Saturday, October 17, 2015

2 soldiers killed in rebel attack in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): 2 soldiers killed in rebel attack in Batangas

Two soldiers were killed in a New People's Army (NPA) attack in Coral ni Lopez, Calaca, Batangas Friday night.

The victims were aboard their motorcycle when still unidentified rebels fired at them, killing them on the spot at 7 p.m.

Major Angelo Guzman, Southern Luzon Command spokesperson, said the two soldiers were to report to their station in Coral ni Lopez, Calaca, Batangas from the Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after taking their promotion examinations.

He identified the slain troopers as Pfc. Jay Lozano and Pfc. Ferrie John Gabica, both of Alfa Company, 16th Infantry Battalion.

The attack was believed to be a retaliation to the loss of their five comrades killed in an encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas last Oct. 14 with the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force.

Additional forces are now in the area to track down the perpetrators and their cohorts.

Galvez appointed as AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations (Bio data)

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): Galvez appointed as AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations
Effective this Monday, Brig. Gen. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. will now serve as Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) deputy chief-of-staff for operations.

He will succeed outgoing AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations Major Gen. Angelito M. De Leon, who was appointed to command the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division.

The latter assumed command of the unit last Oct. 15.

Galvez is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985 while De Leon is a member of PMA “Maharlika” Class of 1984.

The new AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations is a decorated commander whose fields of specialty include Leadership Development, Counter-terrorism, Humanitarian Assistance, Strategic Thinking/Decision-making, Systems Dynamics Modeling, and Negotiation and Mediation (“Rido” Settlement).

He is a recipient of two Distinguished Service Stars, two Outstanding Achievement Medals, six Gold Cross Medals, eight Bronze Cross Medals, numerous military merit and commendation medals and lastly the wounded personnel medal.

Galvez is also a recipient of the DSWD “Salamat Po” Humanitarian Award and an Outstanding Citizen of Taguig City Award.

Among his achievement is the most prestigious United States Eisenhower Fellowships Multi-Nation Program in 2006. It gave him the opportunity to meet 22 other emerging leaders around the world and travel 11 US states and 15 cities and meet 200 American accomplished professionals and academicians in two months.

In March 12, 2007, he was adjudged as one of the “The Outstanding Philippine Soldier (TOPS) for 2007”.

He completed his Masters in Project Management, University of New South Wales, Australia in 2004. He also participated and finished executive education like the Kennedy School of Government Leadership Executive Education at Harvard University, Massachusetts; Asian Institute of Management Bridging Leadership Fellow; Executive Education on Leadership and Values at the University of Asia and the Pacific; Executive Course on Negotiation and Mediation at the National Security at the National Defense College of the Philippines; Executive Education on Leadership and Laws by the Australian Defense Course Program; Infantry Officer Advance Course in Fort Benning,Georgia, Military Operation Research Symposium in Singapore; Comprehensive Crisis Management Course in Hawaii and Rules of Engagement at the Institute of International Humanitarian Law in San Remo Italy.

He is the firstborn among 12 children of Carlito Galvez Sr. and Lourdes Guansing from Bustos, Bulacan.

He has been with the military service for 35 years with most of his company, battalion and brigade command and staff billet were spent in mainland Mindanao, Sulu and Basilan. He is an Airborne and Scout Ranger qualified.

He is happily married to former Marissa M. Pascua, an international flight purser of Philippine Airlines from Villamor Airbase, Pasay City and blessed with a 16- year old daughter, Mary Frances Therese.

While De Leon also has his array of achievements on an unblemished record of service.

He received four Distinguished Service Star Medals, Gawad Sa Kaunlaran Award, 15 Military Merit Medals and a Minister of National Defense Saber Award, among others.

He was former Chief of AFP Command Center, Secretary Joint Staff at AFP General Headquarters and Secretary of Army General Staff at Headquarters Philippine Army in Fort Andres Bonifacio.

He will continue to lead soldiers and serve as 7th Infantry Division head until his retirement in October 2016.

2 weapons seized from NPA in Compostela Valley clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): 2 weapons seized from NPA in Compostela Valley clash

Two New People's Army (NPA) firearms were seized as patrolling troopers from the 5th Scout Ranger Company clashed with 30 rebel bandits at Barangay Anitapan, Pantukan town, Compostela Valley Friday morning.

The firefight took place at 10 a.m., 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar said on Saturday.

Seized during the 25 minute gunbattle were two M-16 automatic rifles. The NPAs, who retreated, are reportedly from Guerilla Front 2, Sub-Regional Committee 2, of the Southern Regional Committee.

The clash stemmed from persistent reports of the presence of NPAs in the municipalities of Pantukan and Mabini.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

Gazmin says Maritime disputes should be resolved by rules-based solutions

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): Gazmin says Maritime disputes should be resolved by rules-based solutions

During the China-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting in Beijing, China Friday, Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that "maritime disputes are complex issues that should be resolved by rules-based solutions."

And as such, parties involved must refrain from unilateral action that can change the status quo and increase the tension.

"We must keep the lines of communication open through dialogues with all parties involved."

The Philippines is presently involved in maritime dispute with China regarding some features of the West Philippine Sea.

The country is resolved to ease the tension via diplomatic means.

As this develops, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan called upon ASEAN and China to continue promoting practical cooperation such as in the areas of peacekeeping operations, joint patrols, disaster response and deepening of trust between the concerned countries.

In view of the adoption of the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), when China hosted the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in 2014, China proposed to conduct joint training on CUES in 2016.

Chang stressed that China would not seek hegemony, its foreign policy is defensive in nature, and it adopted a strategy of active defense –- proof of which is the reduction of the People's Liberation Army's strength by 300,000.

