Archive for the ‘MILF’ Category

Hostage takers now demand $10 million ransom

February 9, 2009

The modus operandi of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers has unraveled just as expected. After three weeks of holding workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)— Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Adreas Notter and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Abu Sayyaf through the Moro Islamic Libration Front (MILF) has stopped treating them as “guests.”

Just as expected, Albader Parad, leader of the notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnappers announced they are demanding $10 million ransom for the three innocent human beings who were there on a humanitarian work to benefit the Sulu prisoners. This extortion demand is more despicable when these criminals say, as in the past, the money is for the hostages’ “board and lodging” obligations.

This hideous development brings the kidnapping on a more difficult plane. Advocating a news blackout, the military has been so far helpless. The ICRC follows a no ransom policy in dealing with criminal elements. In line with the no-negotiation-no ransom policy of the government, the ICRC joins religious, student and community groups in denouncing the abductions and demand the release of the victims.

Kidnapping has been an anathema against peace and progress in the Southern Philippines where the Muslims are concentrated. Barbarism which masquerades as an opportunity to drum up sympathy for the Muslims only send in the message of lawlessness and lack of moral values of Islamic extemists. Hostage-taking has been a source of shame for the government and the Filipino people. (Photo Credit: AP/ Favila, A) =0=

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January 6: Amon Jadid and an Incongrous Greeting

January 6, 2009


Yesterday, January 6 was the first day of Muharram, when the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar started, hence the connotation of being the Islamic New Year. However, Muslims around the world are divided on its signifance and on the way they celebrate it.

However, Mrs. Arroyo greeted the local Muslim community ‘Happy Amon Jadid’, which corresponds to ‘Happy New Year’. However the message after the greetings immediately turned controversial. She said and I quote portions of it:

“Amon Jadid…gives Muslims the oppurtunity to look forward to a better future and to live in peace and prosperity….I ask our Muslim brothers to support our resolve in turning the fragile peace in Muslim Mindanao into a genuine and lasting one…”

I am astounded by the disconnect of the greetings to reality. I do not even know if this already amounts to an insult. It is as if Mindanao is not enveloped in war right now. And as if there are no refugees who are mainly Muslims.

Fragile peace? All I know is there’s a lull in the fighting because of the holidays. But I am also aware Field Marshal Teodoro is asking for additional budget in order to continue the war. And as if the peace treaty has not been flushed down the drain and the OIC International Monitoring Team and Mindanao aid donor countries leaving and suspending aid.

As of today the Philippine military has already attacked and overran nearly all the MILF camps in Mindanao. But it has failed in its avowed purpose–to bring daw to justice the three MILF ‘rogue’ commanders.

Did the military “win”? If the yardstick of guerilla warfare is used it seemed it is the MILF that has won because they were able to preserve their forces. Will the military be able to hold on to the territory they gained? Probably not except for selected showpieces (like Camp Abubakar before) because they simply do not have troops for it. And it is occupying hostile territory where the population is nearly 100% Muslim. In fact, the MILF has already stepped up harassment attacks.

The derisive comment of Marines commanding general Allaga that Camp Bilal is wherever Commander Bravo is might ironically turn to be true. MILF camps are much like ordinary villages where the population is the family and relatives of the MILF forces. It moves according to the demand of the situation.

As it is there will be no peace in Mindanao. And it is generally conceded by observers that no peace treaty is possible until the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term in 2010. So I’m really wondering where she picked up those words. Hey, do liars care?

[photo credit:wri.org]

The True Story of the Start of the 2000 Mindanao War: A Recollection and View from Lanao del Norte

January 5, 2009


Approaching the end of 1999, the non-technical end of the last century, there was a certain disquiet in Cagayan de Oro City. For some months already troops from Luzon and Visayas kept arriving to be hosted temporarily in the Army’s divisional camp there before being sent to Muslim areas. Of course there was already intermittent fighting in Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

Soon there were whispers of war. Then President Estrada came. In a war-like tone he said he gave the MILF his personal guarantees that “he will treat them fairly” if they will give up their struggle but its leadership has been rebuffing him. He said he is ready to launch an “all-out war” to resolve the Mindanao problem.

