Saturday, April 18, 2015

MILF: Editorial - Still in transition period

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Apr 19): Editorial - Still in transition period

It is very hard to arrive at consensus if people are talking from different perspectives and levels of understanding. This was clearly portrayed during the Senate hearing on the status of the ceasefire between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last April 13. Except for Senators Bam Aquino and Teofisto Guingona III, most of the rest seemed to have shown their inadequate grasp of the GPH-MILF peace process. Indeed, gone are the days when the Senate is a source of knowledge, wisdom, and guidance!

Conflict resolution, which is a process, is divided into three stages namely, conflict situation, transition period after agreements are signed and laws that would implement these political documents are legislated, and when the conflict is settled, which is the period of normalcy. Right now the leaders and members of the MILF are still transitioning into normalcy; therefore, one cannot expect them to behave like in a normal situation. That cannot take place overnight; that is why there is the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) which crafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which is an interim government before the regular government for the Bangsamoro would be in place during a regular election for the purpose after the BBL becomes a law.

More seriously, without sounding out alarmist, what will happen if a good BBL does not pass Congress or a diluted version is in the offing?  Consistently, the MILF said they will not accept a watered down BBL. But in the same breadth, it also consistently asserted that no matter what happens to the BBL, it will continue to engage in the path of finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao.

Peace process or more appropriately, conflict resolution, is like life, which is actually a constant series of an immense number of transitions. There are some so tiny as to be imperceptible and whose impact kind of sneaks up on you. This can be gradual changes in a relationship, our experiences at work, or changes in our body. The use of aliases is such a tiny example of transitioning that can be appropriately addressed during the full normal period.

Anyone who does not accept that conflict resolution, like life, is full of transitions; then surely we are in trouble. Imagine that for the issue of nom de guerre (war name) it took almost two hours for the senators during that Senate hearing to grill Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, over his uses of aliases. Were the senators fully aware of the stages of conflict resolution, that issue could not be raised at all? Or that peace negotiation only happens between “enemies” and not among friends; then they would not question the use of aliases by revolutionaries.

One way to unearth why such a fuss over aliases happened at all is to look at one grandstanding senator. A reliable source said that he had commissioned a survey team to determine which stance he would take: to support the BBL or ride roughshod over the biases and prejudices blown out of proportion as a result of the Mamasapano incident on January 25. The result was clear, the report said: He will get more votes by being anti-peace and used the Mamasapano incident as his launching pad.  

But take a close look at what happened after. It seems his anti-peace posture is bringing him down. Very few people including those in media praised him for what he has been doing. One columnist described him as “savvy opportunist”.

MILF: MPC appeals to Rodriguez to cease from making statements that preempt the decision of his Committee

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 19): MPC appeals to Rodriguez to cease from making statements that preempt the decision of his Committee

MPC appeals to Rodriguez to cease from making statements that preempt the decision of his Committee

In a media statement dated April 15, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus and its allied civil society organizations and grassroots communities appealed to Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to immediately cease from issuing statements over the media that will preempt the democratic processes in the legislative work on the proposed law. 

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro is yet to resume its hearings on the proposed legislation this coming April 20-30 and its very own chair is already undermining the process by pre-empting the votes of each and every member in the 75-member committee.

“All the proposed amendments including perceived constitutional issues are still subject to voting at the committee level. Rufus Rodriguez is just one vote there so he should stop talking to the media as if his legal opinion is already the vote of the committee”, said Pastor Reu Montecillo , co-chair of MPC, representing the Christian settlers in Mindanao.

“I am getting confused now with Rufus Rodriguez because he has been announcing that the BBL hearing is suspended because of the Mamasapano but here he is announcing to the media that some eight (8) provisions of the BBL will be removed due to constitutional issues. What is the basis for such statement? Until Rufus Rodriguez convenes his own committee and puts the BBL to voting, whatever opinion he has on the BBL is his own personal opinion only”, added Matigsalug chieftain, Bae Magdalena Suhat.

I believe that the media pronouncement of the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Rufus Rodriguez is creating more confusions to the public and is disrespectful of the 75-members of the committee, she said further.

Mahdie Amella, Chairman of the MPC also lamented that what Rufus Rodruguez is doing is very disappointing for many of us from Mindanao who expect a lot from Rodriguez. “As a son of Mindanao and as representative from Cagayan de Oro City which pride itself as the City of Golden Friendship, Rodriguez is yet to demonstrate that he is a friend of peace and of the Bangsamoro. The least that he could do is to do his job as a lawmaker.”

If there are provisions that will not be approved by the 75-member committee --- then let the process take its democratic process. Rodrigues cannot play God with the BBL by suspending the committee hearing and impose conditions there that are not even demanded by Malacañan Palace and at the same time announce over media that this provision is deleted, removed or dead for sure. Please do your job in Congress by hearing the BBL. “If you do not like it, so be it but do not drag the name of the 75-member committee with you as if what you say over media is already the vote of the committee”, Amella concluded.

MILF: MILF expresses condolences to Umbra Kato’s family, BIFF

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 18): MILF expresses condolences to Umbra Kato’s family, BIFF

MILF expresses condolences to Umbra Kato’s family, BIFF

An official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the front’s leadership expresses its condolences to the family of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, founding chair of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), and its forces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), for the death of the latter’s founding leader.

MILF Central Committee Chair on Information Mohagher Iqbal told Luwaran that the MILF prays that the Almighty bestow Kato’s soul serenity and admit him to Paradise

Kato, the BIFF founding chairman passed away on April 14 due to untreated illness according to the BIFM spokesperson Abumisry Mama. It was reported two years ago that Kato suffered from mild stroke. 