Camarines Norte police strengthens crime watch through VIPS

From Vox Bikol (Oct 16): Camarines Norte police strengthens crime watch through VIPS

DAET, Camarines Norte – The Camarines Norte Police Provincial Office (CNPPO) has strengthened crime watch in this province through its Visibility in Placards and Signboard (VIPS) or hotlines where to report incidents in every municipalities.

This was during the monthly “Talakayan sa PIA” of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Camarines Norte held recently in celebration with the peace month in September.

The VIPS also adhere to the “Oplan Lambat Sibat” project of the Philippine National Police (PNP) which is to lessen criminalities in the community along with the text blast project which informs the stakeholders, media and the public on the reported crimes in the province.

PSupt. Rhoderick B. Campo, deputy director for operation said that they are on process of planning for the implementation of the “Oplan Lambat Sibat” in the deputation of 95% of personnel in the field and 5% in the office.

This is a strategy to reduce crime, ensure public safety and to have a quality of life of the community, he said.

PSupt. Wilmor G. Halamani, police community relation officer/ public information officer on the other hand said that VIPS is very effective in solving criminality in the area because people are involved in the reporting of incidents in their respective barangays.

The effectiveness of the VIPS was also attested by the chief of police of the 12 municipalities of the province who also discussed crime incidents reports relative to the use of the hotlines.

On the other hand, PSupt. Winston de Belen, deputy police provincial director said that aside from the globe hotlines they will soon provide smart hotlines for the VIPS.

Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, commanding officer, 49th infantry division of the Philippine Army (PA) on the other hand said that capability of the New People’s Army was already reduced from two groups to one and now focusing in Labo  area expanding in Capalonga and Jose Panganiban.

Cristopher R. Azucena, Bicol coordinator for the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on the other hand said that one of the agenda of President Benigno Aquino III is peace in the rule of law which was stipulated in the Philippine Development Plan  (PDP) 2010 -2016.

He said that this include PAMANA, a peace and development framework program which aims to help conflict and affected areas through the implementation of infrastructure projects and livelihood programs.

He said that the program where able to implement a total of P522 million worth of projects from 2011-2015 in the province aside from the P139.5 million in 2016 to be funded by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

SARANGANI: NPA urged to yield

From Tempo (Oct 16): SARANGANI: NPA urged to yield

ALABEL, Sarangani – Gov. Steve Solon has urged member of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province to lay down their arms and avail the government’s peace and reconciliation program.

The governor made the call as the provincial government continues to facilitate the surrender of NPA rebels who wish to avail of the national government’s Comprehensive Livelihood Integrated Program (CLIP).

Solon said at least 30 former NPA rebels from Sarangani have been enlisted this year into the CLIP wherein the national government had already released some P2 million for their livelihood assistance program.

The CLIP, which is being undertaken by the Department of Interior and Local Government, aims to resolve the decades-old local insurgency problems which hinder the socio-economic development in the countryside.

Commentary: We are ‘lumad,’ hear our voice

Commentary posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 17): We are ‘lumad,’ hear our voice (by Jennifer Santiago Ortega)

Speaking in Filipino, he declared: “I am Datu Rico Maca of Bitaogan, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.” And in declaring himself, he claimed the space due him by lineage and by history. This act is crucial as there are groups who accuse Maca of being a “fake” datu. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has confirmed his status, sealing his claim to the title.

“With me are the legitimate leaders of indigenous peoples (IPs) in Surigao del Sur. I’d like to introduce them to you,” Maca said. Then, addressing the other men, he added: “Please stand, fellow datus.”

About 40 datus rose all at the same time, with the confidence and pride that only those who are used to the dignity and burden of authority can project. Thus did they gather everyone’s full attention.

The occasion was the recent Senate inquiry into the lumad killings. The atmosphere was tense.

“We are one with you in demanding justice for the three murdered lumad in Lianga, Surigao del Sur,” Maca said.

“But we are also hurt since there were so many others killed over the years, yet no one paid attention. If not for a non-IP who was killed, Mr. Samarca, a Senate inquiry would not have taken place.

In our own community, there were three persons killed last Aug 26, but why does [the human rights group] Karapatan demand justice only for the Tabugon brothers? How about Rogel Ignacio ‘Loverboy’ Quinones? He deserves justice, too.”

Maca enumerated the names of the victims, making them alive again in the memory of those present. In his testimony, by design or by accident, he honored the dead by declaring their names.

And there were, he said, 357 lumad killed by the “NPA” (New People’s Army) over the period 1988-2008. He didn’t say it out loud, but I heard him, we all did: Where were you? Why pay attention to us only now?

The communities in question are found on the mountain ranges of Regions 11 and 13. Populated by the Manobo, Mamanwa, Matigsalog, Banwaon, Dibabawon and Umayamnon, they are situated in the provincial boundaries of Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon and the Davao Region. All the 33 tribes have ancestral-domain claims that sit on a rich deposit of nickel, gold and other minerals. And there lies the rub: The issue is resources, and the control of them.

The killing of Emerito Samarca, Bello Sinzo and Dionel Campos last Sept. 1 caught the attention of the public because of the brutality involved. The campaign that was launched caught fire: #stoplumadkillings. It was a plain and direct call to action. But while the campaign focused attention on the plight of the lumad, the problem is the simplicity of the narrative on which it was based: the paramilitary groups that roam and terrorize the communities connive with or are formed by the military because of suspicion that they coddle the NPA, or worse, are NPA members themselves. The story line is simply this: the military vs. the NPA. But the reality is more complex.

There are layers of interests at play in the situation. What we see is just the smoke, not the fire that creates the smoke. At the heart of the issue is the tug-of-war between the 1995 Mining Act and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) of 1997. Mining companies have long been interested in IP territories in northeast Mindanao; the major stumbling block is the lumad’s ancestral-domain claim under the Ipra.

