally the fast and productive series of meetings between Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Iqbal since August 10 — the final text of the “mutually acceptable” draft BBL is, finally, almost nearing completion.

It is “99.99% done,” Iqbal said on August 31.

What were the “concerns” raised with the President and why has it taken another two months to address these “concerns”? MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim explains these and other issues to MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas in a sit-down interview initially set for late July but apparently due to the problems hounding the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Murad’s office reset it for August 13 then 24, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Murad declined to discuss specific provisions of the draft BBL as the final draft was still being worked out.

Excerpts from the interview: 

Q. Take us back to that meeting with the President in Hiroshima.

A. The meeting was pre-arranged but it turned out to be urgent because when we saw the review and comments (on the draft BBL) we were really surprised. We were shocked because almost everything was … reformulated. We saw really great changes in the draft of the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission). I raised to him our concern that the review took (the Office of the President) two months. Secondly, I said we just saw the reformatted BBL and we were very disgusted because it was not only the provisions introduced in the BTC that were changed but even those provisions in the agreement itself were diluted. 

Q. Did you actually use the words “very disgusted?”

A. Yeah. Sabi ko it has really changed the spirit of the document.. He confirmed to me that time that he had not read it yet… He said when he returns to Manila he would spend time to read and that we would talk again. We suggested that the Malacanang-reviewed draft be forwarded to the peace panels. He said okay. So that’s why the panels met (note: the MILF-led, 15-member GPH-MILF BTC, the body tasked to draft the BBL, passed a resolution on July elevating to the peace panels its concerns on Malacanang’s proposed revisions to its draft).

Q. But after a total of 21 days of “workshops” in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Davao, they still failed to come up with a mutually acceptable draft BBL.

A. We see that as a problem because while we understand that (government is) making sure that the BBL will pass Congress smoothly, while we appreciate that intention, we cannot also sacrifice the agreement because we‘ve worked out the agreement for more than 17 years.. I was very frank with the President that the MILF cannot accept a Basic Law that will derogate from the agreement signed.

Q. And what did he say?

A. At that time he said he had not read it yet but he said ‘I am assuring you this will be settled.’

Q. Government has its non-negotiables, you have your own non-negotiables

A. Yes. What was (already agreed upon) should not be renegotiated except formulations introduced by the BTC. Our argument is, if we allow changes to the signed agreement, then it will repeat the whole process. Supposed to be, this should not be negotiation but a matter of how to operationalize the agreement.

Q. But you are actually negotiating again?

A. Actually the process is repeating. It is not supposed to be negotiation pero yun ang nangyayari. 

Q. If Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa did not arrive in Davao City on August 10, there would not have been significant progress?

A. Yes, except for fiscal autonomy, yun lang natapos (by August 10). Generally, whatever issue they (GPH) introduce that will be contrary to the signed agreement, that’s our non-negotiable.. Our main concern is that there will be no derogation from the agreement. This was also the problem during the 1996 peace agreement that until now the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) is claiming is not fully implemented.

Q. History is repeating itself?

A. That is a possibility that will happen but on our part we are trying our best that that will not happen so as early as before the drafting of BBL, we had in our agreement the term “non-derogation.” That is actually a protection that there will be no unilateral implementation because that happened with the MNLF; when they could not agree, government did a unilateral (implementation of the) agreement. In the peace process, even during the time of Arroyo, they were offering us the ARMM so we look at this as a similar pattern.

Q After your 2011 meeting with the President, government presented its counter-proposal of “ for ,” right? Did the reviewed draft BBL offer something like “ for ?”(The government’s “ for one” formula, handed over to the MILF in Kuala Lumpur three weeks after the Tokyo meeting involves “massive economic development; political settlement with the MILF; and cultural-historical acknowledgment” with a ‘”strengthened” ARMM whose election in August 2011 had been reset for May 2013. The MILF rejected the proposal, prompting then GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen to reply, “We reject your rejection.”)

A. We can see that the frame of mind is still there, “ for .’ But it’s very clear that it’s not enhancing the ARMM, it’s not developing the ARMM (that we want) but abolition of the ARMM.. that’s why we are passing this BBL in order to abolish ARMM… Very clear din na yung gusto natin na ma-in place na government is a ministerial government so this is very different from the ARMM.

[Video: MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on ARMM, Organic Act and Bangsamoro Basic Law]

Q. Let’s do reality check. There is very limited time now, less than two years. The President has been pushing for Congress to pass the law before yearend. I checked the legislative calendar, there are 50 session days or less until end of the year. Some legislators say it can be done in one month if the opposition will not delay but you know of course this a controversial bill

A. Exactly the same argument the other side is saying. They are making sure hindi sasabit in order to hasten the passing of the bill in Congress. That’s fine with us but what is not acceptable to us is to sacrifice (the agreement) in order that the BBL will pass Congress. If the agreement will be diluted, derogated from, and all of a sudden we come up with a version of the BBL which is the same as the version of the Organic Act… of the ARMM… so we better accept the ARMM? (laughs). Sometimes we see that the version they are intending to have is even lower than the Organic Act so why will we settle for a BBL that is lower than Organic Act when even the President has already said that the ARMM is a failed experiment?

