Archive for the ‘moro struggle’ Category

ARMED STRUGGLE OF THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS IN THE PHILIPPINES

June 25, 2009

ARMED STRUGGLE OF THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS IN THE PHILIPPINES:

 Written by: DATUAN SOLAIMAN PANOLIMBA-North Cotabato, Philippines

 Bismillaher Rahmaner Raheem. Asalamo Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuho.

 The Bangsamoro Muslims of Mindanao and its islands have fought the longest and bloodiest struggle in the entire history of mankind in the world which extends to about four hundred eighty seven (487) years already up to this writing. First, the Bangsamoro people fought, without let up, against the Spanish colonial power for 377 years from 1521 to 1898. Second, they fought a bloody war against the American imperialist from 1898 up to 1946.And third, they are still fighting against the Philippine neo-colonial power from 1946 up to the present.

 In fact the present JIHAD FIY SABILILLAH waged by the Bangsamoro people is a continuation of the struggle which had been fought by their ancestors and forebears demanding for freedom and independence. The 487-year war which has been fought by the Bangsamoro is replete with historical facts.

 “But what is surprising is despite of the long period of war being fought for; the Bangsamoro people are still engaged in a war for freedom and independence. The struggle which has been fought by the Bangsamoro in four hundred eighty seven years (487) had extensively covered by the Muslim historians and authors in their books such as Dr. Cesar Adib Majul in his “Muslims in the Philippines, 1973, Manila, Philippines, ” Dr. Alunan C. Glang in “Muslim Secession or Integration, 1969, Quezon City, Philippines, ” and Salah Jubair in “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny, 1997, Lahore, Pakistan.”

 THE FIRST MORO WAR:

 After securing the friendship with Rajah Humabon of Cebu, Ferdinand Magellan, who led the Spanish colonial adventure in the Far East, invaded the small kingdom of Mactan in 1521. The island was then ruled by Rajah Lapu-Lapu who did not want to be a friend of foreign colonizer.

 It can be noted, therefore, that Visayas before was believed under the influence if not one of the principalities controlled by the Moro Sultanate of Sulu or Maguindanao at that early period of time. See Map of Moro Sultanate, principalities and areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao at the time of the arrival of Spaniards in 1521. (Source: London Library and Museum). Unfortunately, Magellan died in action on April 27, 1521 that drove the Spaniards back to the West and by such incident, they had narrated their fiasco under the hands of the native inhabitants.

 Thus, Lapu_Lapu stood as the first native chieftain who fought against foreign attempt to colonize the Moro homeland.

The Spanish dream had yet started so that in 1522, with Captain Sebastian Del Cano at the head of the Spanish survivors, Spain became the first circumnavigator of the globe as declared.

 SPAIN’S AGGRESSION:

 Crown Prince Felipe, known as King Philip II of Spain, directed Captain Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the viceroy of Mexico, to go to the Philippine island and to make it a permanent Spanish colony. He landed at Cebu where he had established the first Spanish settlement in 1565. In 1569, he proceeded to Panay where a second Spanish settlement was created.

 After quelling some minor resistances staged by the native inhabitants, he sent Captain Martin de Goiti to Luzon, particularly in Manila where a well-fortified Moro principality was located. It was ruled by Rajah Solaiman and assisted by Rajah Matanda. Tondo then was ruled by Rajah Lakandula. Records has showed that these Manila chieftains where of Bornean origin. In fact, their relationship with the Sultan of Borneo was categorized as very closed to each other.

 Rajah Solaiman who led the fight for freedom and independence, declared to the foreign aggressors the following words: ” WE WISH TO BE THEN FRIENDS OF ALL NATIONS. BUT THEY MUST UNDERSTAND THAT WE CANNOT TOLERATE ANY ABUSE. ON THE CONTRARY, WE WILL REPAY WITH DEATH THE LEAST THING THAT TOUCHES OUR HONOR.”Unfortunately, on June 3, 1571, Rajah Solaiman perished at the historic Battle of Bangkusay, a place off the coast of Tondo, but he left with a patriotic landmark in his defense of freedom and independence of the country. The next to fall, despite of a fierce defense by the native inhabitants, was the Muslim principality of Mindoro in 1574.

 Then came the short-lived Magat Salamat Uprising in 1587. Emerging victorious over the pockets of resistance were the Spanish conquistadors. So that within a span of 11years, they were able to overlord the territory of Luzon and Visayas. Legaspi, who was appointed as the first Governor-General, had made Manila as the seat of Spanish colony in Luzon and Visayas, which was collectively called as “Filipinas” or “Philippine Islands” eventually.

 “Salah Jubair succinctly wrote “it is necessary to clarify, contrary to popular perception, two important points in history: Firstly, the first group of people whom the Spaniards in 1570 called “Moros” were those in Manila and environs and not the Islamized natives in Mindanao and Sulu and secondly, the first Moro-Spanish War was not fought in Mindanao and Sulu but right in what is Metropolitan Manila.

 “THE MORO-SPANISH WAR:

 The 377 year of Moro-Spanish War represents an uninterrupted bloody war which had been fought by the Moros against the Spaniard’s attempt to subjugate them as a people. At first, the Spaniards thought that Borneo was more of a threat to the Manila colony than the Muslims of Mindanao and Sulu. So they invaded Borneo in 1578. However, after their Bornean expedition, the Spaniards had turned their eyes on the Moros in the South, particularly, Sulu which they were suspecting of having an alliance with the Borneans.