Let’s understand the issues, the first being the IP leadership. Before the entry of outsiders, the IP political system was clear: The datu is the political leader; the babaylan the religious leader; and the bagani the cultural defender. A ceremony is done to declare who the leaders are. But when outsiders entered the picture, the political system was compromised. In some communities, there is now a “proliferation” of datus: the datu based on lineage, the datu appointed by the NPA, another recognized by the local government, yet another recognized by the military.

Most often, this situation comes at a price, if not a quid pro quo arrangement. The datu who represents the community gets to take part in the approval process of the “free, prior and informed consent” required for mining companies to operate in IP territories. He will also represent the community in collecting its percentage share in the mining income. In a multibillion-peso industry, it’s a no-brainer why the race for the “real” datu is on.

Then there is the bagani system. The NPA formed the “Pulang Bagani,” and the “Magahat-Bagani” is, accordingly, composed of ex-NPA members. The Magahat-Bagani is the group allegedly responsible for the murder spree last Sept. 1.

This “NPA” and “ex-NPA” affiliation is also the source of the current framing of the issue as NPA vs. military, with the ex-NPA group being associated with the military. For some reason, the framers of the lumad issue regard the NPA as having only a “by the way” role; the main protagonists remain the community on one side and the Magahat-Bagani-plus-military on the other. There seems to be a clear attempt to stay clear of linking the NPA to the matter. But according to information, the group is very much a participant in the unfolding events.

An additional complication is the “uniform” used by the armed groups. The military’s presentation during the Senate inquiry included a photograph of the NPA members who purportedly attacked Magpet, Cotabato, in October 2014, all clad in military-style combat uniforms. Members of private armed groups also wear the same combat uniforms. So when witnesses describe armed men in military uniform, it becomes difficult to establish whether the armed men are indeed members of the military or other groups.

Finally, there is the fact that all these groups—NPA, ex-NPA, private armed groups, and the militia (Cafgu)—are peopled by the lumad. They are being used and abused by different interests, capitalizing on the very characteristic of the IPs that makes them susceptible to manipulation: their trusting nature. The sad reality is that the lumad are being pitted against one another. Outsiders have corrupted the lumad culture and tradition to benefit their interests.

When Maca made his impassioned plea, he communicated in a language not just of logic and reason, but a language understood by the heart:

What we want is no military, no NGO, no Karapatan. Leave us alone to talk among ourselves. We can best address the issues by talking among ourselves rather than going to court. It is painful that there are killings without justice. Please, PNP, AFP, Gob (Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel), please help us. We want justice for all the victims…” He broke down in emotion before adding: “Our appeal is to dismantle the NPA in our communities… What government agency can help us?”

[Jennifer Santiago Oreta, PhD, is assistant secretary at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.]

2 Army soldiers killed in suspected NPA ambush in Batangas

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 17): 2 Army soldiers killed in suspected NPA ambush in Batangas

Two soldiers were killed in an ambush staged by suspected New People’s Army rebels in Calaca, Batangas on Friday evening, a regional military spokesman said.

Major Angelo Guzman, public information officer of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Camp Nakar here said the two soldiers were riding a motorcycle in Barangay Coral ni Lopez in Calaca when the rebels fired at them around 7 p.m.

Both troopers died on the spot.
The soldiers – Private First Class Jay Lozano and Ferrie John Gabica, both from the Army’s 16th Infantry Battalion – came from the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and were returning to their station in Calaca when waylaid by the suspected rebels.

Guzman said the attack was believed to be in retaliation to the death of five communist guerrillas who were slain in an encounter with government troopers in Nasugbo, Batangas on Wednesday.

The slain NPA rebels in Nasugbo were part of a guerrilla unit from Mindoro Island that had moved to Batangas in preparation for the collection of permit to campaign (PTC) fee from election candidates, according to military report.

Guzman said Solcom had alerted all soldiers to be extra cautious with their security.

According to Guzman, the rebels’ dwindling strength and capability have made them resort to targeting unarmed soldiers, policemen and paramilitary forces.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, Solcom commander, on Wednesday said the military would deploy additional forces to Batangas to stop the communist insurgents from regaining their lost base in the province and to maintain peace and order.

Visaya also said Solcom was ready to provide security for candidates in the 2016 elections against harassment and extortion by NPA rebels.

The Solcom chief advised candidates not to give in to the demands of the communist rebels by paying PTC in exchange for unmolested poll campaign activities inside the supposed rebel’s influenced areas.

Mindanao peace process: From conflict zone to growth market

From Nikkei Asian Review (Oct 17): Mindanao peace process: From conflict zone to growth market

A Muslim woman enjoys shopping at a newly-opened department store in Cotabato City in Mindanao.

COTABATO, Philippines -- After decades as a hotbed of violent conflict, the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines has recently emerged as a magnet for foreign investments amid the ongoing peace process between local Muslims and the government in Manila.

With a wealth of natural resources, including vast petroleum and gas deposits, foreign companies are seeking to tap into potentially huge infrastructure and consumer demands on the island.
Further improvements in the island's safety situation can accelerate the pace of development. In turn, local business leaders hope that greater investment and the jobs it creates will have a reciprocal effect on the peace process.

Up until a few years ago, the city of Cotabato in western Mindanao regularly fell victim to terrorist bomb attacks. The city of roughly 300,000 inhabitants became an easy target related to its close proximity to the headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front armed militia group.

But now Cotabato is bustling with energy. In September, Centro Department Store opened its first Mindanao outlet in the city. The store is teeming with shoppers, including many Muslim women. It offers a wide variety of goods that were once available only in Manila, a company official said.

Other retailers, including major supermarket chain operator Puregold Price Club, are set to open their shops in the near future. Puregold is involved in a business partnership with Japanese convenience store operator Lawson.

Muslims, having inhabited the island for centuries, started rebelling against an influx of Christian settlers in the 1970s. Conflicts ensuing over the 40 years since have reportedly claimed more than 60,000 lives.