After the debunking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain by the Supreme Court in 2008, Kato and his followers bolted from the MILF to continue the pursuit of armed struggle for the establishment of independent Islamic state with the BIFF.

The breakaway group was formed in November 2010 following Kato’s relief as base commander of the MILF 105th Base Command.

Iqbal said they still hope that the BIFF will join back the MILF-led Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination and support the ongoing peace process with the government.

After 17 years of arduous peace talks, the MILF and the Philippine government agreed to settle with an enhanced autonomous region called Bangsamoro that will replace the ARMM.

Bangsamoro will be established once the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law passes congress and ratified through a plebiscite. 

President Aquino is hopeful that the Bangsamoro be operational in his term.

Maguindanao cites military’s shift to peace, rights advocacy

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 18): Maguindanao cites military’s shift to peace, rights advocacy

The military’s paradigm shift from combat orientation to building peace and professing human rights observance has gained foothold in Maguindanao, particularly among residents and groups privy to the fate of the Muslim province amid sporadic armed confrontations.

Most, if not all, of the so-called “surviving children of repressions” under the Martial Law era are one in the belief that the present breed of soldiers in Maguindanao is the “exact opposite” of Army troops that had sown fear and distrust in Muslim communities of the province.

Civilian residents in Maguindanao including this city, started showcasing renewed respect and trust among soldiers in 2010 when combat troops – wielding spades, forks and other tools instead of guns – swooped on portions of Pulangi and Tamontaka rivers here and cleared carpets of water hyacinths that clogged the footings of vital bridges for weeks.

Even combatants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) joined the soldiers in the spectacular event that had drawn the presence of then newly-installed President Aquino III, who led cabinet officials in giving assistance to residents from the havocs of heavy flooding that year.

Soldiers had won further public trust when they volunteered en mass and rebuilt in record time some school buildings in Bonggo, an island village in Parang, Maguindanao, in late 2010.

Since then, the Maguindanao-based Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) continued to sponsor gatherings for soldiers and cops to interface with MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members and civilians in sport activities and other confidence-building ventures.

On the other hand, troopers from the 6ID and its infantry brigades have sustained combat prowess, quelling threats and attacks from the brigand guerrillas of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and capturing a number of BIFF enclaves. In such combat encounters, local human rights groups had reported no noticeable abuses on innocent civilians by soldiers.

PH-US war games expanded

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 19): PH-US war games expanded

10-day military exercises include beach landing, live fire exercises

Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off on Monday their expanded war games, showcasing a deepening defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China’s aggressive reclamation works in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership.

The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid to assert sovereignty in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

In an interview with AFP last week, President Aquino said the two militaries operating side-by-side should offer a “deterrent aspect to any entity, be it a country or Islamic radicals.”

Aquino insisted the Balikatan (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) war games starting on Monday were not directed at China, pointing out they were annual exercises, but he discussed at length the Philippines’ reliance on the United States.


Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also said last week the Philippines planned to ask Washington for extra help in containing China.

“We are, at this point, seeking additional support from the US in terms of being able to take a stronger position, in defending our position, which is to uphold the rule of law,” Del Rosario told local broadcaster ANC.

Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the strategically important South China Sea, including areas just off the coasts of other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China has sought to expand its presence in disputed parts of the sea in recent years, including by taking control of Bajo de Masinloc, a shoal that is a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

It has also embarked on giant reclamation works on reefs and islets, including the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), turning some into islands capable of hosting military aircraft landing strips.


The Philippines has been the most vocal of the rival claimants to express alarm over China’s moves.

In his interview with AFP, Aquino warned that the world should fear China’s actions in the South China Sea.

US President Barack Obama also expressed concern this month, criticizing China for “using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.”

“Just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China, doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” Obama said.

China has repeatedly insisted it has sovereign rights to the contested areas, so criticism of its reclamation and other activities in the area are baseless.

The US has been looking to re-build its military presence in the Philippines, a former colony where it had naval and air bases until the early 1990s, as part of Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”

The two nations, bound by a 1951 mutual defense treaty, last year signed another pact that would allow more US forces in the Philippines, although the Supreme Court in Manila still needs to ratify it.

Even without the implementation of the new pact, more than 12,000 soldiers from both sides will be involved in this year’s Balikatan exercises, double last year’s number.

On Tuesday, marines will conduct beach landing exercises from a naval base facing the South China Sea just 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippine-claimed shoal that China has controlled since 2012.

Aside from the naval base, live fire and disaster response drills will also be held in various military camps outside Manila.

Rebel leader surrenders in La Union

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 18): Rebel leader surrenders in La Union

CAMP DIEGO SILANG, La Union, Philippines – A suspected New People's Army (NPA) leader surrendered to authorities here yesterday.

The surrender of the man identified only as Ka Omar, 33, came following a series of negotiations conducted by police and military agents and local officials.

Omar was picked up in Tabuk City in Kalinga by a team led by Superintendent Eduardo Danguecan, chief of the La Union police intelligence unit. He brought with him his firearm, an M14 Armalite.

Omar joined the communist movement in 1997 and was appointed assistant team leader of the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Guerrilla operating in the Cordilleras, according to Senior Superintendent Ange-lito Dumangeng, La Union police director.

Dumangeng said Omar decided to leave the movement because of the difficult life in the mountains.

The rebel-returnee was met by Abono party-list Rep. Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III, who assured him of his security.

Ortega hailed Omar for deciding to yield in La Union, noting it affirmed the province’s peace and order situation.