 The Spanish colony towards the Moros was basically spelled out in the instructions of Governor-General Francisco de Sande to Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa in May of 1578. Figueroa was officially commissioned to subdue the Moro Sultanate of Mindanao and Sulu.

 It was clear then from the instructions given to him, Spain sought to achieve two things with respect to the Moros of Mindanao namely: 1. Get them to acknowledge Spanish sovereignty over their territory. 2. Promote trade with them, limiting their trade to the Philippine islands and exploring natural resources of Moro land with a view to their commercial exploitations. 3. Bring an end to Moro “piracy” against Spanish shipping, and an end to Moro raids on the Christianized settlements of the Visayas and Southern Luzon. 4. Hispanize and Christianize the Moros, along the same lines followed with respect to other lowland Filipino (Indio) groups.

 According to Dr Peter G. Gowing, the last line Spanish policy was the reason if not the root of the Moro’s fierce resistance to the Spaniards and their Christianized Filipino allies. Capt. Figueroa was instructed to order the Moro chief not to admit any more “preachers of the doctrine of Mahomet since it is evil and false, and that of the Christianity alone is good.” Ad-dressing himself to the “Lord of Mindanao, ” the instruction includes: “You shall tell him that our object is that he be converted to Christianity and that he must allow us freely to preach the law of the Christians, and the natives must be allowed to go and hear the preaching and to be converted, without receiving any harm from the chiefs.

 “Furthermore, Figueroa was instructed to ascertain who the preachers of Islam were so that they can be arrested and brought them before the Governor-general. He was also commanded to destroy any Masjeed he founded “where that accursed doctrine has been preached and you shall order that it be not be rebuilt. “As he was instructed to meet force with force and to punish the Moros as he deemed best “taking special care not to trust them…..,” the Moros responded to such designs with violence and warfare. In 1596, during the initial Spanish campaign in Buhayan (Buayan) in the heart of Mindanao, Figueroa met his disastrous defeat.

 The erstwhile Spanish conquistador suffered death at the hands of the Moro warriors led by Datu Ubal (Mangubal in Moro tradition). The initial Spanish campaign in Mindanao had ignited and caused the series of bloody encounters between the Moros and the Spaniards, in which,it was carried up to the coming of the Americans in 1899.

 MORO WARS:

 In retaliation to the Spanish cruelty, the Moros had carried out the war to the Spanish settlements in Luzon and Visayas. In 1599 led by Datu Sirongan and Datu Salikula of Mindanao, the Moros raided the northern islands and return home with rich war booty including several captives. The Moro actions had created fear and anxiety among the Spanish and Filipino settlements in Luzon and Visayas.

 In succeeding years, the Moro buccaneers harassed Spanish shipping, and so were dubbed “pirates”. But to the Moros they believed they were fighting a war in defense of freedom and independence. Thus, Sultan Kudarat I, after his ascension to power to the Sultanate of Mindanao in 1619, declared a Jihad against Spain whom he had emboldened more than ever the Moros to fight for home, country and Islam. Their expeditions carried Jihad to the coasts of Visayas and Luzon.

 From then on, the Moro war vessels periodically raided, killed and plunders Spanish settlements. Thus, it was dubbed really a bloody war. The Spaniards counter move was seen in their series of punitive expeditions against the Moros. The expeditions were made up of Spanish-led Christian Filipino forces. Which eventually, the Spaniards had succeeded to establish forts in Moro homeland, however, their colonies were only confined inside their fortified garrisons. They failed to subdue the Moros who were periodically attacking their forts.

 From the 18th up to the 19th centuries of Spanish successive engagement in the “Moro Wars”, it was never followed by effective and permanent occupation of the Bangsamoro ancestral homeland. The American historian Dr. Najeeb Saleeby rightly observed that “the Moros fought for home and country, for freedom to pursue their religion and way of life, and for liberty to rove the seas whichever they would.” For over 300years, they had made a shamble of Spain’s Moro policy.

 Even with the importation of Spanish war vessels in the middle of the 19th century did not stop the Moro raids of Spanish and Filipino settlements of Visayas and Luzon. Despite of being guerilla fighters, the Moro exacted a heavy toll of casualties, however, when entrenched in their ‘cota’ (fort) they simply could not be rooted out.

 When situation demanded they would have readily killed their wounded and gave no quarter to the Spanish and Christian Filipino enemy. They fought ferociously, and their usual tactic was to wear down the attackers, obliging them eventually to withdraw. At the close of the 19th century, the Spanish colonial power in Luzon and Visayas was threatened by the Filipino Revolution of 1896 and the coming of the American colonial power in 1898.

 Subsequently, the Treaty of Paris was concluded on December 10, 1898 between the United States of America and Spain wherein the latter had ceded to the Americans her former colony in Mexico, Honolulu and the Philippine Islands with the amount of $20 million. With this treaty, the Spaniards abandoned their colony in the north by virtue of the Treaty of Paris. So that the Moros of the south remained a free and independent people. Thus, they were not subjugated by their conquistadors.

 AMERICAN AGGRESSION:

 The Bangsamoro people of Mindanao were already enjoying freedom and independence when the Filipinos declared a revolution against Spain in 1896. When the Americans arrived in the Philippine islands in 1898, the Philippine Revolution was already in progress in Luzon and Visayas. The so called “Spanish-American war” was also nearing its end.

 For instance, Commodore George Dewey, commanding the American naval flotilla, defeated the Spanish Pacific Squadron during “Battle of Manila Bay” on May 1, 1898. Subsequently, the United States of America assumed the authority in the Philippine Islands by virtue of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. But the Filipinos, who declared the independence of the First Philippine Republic on June 1, 1898, had to fight a new imperialist power.