When asked if it is true that there are already 36 battalions in Mindanao, President Estrada replied, “38!” And soon after that another two battallions arrived (and more after the war began).

Sometime early March the commander of a newly-arrived Army batallion near Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte sent a letter to Commander Bravo, commander of the MILF-BIAF’s then-2nd Division, demanding the return of an abandoned schoolhouse which Bravo was occupying. Reportedly a man of few words and having a short fuse, Bravo refused.

It must be noted that in 1997 the government and the MILF signed a ceasefire agreement and in 1999 the two sides held formal peace talks. In the process, the MILF submitted a list of 13 major and 30 satellite MILF camps for verification and recognition. However, when the count reached 7 major camps “noted”, hostilities started.

When the Army commander threatened attack, Bravo declared his “green line” and said he will fire upon any government forces that breach it.

Soon two tracked Army armored personnel carriers (M-113s) came. A Chinese B-40 rocket launcher was fired breaching the two sides of the APC and killing all the crew. The second APC beat a hasty retreat. All these were captured on video and shown uncut on Iligan City TV.

Soon a full-scale Army assault ensued. Unable to hold on to his camp, Bravo launched an attack on Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. He was able to occupy the who town for 12 hours on March 17, 2000. This is the part of the war which the government highlighted as the “start” of the 2000 Mindanao war.

The MILF ransacked the police headquarters but they spared the municipal hall. Bravo withdrew from Kauswagan before the Army came (but medals were handed out for the “liberation” of the town). A handful of Muslim homes were set on fire by Christians in the aftermath.

For one week the private TV station in Iligan City covered the war uncensored, showing video footages from both sides including the Army’s “clearing” operations (all I saw of this were soldiers blanketing by gunfire any possible hiding space and animals running in all directions).

The radio stations of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities gave free rein to partisans of both sides. Exchanges readily escalated to the level of insults, taunts and threats. But I noticed that the Muslim partisans were more level-headed. The most searing was the question, “How can you call yourself Christians if you burn and ransack houses of your neighbors?”.

After one week the government threatened to close the stations. It was losing the propaganda war. The vivid coverage stopped but not the fighting.

The military assault spread throughout Mindanao. The famed Camp Abubakar and the Buliok complex (the MILF’s biggest camp) fell to government soldiers. President Estrada claimed victory when he was able to raise the Philippine flag in Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s central base.

And the Filipino people believed the war started with the MILF’s attack in Kauswagan. In the same way the people believe now that the recent war started with the MILF’s attack (again) in Kauswagan.

[photo credit:christusrex]

The True Story of the Start of the 2000 Mindanao War: A Recollection and View from Lanao del Norte

January 5, 2009


Approaching the end of 1999, the non-technical end of the last century, there was a certain disquiet in Cagayan de Oro City. For some months already troops from Luzon and Visayas kept arriving to be hosted temporarily in the Army’s divisional camp there before being sent to Muslim areas. Of course there was already intermittent fighting in Cotabato and Lanao del Sur.

Soon there were whispers of war. Then President Estrada came. In a war-like tone he said he gave the MILF his personal guarantees that “he will treat them fairly” if they will give up their struggle but its leadership has been rebuffing him. He said he is ready to launch an “all-out war” to resolve the Mindanao problem.

When asked if it is true that there are already 36 battalions in Mindanao, President Estrada replied, “38!” And soon after that another two battallions arrived (and more after the war began).

Sometime early March the commander of a newly-arrived Army batallion near Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte sent a letter to Commander Bravo, commander of the MILF-BIAF’s then-2nd Division, demanding the return of an abandoned schoolhouse which Bravo was occupying. Reportedly a man of few words and having a short fuse, Bravo refused.