Grenade attacks reported in Maguindanao Saturday night

From GMA News (Apr 18): Grenade attacks reported in Maguindanao Saturday night

Grenade attacks were reported in Cotabato City and in neighboring Datu Odin Sinsuat town, both in Maguindanao, Saturday night. There was also an improvised explosive device attack on a military unit's headquarters but the IED failed to explode.

The first attack was at 7:05 p.m., when a grenade was thrown at a police outpost along the national highway in Barangay Tamontaka 2 in Datu Odin Sinsuat.

Police investigators said the suspects were on a motorcycle, and that they lobbed the grenade as they approached the police outpost.

There were no casualties in this attack.

Meanwhile, a dozen kilometers away and few minutes after the first attack, two suspects on a motorcycle threw a grenade at a Special Forces truck that was on security patrol along Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato Ciy.

According to the truck driver from 5th Special Forces, the grenade bounced off his truck's windshield and detonated near a restaurant. A restaurant patron was injured and rushed to hospital.

The soldiers gave chase, but the suspects were able to get away by weaving through traffic.

Almost at the same time as the second attack, an improvised explosive device was thrown at the 5th Special Forces Battalion's main headquarters, but the IED did not explode.

The suspects in the third attack were also two men on a motorcycle.

Police and Army units were still in “hot pursuit” as off posting time, while security was tightened at checkpoints in case there were more attacks.

No group has, so far, claimed responsibility for the attacks.

America maintains ‘very strong’ presence in Asia – US official

From GMA News (Apr 18): America maintains ‘very strong’ presence in Asia – US official

A senior US State Department official said Washington is committed to maintain a “very strong” presence in the Asia Pacific and even has plans to beef up naval and other forces to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, said that broad, long-term American commitment to stay strongly engaged in Asia would be seen in various fields of interests, including trade and security.
“In terms of US presence, we continue to maintain a very strong presence in the region including but not limited to the Navy and (Defense) Secretary (Ash) Carter said we intend to maintain a very strong presence with a goal again of maintaining that peaceful and stable environment that is so helpful for all the countries in the region,” Marciel said in response to questions from journalists in Manila Friday evening.
Marciel was in Manila Thursday to Friday as part of a three-country swing in Southeast Asia that includes Thailand and Indonesia.
“I think again it’s a broad long term commitment,” he said. “As President [Barack] Obama said, we are a Pacific Power, a Pacific nation. So it’s part of a long term commitment to be a partner to the nations of the region to be very active and involved – diplomatically economically and not just security by any stretch of imagination.”
Washington has sought to reassure Asian allies territorially at odds with China of security support, but there have been doubts if the US can fulfill that pledge given its involvement in security hotspots elsewhere, including in Syria and Iraq.

US concerned over China's activities in South China Sea
Marciel did not categorically link the planned American beef up of forces in the Asia Pacific region to recent concerns, including by Washington, over massive Chinese land reclamations of previously submerged reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea but he did mention that the US was alarmed by the rapidly progressing reclamations.
“We have said publicly a number of times, including very recently, we have expressed concern about some of China’s actions in the SCS including most recently the extensive reclamation,” he said.
While Marciel reiterated that Washington does not take sides in the territorial disputes, he said “it is very important that while this long term process of working out sovereignty takes place that all claimant nations show restraint and avoid actions that are provocative that could increase tension and in that context we have expressed concern about China’s action including reclamations.”
Marciel confirmed that Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario would travel to Washington to discuss bilateral issues, including possible increases in US military assistance to the Philippines, a treaty ally.
Asked about Del Rosario’s recent statement that he would like to see a “substantive” American support as the Philippines confronts China’s increasingly assertive stance in the South China Sea, Marciel said the Philippine Foreign Minister plans to raise that with Washington.
“I think Secretary Del Rosario would like to discuss that in Washington with top US officials,” Marciel said, but added there have been ongoing US efforts to help the Philippines, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to better monitor its offshore territories.
“What I would like to say is we have been doing for some time is support for the Philippines in terms of support for strengthening the Armed Forces of the Philippines this is not just related to the South China Sea of course this is much broader.”
“Support for increasing maritime domain awareness, the ability of the Philippine forces to be aware of what’s happening in their waters so these are things that are already under way,” he said.

Aquino is obstacle to peace negotiations, say Reds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 19): Aquino is obstacle to peace negotiations, say Reds

National Democratic Front (NDF) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni and President Benigno Aquino III. FILE PHOTOS
National Democratic Front (NDF) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni on Saturday said President Benigno Aquino III had become an “obstacle” to the resumption of peace talks with the communist rebels, accusing him of using the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Moro Islamic Liberation Front issues as an excuse to stall negotiations.

Jalandoni’s remark came after Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang welcomed the proposal of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF)—the alliance of communist-led underground organizations—to resume peace talks with the government.

Catapang said the AFP fully supported the government in its commitment to end all internal armed conflicts and push peace and development in conflict-affected areas.

Catapang said the CPP-NPA-NDF must only show its sincerity by putting a stop to abductions, killings, extortion activities, improvised explosive device attacks and other criminal activities.

 One at a time

Jalandoni told reporters the Aquino administration could only handle “one peace talk at a time.”

“A leader should not just concentrate on one problem. He must have the capacity to face different issues,” he said in a press conference.

Formal peace talks between the government and the NDF stalled in April 2013.

Jalandoni said the NDF was “open to peace negotiations with any administration that is serious in engaging in peace talks.”

If this is not possible during Aquino’s term, maybe it could be done with the next administration, he said.

In October last year, a government delegation met with the NDF in the Netherlands on the possibility of resuming formal talks. In December 2014, a draft agreement was made.

Jalandoni said both sides have made efforts to forge a peace agreement but the government had become preoccupied with the BBL issue after the bloody Mamasapano clash.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles also undermined the previous agreements with the NDF, he said.