 Maverick as it was, the Americans sought the forging of the Bates-Kiram Agreement on August 20, 1899 with a view to neutralizing the Moros of the south while they were still engaging the forces of President Emilio Aguinaldo in the north.

 After three years of Filipino-American war, the Americans were able to crush the Philippine revolution and declared a general amnesty in 1902. The Americans, after having a unilateral abrogation of the Bates-Kiram Agreement, had now turn their eyes to the Moros of Mindanao.

 In May 1899, the first US Army contingent landed in Jolo, Sulu. The US troops had also occupied Zamboanga on November 16 and followed the Cotabato areas in December. This began the American occupation of Mindanao which ended in May 1920 when the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was abolished as a government unit.

 MORO-AMERICAN WAR:

 For all practical reasons, the American occupation of the Moro land was a direct affront to the freedom and independence of the Moros. The lesson from the Spanish policy of subjugation was still fresh in the minds and hearts of the Moros. With the Americans, the Moros have had similar views, as a threat, and a change of colonial master which had the same intention with that of their predecessor, that is, to subjugate them as a people.

 Thus trouble had erupted as early as May 1899. But this time, the next generation of Moros took the cudgel. Soon various confrontations flared up in Mindanao and Sulu. This led J. Ralston Hayden, an American writer, to note that “never during the entire continental expansion of the United States had armed encounters been as frequent and serious as that between the Moros and American troops.”

 The Moros’ determination to defend their religion and country had prompted the American colonizers to comment that “THE ONLY GOOD MORO IS A DEAD MORO.” Record has showed that there were at least 20,000 Moros who were killed in action from 1899 to 1916. From 1904 to 1906 alone, the Moros suffered about 3,000 killed as against 70 Americans.

 Large-scale engagements were recorded between the American troops and the Moro warriors in several parts of Mindanao and Sulu from 1902 to 1935. The most serious were those staged by Panglima Hassan, Datu Ali, Datu AmpuanAgaus and Jikiri.

 Shortly after the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth Government on November 15, 1935 with Manuel L. Quezon as the first President, the Moros had viewed it as the transfer of colonial government to a new master. It could be noted, therefore, that Mindanao and Sulu were forcefully annexed to the Commonwealth government. Again, the Moros rose in arms in defense of their freedom and independence.

 The most serious armed rebellion that took place in Mindanao was happened in June 1936. It was spearheaded by Hadji Abdulhamid Bungabong of Unayan, Lanao del Sur and lasted for several years. The Moros fought gallantry and heroically in a series of wars called “COTA WARS”. The grievances were contained in a petition letter sent to the President of the United States of America. The issues presented were:

 1. Moros had become second class citizens.

 2. The Moro Province be segregated once independence is given to the Filipinos.

 3. Acquisition of lands in the Moro Province be reserved for the Moros.

 4. Islam must not be curtailed in any manner.

 The uprising lasted until the dawning of the Japanese interregnums in 1941. The Moros were once again caught in the crossfire between two colonial masters. But now between the Americans and the Japanese which saw its peak from 1942 to 1945.

 PARLIAMENTARY STRUGGLE:

 In 1946 it saw the final annexation of the Moro land to the new Philippine Republic. Historians, in the likes of Salah Jubair, have succinctly observed that “The U.S. colonial government and the succeeding Filipino neo – colonial power have utterly failed to stamp out Moro resistance. But they have succeeded in rendering the Moro traditional power structure effete and almost obsolete.”

 “The main casualties were the sultans and datus, whose authority had been squelched to the extent, that they had become mere symbols of the past and mute relics of history,” he pointed out. “The sultan-people direct dealing, ” he continued “has been almost severed and , to get rid of the evils of dual rule, meaning sultan and government ruling simultaneously, the Commonwealth government directed all state-installed officials in 1936 to take over the roles so far exercised by the sultans and datus.”

 Elaborating that the disintegration of the traditional socio-political order and the ever-tightening imposition of the secular-materialistic concept of life bequeathed by the Americans, Salah Jubair said that it has created an extensively difficult situation for the Moros. Consequently, those who were won over to the American side, freely or under duress, were the ones who with their pens, slogans and orations adopted and pursued the parliamentary or unarmed way of struggle.

 These crops of Moro intellectuals asked the United States government to separate the Moro Province, either as colony or as independent state. Singly or in chorus, they unanimously refused to join the Filipinos in their demand for independence. It was true that they did not succeed, neither did they achieve anything of consequence in terms of the real liberation of the Moros-that obviously, was already fore doomed from the start.

 But there is no gain slaying the fact that they did their best in their own way. Yet, on the other hand, by following the unarmed way of struggle, they were deeply entangled into the Americans cobweb and continued to become subservient to the whims and caprices of the new colonial masters.

 Failing to achieve their aspiration to be free and independent during the American colonial days, the Moro parliamentary struggle dragged to the post-war Philippine administrations. Couple with some isolated disturbances, armed clashes between Moro warriors and government troops were reported in various parts of Mindanao.

 The off-and-on armed skirmishes continued to plague the countryside in open defiance of government authorities. Whatever it may said about the post-war pocket uprisings in Mindanao and Sulu, it could be attributed to the fact that the Moros have never abandoned their desire to be free and independent from the clutches of neo-colonialism in their sacred and ancestral homeland. Nurtured by socio-cultural discrimination, the most known of these uprisings were those led by Kamlon Hajji, Abdulmajid Panondiongan, Tawantawan and Hadjal Uh. It took billions of pesos from the national coffers in quelling these insurrections.