It must be noted that in 1997 the government and the MILF signed a ceasefire agreement and in 1999 the two sides held formal peace talks. In the process, the MILF submitted a list of 13 major and 30 satellite MILF camps for verification and recognition. However, when the count reached 7 major camps “noted”, hostilities started.

When the Army commander threatened attack, Bravo declared his “green line” and said he will fire upon any government forces that breach it.

Soon two tracked Army armored personnel carriers (M-113s) came. A Chinese B-40 rocket launcher was fired breaching the two sides of the APC and killing all the crew. The second APC beat a hasty retreat. All these were captured on video and shown uncut on Iligan City TV.

Soon a full-scale Army assault ensued. Unable to hold on to his camp, Bravo launched an attack on Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. He was able to occupy the who town for 12 hours on March 17, 2000. This is the part of the war which the government highlighted as the “start” of the 2000 Mindanao war.

The MILF ransacked the police headquarters but they spared the municipal hall. Bravo withdrew from Kauswagan before the Army came (but medals were handed out for the “liberation” of the town). A handful of Muslim homes were set on fire by Christians in the aftermath.

For one week the private TV station in Iligan City covered the war uncensored, showing video footages from both sides including the Army’s “clearing” operations (all I saw of this were soldiers blanketing by gunfire any possible hiding space and animals running in all directions).

The radio stations of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities gave free rein to partisans of both sides. Exchanges readily escalated to the level of insults, taunts and threats. But I noticed that the Muslim partisans were more level-headed. The most searing was the question, “How can you call yourself Christians if you burn and ransack houses of your neighbors?”.

After one week the government threatened to close the stations. It was losing the propaganda war. The vivid coverage stopped but not the fighting.

The military assault spread throughout Mindanao. The famed Camp Abubakar and the Buliok complex (the MILF’s biggest camp) fell to government soldiers. President Estrada claimed victory when he was able to raise the Philippine flag in Camp Abubakar, the MILF’s central base.

And the Filipino people believed the war started with the MILF’s attack in Kauswagan. In the same way the people believe now that the recent war started with the MILF’s attack (again) in Kauswagan.

[photo credit:christusrex]

The Al-Barka Incident Where Trapped Marines Were Killed And Beheaded

November 19, 2008


The good thing about the ICG Report is it is able to narrate in authoritative and balanced way shrouded and controversial happenings that happened within the context of the Mindanao conflict. Let us read their version of the Al-Barka incident where trapped Marines (their vehicle bogged down) got trapped, were overran and where the majority was beheaded. Al-Barka is a new town on the southeast portion of Basilan.

From ICG Asia Report No. 152 (May 14, 2008):

“…On 10 June 2007, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, an Italian priest, was kidnapped from his parish in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province. MILF forces helping in the search for Bossi stood down at the end of the month, expressing concern that a mistaken encounter might occur in the absence of a clear AHJAG mandate, since it had expired on 21 June. Ten days later, those fears were realized in Al-Barka.

“Basilan’s unique volatility arises from the fact that the small island is home to all three main separatist rebellions — MNLF, MILF and ASG. Clans are often involved in all three networks, as well as local electoral politics, where access to high-powered firearms is at a premium. Acting on the information that Fr. Bossi had been sighted in Al-Barka municipality, Philippines marines set out on patrol on the morning of 10 July 2007.

“Two days earlier, Basilan marine commander Col. Romeo Alivio told Crisis Group that unusually large formations of armed men–several hundred strong–had been making their presence felt in the area for some months. Rather than attempting to distinguish their component members, which could have involved a complicated “paper trail” with the ceasefire committee, Alivio chose to regard them as undifferentiated “lawless elements”. As his men turned back for base camp with no sign of Bossi, a truck bogged down in the mud, and following standard operating procedure, marines fanned out around the vehicle to secure the perimeter. The site–in Guinanta village–is the location of two of the MILF’s three brigade commands in Basilan. Unknown to the marines, MILF forces were closely observing their movements. As the marines came within meters of the guerillas’ high ground, gunfire erupted.