The government and the NDF had more than 10 peace pacts signed during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos.

Bilateral pacts

Initial bilateral agreements included The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees in 1995 and The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in 1998.

The Hague agreement states that the NDF is not under the government’s judicial entity, thus, the 15 NDF consultants and the 500 political prisoners should be released.

Jalandoni said peace advocates had been urging the government to “respect all agreements, address the roots of armed conflict and resume peace talks.”

But the government wants “surrender” talks, he said.

Under the administration’s “Oplan Bayanihan” counterinsurgency plan, Jalandoni said the target is a peace agreement with the MILF and to “render the CCP, NPA, NDF inconsequential.”

He said the the leftist group remains strong in 71 provinces, contrary to the President’s believe that the CPP-NPA-NDF is losing strength.

Kato, revolutionary, Moro loyalist

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 18): Kato, revolutionary, Moro loyalist

Until he suffered a stroke sometime in late November 2011, and perhaps up to his last breath, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) founder, Ameril Umra Kato, remained loyal to the revolutionary aims of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Interviewed by the Inquirer in his mountain lair in Guindulungan, Maguindanao province, in August 2011, the then 65-year-old Kato said the MILF, as an organization, embodied the ideals and vision of Moro self-governance articulated by its founding chair, Salamat Hashim.

The bottom line, according to him, was the liberation of the Moro people from economic and political bondage to the Philippine Republic. He envisioned an independent state.

When asked to describe Salamat’s vision of self-governance, Kato, however, didn’t use the word independence. Instead, he said two elements were key to Moro liberation—Islamic governance and freedom of the Moro people from political and economic control by Manila.

“So long as the two elements are present” the Moro people will be assuaged even if self-rule will not cover the entire Mindanao and even if there’s no “total independence or separation,” he said.

The two key elements, he said, were what the botched memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) provided for.

The MOA-AD, which was crafted under the administration of now detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, proposed the establishment of a “Moro homeland” and listed the principles of governing that territory.

“I will support an agreement that completely embodies the MOA-AD,” Kato said.

But while remaining loyal to the MILF’s cause, Kato strongly criticized its leadership for, among others, engaging in “protracted negotiations.” According to him, he lost hope the MILF would ever achieve its revolutionary goals if the MILF leaders stuck to this strategy.

Kato criticized in partcular MILF chief Murad Ebrahim for meeting President Benigno Aquino III in Tokyo, saying it was a sign of surrender to the 1987 Constitution, which Kato believed did not cover the Moro people.

Kato admitted to having wanted to retaliate for what he perceived to be mistakes of the MILF leadership.

He said the MILF Central Committee was wrong in the way it treated him in connection with the yearlong war beginning in July 2008.

Kato’s grudges included the issuance of a suspension of offensive military actions (Soma) by the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF, in July 2009 as a reciprocal gesture to an earlier declaration by Malacañang of a suspension of military operations (Somo).

These ended the yearlong war popularly attributed to the aborted signing of the landmark MOA-AD.

Kato noted that the BIAF’s Soma was effective in all areas while the government’s Somo was selective, not applying to his command and that of Abdullah “Commander Bravo” Macapaar and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian in Lanao del Norte province.

He said the Soma meant that his command would not be able to defend itself from government offensives, making him feel he was being “left alone to be pursued relentlessly by government troops.”

In the wake of clashes in the provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte, Macapaar, Pangalian and Kato were the subject of massive hunts. Macapaar and Kato carried a P10-million reward money each, while Pangalian had a P5-million prize on his head.

Kato said that being abandoned by the MILF leadership, he and the other former MILF leaders were declared “lawless” by the government.

At least 82 warrants of arrest were issued against Kato for alleged atrocities committed in North Cotabato during the post-MOA-AD war.

In December 2009, Kato resigned as head of the MILF’s 105th Base Command covering the strategic areas around the Liguasan Marsh that include towns in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

He began setting up his own base inside the MILF’s Camp Omar in January 2010. By March of the same year, he announced the formation of the BIFF.

With the BIFF organized, Kato said he wanted it to be recognized as a separate army of the MILF as he remained committed to MILF ideals, a proposal rejected by MILF leaders. The MILF eventually expelled Kato and his followers.

The MILF said it regretted that decision, though, but tagged those who chose to be with the BIFF just BIAF bad eggs.

Kato also complained of being tagged a provocateur.

“Provoking war is difficult. We know that the government has strong armed forces,” he said.

Kato said his group’s armed operations had often been misunderstood.

In April 2008, Kato recalled coming to the aid of a rebel leader in Aleosan, North Cotabato, who was being harassed. The operation by Kato’s group was wrongly attributed to an escalation by Kato of offensives following the defeat of the MOA-AD at the Supreme Court.

With Kato out of the BIAF, he was free to pursue military goals that, he said, the MILF had forbidden him from doing.

This involved retaking lands forcibly taken from families of members of the MILF’s 105th Base Command by powerful families in Maguindanao.

When asked about this in 2011, a ranking MILF member explained that while Kato’s goal of retaking the lands might be just, his military actions put the peace negotiations in peril.

Such operations, the MILF official said, invited retaliation not just from private armed groups being maintained by the land-grabbing families but also from the Philippine Army that could further escalate the fighting.

Kato was immobilized by the stroke, reducing him to being a mere symbolic leader of the BIFF, which ran under the rotating leadership of Kato’s deputies, Abu Misri Mama, Kagi Karialan and Muhammad Ali Tambako.

With Kato out of the public eye, the three tried hard but failed to secure for the BIFF a revolutionary stature to rival the MILF’s.