In 2012, however, the government and the MILF laid down their arms after signing a framework agreement on the peace process. One of the key clauses in the agreement is the abolition of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and its replacement in 2016 with an autonomous government with greater authority for the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

For a long time, vast swathes of the ARMM and surrounding areas had been rife with conflict, ensuring few people considered them investment targets. But with the peace process in place and the improved safety situation, foreign companies are eyeing growth opportunity and the potential for development in the resource-rich area.

Earlier this year, the Regional Board of Investments in the ARMM approved an investment worth 3.7 billion pesos ($80.3 million) by Unifrutti, fruit multinational well-known for Chiquita bananas.

Investments in the region will likely total 7 billion pesos this year, a near 300% increase on the level before the peace deal was struck.

In the neighboring province of Bukidnon, Malaysia-based Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad, the world's largest palm oil producer, is intent on operating a palm oil plantation. Now is the time for investment, said Danda Juanday, President of Metro Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation. New investment will create jobs and help cement peace, he added.

As such, the local business organization is seeking to lure foreign investments. It is currently negotiating with a Malaysian investor over several business deals, including the production of Islamic Halal food, he said.

After decades of strife, Mindanao is finally seeing a flow of investment and development projects. This trend is likely to gather further momentum if the government and the MILF can coordinate the transition to peace seamlessly and the autonomous regional government is formed as planned.

Chinese companies are also seeking to make investments in natural resources and power projects on the island, said Ishak Mastura, chairman of the Regional Board of Investments in the ARMM.

Meanwhile, only a small number Japanese companies have begun making inroads into Mindanao, as decisions over such investments remain complicated. "Japan can offer assistance in the form of road construction, if such activities can benefit local communities through job creation," said Naoyuki Ochiai, the head of Japan International Cooperation Agency's office in Cotabato, a long-time supporter of the peace process.

Nevertheless, deliberations in Manila on the Bangsamoro Basic Law have been slow and drawn-out. The law stipulates the conditions for the establishment of the autonomous government. Any drastic changes to the law will lead to fears of a return to armed conflict.

It now becomes imperative for the Philippines to make a success of this conflict-to-economic growth model and add fuel to Mindanao's economic momentum. By emerging from decades of conflict to become a hotbed of foreign investment, Mindanao could act as an example to neighboring countries struggling with internal conflicts.

SAF recruits nearly triple after Mamasapano tragedy

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 16): SAF recruits nearly triple after Mamasapano tragedy

More individuals wanted to become Special Action Force commandos since the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that claimed lives of 44 SAF troopers in an operation against international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan.

The number of new SAF recruits doubled since the January 25 incident that drew public sympathy for the “SAF 44″ as well as for the elite police unit, said SAF spokesperson Senior Inspector Jayson Baldos on Friday.

From around 200 recruits last year, Baldos said 546 policemen of Police Officer 1 ranks have joined the SAF from January until October.

And more than half of the 546 policemen came from Mindanao, Baldos said, adding that the recent surge of SAF recruits from the south reached a record high in the history of the unit.

“[The Mamasapano incident] brought positive outcome, especially in relation to our recruitment,” he said in a press briefing at Camp Crame.

But despite the increase, the spokesperson said the SAF still fell short of its required number of recruits. As of latest figures, SAF has a strength of 4,300 personnel but they need to hire at least 5,000 policemen.

“We still have 700 slots for recruits that we need to fill up, that’s why we are frequently conducting recruitment programs,” he said.

The Mamasapano operation dubbed “Oplan Exodus” hogged the headlines after 44 SAF men, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front members and three civilians died in an 11-hour long gun battle between the commandos and Moro armed groups after the SAF raided Marwan’s hut in Barangay (village) Pidsandawan.

The incident also sparked public outrage and challenged President Benigno Aquino III’s administration after he allegedly allowed then suspended Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to participate in the planning of “Exodus.” Top cabinet and police officials were also kept in the dark until the operation started.

MNLF leader hails accord with MILF as start of permanent peace in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 16): MNLF leader hails accord with MILF as start of permanent peace in Mindanao

Moro people in Mindanao, the country’s local Muslims, continue to seek “acceptance and peace with our fellowmen.”

Muslimin G. Sema, chairman of a big group of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) made this statement as he cited another milestone with the “unified declaration” signed by his group and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Tuesday at Camp Darapanan, Crossing Simuary, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

In his speech after the signing, Sema said the declaration was “one of the building blocks of permanent peace in our homeland.”

“Today, we are here in this great hall right in the heart of a truly MNLF enclave, Darapanan, and we claim, once again as we did before, that we are Moros in search of acceptance and peace with our fellowmen,” he said.

He hailed the signing as a fulfillment of the “Bangsamoro people’s desire for the MNLF and MILF to unite and pursue the promises of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).”

At the same time, the MNLF leader warned that “there will be no peace, not even a semblance of it” if either of the two peace tracks of the Mindanao peace process remained “hanging on the balance.”

These are the tripartite review process of the FPA and CAB.

According to him, the two-page unified declaration constituted their call on the Bangsamoro people and all Filipinos to support the call for peace of President Aquino and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

They also pushed for the passage of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without being watered down.

Sema said both peace tracks must bear fruit with the two agreements “implemented fully, wholly, and faithfully, with high regard to their solemn objectives, the establishment of truly autonomous Bangsamoro Government, and the Moro people’s common aspiration for peace.”

MILF: Editorial -- MILF’s hands-off in 2016 Elections

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 16): Editorial -- MILF’s hands-off in 2016 Elections

Like in all previous elections, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not participate in the Presidential Elections in May 2016. This has been the policy of the MILF since its inception in September 1977.
The reasons for this hands-off policy are varied and clear. First, up to this time the MILF is still a revolutionary organization, and as such, it operates largely outside the ambit of governmental set-up and rules and regulations. Until the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted into law and the Bangsamoro Government is established, the MILF will remain a revolutionary organization.