“A CCCH [Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (GRP-MILF)] official described what ensued as a “pintakasi” (a fight in which everyone joins in). Once combat began, armed men from surrounding neighborhoods, including ASG fighters, joined against the marines in the hope of sharing the spoils–captured equipment, arms and ammuninition–or of avenging past wrongs. Followers of local politicians were embittered by the marines’ rigid enforcement of the previous May’s election gun ban. Fourteen marines died, ten of whom were decapitated and otherwise mutilated. Triggered by lack of coordination between the AFP and the MILF, the Al-Barka incident demonstrated the power of a momentary tactical alliance across organizational boundaries. An MNLF commander from Basilan noted: “MILF’s three brigades [about 500 men]will become 3,000 men if ‘loose arms’ on the island are coordinated by the failure of the peace talks.”

Notes (culled from ICG Report No. 152):
1. The AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Committee was designed to facilitate coordination between the Philippine government and the MILF to share intelligence on terrorists and avoid accidental clashes while government forces pursued them….as a counter-terror and conflict management mechanism that worked…a similar arrangement should be arranged with the MNLF. The problem is that it will only work if there is progress on the political front–that is in peace negotiations–so that the insurgents see concrete benefits from their cooperation with the government. Ceasefire mechanisms like AHJAG depend on substantive progress toward a comprehensive peace pact….
2. For more than two years, the AHJAG prevented conflict escalation as the search for terrorists intensified in MILF strongholds in western Mindanao and led to a few cases of the MILF’s disciplining extremists in its own ranks. It helped force the ASG’s core group, including Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman, to Sulu, where they were killed. This has come at a heavy price in Sulu, where no equivalent ceasefire machinery exists to separate jihadis from the dominant local guerilla force, the…MNLF. Instead, heavy-handed offensives against the ASG and its foreign jihadi allies have repeatedly spilled over into MNLF communities, driving some insurgents into closer cooperation with the terrorists, instead of the government.

(Photo credit: Mindanao Examiner)

The Al-Barka Incident Where Trapped Marines Were Killed And Beheaded

November 19, 2008


The good thing about the ICG Report is it is able to narrate in authoritative and balanced way shrouded and controversial happenings that happened within the context of the Mindanao conflict. Let us read their version of the Al-Barka incident where trapped Marines (their vehicle bogged down) got trapped, were overran and where the majority was beheaded. Al-Barka is a new town on the southeast portion of Basilan.

From ICG Asia Report No. 152 (May 14, 2008):

“…On 10 June 2007, Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, an Italian priest, was kidnapped from his parish in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province. MILF forces helping in the search for Bossi stood down at the end of the month, expressing concern that a mistaken encounter might occur in the absence of a clear AHJAG mandate, since it had expired on 21 June. Ten days later, those fears were realized in Al-Barka.

“Basilan’s unique volatility arises from the fact that the small island is home to all three main separatist rebellions — MNLF, MILF and ASG. Clans are often involved in all three networks, as well as local electoral politics, where access to high-powered firearms is at a premium. Acting on the information that Fr. Bossi had been sighted in Al-Barka municipality, Philippines marines set out on patrol on the morning of 10 July 2007.

“Two days earlier, Basilan marine commander Col. Romeo Alivio told Crisis Group that unusually large formations of armed men–several hundred strong–had been making their presence felt in the area for some months. Rather than attempting to distinguish their component members, which could have involved a complicated “paper trail” with the ceasefire committee, Alivio chose to regard them as undifferentiated “lawless elements”. As his men turned back for base camp with no sign of Bossi, a truck bogged down in the mud, and following standard operating procedure, marines fanned out around the vehicle to secure the perimeter. The site–in Guinanta village–is the location of two of the MILF’s three brigade commands in Basilan. Unknown to the marines, MILF forces were closely observing their movements. As the marines came within meters of the guerillas’ high ground, gunfire erupted.