 Such that amid cries of national neglect and apathy, Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa of Sulu Province had gone to extent of sponsoring a bill in Philippine Congress in 1961 which sought to declare the independence of the Province of Sulu from the Philippine Republic. The Moro solon was disgusted by the chronic ills and inequities prevalent in the Philippine society where the Moros were the direct victims. His bill did not merit the attention of his colleagues in Congress and his move was simply dismissed as a “drama” or “attention-calling.”

 MORO STRUGGLE CONTINUED:

 In 1968, the then Governor Datu Udtog Matalam of the empire Cotabato Province created the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) seeking the separation of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawitawi and Palawan from the Republic of the Philippines and to establish an Islamic State in the sacred and ancestral homeland of the Bangsamoro people. But the dream and aspiration of the grand old man of Cotabato failed.

 Finally in 1972, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its military wings, the Bangsamoro Army led by Prof. Nur Misuari went public declaring armed struggle as its principal instrument in the formation of a Bangsamoro Republik encompassing Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawitawi and Palawan. It sought to liberate Moro people and homeland from Philippine colonialism.

 The reverberating sounds of the firearms and mortars of the Bangsamoro Revolution led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) pressured the Philippine government under the then dictator President Ferdinand Marcos to entered into an agreement with the MNLF leadership in December 23, 1976. The agreement was known as “Tripoli Agreement of 1976.” It sought to establish an autonomous government for Muslims in South of the Philippines under its sovereignty and territorial integrity. But Pres. Marcos grossly violated the letter and spirit of the entire agreement.

 Then President Corazon (Cory) Aquino catapulted to the Philippine presidency in 1986 because of the Peoples Power Revolution against Pres. Marcos, she created the Autonomous Region Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), but still failed to finally solved the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao and its islands.

 Until in 1992, when President Fidel V. Ramos became president of the Philippines after President Cory Aquino, his government negotiated with the MNLF leadership which resulted to the creation of Southern Philippine Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) on September 2, 1996. But still the Bangsamoro dream of freedom and independence became more obscure. It was because of the fact that all agreements entered by and between the MNLF and GRP are only a showpiece of the Philippine government in order to smokescreen the oppression, colonization, exploitation and extermination of the Bangsamoro people. This regional set-up of government is nothing but an adjunct of the Filipino colonial government. It is being used by the Philippine government to further fortify the Filipino colonialism over the Bangsamoro people and their ancestral homeland.

 So that when the MNLF leadership compromised the liberty and independence of the Bangsamoro people in December 1976, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), chaired by the late Ameril Mujahideen Ustadz Salamat Hashim went public assuming and leading the JIHAD FEY SABILILLAH of the Bangsamoro people for final liberation, freedom and independence, nsALLAH SUBHANAHO WA’TAALA.

 Late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, then Ameril Mujahideen and Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said and we quote, “Any solution less than full independence of the Bangsamoro people will not work. Past experiences since the be-

ginning of the annexation of the Bangsamoro homeland to the Philippines in 1935, have proven that the Bangsamoro Muslims could not live a normal life under a corrupt and secular government and that the two nations, the Bangsamoros and the Filipinos, could not get along with each other because of their distinct religions, customs and traditions. It will be for the best interests of the Bangsamoros and the Filipinos if both are free” and quote.

 Wasalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuho.

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Kawagib Moro human rights group leads protest against Israeli aggression in Gaza

January 15, 2009

Kawagib Moro human rights group

leads protest against Israeli aggression in Gaza

Cotabato City

January 9, 2009

Press Release
January 09, 2009

Cotabato City- The KAWAGIB MORO HUMAN RIGHTS joins the international community in condemning the atrocious military aggression of Israel in Gaza and urges world leaders to support measure to protect and advance the basic rights of the Palestinian people.

The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip calls for an immediate and comprehensive intervention. The entire Gaza populations are being punished for the actions of a few militants. Israel ’s military incursion has targeted Hamas but a vast majority of the victims are innocent civilians. The deadly air strikes were aimed at civilian areas. At least one aerial assault hit a U.N. school.

Israel ’s sustained and escalating military assault in Gaza has already claimed the lives of close to 700 Palestinians – about a third of whom are women and children – and injured thousands of others.

Despite mounting international pressure, Israel , with the backing of the United States (U.S.), has kept on with its military operation, which is nothing but a large-scale massacre of innocent civilians. The U.S.’ used of its veto power to oppose a draft ceasefire resolution by the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council is a clear manifestation of its support to Israel’s aggression.

We are very dismayed by the apparent impunity with which Israel with its complicit state, the U.S. , persist in their systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel , with the backing of the U.S. , has been committing immense crimes against humanity despite strong condemnation of international watchdogs.

The Bangsamoro people are, to some extent, beset with similar aggression and feel for the Palestinians in their quest for the right to self-determination. The Philippine government has consistently suppressed the rights and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people and brazenly violated international humanitarian law with its all-out war policy. It has been quick to resort to military option to contain peace and security issues and puts little consideration to the number of civilian lives lost and affected in its military campaigns.

We condemn in the strongest terms Israel ’s military aggression in Gaza ; its shameless and flagrant defiance of international humanitarian law and its arrogant and appalling disregard of the unified call of the international community.

We deplore U.S. support in the armed aggression and its imperial pursuits in the Philippines and in the rest of the world.

We support the adoption of concrete measure to end the aggression and the sufferings of the Palestinian people and call an end to Israel ’s military and humanitarian siege of Gaza .