Q. Di na sana kayo nag negotiate? Pumayag na sana kayo sa “ for ”?

A. Yeah. We have been offered ARMM several times (under Estrada, Arroyo administrations)

Q. Wasn’t that directly offered to you in 2011?
A. Impliedly. Impliedly because they said maybe we can enhance, strengthen ARMM. That was also the reason why there was RA 9054, to enhance the ARMM but it even took out some of the powers already granted to the ARMM.

Q. Kaya sabi nila RA 9054 rendered the ARMM less autonomous than it already was, the future Bangsamoro will even be less than 9054?

A. That’s why they’re saying it will pass Congress smoothly because there is no more debate on it. But we cannot sacrifice (the agreement). As far as timeline is concerned, it really depends on Congress after this process (with ES Ochoa).

Q. The MNLF said the law passed (RA 9054) was not faithful to the letter and spirit of the 1996 agreement. The joke is if the ARMM were a failed experiment, the Bangsamoro is an aborted experiment.

A. What happened to Brother Nur is that I think they did not realize that even prior to the implementation of the 1996 agreement, they had already joined the government through the integration of their forces into the military and police and Nur accepted the governorship of ARMM, some of their commanders ran for mayor. So practically, di nga na-implement ang agreement but the reality is they already joined the government so it already became internal to them because they were inside government.

As of now, we are still another party. We refused to accept any position in government because we do not want to be part of government before the agreement will be implemented. We will only be part of government when the agreement is implemented.

Q. Let us grant that the BBL is passed but what if the law passed will be, like the MNLF’s experience with RA 9054, not faithful to the letter and sprit of the CAB?

A. Then the exit agreement will not be signed. That is the reason why in our mechanism, both panels will still be operational until the exit agreement is signed. Exit agreement, meaning everything is smoothly, satisfactorily implemented. So if the BBL that is passed by Congress is not acceptable to us (because it is not faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB) then we have to resort to the mechanism of the panels… we cannot also allow the signing of the exit agreement. That means that will be another prolongation of the process

Q. In short, you will negotiate again?

A. It depends on the situation. If there is still a room for negotiation ..if we feel also that it is a waste of time negotiating, then maybe we will just find another option. We will see what are the options. There will be many options we can select from.

Q. Ano yung many options?

A. Hindi naman sabihin natin na ‘okay we will go back to fighting again’ because

Q. That is not an option?

A. That is not a closed option. But if we see there are still other options, we will go to the other options.

Q. The younger Moro are getting impatient and the elder ones are saying ‘niloloko lang tayo parati.’ Considering the history of the 1976 peace agreement then 1996 and now this one

A. There is always a limit to waiting… because this can be defined by the situation. Once the BBL will not be passed within the year or early next year, that means there is no more chance for the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) to be established .. that is one limit. If we see that there is no more chance, then it’s time to think of another way on how to move in this struggle.

Q. You said going back to fighting is not a closed option.

A. We have invested so much in the peace process. Imagine 17 years. We have to see to it that as long as there is still an opening of a chance for this investment, we will still go for that because we have invested a lot. But if …we feel that there is no more chance for this process, even though it’s very dear to us, we have to opt for other options.

Q. Going back to fighting is the last resort?

A. We are hoping very much that this (peace process) will succeed because we know our people are very hopeful that this will succeed. But then if it will not succeed, there are many options. We still can opt for other options, maybe peaceful options… Returning to armed struggle is of course another option, it is not a closed option because it can be an alternative option but …we will try to work out every effort in order na yung armed struggle will be the last option kung wala na kaming makikitang option.

[Video: Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad on the armed struggle.]

Q. A major part of the post-agreement implementation is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic law but there are other aspects not attended to anymore – Normalization, Transitional Justice because the focus is on BBL.

A. Normalization process will not actually be defined in detail in the BBL because it is a process so that’s why di muna mapag-usapan ngayon, just parts, In general, the formation of the Joint Normalization Committee and the other mechanisms are being discussed but the focus now, because of the time pressure, is more on the BBL

Q. The longer the delay in the passing of the law, the shorter the transition period. I remember the MILF initially asked for a seven-year transition period.

A. We have settled already on this compromise at least one year (transition) before the regular government so even though time is very limited, chances are we can have the BTA for at least one year.

Q. You actually believe the MILF can in one year or less prove its leadership – using ministerial form? Isn’t this crucial considering that there will be an election in May 2016?