“A CCCH [Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (GRP-MILF)] official described what ensued as a “pintakasi” (a fight in which everyone joins in). Once combat began, armed men from surrounding neighborhoods, including ASG fighters, joined against the marines in the hope of sharing the spoils–captured equipment, arms and ammuninition–or of avenging past wrongs. Followers of local politicians were embittered by the marines’ rigid enforcement of the previous May’s election gun ban. Fourteen marines died, ten of whom were decapitated and otherwise mutilated. Triggered by lack of coordination between the AFP and the MILF, the Al-Barka incident demonstrated the power of a momentary tactical alliance across organizational boundaries. An MNLF commander from Basilan noted: “MILF’s three brigades [about 500 men]will become 3,000 men if ‘loose arms’ on the island are coordinated by the failure of the peace talks.”

Notes (culled from ICG Report No. 152):
1. The AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Committee was designed to facilitate coordination between the Philippine government and the MILF to share intelligence on terrorists and avoid accidental clashes while government forces pursued them….as a counter-terror and conflict management mechanism that worked…a similar arrangement should be arranged with the MNLF. The problem is that it will only work if there is progress on the political front–that is in peace negotiations–so that the insurgents see concrete benefits from their cooperation with the government. Ceasefire mechanisms like AHJAG depend on substantive progress toward a comprehensive peace pact….
2. For more than two years, the AHJAG prevented conflict escalation as the search for terrorists intensified in MILF strongholds in western Mindanao and led to a few cases of the MILF’s disciplining extremists in its own ranks. It helped force the ASG’s core group, including Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman, to Sulu, where they were killed. This has come at a heavy price in Sulu, where no equivalent ceasefire machinery exists to separate jihadis from the dominant local guerilla force, the…MNLF. Instead, heavy-handed offensives against the ASG and its foreign jihadi allies have repeatedly spilled over into MNLF communities, driving some insurgents into closer cooperation with the terrorists, instead of the government.

(Photo credit: Mindanao Examiner)

The ICG On The Mindanao Conflict

November 19, 2008


The ICG is the “International Crisis Group”. According to Wikipedia:

“The ICG is considered the world’s leading leading independent, non-partisan source of analysis and advice to governments and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict. Its primary goals are a unique combination of field-based analysis, sharp-edged policy prescription, and high-level advocacy, with key roles being played by a senior management team highly experienced in government and by a highly active board of Trustees containing many senior diplomats….

“The ICG maintains teams of analysts in 17 field offices worldwide, who are dispatched to areas at risk of outbreak, escalation, or recurrence of conflict.”

The ICG was organized in 1995 and currently it is co-chaired by Chancellor of Oxford University and former European Commissioner for External Affairs Christopher Patten and former US Ambassador to the UN Thomas R. Pickering. Its president and chief executive is Gareth Evans, the former Foreign Minister of Australia. Its international headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium. In 2006, 40% of its funding came from governments, 32% came from philanthrophic organizations and 28% came from individuals and private foundations.

In May 14, 2008, ICG issued its Asia Report No. 152 titled, “The Philippines: Counter-Insurgency vs. Counter-Terrorism in Mindanao”, days before the start of the current AFP-MILF war in Mindanao. Having analyzed the interplay of the GRP/AFP, MILF and MNLF since the ’90s and its different responses to terrorism, part of its report might have bearing on the current war and its possible consequences. I quote (and be chilled by its cutting perspective):

The seizure of the MILF’s principal bases on Jolo [in 2007] recalls the MILF experience from 2000 to 2003. Relatively disciplined and hierarchically accountable guerilla formations have again been dispersed into an anarchic environment where there are many possibilities–and even imperatives–for them to deepen collusion with terrorists.

In counter-insurgency terms, capturing guerilla strongholds may be seen as a victory. But from a counter-terrorism perspective, anything that drives mainstream guerillas and jihadis closer together is a defeat. On Mindanao, the AFP’s occupation of the MILF’s Camp Abubakar, from July 2000, did impede the JI training facilities–though this was not presented as an objective at that time. But smaller groups of freelance foreign jihadis have continued to seek partnerships with militants inside, as well as outside, the MILF and MNLF.