Styling the group as a nascent movement for Moro independence, the three led it in launching attacks against government installations, the most serious of which was weeks before the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in 2012.

Maguindanao residents afraid to go home despite end of all-out offensive — ICRC

From GMA News (Apr 18): Maguindanao residents afraid to go home despite end of all-out offensive — ICRC

Residents in some areas in Maguindanao are still afraid to return to their homes weeks after the military ended its all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a humanitarian organization said.
In a statement on Saturday, Pascal Mauchle, head of the  International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in the Philippines said thousands of residents are uncertain if their homes are now safe from armed clashes.
"Although the fighting in Maguindanao has stopped, irregular skirmishes and uncertainty in the area prevent displaced families from returning to their homes," Mauchie said.
The ICRC said families living in evacuation are still dependent on aid, which their organization has been providing since February 25, when the all-out offensive began.
The group has been providing the evacuees with food, water and other needs, including medical assistance.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered the offensive on Feb. 25, exactly a month after the deadly Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao, which claimed the lives of 67 Filipinos, including 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force troopers.
The SAF commandos were then on a mission to arrest terrorists Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir also known as Marwan, Filipino bomb maker and Abu Sayyaf member Basit Usman, and Malaysian bomb maker Amin Baco alias Jihad. The elite police force figured in an hours-long gunfight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the BIFF, and private armed groups.
The military offensive, which was terminated on March 30, was concentrated in the so-called SPMS (Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak towns) box.
'Safe to return home'
For his part, AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc told GMA News Online that residents should not be afraid.
"There is no reason for them to fear in returning home after the all-out offensive operations were terminated on March 30. Also, the local chief executives have declared the area as safe," he said.
Cabunoc added that he is calling on relief organizations to "consider transferring the relief distribution points inside the communities where the IDPs (internally-displaced persons) reside."

MILF to BIFF: Back peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 19): MILF to BIFF: Back peace

After Kato’s death, Murad calls for ‘one struggle’

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim AFP FILE PHOTO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim. AFP FILE PHOTO

One struggle.

This was the message of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in asking the breakaway group to support the peace process with the government after the death of its leader, Ameril Umra Kato, last week.

It was also apparently a move by the MILF to end the fighting between the military and the BIFF, as MILF chief Murad Ebrahim said the group’s peace panel could work for a ceasefire should the BIFF consider rejoining the MILF.

The invitation was part of the letter of condolence sent by the MILF leadership to the BIFF after Kato died on April 14 from a heart attack.

Murad signed the one-page letter, dated April 15, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer on Saturday.

Both the MILF and the government are striving to save the peace agreement they signed last year after nearly 20 years of negotiations.

The peace process, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), came under attack from legislators and the public following the deaths of 44 police commandos and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25.

Brotherhood in Islam

“At this juncture, as one brotherhood in Islam and the need for one struggle, the MILF calls upon the leaders of the [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement]/BIFF to return to the fold of the MILF and support the ongoing peace process and the passage of the BBL as the final solution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro Question and conflict in Mindanao,” Murad said.

“Rest assured that [the] MILF and its peace panel will do everything possible so that all of you will be covered by the protocols of the [government]-MILF peace process, including the ceasefire,” Murad added.

The BIFF is smaller than the MILF, but as an armed organization it has managed to wage its own war against the government since 2008.

A ceasefire is in effect only between the government forces and the MILF. The truce does not cover other armed groups like the BIFF in Mindanao.

Under Kato’s leadership, the BIFF rejected the MILF’s decision to talk peace with the government and continued to fight for a separate Muslim state in Mindanao.

Kato used to head the 105th Base Command of the MILF until he and two other commanders broke away from the MILF after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a Moro homeland deal between the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the MILF in 2008.

Kato, his cousin Wahid Tundok and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian led their MILF units in bloody attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in August 2008, soon after the Supreme Court decision.

Tundok and Pangalian eventually returned to the MILF, and have remained with the organization.

Three-cornered joust for AFP top post

From InterAksyon (Apr 18): Three-cornered joust for AFP top post

President Aquino's plans and calculations about when to appoint a director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) has a parallel with the scenario of appointing the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) when General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. retires past the middle of this year.

Catapang, like PNP Officer-in Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, will be reaching his mandatory retirement age of 56 this July.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado is reportedly on top of Aquino's choices. Aquino's second choice, sources say, is Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) Major General Ricardo Visaya.

Asked to confirm that he "begged off" to give way to Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Irriberi for the chief of staff position, Delgado denied "the rumor" in a recent interview with during the Alumni Homecoming last March at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Fort del Pilar, Baguio City.

"Beg off? Not true," Delgado said, without giving any further comment. He did point out that he will "cross the bridge" when he gets there.

Irriberi is also a contender for the top military position, but Delgado and Visaya, who both had opportunities to work personally and professionally with Aquino, is perceived to have the advantage over him.

Delgado was the former close-in security man of TV host Kris Aquino, the President's sister. Visaya, on the other hand, became the "trouble shooter" of Aquino.

Both Visaya and Irriberi are members of the PMA "Matikas" Class 1983.

Delgado belongs to the PMA "Sandigan" Class 1982.

"Jeff (Delgado) and Bong (Visaya) undeniably have the full trust and confidence of the President," said a senior officer, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak about the matter.

Irriberi, however, is close to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who had been touted tangentially, as being the so-called "Board of Gazmin" that actually refers names of candidates to the Board of Generals (BOG) which is the screening and recommending authority to the Commander-in-Chief.

On Thursday, Aquino said he is not keen about accept the resignation of Espina as PNP-OIC.