FOR REFERENCE: BAI ALI INDAYLA

(064)421-5680. Contact # 0921.906.4699

Liga ng Kabataang Moro calls for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel Zionism.

Following the current massive military attack in Gaza Strip, the Liga ng Kabataang Moro (LKM) released a statement condemning the latest overkill launched yet again by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.

The LKM joins several other progressive Moro organizations gathered today to protest the US-backed Israeli War Crimes.

“Today’s action is part of Mindanao-wide Day of Action to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and to demand an immediate end to the murderous attacks carried out by the Israeli military that once again on the brink of a full-scale war,” said Yousri Usop, Chairmanperson of LKM, Notre Dame University Chapter. This escalation, he fears, can only lead to another round of bloodletting and destruction.

The group holds the Israeli government and its primary ally, the United States, responsible for the said condemnable act.

This latest phase in the long-running tragedy in the Middle East began in December 27, 2008 when Israel bombarded Gaza leading to the death of 683 innocent women, children and the elderly and more than 3,085 injured since Israel began its offensive 13 days ago. Palestinian fighters captured an Israeli soldier in exchange of some of the 10,000 Palestinian detainees held by Israel. Under international law, the soldier is a legitimate target in a legitimate resistance operation by an occupied people.

Yousri said “all hell then broke loose as Israel began an all-out military assault on Gaza.” The protesting Moro youth organization claims that it is clearly another manifestation of overkill.

It bombarded civilian infrastructure, including bridges and power stations, leaving over a million civilians without water supply and hundreds of sick people in hospitals without access to medication. Over 683 individuals have been killed and thousands have become refugees.

The grossly disproportionate use of force and the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian people are flagrant violations of international law.

LKM related the Israeli attack to the present war in Mindanao Usop said, “This is what the US-puppet Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is doing in its present war in Mindanao against our Muslim compatriots.”

“More than 600,000 people have lost their homes and more than 200 have died since August 2008 when the full-scale war broke out. Many of the victims are women and children.”

The protest calls for a Stop to the US-Backed GMA Regime’s War in Mindanao and against the people of Gaza!”

The current condition of the refugees is not getting any better, they claimed, because for the past 18 months there is little or no medicine to treat the wounded, electricity, food or clean water for much of the population.

“We demand that Israel should immediately end its military offensive on Gaza, free all Palestinian detainees from Israeli jails, and end the occupation of Palestine and people’s right to sovereignty and self determination be respected,” the Moro youth group demanded.

“We also demand that the Philippine government recalls its ambassador from Israel and begin the process of severing all diplomatic ties with that state until it complies and take a stand in favor of international law and justice, summon the Israeli ambassador to protest, and expressly condemn Israel for its actions. In solidarity with the Palestinian and Israeli people opposed to war, we call for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel.”

“In solidarity with the Palestinians and Israeli people opposed to war, we call for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel.”

Reference: Yousri Usop-LKM,Chairperson, Notre Dame University-Chapter, Contact Number-09058016752

Press Statement
January 9, 2009

Liga ng Kabataang Moro calls for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel Zionism.

We Liga ng Kabataang Moro joins with other progressive Moro organizations gathered today to protest the US-backed Israeli War Crimes. Today’s action is part of Mindanao-wide Day of Action to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and to demand an immediate end to the murderous attacks carried out by the Israeli military that once again on the brink of a full-scale war. This escalation can only lead to another round of bloodletting and destruction.

We Liga ng Kabataang Moro, lay the responsibility behind this tragedy squarely on the Israeli state, its primary ally the United States, and all those who actively support or tacitly tolerate its actions.

This latest phase in the long-running tragedy in the Middle East began in December 27, 2008 when Israel bombarded Gaza leading to the death of 683 innocent women, children and the elderly and more than 3,085 injured since Israel began its offensive 13 days ago. Palestinian fighters then captured an Israeli soldier, demanding the release of some of the 10,000 Palestinian detainees held by Israel. Under international law, the soldier is a legitimate target in a legitimate resistance operation by an occupied people.

All hell then broke loose as Israel began an all-out military assault on Gaza. It bombarded civilian infrastructure, including bridges and power stations, leaving over a million civilians without water and hundreds of sick people in hospitals without access to medication. The grossly disproportionate use of force and the collective punishment imposed on the Palestinian people are flagrant violations of international law.

It was evidently in response to the atrocities being carried out by Israel on the people of Gaza. Over 683 been killed and thousands have become refugees. Again, Israel’s actions are brazen violations of international law. Not only do they constitute disproportionate violence but ¬ with Israel itself provoking the actions it claims to be defending itself from they are also totally unjustified.

This is what the US-puppet Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is doing in its present war in Mindanao against our Muslim compatriots. More than 600,000 people have lost their homes and more than 200 have died since August 2008 when the full-scale war broke out. Many of the victims are women and children.

Because an injury to one is an injury to all, as we say “Stop the US-Backed GMA Regime’s War in Mindanao!”, we say loudly “Stop the War against the people of Gaza!”

Because of the US-backed Israeli blockade and strangulation of the people of Gaza for the past 18 months there is little or no medicine to treat the wounded, electricity, food or clean water for much of the population. This massive international war crime perpetrated by the Israeli government and military must be stopped.

At the root of the continuing tragedy in the Middle East is the continuing occupation of Palestine by Israel. That Israel is able to continue this occupation and that it is able to bomb and kill indiscriminately without restraint points to the incapacity of the international community, including the United Nations and the world’s governments, to uphold peace and justice.