The most dangerous of these liaisons came about as a direct result of Balikatan’s [the joint RP-US military exercises] “success” in Basilan. As described above, driving the ASG core group onto the mainland [because it too “hot” for them in Basilan] had the unintended effect of cementing its alliance with radical MILF commanders….Though the story remains untold in the official account, it holds important lessons…for many situations where terrorists are embedded in popular insurgencies.

Where distinguishing between insurgents and terrorists is possible, encouraging the first to cooperate against the second, rather than collude with them, must be a central pillar of government terrorism programs. Moreover, in the longer term, such cooperation helps build mutual trust necessary for a durable peace agreement. Quiet MILF cooperation against ASG and foreign jihadis continued until shortly after…21 June 2007. An ASG plan to re-infiltrate mainland Mindanao [Note: the report earlier acknowledged the late Chairman Hashim Salamat’s cooperation in the expulsion of the ASG in mainland Mindanao], due to intensifying pressure from Oplan Ultimatum in Jolo, was frustrated in November 2006. Bashir Takasan, an MILF member…from Davao Oriental, where the jihadis had hoped to land, “died in the line of duty preventing their re-entry.

A chilling observation of the conflict, indeed. Does this forecast the long-term defeat of the government’s strategy of “all-out war”?

[This article is a response to my article, “The MILF Has Been Suckered Into War: The Peace Agreement As A Trojan Horse”, 11/19/08]

The MILF Have Been Suckered Into War:The "Peace Agreement" As A Trojan Horse

November 19, 2008


During the previous year or so the MILF have been charging the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) that the latter is not interested in peace citing the lack of progress in the peace talks and the near-impasse in the substantive portions of the agenda. Earlier this year the Malaysian peacekeepers of the International Monitoring Team notified Manila that it will not be renewing its peace-keeping chores saying practically the same reason cited by the MILF. Mindanao-based peace advocates shared the same lament. It even led to the resignation of some personalities connected with the peace process. Even the very respected Fr. Eliseo Mercado of the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City broadly hinted of government’s insincerity in the peace talks.

Suddenly, nearing the end of Gen. Esperon’s tour of duty as AFP Chief of Staff the talks suddenly accelerated. Gen. Esperon was appointed as the presidential adviser on the peace process right after retirement and, lo and behold, suddenly a “breakthrough” in the peace talks was announced. Soon after a signing of the “peace agreement” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was announced.

When it became clear that the substantive portion of the agreement was about the “ancestral domain” and the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), Christian politicians in three key localities in Mindanao made angry noises. Suddenly, there was major fighting in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and full-scale assault by the AFP followed. It was supposedly “to bring to justice” the commander of the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) 102nd Base Command Abdulrahman Macapaar or Commander Bravo based in Lanao del Norte and Commander Ameril Umbra Kato of the 105th Base Command in North Cotabato who supposedly occupied 15 barangays.

Commander Bravo denied the charged atrocities in Kauswagan and pointed instead to the group of Alvin Canto as the perpetrators. This group immediately surrendered to the military after fighting started. Is this the same case as the “Polish” attack against Hitler’s Germany that started WWII?

Is Kato’s “occupation” true? For several years now the military has been charging Ustadz Kato with conniving with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Is there more than a coincidence here?

After nearly four months of war all of the MILF-BIAF’s base command including those in western ARMM have been attacked by the AFP saying it would continue until the MILF surrenders the wanted commanders, a demand that was surely rejected by the MILF. Contrary to my expectations nearly all of the MILF areas have been overrun by the AFP. Feeling victorious, the current AFP chief of staff probably slipped when he boasted that:
1. “What we did in 2000 was to symbolically occupy areas and raise the flag. We have not accounted for much of their capabilities and even firearms”, thereby directly criticizing Erap’s “all-out war” against the MILF.
2. “Our objective now is not just to occupy lands…but to degrade the capabilities of the forces involved”.
3. “We have not only occupied some of their traditional areas which means we have constricted their area of capability, their space to maneuver…we have inflicted considerable damage not only to personnel but to equipment of the different groups we are pursuing”.