Second, the MILF believes and pursues a very different method of choosing leaders of society. The existing system where candidates, using money, power, and every imaginable tricks available, to outdo and defeat their rivals is in the end counterproductive to both winners and losers.

And third, the current efforts to solve the Bangsamoro Question, mainly via the passage of the BBL, are still hanging in the balance. Therefore, participating in such a highly partisan and divisive exercises, such as in the forthcoming elections in May 2016, will not only bring enmity and animosity among the ranks and file of the MILF but can be a menu for disintegration.

However, the MILF will not prevent its members from casting their votes in favor of their chosen candidates, especially those running for the presidential office.  If exercised with caution and clear purpose, voting the right candidate, especially if he or she wins, is a great service to this country.  Good leaders always make a difference in the lives of the people. 

Right now there are four aspirants to the presidency namely, Senator Miriam Santiago, Senator Grace Llamansares-Poe, former Secretary Mar Roxas, and Vice President Jejomar Binay.  We do not and will not pass judgment on them.  It is up for the people to determine who is the better leader in their judgment.

However, in so far as the search for solution to the Bangsamoro Question is concerned, the choice of candidates should be on the basis of their past and their current actuation including their pronouncements on the BBL. More importantly, they should be asked of their policy regarding the Moros and the armed conflict in Mindanao.  If they don’t have it yet, ask them to come out with it now. It is time that we should assert our rights strongly and vigorously.

The Moro voting strength is more or less two million nationwide. In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the number of registered voters already reached 1.5 million. It is huge enough to swing the pendulum in favor of whoever gets the bulk of it.

Surely, the issue of the BBL is a big factor in determining how a Moro voter would cast his or her vote. At no time in the past that they are united than today by identifying themselves with the proposed basic law. Except for an insignificant few, everybody is with the BBL, especially its success in Congress.

MILF: International community calls for continuation of the peace process and urges parties to not abandon the gains of negotiations

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 15): International community calls for continuation of the peace process and urges parties to not abandon the gains of negotiations

International community calls for continuation of the peace process and urges parties to not abandon the gains of negotiations

Yesterday, October 15, 2015, the international community in the Philippines represented by 24 foreign envoys from across the globe and all continents – Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Africa – took a united stand on the current state of the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government (GPH), calling on the parties to remain committed to the peace process and not abandon the gains of almost 20 years of peace negotiations.

In an unprecedented and historic move, Ambassadors representing Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Czech Republic, the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines, Italy, Japan and the United States signed a unity statement that was unveiled in a modest but powerful ceremony held in Makati City.

In the aforementioned statement, the group of Ambassadors, reportedly calling themselves as “International Friends for Peace”, implored concerned parties “to remain engaged in the peace process, to give life to the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), and to the long term political, economic and social pillars that will bring the peace dividend to the country as a whole.”  For the said envoys, the peace process in Mindanao could present to the rest of the world an exemplary case of the peaceful resolution of an armed conflict.

In addressing the Bangsamoro problem, they asked parties to work within the 1987 Constitution while also recognizing of the aspirations of the people of the Bangsamoro to “form an effective and inclusive, devolved administration”.  Furthermore, the envoys reiterated that parties must resolve not to use violence and ensure that existing safeguard and security mechanisms remain functional.

For the MILF, the statement could not come at a better time as the process is currently at a critical juncture where the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) could challenge the commitments made by the parties and threaten the ongoing implementation of various commitments stipulated in the peace agreement.  It also sees this message from the international community as an affirmation of the MILF’s responsibility to finding a just and lasting solution to the age old conflict in the Bangsamoro region through peaceful and political means.  The statement and its text is a triumph of peace diplomacy which often is conducted behind closed doors and without being mentioned in public discourse.   Furthermore, it considers the message as a rejoinder to the statement released by the MILF Central Committee after its internal meeting held last September 2 to 3, 2015 held in a foreign venue. This statement conveyed a clear and strong message from the highest levels of the MILF leadership to continue on the path for peace and pursue a political solution to the Bangsamoro problem. 

The MILF knew early on of the critical role the international community would play in keeping the momentum of the peace process by 1) keeping note of the performance of the parties in the carrying out the obligations highlighted in the signed agreements, and 2) providing the necessary support and advice to the parties in case of an impasse.  In the current peace process architecture, select members of the international community were invited to take on these tasks (e.g. International Monitoring Team, International Contact Group, Independent Decommissioning Body, Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission, Third Party Monitoring Team, Independent Commission on Policing, etc.), which has helped the parties reached milestones relentlessly pursue implementation of the signed agreements despite the challenges. 

On the MILF side, its consistent statements and conduct of ceremonial decommissioning are testament of its performance in delivering MILF's part of the deal. Some of the statements of commitments from leaders of the Front are as follow: 1) We will stay engaged in the pursuit of peace no matter what happens to the BBL; 2) We also trust the President Benigno Aquino III and acknowledge his commitment to the peace process; and 3) We believe the BBL would ensure good governance and inclusivity in the Bangsamoro and will lead to the final resolution of the armed conflict in Mindanao.

In reaction to the statement, Mohagher Iqbal, who chairs both the MILF Peace Panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, viewed the statement as a triumph of path of peace over those who advocate for violence in Mindanao.

“We are very much inspired by the message shared by the international community as well as their assurance of the continued support to the peace process, including the implementation of the CAB,” he said in a interview with Luwaran.

In response, he assured the international community that they will find the MILF as their reliable partner with a proven track record for sustainable peace and security in Mindanao.

“The return to war will not emanate from the MILF,” he stressed, while hoping that the next president who will be elected in 2016 will not adopt an all-out war against the MILF similar to the one waged in 2000 by then President Joseph Estrada.