Espina submitted his resignation even before his promotion to the position of Deputy Chief of Administration from his former position as Deputy Chief of Operations.

Espina is now second-highest officer in the PNP, the top position of which remains vacant after the suspension in December 2014 (and then resignation in February 2015) of former PNP director general Alan Purisima in the wake of the deadly Mamasapano mission that killed 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) on January 25.

Aquino hinted he might appoint the next PNP chief on or before December 2015, a month or so after the mandatory retirement of Purisima in November.

Because of this, Purisima continues to hold the four-star general rank despite his resignation from the position of PNP chief, and only early retirement will leave a vacuum in that position.

Only one other officer is holds the four-star general rank both in the AFP and PNP.

But according to retired police general-turned Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, he believes Aquino had already made a choice as to who to appoint PNP chief.

That would be Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, who once belonged the Presidential Security Group that guarded the then First Family of the late former president Corazon Aquino through several coup attempts in the past.

"I think the President would really look for somebody he could trust. According to information, that person could be Chief Supt. Petrasanta. I understand the Aquino family owes some debts of gratitude to the police officer," Acop said.

"This could be why the appointment of the next PNP chief might come in July or August because by then, the suspension of Chief Supt. Petrasanta would be lifted," he added.

Petrasanta, a member of the PMA "Maharlika" Class 1984, stepped down as regional director of the Police Regional Office 3 (PRO3), after the Office of the Ombudsman ordered him suspended for 6 months over an anomalous contract and for the alleged sale of high-powered firearms to communist insurgents.

He was chief of the PNP Firearms and Explosives Division when more than 1,000 AK47 assault rifles were discovered missing.

Palace tells MILF: Bring Mamasapano 'self-defense' claim to proper forum

From GMA News (Apr 18): Palace tells MILF: Bring Mamasapano 'self-defense' claim to proper forum

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should bring to the proper forum its claim that its men acted in self-defense in the clash that left 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force dead, Malacañang said Saturday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this a day after MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar reiterated they will not surrender their fighters accused of killing the 44 in the fateful clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

"May tamang lugar para ilabas ang ganitong depensa. (D)oon nila ipaliwanag ang depensa," Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

She added the Department of Justice is "doing its job of initiating prosecution against prsons who may be guilty of criminal acts under our laws."

On Friday, Jaafar told dzBB radio the MILF will not surrender its personnel linked to the killing of the 44 SAF troopers, saying the MILF were acting in self-defense.

The DOJ earlier said 90 people, including MILF members, are to face preliminary investigation for the deaths of the SAF 44.

Valte said the justice system should have a chance to move. "Hayaan natin gumulong ang prosesong ito," she said.

She also said the peace process is proceeding on its own track, adding the Palace is optimistic the discussion for the Bangsamoro Basic Law will go on.

"We remain optimistic (this) will be given attention by our legislators," she said of the BBL that if passed into law will create a new autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

The perplexities of living in uncertainties and strife in the hinterlands and the desire to live normally with his family prodded a New People's Army team leader to yield himself back to the folds of the law on Friday afternoon.

Reports from Agusan del Sur police reaching the regional headquarters here said that Glenn J. Genete, an alleged team leader of the Baking Primera of the Pulang Bagani Command 3 (PBC-3) of the CPP-NPA left the movement and yielded himself to the police authorities in the town of Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur at 12:05 p.m. Friday.

Genete voluntarily surrendered to the joint team of the Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) 13, the Regional Public Safety Company, PRO 13 Regional Intelligence Division and Sta. Josefa Police at Purok 4, Brgy. Angas, Sta. Josefa, bringing along with him an improvised shotgun with five live ammunition.

The surrenderee is now in police custody. He said many of his former comrades have now come to realize the pointlessness of their cause of armed violence and believed in the objectives and the sincerity of the government in bringing peace and development in the countryside.

The police also assured him that it will facilitate his rehabilitation by linking him up with the proper government agencies which will help him return to his family, provide him livelihood and live a "normal' life again.

5 NPA rebels surrender in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): 5 NPA rebels surrender in North Cotabato

Five members of the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) operating in North Cotabato have returned to the folds of the law to live normal lives, an Army official on Saturday said.

Through the efforts of the 57th Infantry Battalion, the five NPA guerillas decided to surrender due to difficulty living in the mountains and running away from law enforcers, according to Capt. Jay Cabatic, 57th IB spokesperson.

Cabatic said the surrenderees belonged to Pulang Bagani Command 2 under the Sub-Regional Command of the NPA operating in the villages of Manobisa, Imamaling, Don Panaca and Manobo sa Magpet, North Cotabato.

First to show up at the 57th IB base in Makilala, North Cotabato were two NPAs then the other day three other NPAs surrendered.

One of the NPAs admitted the fighters in the hinterlands of Magpet have been going hungry with support from the masses going down.

"That prompted them to return to the folds of the law," Cabatic said. "But basically, they wanted to live normal lives with their families and children."

While they surrendered without firearms, Cabatic said the 57th IB have documents to prove they were really communist guerillas.

A livelihood assistance package assistance is being readied for the five former guerillas.

Cabatic said vital information about the NPA movement have been provided by the surrenderees.

"They said the NPA is losing mass support and is getting weak," he said.

Communist guerillas' activities in the province have waned the past six months after ranking leaders and members were neutralized in massive Army offensive last year.

The community outreach peace and development program of the military in communities influenced by the NPAs helped reduce mass base support to the rebel movement.

Cabatic said the Army will continue its peace keeping mission even several of its members have died due to NPA ambuscades and road side bombings.

Troops arrest kidnap gang leader in Zamboanga Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Troops arrest kidnap gang leader in Zamboanga Sibugay

Combined police and military forces have arrested a kidnap-for-ransom-group KFRG leader in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a top police official announced Saturday.