All in the disguise of “bringing to justice…” Looks like Gen. Yano mastered the Bush art of “truth-stretching”. What was really the objective was “to change the realities on the ground”, as preparation for “new peace talks”.

Looking at other quarters, there seems to be moves to rehabilitate Nur Misuari of the MNLF. Maybe as a substitute sparring partner if the MILF does not report to the peace talks?

Looking back, the GRP’s “concessions” in the peace talks looked too good and magnificent to be true. Maybe it knows that it won’t pass Supreme Court review anyway. “The right hand giveth, the left hand giveth”. A pretext (atrocities kuno) to a full-scale war was found. The “peace agreement” turned out to be just a Trojan horse.

Archbishop Quevedo: The MOA-AD Can Bring Lasting Peace

September 7, 2008

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI has several deep takes on the MOA-AD. He is a respected peace advocate and knowledgeable observer of the Mindanao problem. His place, Cotabato City, is a melting pot of Christians and Muslims.

I will try to project some of his blogs to balance the knee-jerk reaction of some armchair pundits. His writings is an appeal to understand the history behind the MOA-AD and not to view it from the usual perspective.  I share his views. Here are some of the things he wrote:

“….the MOA-AD…is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I think the MOA-AD will bring lasting peace.

“The document should be read in the light of Bangsamoro history. This history is not (the) one that our Spanish and Filipino Christian historians have developed. Our history is a history written by (just) one party to the complex human encounter that we call Philippines history, written perhaps by “victors.” Bangsamoro history has largely been one of oral tradition and only in the last 400 years do we see that history written, but not from their point of view.

“But it is from that largely unfamiliar side of Philippine history that is also true and undisputable that the concepts of  ancestral domain and a Bangsamoro homeland must be understood….

“….the document is also remarkable from the angle of what Mindanao is today. Through successive waves of migration and public laws, the face of the population as well as of territories has changed. In less than 50 years beginning with the 1930s Christians now outnumber Muslims in the land once under the sway and influence of Muslim Sultans. The document recognizes this fact. And it is to the credit of the MILF that its vision today carries on the vision of its late Chairman, Hashim Salamat. He had said that his vision for the Bangsamoro people is framed in consideration of present realities. For this reason, the document speaks about the ARMM territory as the core of the of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. Altogether the territory is much less than the original Bangsamoro homeland. The MOA-AD makes use of present realities as a basis for lasting peace.

“The balancing act between the Moro aspirations for self-determination and national sovereignty may be seen in the concepts on governance, concreticized in such terms as “associative relationships,” “shared authority,” and the idea of “central government,” and its responsability for external defense, etc….

“Perhaps concepts need to be clearer. They can be made so in future steps of the peace process as both parties move toward a Comprehensive Pact. But the MOA-AD need not be the document that should contain all the details that would resolve all the questions and doubts. The peace process will continue even after it is signed. With good will, patience and wisdom–and consultation–such further steps will surely resolve substantive questions.

“….if seen from the perspective of history as we know it as we know it from our own Christian writers (Spanish, American, Filipino), with no consideration to the enduring aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination in their homeland, the MOA-AD will not lead to peace.

“But if the document is seen from two perspectives, that of the Bangsamoro historical past and of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan present(-)day realities, and these two perspectives are somehow respected, then the MOA-AD can lead to lasting peace.”

A brief history why there are two perspective (my own exposition, not Archbishop Quevedo’s) or the genesis of the Mindanao problem.