Photos: 730 Combat Group, 710th Special Operations Wing of the Philippine Air Force neutralizes New People's Army (NPA) extortion group in SOLCOM AOR

6th Civil Relations Group Facebook Page shared photos from Mike Aquino AFP (Oct 14) Photos: 730 Combat Group, 710th Special Operations Wing of the Philippine Air Force neutralizes New People's Army (NPA) extortion group in SOLCOM AOR

Supporters show up for MNLF chairman's COC filing in Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Oct 16): Supporters show up for MNLF chairman's COC filing in Cotabato

Liberal Party candidates for elective positions in Cotabato City, led by mayoral candidate Muslimin Sema and spouse, reelectionist Maguindanao Rep. Sandra Sema, parade their way through the venue of their filing of certificates of candidacy. Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Thousands of local voters on Thursday marched around as their favored mayoral bet, the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) under the banner of the Liberal Party (LP).

The show of force by supporters of mayoral wannabe Muslimin Sema, leader of the largest of three groups in the MNLF, was something extraordinary for residents of Cotabato City.

Sema had served as Cotabato City mayor for three consecutive terms.

Sema’s running mate, vice mayoral candidate Mohammad Pasigan, a businessman, also filed his COC on Thursday.

The MNLF leader will contest the bid for a third term of incumbent Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.

Sema was accompanied to the office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cotabato City by his spouse, Sandra, an incumbent congresswoman, who is seeking reelection as LP candidate.

Rep. Sema is presently in her second term as congressional representative of 11 Maguindanao towns and Cotabato City, which has 37 barangays, where she has ongoing costly infrastructure projects designed to generate livelihood opportunities for the local agriculture and fishery sectors.

The former mayor Sema, most known here for his tag “peacemaker,” and his entire slate for the city council launched their candidacy with a pitch to work together in addressing the nagging peace and security issues besetting the city.

Among LP’s anointed candidate for city councilor is the incumbent Bruce Matabalao, who was first elected during the May 13, 2013 local polls.

Matabalao, a former broadcast journalist, is popular for his involvement in peace-building activities meant to foster solidarity among Muslims and Christians in the city and in other areas in Central Mindanao.

The MNLF faction led by Sema has thousands of followers scattered across Central Mindanao and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Unlike Nur Misuari, who also leads a faction in the MNLF, Sema is not hostile to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and is even supportive of President Benigno Aquino III’s diplomatic dealings with the MILF.

The firebrand Misuari is rabidly opposed to the ongoing government-MILF peace efforts and has been asserting that MalacaƱang’s peace pact with the group abrogated the September 2, 1996 final GPH-MNLF truce.

Beijing holds defense forum as South China Sea festers

From Rappler (Oct 16): Beijing holds defense forum as South China Sea festers

The disputes have sometimes spilled over into confrontations as vessels from the competing countries spar over fishing grounds and resource extraction rights

PAG-ASA ISLAND. The second biggest island in the disputed South China Sea is home to about a hundred Filipinos. Photo by SSg Amable Milay/Philippine Air Force

PAG-ASA ISLAND. The second biggest island in the disputed South China Sea is home to about a hundred Filipinos. Photo by SSg Amable Milay/Philippine Air Force

China gathered defence officials and experts from across the Asia-Pacific in Beijing Friday, October 16, for a three-day security forum intended to boost the Asian giant's influence on the global stage.

The Xiangshan, or Fragrant Hills, conference comes as tensions rise between Washington and Beijing, the region's two largest economic and military powers, over the latter's construction of artificial islands in disputed South China Sea waters.

US officials have signalled they may soon send ships by the islands, challenging Chinese sovereignty claims in a strategically crucial area that hosts vital shipping lanes – and Beijing has said it would "firmly oppose" such a move.

The conference, the sixth of its kind, will be attended by 60 official delegations and 130 scholars, according to organizers.

It is part of China's broader effort to increase its international influence, which has also seen the creation of the multi-billion-dollar Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The event will give Beijing "a louder voice," according to a comment piece in the state-run China Daily newspaper, which added that it will help correct characterisations of China as "aggressive."

The conference is seen as a potential competitor to Singapore's showpiece Shangri-La Dialogue, which attracts top international military officials and experts to the city-state each spring.

In the past, that gathering has served as a forum for Western officials to dress Beijing down on its behaviour in the South China Sea, something less likely to occur on home turf.

'Peace patrols'

The Xiangshan meeting followed an informal gathering of defence ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the Chinese capital on Friday.

The group includes Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which have rival South China Sea claims, as does non-ASEAN member Taiwan.

The disputes have sometimes spilled over into confrontations as vessels from the competing countries spar over fishing grounds and resource extraction rights.

Vietnam has repeatedly accused China of ramming its fishing boats as they ply local waters. The Philippines has taken its dispute to a United Nations tribunal, infuriating Beijing.

Indonesia's defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu proposed joint "peace patrols" between China and ASEAN countries in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the gatherings, according to Jakarta's state-run news agency Antara.

"If the countries who have interests in the South China Sea can calm tensions and are able to manage the conflict, there's no need to involve other parties in resolving the dispute," he was cited as saying.

ASEAN has for years called on China to negotiate a Code of Conduct for the region, a binding set of rules aimed at preventing actions that lead to conflict.

Beijing has agreed to engage in "consultations" on the issue, although not full negotiations.

Several ASEAN defence ministers stayed on in Beijing for the Xiangshan forum, including Vietnam's military chief.

The gathering's headline speaker is Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia, which has close relations with China. It is not a claimant in the South China Sea and has backed Beijing's stance that ASEAN should stay out of the dispute.

No American officials appear on the conference's agenda, although a prominent spot is given to retired US Navy Admiral Gary Roughead, who will speak on a panel with several defense ministers.