Senior Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela, Zamboanga Sibugay police director, identified the arrested KFRG leader as Hussien Madi, 47, who carries the alias of Commander Rambo, Cobra and Long Hair.

Gucela said Madi was arrested during a law enforcement operation around 4 a.m. Friday in Barangay Sta. Maria, Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Madi is listed as the Top 4 most wanted persons in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

He said the arrested suspect has a standing warrant of arrest for multiple murder with frustrated murder and theft.

He said Madi belongs to a KFRG headed by Commander Itting Abas that operates in Zamboanga Sibugay and in nearby provinces.

Troops rescue two kidnapped CAFGUs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): Troops rescue two kidnapped CAFGUs

Elements of 85th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rescued on April 17 two members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (CAA) who were kidnapped by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on April 16 at Balubad Village in this municipality.

CAA Zaldy Benoza, resident of Tinandog Village and CAA William Laude of Inalig Village of this municipality were kidnapped by four unidentified armed men with high-powered firearms believed to be members of SPN AMLAY, GU2, SQ-BP, STRPC.

Initial investigation disclosed that the duo went to their former Patrol Base at Balubad Village to get food supplies. However, they were held at gunpoint by their captors and were seen tied up inside their former Patrol Base.

The 2nd Infantry (Jungle Fighter) Division, headed by Major General Romeo G. Gan, condemned said acts of kidnapping for it has violated basic Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Immediately, the 2ID conducted pursuit operation on the said areas in order to monitor and track down NPA rebels.

Around 12:50 p.m. of April 17, troops of 85th Infantry Battalion, 2ID encountered more or less 15 NPA rebels with high-powered firearms at the boundary of Angeles Village and Balubad Village of the same municipality and successfully rescued CAA Benoza and CAA Laude from the hands of their captors.

Likewise, the troops recovered one US M14 rifle with one magazine, one landmine, six backpacks, and other subversive documents with high intelligence value.

U.S. soldiers in Balikatan 2015’s ENCAP in Palawan thumb up adobo, other Pinoy fodders

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): U.S. soldiers in Balikatan 2015’s ENCAP in Palawan thumb up adobo, other Pinoy fodders

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY -- U.S. soldiers, who are jointly constructing classroom buildings with Filipino counterparts in this city under the engineering civic action program (ENCAP) of the shoulder-to-shoulder bilateral exercise Balikatan 2015 are raving about certain Pinoy dishes given to them by appreciative locals in the project communities.

Adobo, the unofficial national Filipino cuisine that involves marinating chicken and pork meat cut into small-to-medium size pieces in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and onions; browned in oil; and cooked dry or with sauce in the marinade tops their list.

Captain Brian Villiard of the Balikatan’s U.S. Armed Forces Public Affairs Office (PAO) described adobo as “very tasty, full of flavors, and appetizing” that should be consumed by the likes of him in moderation to avoid gaining unwanted weight.

“I’ve had the pork adobo and it’s very enjoyable, I have to watch my weight,” Villiard said following a stopover for lunch at Penao Restaurant, Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, during Friday’s inspection of the ENCAP sites with Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade; and Brig. Gen. Guillermo Molina, deputy chief of the Western Command (WESCOM) in Palawan.

The U.S. military captain has also taken quite a liking for the “poor man’s fish” Blackfin scad, or “galunggong,” that is deep-fried in oil with crispy enough head to eat.

“This is very good fish, fresh in taste, and good,” he said, as he finished one with bare hands. Something he was challenged to do by one of the journalists, who joined the ENCAP site inspection.

When told by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that Filipinos usually save the crispy head for last, and that he must try it too, Villiard gamely acceded and described the experience as, “Oh, cool!”

Gen. Malavet, who is used to eating adobo and other Pinoy customary dishes because of his Filipina wife, had to wait for the next batch of chicken adobo to be served at Penao Restaurant with Gen. Molina and Lt. Commander Mike Guzzi, current operations officer of the Civil Engineering Corps (CEC) of the Naval Construction Group ONE, 30th Naval Construction Regiment of the U.S. Navy.

“They like our adobo, and they’re willing to wait,” Molina said, as he instructed a Filipino soldier to tell the kitchen to hurry a bit before they leave to inspect Sabang Elementary School, where a classroom building project is being constructed.

At the San Rafael Elementary School in Barangay San Rafael, Steelworker 3rd Class Petty Officer Shanna McKee of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, who is a first-timer in Balikatan, loves the lumpiang sariwa (fresh spring roll) they were given by the residents.

“The residents here are amazing; they gave us adobo, pork menudo, lumpia, many. But I like lumpia the most,” said McKee, who consented to an interview after getting down from a low-slung scaffolding, where she was tying rebars (reinforcement bars) to a block to make the building structurally sound.

McKee loves the usually vegetable dish admixed with pork, chicken, shrimp, or fish meat because of its soft unfried wrapper garnished with a salty-sweet sauce, and sometimes sprinkled with crushed peanuts.

“I am thankful that the residents here welcomed us enough to share their food with us, like the lumpia that is so good,” she said.

“This opportunity to work with our Filipino counterparts is wonderful. I think it is a very good break for us to be combined as a joint task force, and the fact that we are able to build a school for children is what makes it even better. We’re also learning a lot about the culture, the dishes, the customary ways they’re cooked, the kindness of the people,” she also said.

They also like Filipino desserts like the classic cassava cake made of grated kamoteng kahoy (cassava), coconut milk, evaporated milk, eggs, butter, cheddar cheese, granulated white sugar and flour, and baked inside an oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Halo-halo, or literally “mixed together” dessert, is another Filipino classic that has taken their interest, particularly that it is the summer season.