It is this unwillingness to act that will ensure that more blood and tears will flow from this escalating war. We demand that Israel should immediately end its military offensive on Gaza, free all Palestinian detainees from Israeli jails, and end the occupation of Palestine and people’s right to sovereignty and self determination be respected.

We demand that the Philippine government recalls its ambassador from Israel and begin the process of severing all diplomatic ties with that state until it complies and take a stand in favor of international law and justice, summon the Israeli ambassador to protest, and expressly condemn Israel for its actions. In solidarity with the Palestinian and Israeli people opposed to war, we call for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel.

In solidarity with the Palestinians and Israeli people opposed to war, we call for a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel.

LONG LIVE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY!

LONG LIVE THE PEOPLE OF PALESTINE!
FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA, PALESTINE WILL BE FREE!

Reference: Yousri Usop-LKM,Chairperson, Notre Dame University-Chapter, Contact Number-09058016752

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Israel’s Occupation of Palestine
www.bulatlat.com


Israel’s incursions into Palestine and its attacks against the Palestinian people did not begin with the founding of Hamas in 1987, during the first intifada (uprising), or its victory over Fatah during the January 2006 elections. Sadly, what is seemingly lost in news reports is the root of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: the struggle for land and self-determination of the Palestinian people.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANAYSIS
Bulatlat

The Israeli army has already killed almost 800 Palestinians, including 220 children, and has wounded around 3,1000 since it began bombarding the Gaza strip on December 27 and moving into Palestinian territory January 3. It occupied the Gaza strip purportedly to protect southern Israel from Hamas’ rocket attacks. On January 9, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay called for an investigation of possible war crimes in Gaza and Israel , saying that “harm to civilians in Israel by Hamas rockets is unacceptable” and that Israel must follow international humanitarian law regardless of Hamas’ actions.

Statements from Israel and even the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights make it appear that Israel is merely retaliating against Hamas’ rocket attacks. However, Israel ’s incursions into Palestine and its attacks against the Palestinian people did not begin with the founding of Hamas in 1987, during the first intifada (uprising), or its victory over Fatah during the January 2006 elections. Sadly, what is seemingly lost in news reports is the root of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: the struggle for land and self-determination of the Palestinian people.

The struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination began after World War I, when it became clear to the Palestinians that the British had deceived them. During World War 1, the British, through its High Commissioner for Egypt Henry McMahon, convinced Husayn ibn ‘Ali, the patriarch of the Hashemite family and Ottoman governor of Mecca and Medina to revolt against the Ottoman Empire, which was aligning with Germany. The British promised that if the Arabs aligned with it in the war, it would support the establishment of an independent Arab state under Hashemite rule in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine .

At the same time, British Foreign Minister Lord Arthur Balfour issued a declaration in 1917 declaring Britain’s support for the establishment of a “ Jewish national home in Palestine”, which was being pushed for by the Zionist movement since its founding in Europe in 1897 by Theodor Herzl. Britain also entered into an agreement with France to divide control over the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire .

After the war, the British took control over areas, which now comprise Israel , the West Bank, Gaza strip, and Jordan , and France annexed Syria , and from it carved a separate state of Lebanon . The British also allowed the purchase of large tracts of land from absentee Arab landowners by the Jewish National Fund and the steady stream of Jewish immigration from Europe . When Arabs were evicted from lands purchased by the Jews, clashes erupted between Arabs and Jews from 1920-21. Clashes erupted anew between Muslims and Jews over the Wailing Wall from 1928-29.

The dramatic increase in European Jewish immigration in 1933 was the last straw. The Arabs revolted from 1936-39. The revolt was crushed by Britain with the help of Zionist militias and the complicity of neighboring Arab countries.

On March 22, 1946, the British relinquished its mandate over Jordan after securing their military bases and installations there. On April, it authorized the entry of 100,000 Jews into Palestine .

At the end of 1946, there were 1.3 million Arabs and 608,000 Jews in Palestine , with the latter owning 20 percent of the arable land. This was already a dramatic increase in the Jewish population in Palestine considering that during the late 19th century, Palestine , with a total land area of 10,000 sq m, used to be inhabited by 403,795 Muslims, 43,659 Christians, and only 15,011 Jews.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into two states: one Jewish and the other Arab. The Jews were given 56 percent of the territory while 43 percent was allocated for the Arabs. Fighting between Jews and Arabs erupted within days of the announcement of the partition plan. On May 15, 1948, the British evacuated Palestine and the Zionists proclaimed the state of Israel .

Egypt, Syria , Jordan and Iraq declared war on Israel shortly thereafter. Israel ’s armed forces unleashed a brutal was causing the displacement of 700,000 Palestinian refugees. The war ended with an armistice agreement whereby Israel encompassed over 77 percent of the territory. Jordan occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; Egypt took control of the Gaza strip. The Palestinian Arab state was never established.►

Tensions between Israel and the Arab states did not abate, but with every eruption of the conflict, Israel – which was being aided militarily by the US – was able to expand its territory. After another war in 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan , the Gaza strip and Sinai peninsula from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria .

Israel established a military administration in the Gaza strip and West Bank . Since 1967, over 300,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned without trial; over half a million have been tried by Israel ’s military courts; and torture of Palestinian prisoners was a common practice. At the same time, Israel built hundreds of settlements in the occupied territories.

Palestinian resistance

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was organized in 1964. The largest group is the Al Fatah. Other members included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Palestine People’s Party. It established its base in Jordan before moving to Lebanon then Tunisia . In 1985, Israel bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunisia .

In December 1987, the first intifada erupted and lasted until 1991. It was a mass uprising that included demonstrations, general strikes, boycott of Israeli products and refusal to pay taxes. The intifada was brutally crushed by the Israel army, killing 1,000 Palestinians, including 200 below the age of 16.

While the intifada was led by the four PLO parties active in the occupied territories, it gave birth to Islamist groups such as Hamas. Earlier, Israel encouraged the development of Islamist groups to divide the Palestinians. When it appeared that these groups pose a greater threat to it than the PLO, Israel began talks with the latter.

On September 28, 1995 an interim agreement was signed between the Israel government and Palestine . It provided for the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip and Jericho , as well as parts of the West Bank during a period of five years, and for the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with “self-governing powers”. Yasser Arafat, head of Al Fatah, was elected president of the PA in 1996.

However, the talks were protracted. After painful negotiations, which extended till the turn of the century, the Palestinian Authority was able to fain direct or partial control of 40 percent of the West Bank and 65 percent of the Gaza strip.


All through the period of negotiations, Israel expanded its settlements and built bypass roads within the occupied territories. Thus, even as the PA gained some measure of control over certain areas of the West Bank and Gaza strip, they were surrounded by Jewish settlements with entry and exit to these areas being controlled by the Israel army.

On September 28, 2000 Ariel Sharon visited the Muslim holy shrine, Haram al-Sharif in the company of 1,000 guards, thereby provoking a second intifada. When the militant wing of Al Fatah fired on Israeli soldiers, Israel attacked PA installations with helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery fire, and missiles. It also bombarded civilian neighborhoods in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

In June 2002, Israel began construction of the West Bank barrier, which was 700-km long and five meters high. Palestinian land was confiscated to build the wall. Worse, Palestinian farmers and traders were cut off from their farms and water sources.

On September 20, 2002 Israel besieged Arafat’s headquarters in Ram Allah and confined him there for over two years up to his death in November 2004. Israel also embarked on a policy of extrajudicial assassinations and imprisonment of Palestinian leaders. One of the more prominent Palestinian leaders who was imprisoned and sentenced to five life terms is Marwan Barghouti of the Al Fatah.

On February 26, 2003, Israel made a series of re-incursions that led to the re-occupation of parts of the Gaza strip and the West Bank .

In April 2003, Mahmud Abbas was elected as Palestinian Prime Minister. On June 4, 2003 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas met at Aqaba, Jordan to discuss the implementation of the “road map formula for peace”, which was backed by the US, Russia, the European Union, and the UN.

However, nothing came out of the negotiations. Abbas was politically humiliated.

On January 25, 2006, Palestinians voted in parliamentary elections and Hamas won 74 out of the 132 parliamentary seats. Fatah won 45 seats, and 13 seats went to other minor parties. Since then, Israel vowed to “liquidate Hamas rule in Gaza ”.

Thus, the December 2007 Israeli offensive was more than a retaliation. It is part of Israel ’s genocidal acts against the Palestinian people, much like what the British settlers did to the native American Indians. (Bulatlat.com)

(Photos Courtesy of Kawagib Moro Human Rights)

Arkibong Bayan

Photos: Protest rally at the Israeli Embassy in Makati City condemns the massacre of Palestinian people

January 14, 2009

Protest rally at the Israeli Embassy in Makati City

condemns the massacre of Palestinian people

January 6, 2009

Bayan Chair and ILPS Officer Dr. Carol P. Araullo

Moro Representative

OFFICE OF THE CHAIRPERSON

ILPSheader

Press Statement

4 January 2009

ILPS CONDEMNS ISRAELI GROUND INVASION OF GAZA

AND THE ESCALATING MASSACRE OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison

Chairperson, International Coordinating Committees

International League of Peoples’ Struggle

Since December 27, 2008, the US-supported Zionist Israel has carried out a war of aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza. It has launched air strikes by F-16 jet planes and Apache helicopters and artillery shelling by naval vessels in order to massacre hundreds and injure thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and destroy their homes, mosques, schools, public buildings, oil depots, power plants, water facilities  and other infrastructure.

The massacre of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their public and private properties are being rapidly escalated with the ground invasion of Gaza by thousands of Israeli troops and tanks since evening yesterday.  The aggressors have interdicted food and medicine supplies. They have destroyed all the sources of fuel and power and have thus disabled vehicles and the hospitals.  They have killed Palestinian medical personnel and have prevented ambulances from reaching the victims of aerial bombardments, shelling by naval artillery and strafing by ground forces.

The US imperialists are hellbent on letting the Zionists wreak death and destruction on the Palestinian people without limit and with complete impunity.  They have publicly incited the Zionists to escalate their aggression and have blocked every effort in the UN Security Council to pass a ceasefire resolution and to stop the carnage.  Together with the Zionists in Israel, they want nothing less than the complete surrender and subjugation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and in the whole of Palestine.

US imperialism is being consistent and true to its evil nature. It has supplied Israel with all the military, political and economic resources to wage aggression repeatedly against the Palestinian people since 1948, occupy Palestine and drive away millions of Palestinians from their homeland.  The US has used Israel as the bridgehead of US imperialist hegemony in the Middle East and as the platform for threatening and blackmailing countries in the region, making them military and political clients and controlling the oil resources.

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, reiterate in the strongest terms our condemnation of the US-supported war of aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and once more declare our solidarity with and support for the entire Palestinian people in their resistance against Zionist Israel and its US imperialist master.