A. It is doubtful, we accept that, but then we consider that part of the struggle… We know it is not enough but as long as we have proof to the people that the MILF is really working for the benefit of the people, then we are looking forward to also empowerment in the regular election in 2016. We see it as another level in the struggle.

Q. Last year you said you had set the stage for the organization of a political party. What’s the status now and what will be the party’s name?

A. We are on the final stage of finalizing the upper level structure and now we are going down, organizing the provincial level and the municipal level.There are three names (we are choosing from) and it depends on the Comelec (Commission on Elections): United Bangsamoro Justice Party, United Bangsamoro Party, or the Bangsamoro Justice
Party but the number one is the United Bangsamoro Justice Party.

Q. Let us go back to your ‘levels of struggle.’

A. The struggle now for us is to protect the political agreement. The first process now is with the Office of the President, the second phase is Congress and probably another phase would be the Supreme Court.

Q. You are not ruling that out?

A. We are not ruling out that somebody may file a complaint in the Supreme Court

Q. So that means you may not have a transition period at all?

A. That’s why as I said, we still have the process, built in process there and we will see what can be done if we have no more time for the transition.

Q. What can be done?

A. We can ask the other side ‘what do you think can be done?’ 

Q. But if the BBL is not passed, we’re going back to RA 9054 (ARMM) and May 2016 is an election year…

A. Mahirap mag-speculate because we do not know what would be …. but as far as the MILF is concerned, we will stick to the agreement. It (transition) has to be at least one year.

[Video:  Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Bangsamoro Basic Law]

Q. Let us grant that the Supreme Court says there is no problem with the BBL but in the plebiscite, only three provinces approve the BBL.

A. If the plebiscite is conducted and we are convinced that hindi nagkaroon ng manipulation, then we are willing to accept what the people would say because it is a process. But then our struggle to have the core territory stipulated in the agreement is still there.

Q. This is one of the non-negotiables?

A. Yes because the core territory is defined (in the CAB). But it does not mean we will force the electorate. We will not. But we will still claim that as part of the core territory and we will find means in order for them to accept the Bangsamoro.

Q. To win them over later? So you’re saying that if Sakur Tan or Sulu will vote against the BBL, Sulu will still be part of the core territory but the BBL will not apply there?

A. Yes. And then the process would not end because … they can at anytime also opt for inclusion. But that’s another study for us, that’s why the peace process is a continuing

Q. Let’s grant that the BBL is passed, the plebiscite is conducted, you have three or four provinces, you have very limited time to prove yourself in the BTA and then you have the election in May 2016. You’re a new party, you don’t have all the resources, you will not win.

A. Well if that is the real will of the people then for us we accept it. But our struggle will not end there. For now, what is important for us is the system will be in place, that what is stipulated in the agreement is in place (so) even if.. we cannot win in the regular election, we still have the political party. It is not the end to the political party so we can still struggle through the political party.

Q. The disappointments over the peace process have been so many, how can you at age 66 still ..

A. You know one thing we have to emphasize is that although armed struggle is a very important and major factor in the struggle.. ultimately.. there are three situations that could happen: you defeat your enemy or you negotiate with the enemy or you are defeated by the enemy. So even if we go for another armed struggle or another war,  ultimately if we cannot defeat the enemy then we will be going back to negotiation again so it’s just a cycle. It will be a very expensive cycle …. but then I think that some younger people now are starting to accept that we exhaust all means for this negotiation.. We have spent 17 years already in this negotiation so we exhaust it but when exhausted, we have to be ready also for the other options… That is also what we are advising the people that as long as we have not yet closed the door for the negotiation.. we have to push this process in order for it to succeed.

[Video: Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Bangsamoro Basic Law]

Q. We went to Datu Piang, another reporter went to Lanao and another went to Pikit and fear among the communities if the problems over the draft BBL are not resolved is really palpable. How do you allay their fears?

A. We continuously gather our officers for them to reach the grassroots level, to explain that even though we should prepare ourselves for whatever eventualities… we are exhausting all means in order that this peace process will still succeed. We always impress on them that the MILF will not sell out the aspirations of the Bangsamoro, that we are assuring them (that) even though we are seemingly engaging in the negotiations for too long already, we will not sell out the aspirations of the Bangsamoro.

Q. The MNLF got a bigger area of autonomy and as Nur would say the MILF got only “five provinces not even the size of the Cotabato Empire of yore.” The Bangamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BFF) on the other hand is just waiting for this process to collapse to say ‘tingnan nyo, MILF, mali naman ang option ninyo.’


A. Even the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Cooperation) was questioning us “you already have the 13 provinces before and nine cities (under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976), why did you accept the small area?” I explained to them that it is true that it is stipulated in the 1976 agreement that 13 provinces would form the original area of autonomy but then it is also stipulated that these will undergo the constitutional process so the reality is that… only five provinces went for autonomy. For us, we did not renounce the other areas but we accepted a whole area where it is acceptable to the people and then would open the door for the other areas to come in. 