The dessert is prepared with shaved ice, evaporated milk, and an assortment of kidney beans, jackfruit, nata de coco, boiled and dice Saba banana, corn, and served in a glass or bowl with leche flan or ube ice cream on top.

Molina said that apart from Balikatan 2015’s customary inter-operability trainings, humanitarian aid missions, and community development projects between participating Filipino-U.S. soldiers, it is also in whole a learning of culture and traditions in all aspect for better understanding of each other.

”When they understand each other culturally, then they know how to really work closely together without problems. That is also the essence of the shoulder-to-shoulder bilateral exercise,” said the WESCOM deputy chief.

The Balikatan 2015 will officially open with a press conference in Puerto Princesa on April 20.

96 new soldiers graduate from 3rd ID training school

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): 96 new soldiers graduate from 3rd ID training school

Ninety six soldiers have successfully graduated from the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division's Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) Friday.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Gayas, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said that these troopers were sent by the 53rd Engineering Brigade to their unit and made to undergo six months worth of heavy training at their CSC.

After this, these new soldiers were then cross-trained with the 3rd Infantry Division's engineer combat operations and orientation training.

Aidan N. Sulapas, a resident of Barangay Estaca, Compostela, Cebu received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award for graduating Number 1 with a general point average of 88.72 percent in all evaluated subjects both academic and non-academic in the said training.

While a resident of Barangay Ongol, Ilaya, Dumarao, Capiz, Bradford B. Dordas, graduated Number 2 and received the Chief of Staff, 3rd Infantry Division Award after garnering a general point average of 88.54 percent in all evaluated subjects both academics and non-academic courses.

Receiving the Commandant, 3rd Division Training School Award was Billy Joe S. Ramirez from Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental for graduating Number 3 in the class.

While Odelon M Forteza of Dumalag, Capiz received the Physical Proficiency Award for obtaining the highest rating in physical fitness test throughout the duration of the training.

Major Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, congratulated the families and loved ones of the graduates and also the training staff for the job well done.

“Discipline is the hallmark of a true professional soldier that help us to endure pain, loneliness, and hardships and make sacrifices, just so, that we will be able to accomplish our mission. Duty is a code that reminds us of our sworn duty to protect and defend our country and people; respect and uphold the constitution and follow lawful orders in the performance of our mandate and the third thing is dedication which connotes our commitment and selfless service," he concluded.

AFP ready to resume peace talks with NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): AFP ready to resume peace talks with NPAs

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday announced that it is open to the proposal of the CPP-NPA-NDF to resume peace talks with the government but stressed the group must stop its terroristic activities to demonstrate its commitment to the proposed negotiations.

CPP-NPA-NDF means Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, AFP chief-of-staff, said the proposal is a manifestation that the rebels continue to trust President Benigno Aquino III as a true advocate of peace.

He also said that the AFP fully supports the government in its drive to end all internal armed conflicts and push peace and development in conflict affected areas.

Catapang also reiterated his call to the rebels to seriously talk peace with government by showing sincerity in its actions.

He added that the NPAs must stop the abductions, killings, extortion activities, IED attacks, and other criminal acts to show their sincerity to their proposed peace negotiations.

OIC renews support to Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): OIC renews support to Mindanao peace process

Iyad Bin Amin Madani, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) led an eight-man delegation for a four-day visit to the Philippines to reaffirm its long support to the Mindanao peace process.

On Friday, April 17, Madani met with Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on the ongoing negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front, respectively.

Deles said the visit of Madani shows OIC’s firm commitment to help in the current peace efforts in Mindanao.

“OIC has contributed so much to the peace process since the Tripoli accord and now more than ever, Filipinos both Muslims and Christians look to you for guidance and support to open a new era of social peace and progress in Mindanao,” she told Madani during the meeting.

Madani expressed the OIC’s full support and commitment to the Bangsamoro peace process.

He said their mission is to boost their role in the peace process, saying that the OIC has long been involved in the effort to address the conflict in Mindanao and secure the welfare of Muslims in the country.

Prior to his arrival here on Thursday, Madani had a three-day visit in Malaysia where he met Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.

The OIC said the two sides “discussed the status of the peace agreement on the Southern Philippines. The Secretary General stressed the need for all parties to remain committed to the peace agreement."

Malaysia, being a member of the OIC, has been facilitating the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF which concluded in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014.

Madani also made courtesy calls to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, as well as to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr, who was joined by Representatives Rufus Rodriguez, Bai Sandra Sinsuat A. Sema, and Sitti Djalia Hataman. He also met with the Senate Peace, Unity and Reconciliation Committee Chair Senator Teofisto Guingona III. Madani noted during these meetings the current legislative work on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The OIC secretary general will also meet top leaders of the MNLF and MILF to strengthen the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, which was created by the OIC to harmonize the two Moro fronts.

Together with Madani are Sayed El-Masry, OIC Special Envoy for Peace in the Southern Philippines; Maha Mostafa Akeel, director of the OIC Department of Information; Dr. Hassan Ahmad Abdein, Head of the OIC Department of Muslim Communities and Minorities; Saidu Dodo, Liaison Officer for OIC Special Envoy for PCSP; Mohammed Adoum, Personal Assistant to the OIC Sec-Gen; Mohammed Naghi, Protocol Officer; and Ahmad Madani.

Madani is expected to meet President Benigno S. Aquino III, and Senate President Franklin M. Drilon before flying back to Saudi Arabia on Monday.

The OIC is the second largest inter-governmental organization, next to the United ‎Nations, composed of 57 member-states spread over four continents.(