Marawi police chief shot dead

From Rappler (Oct 17): Marawi police chief shot dead

Police Superintendent Al Abner Wahab Santos was driving his vehicle when he was shot dead by the suspects in Barangay Luksa Datu in Marawi City

The police chief of Marawi City was shot dead by still unidentified suspects in the Lanao del Sur capital on Saturday, October 17, the Philippine National Police regional office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PNP ARMM) said.

Police Superintendent Al Abner Wahab Santos was driving his vehicle when he was shot dead by the suspects at Sarimanok in Barangay Luksa Datu in Marawi City, PNP ARMM said.

"The victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds on the head with the use of unknown caliber of firearms. Motive is still to be determined," it added.

PNP ARMM spokesperson Senior Inspector Ronald de Leon cited Santos' accomplishments in the fight againt drug syndicates, and in the implementation of the PNP's Oplan Lambat Sibat.

The PNP desccribes Oplan Lambat Sibat as its "deliberate, programmatic, and sustained approach to combat criminality nationwide."

Malaysia arrests hacker who allegedly gave IS data on thousands of US security officials

From InterAksyon (Oct 17) Off Subject but of General Intelligence Interest: Malaysia arrests hacker who allegedly gave IS data on thousands of US security officials

Malaysia has arrested a man on charges of hacking into the personal information of more than a thousand US security officials and handing the database to the Islamic State militant group in Syria so it could target the individuals.

The 20-year-old from Kosovo, who entered Malaysia in August 2014 to study computer science and forensics at a private institute in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, will be extradited to the United States, police said in a statement on Thursday night.

"Early investigation found the suspect communicated with one of the right hand man (leader) of IS terrorist group in Syria to hack a few servers containing information and details of US security personnel and team," Malaysian police said.

"The details were then transferred to the operation unit of the IS group for further action."

The US Justice Department said the man, Ardit Ferizi, a citizen of Kosovo and a known hacker, had been charged with hacking the personal information of 1,351 US military personnel and federal employees and supporting Islamic State.

Ferizi, believed to be the leader of a Kosovar internet hacking group called Kosova Hacker’s Security, hacked the computer system of a US company and stole the personal identification information of thousands of individuals, the department said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

Between June and August 2015 Ferizi allegedly provided the PII to an Islamic State member, who in turn posted a tweet titled "NEW: US Military AND Government HACKED by the Islamic State Hacking Division!” which contained a hyperlink to a 30-page document.

The document said in part: “we are in your emails and computer systems, watching and recording your every move, we have your names and addresses." It said that information would be passed on to Islamic State fighters "who soon with the permission of Allah will strike at your necks in your own lands!"

The US Justice Department statement said: "This posting was intended to provide ISIL (Islamic State) supporters in the United States and elsewhere with the PII belonging to the listed government employees for the purpose of encouraging terrorist attacks against those individuals."

Although Muslim-majority Malaysia has not seen any significant militant attacks, it has arrested more than 100 citizens this year on suspicion of links to Islamic State.

Authorities are cracking down on people with Islamic State links and have so far identified several Malaysians who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join the group.

In August, police arrested 10 Malaysians suspected of links to Islamic State, among them six members of Malaysia's security forces.

China wants naval drills with Southeast Asian nations in South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Oct 16): China wants naval drills with Southeast Asian nations in South China Sea

China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, accompanied by Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (not pictured), reviews a guard of honor during his visit to Thailand, at the Defense Ministry in Bangkok February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

China's defense minister said on Friday that he is willing to hold joint drills in the disputed South China Sea with Southeast Asian countries, covering accidental encounters and search and rescue, striking a conciliatory tone over an increasingly tense spat.

China's relations with several Southeast Asian countries, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, have been strained over Beijing's increasingly assertive tone in pushing territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told his counterparts from all 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the start of an informal summit in Beijing that all parties needed to push for the "correct" development of ties.

Chang said the biggest common need was to maintain stability.

In a statement carried by the Defense Ministry on its microblog, Chang was cited as saying that all sides should manage and control the risks from their disputes.

China is willing to hold joint exercises with ASEAN nations next year in the South China Sea on rules about accidental encounters at sea, search and rescue, and disaster relief, the statement added, without providing further details.

China stepped up the creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea last year, drawing strong criticism from Washington.

The Philippines welcomed the possibility of joint naval drills with China, especially if they provide an opportunity to verify that China's man-made islands in the South China Sea have no military purpose, a senior naval commander told Reuters.

"That's a good idea, we welcome that proposal," the commander said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "It would be good if China will open its artificial islands, allow us to dock there and visit these islands."

Media reports say the United States has decided to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations inside 12 nautical-mile limits that China claims around islands built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

China denies it has militarized the South China Sea, saying construction work is mostly for civilian purposes, and has warned that Beijing would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation.

The United States says, under international law, that building up artificial islands on previously submerged reefs does not entitle a country to claim a territorial limit and that it is vital to maintain freedom of navigation.

Chang, speaking in front of reporters, said there were other areas to work together on, too.

"At present the regional situation is generally stable, but there are obvious downward economic pressures and non-traditional security challenges are increasing," he said, pointing to the threat from terror groups.

"Forces from outside the region are using the Internet, social media and other means to carry out incitements against countries in this region, threatening social stability," Chang said, without elaborating.

China says it faces a threat from Islamist militants in its far western region of Xinjiang, who it says often use the Internet to spread propaganda, link up with groups outside of China and encourage attacks.

Suspected ASG rebels kill cop, attack police outpost in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): Suspected ASG rebels kill cop, attack police outpost in Sulu

A policeman was killed while another was wounded on two separate incidents perpetrated by suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands in Sulu, the military disclosed Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the slain policeman as PO3 Espaldon Tingkahan, 40, assigned with the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC).