Q. The Salamat Hashim formula. Salamat in April 2000 said that when Nur and he (Salamat was then MNLF vice chair in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement of 1976) were negotiating with government, he opted for a smaller area, only those Moro-dominated but Nur wanted the 13 provinces and nine cities (now 15 provinces and 15 cities). Salamat was more practical at that point kasi sure siya na hindi nyo makukuha yung ibang areas

A. If we consider also the 13 provinces and 9 cities now… what is the population balance? The Bangsamoro will only be about maximum 30% within this area, so you are not addressing the problem of the minority because this a problem of a minority in a majority setting. So if the (area of) autonomy is the entire 13 provinces and 9 cities then the Bangsamoro is still minority. It is very logical that it’s not solving the problem because you are still a minority. Ultimately, the autonomy will not be for the Bangsamoro, it will be for the majority.

(On the Bangsamoro as majority and the Lumads in the Bangsamoro as minority–

Q. You’ve signed the CAB but you’re negotiating again. Never ending negotiations?

A. Well it is part of the struggle. But even the sea has its limit. There is always a limit.

Q. Government and the MILF are doing face-saving but both of you know that saving the peace process is not just about saving faces.

A. It’s not really face-saving … because …even if we fail in this process … for us everything is still there: our organization is intact, we have not bartered anything because we will only barter when the agreement is already implemented. For us, it’s not really face-saving but it is really a desire for the peace process to succeed because if it will not succeed, we know what we will be the eventuality. It could be very costly … not only to the government but also to the Bangsamoro people so that’s why we are exhausting all means. 

Q. It’s not just you and the government investing, it’s also the communities, the foreign governments investing in the peace process here

A. Yeah. Well we know that the foreign governments are also trying their best to maybe they think of their own interest also…
Q. If we go to the worst case scenario of no BTA, no acceptable Basic Law, the mechanisms that also involve the international community are still there so

A. That will be the first option, to let the mechanism work because after all, all these mechanisms were structured to protect the implementation process. We always had that in mind that the implementation is more difficult and more challenging. That is why we have the ICG (International Contact Group), the Third Party Monitoring Team, we have all these mechanisms to ensure the implementation. If something goes wrong, that is the first thing we will turn to, for the mechanisms to do their part in this process.

Q. You know that the President is suffering from so many problems including an impeachment, the declaration of DAP as unconstitutional and might suffer another Supreme Court decision on EDCA so he will not want to risk a BBL that might be declared unconstitutional.

A. I think that is a contributory to the effort that they want to trim down the draft BBL to ensure there will be no complication.

Q. Every administration wants to leave a legacy and that is the Bangsamoro peace. Under the Arroyo administration, there was the initialed MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) whose signing was aborted. Now President Aquino has

A. All administrations want to have the legacy that they solved the Bangsamoro problem but unless there is a real solution to this, no one can claim legacy. Ramos cannot claim legacy because until now the problem is here. Estrada also cannot claim, Arroyo also cannot claim legacy and even President Aquino now, if this problem will not be solved and ultimately nothing will happen, then he cannot claim legacy. Signing an agreed document is nothing, it’s just a mere piece of paper if not implemented. The bottomline is to implement it.

Q. How do you imagine June 30 2016 when President Aquino bows out of office. If everything goes right, can you imagine a Bangssamoro the way that the agreements envision it to be?

A. We see it a start of another level of struggle because it’s a different situation. We have to continue the struggle in order to sustain the aspiration because it does mean that when there is a Bangsamoro government, that it is already the realization of the aspiration and dreams of the Bangsamoro. It is still a start of building that realization. That’s why I keep on saying that you don’t imagine that when we are in the Bangsamoro government, everything is finished. It is another level of struggle wherein maybe you don’t need to use the guns but the objective there is to build a genuine and lasting peace for our people, prosperity for our people. That will be another hard and difficult struggle. 

Q. Is the BTA chief minister going to be Al Haj Murad Ebrahim?

A. Hindi pa decided hanggang ngayon. Because personally for me, hindi ko ini-envision na ako. What is important is I will still remain as the chairman of the MILF and then I can designate form among the members of the Central Committee kung sino ang mamumuno sa BTA.

Q. Galing sa Central Committee?

A. Of course it will come from the Central Committee but depende na rin sa decision ng Central Committee.

Q. In my long interviews with MNLF chair Nur Misuari and the late MILF chair Salamat Hashim, I asked this as a last question so I’ll ask you also: how would you like history to judge you?
[Video: Interview with Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim]

A. For me.. what is important is I have done the best I can under this struggle. This is not my struggle, it is the struggle of the Bangsamoro people. What is important is for history to judge me according to what I have done for the struggle.