President Manuel Luis Quezon, in his own words, wrote: “….there existed an international aspect of the Mindanao question, of profound importance to the Filipino nation. Unless we fully opened up, protected and settled, and thus made use of this great, rich, only partially developed island, some other nation might some day try to move in and make it their own. For the past twenty years, continued and successful efforts to colonize Mindanao from the north have been undertaken….Settlers from the north have poured into the rich valley of Cotabato….” 

It seems there is truth to MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari’s view that Mindanao have been colonized by Christians.

This is Archbishop Quevedo’s further exposition:

“What Changes Took Place Through The Years In the Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain?

“….the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over the ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away….The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain.

“….Successive wave of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900’s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people.

“The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP) with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Mindanao people, with a minority of Muslims and IPs….the Bangsamoro people became a minority in their own ancestral domain….”

The IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or RA8371 of 1997) tries to address this historical wrong.

Archbishop Quevedo: “The MOA-AD also follows the principle that the IPRA law grants to the Indigenous Peoples, i.e., that their ancestral domain is not part of the public domain.”

And finally, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which was adopted on September 13, 2007 and to which the Philippines is a signatory says:

“Article 26

1. IPs have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied and otherwise used or required….”

Though not a legally binding instrument under international law, the UN says it is “an important standard for the treatment of indigenous peoples….”

Gloria And Her Generals And The US Are Not Averse To War In Mindanao

September 6, 2008

Last month, Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, a highly respected peace advocate and honest broker trusted by all sides in Mindanao and also president of Notre Dame University in Cotabato City charged after the MOA-AD signing was TRO’d that the Philippine government was negotiating in bad faith since it knows it cannot deliver on its promises. He said, “So why sign if you cannot deliver? There may be another motive, and that motive could be charter change.” Fr. Mercado was involved off and on in the peace talks in both personal and official capacity so he probably knows more than the ordinary layman.

It has been said that Malacanang under the watch of Gloria is simply a confluence of different contending factions, each with its own agenda and its own turf. Maybe for Gloria and politicians of her ilk clinging on to power beyond 2010 was the agenda for the MOA-AD charade. Maybe they were betting they can ride through an MOA-AD referendum enough Charter change that will assure their hold of Malacanang after 2010, thus ensuring they will be free from suits and jail.

And, of course, any diversion from the constant barrage of criticism against her regime is good for her. And also good for her husband and his group of businessmen who are always under suspicion and accusation of machinations in government contracts.

For the generals and powerful ex-generals maybe the agenda was to sucker the MILF into war, a war where they will have additional technical advantage compared to the 2000 “all-out” war of Erap, courtesy of the US. This will probably include the combination of satellite imagery, sigint and GPS reckoning. And it is obvious they have more confidence of “winning” this war than that of 2000. Their advance is comprehensive, attacking all the MILF camps in all the provinces it is present.

For the US, who always feel they are “stakeholders” in the Philippines, any agreement that will result in the recognition of autonomous Muslim territories which can be the refuge of “Muslim terrorists” is simply a no-no. I will not be surprised if they are the ones who primarily sabotaged the peace process thru the likes of Ermita and Esperon. In this they might be using the AFP as surrogates. No wonder the US troops never left Zamboanga since 2002 and instead it increased three-fold. And everybody thought they were simply “visiting.”

Come to think of it, isn’t the presence of Ambassador Kenney in Kuala Lumpur an anomaly? The US has never been part of the peace process in the South unlike the OIC, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Christian body politic cannot be charged with sabotage. After all they might have been left in the dark during the negotiations. Was this deliberate so that they will react with fury once they got wind of the terms of agreement? They can be manipulated by interested quarters especially if their perceived “rightful claims” are threatened. Are there people fanning the flames by pushing the resurgence of paramilitary groups?

To be fair to the Christians in Mindanao they do not want war either. It disrupts the economy, security becomes uncertain and they can become victims of bombings.

The peace process under the watch of Gloria is dead. It will be war from now but it does not mean that Gloria and her generals and the US are averse to it. They stand to gain from the war and weaken their “enemies” at the same time. In the end it will be the true stakeholders in Mindanao who are bound to lose.