Arrojado said Tingkahan was shot to death around 5:40 a.m. Saturday in the vicinity of the airport in Barangay Liang, Patikul, Sulu.

Arrojado said Tingkahan was having his morning jogging when repeatedly shot by two unidentified persons who pretended to be among the joggers.

The runway of the airport that stretches from Jolo town to the municipality of Patikul serves as the jogging place of residents in the area.

Arrojado said troops of the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion stationed nearby responded and engaged the suspects in a shootout. The suspects managed to escape towards the hinterlands.

The identity of the wounded policeman was not immediately available except that he is assigned at the police outpost situated at the back of provincial capitol building in Barangay Liang, Patikul.

Arrojado said the policeman was on duty together with another policeman when fired upon by suspected ASG brigands Friday night.

The ASG brigands were gone before they could return fire.

Arrojado has reminded the troops under the Joint Task Group Sulu to enforce personal and unit security measures to avoid becoming targets of the ASG brigands.

5th ID disaster response units in 'standby' for 'Lando'

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): 5th ID disaster response units in 'standby' for 'Lando'

The Isabela-based 5th Infantry has placed all its disaster response task units (DRTUs) in "red alert" as Typhoon "Lando" continues to threaten a huge portion of Northern and Central Luzon Saturday.

Major Gen. Lysander Suerte, 5th Infantry Division commander, said their "red alert" status started 5 p.m. Friday.

He added that all DRTUs and other units are instructed to coordinate with local government units in their respective areas-of-operations.

"We are (now) in standby and ready to be deployed to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster response," Suerte stressed.

Western, Asian, African envoys support Bangsamoro peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 17): Western, Asian, African envoys support Bangsamoro peace process

The Government of the Philippines Negotiating Panel for talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) acknowledged the renewed support of the international community for the Bangsamoro peace process and its members’ call to pass a meaningful Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without delay.

“Domestic support is vital in sustaining the Bangsamoro peace process. International support for the passage of the basic law is also valuable because they provide a global perspective that broadens our parochial and partisan appreciation of our quest," said government chief peace negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

“As outsiders looking in, the international community can offer a more objective point of view. We are heartened that they continue to see that we are fighting the good fight and thank them for the trust and goodwill they have shown from the beginning,” she added.

Western and Asian nations supporting the Bangsamoro peace process have issued yesterday a new call for the continuation of the Bangsamoro peace process and the establishment of safeguards to prevent a resumption of armed conflict in Mindanao.

Signed statement of support

Diplomats representing the Western and Asian nations stressed the need to ensure that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the Philippine government and the MILF in March 27, 2014 would be implemented to sustain the peace and stability in the Philippines’ main southern island of Mindanao.

“We, the undersigned, share a common aim with the people of the Philippines to work towards a just and lasting peace in Mindanao that brings prosperity, security, and social benefits to all Filipinos and maintains the unity of the Republic of the Philippines,” the ambassadors stated. “We express our solid support and commitment to the continuity of the peace process…”

Among the signatories are Ambassador Bill Tweddell of Australia; H.E. Marion Derckx of the Netherlands; Ambassador Philip Goldberg of the United States of America; Ambassador Erik Forner of Norway; Ambassador Luis Calvo of Spain; Charge d’ Affaires a.i. Raoul Imbach of Switzerland; Ambassador Asif Ahmad of the British Embassy; Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa of Japan; Ambassador Rolando A. Guevara Alvarado of Panama; Ambassador Jon Top Christensen of Denmark; Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa, Jr. of the Czech Republic; Ambassador Massimo Roscigno of Italy; Charge d’ Affaires a.i. Ngerikl Baules of Palau; Charges d’ Affaires a.i. Stella De Araneta of Colombia; Ambassador-Designate Franz Jessen of the European Union; Ambassador Thomas Ossowski of Germany; Charge d’ Affaires Mihai Sion of Romania; Ambassador Marthinus Slabber of South Africa; Ambassador Jae-Shin Kim of Korea; Ambassador Neil Reeder of Canada; and Deputy Head of Mission Laurent Legodec of France.

Ambassador Johny Lumintang of Indonesia, Ambasaador David Strachan of New Zeland, and DHM Charlotta Schlyter of Sweden also expressed their intention to sign the statement.

The group explained that there was a pressing need to give life to the 2014 negotiated peace accord between the government and the MILF that served as basis for the drafting of a Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and “to the long term political, economic, and social pillars that will bring the peace dividend to the country as a whole”.

“We ask for continued commitment from all stakeholders to seize this opportunity to enable the Bangsamoro people to form an effective and inclusive, devolved administration as called for in the [2014 CAB]. To do this will require flexibility on all sides to work within current Constitution of the Republic and recognition of the aspirations of the people of the Bangsamoro,” the ambassadors continued.

When passed, the BBL will abolish the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and set up a parliamentary regional government that will provide the Bangsamoro with more fiscal and political autonomy.

Continuity and common interest

According to the diplomats, their stake in achieving peace and development in the Philippines is “not just as committed friends and development partners” but “as investors and members of the community through our citizens.”

“The long and difficult history of this troubled region can and should move to a more positive future agenda. Much work has been done to bring the parties, activists, politicians, business, and civil society to the brink of a settlement. For the country as a whole, it is essential that setbacks are overcome and people of vision and faith come together to ensure that the momentum for peace continues.”

The CAB is a product of almost 18 years of negotiations. It builds on the gains of the government’s 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The contemporary Moro uprising crystallized due to the atrocities committed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to the Moro people.

“In sustaining the peace effort, it is vital that there is no return to violence and that long-established institutional safeguard measures remain in place to monitor and resolve disputes.”

“In a world of conflict and instability which has marred the lives of so many, we want to support the Philippines to emerge as a nation that is at peace within itself,” the statement concluded.