In this regard, we also criticize and condemn those governments in the Middle East that collaborate with the US in supporting Israel directly and indirectly, delivering the oil resources of the region to the US oil giants and suppressing the resistance of the Palestinian, Arab and other peoples in the Middle East. It is a shame that the overwhelming number of Arab people are prevented by their governments from extending the most effective support to the Palestinian people.

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, stand in solidarity with the Palestinian, Arab and other peoples of the world in the struggle against US imperialism and Israeli Zionism.  Once more we call on all member-organizations and allies of the ILPS to initiate as well as join protest mass actions and other activities that express and gather militant support for the resistance of the Palestinian and Arab peoples against US imperialism and Israeli Zionism. ###

Press Statement
December 29, 2008

ILPS CONDEMNS ISRAELI ATTACKS
ON THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE IN GAZA

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle condemns the murderous and cowardly air strikes and artillery fire unleashed by Israel on the Palestinian people in Gaza. These have already resulted in the indiscriminate killing of more than 300 people and the wounding of more than a thousand people and the destruction of office and apartment buildings, mosques, school buildings, and infrastructure. The attacks are still being escalated and the Israeli military forces have been ordered to mobilize for a fullscale invasion and reoccupation of Gaza.

The ILPS likewise condemns the US in the strongest terms for justifying and encouraging the Zionist acts of terrorism and for blaming the Palestinian people for the barbaric crimes committed by Israel against them. US imperialism has long propped up Zionist Israel, supplied to it the most powerful weapons and enabled it to commit acts of aggression, occupy Palestine for so many decades and deprive the Palestinian people of their homeland and squeeze them in a small piece of land like Gaza, which is now walled in on all sides.

It is utter mendacity and hypocrisy worthy of war criminals and mega-terrorists for both the US and Israel to put the blame on Palestine and the Palestinian people for the ongoing large-scale crimes of aggression and oppression committed by Israel against them and for the impending Israeli invasion and reoccupation of Gaza. The current call of Israel for all-out war reminds us all of the Israeli aggression against Lebanon in recent times and how far Israel can go in committing crimes against humanity with complete impunity with the encouragement and support of the US imperialists and the acquiescence of the other imperialist powers.

The ILPS stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for national salvation and independence and for the defense of all their human and democratic rights against the onslaughts of the US-backed Israeli aggressors. We join the Palestinian and Arab people and the entire humankind in condemning the US-supported crimes of aggression of Israel and in demanding that Israel stop its scheme of all-out war of aggression.

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle therefore calls on all its member-organizations and all its allies throughout the world to carry out mass campaigns to condemn the US-Israeli collusion in the war of aggression against Palestine and the Palestinian people, to demand the end of such horrible war and to discourage and prevent Israel from using its military might to slaughter the Palestinian people. ###

Press Statement
January 6, 2009

BAYAN Statement for the Protest Action Condemning Israel’s Siege of Gaza

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan joins the people of the world in condemning the brutal armed aggression of Israel against the Palestinian people in the Gaza. The 8-day airstrikes followed by the ground invasion of Gaza is the latest in the long list of atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians under the Occupation.

Israel justifies its armed aggression by saying it is a response to the rocket attacks of Hamas on Israel. This view is also supported by Israel’s # 1 ally, the United States. What Israel refuses to acknowledge is the broader context wherein this violence is happening. The actions of Hamas should be seen in the context of the brutal, more than half-century occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. In the case of Gaza, while Israel has pulled out its troops and settlements over the past three years, Israel has effectively set up an economic blockade that systematically and collectively punishes, starves and kills the Palestinian people.

The residents of Gaza have been denied any meaningful economic activity as a result of the blockade. For months now, Israel has prevented food, medicine, and fuel from reaching Gazans. Even during the time of the airstrikes, Israel has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza as it has prevented Gazans from seeking refuge and hospital treatment outside.

It is the brutal occupation which has pushed the Palestinian people to armed resistance. It is the occupation that is the main stumbling block to a meaningful peace. It is Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the establishment of a Palestinian State which is the root cause of violence in that region.

In light of the historical circumstances of Israeli occupation, the current offensive against the Palestinian people can never be justified.

We condemn in the strongest terms the US government for its political and military support for Israel. For decades now, US government has encouraged and supported Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its armed aggression against the Palestinian people. The US government not only provides billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, it also uses its veto power in the United Nations to support the cause of Israel. Recently, the US government rejected a UN Security Council ceasefire resolution, a clear indication that the US supports the attacks on Gaza.

We call for an end to the siege of Gaza and for immediate relief for the Palestinian people ravaged by the Israeli armed offensives. We call for an end to the inhumane blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza and for allowing much-needed aid to be brought to Gazans.

We call for an end to the Israeli occupation as the only long-term and viable path to peace. We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight of genuine self-determination and freedom from oppression.

STOP THE SIEGE! STOP US-ISRAELI AGGRESSION AND TERRORISM!
END THE OCCUPATION! FREE PALESTINE!

5 JANUARY 2009
PRESS RELEASE
Reference: Garry Martinez, Chairperson
Mobile: 0921-7229740

MIGRANTE condemns Israel’s attack on Gaza

As Israeli forces rolled their tanks inside Palestinian territories in the Gaza strip after more than a week of continuous aerial bombardment that left hundreds of innocent civilians killed, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) groups denounced the attacks as “barbaric” and called for the immediate end to Israel’s bloody campaign against the Palestinian people.

“Migrante International joins peace loving peoples throughout the world in condemning US-Israel’s ongoing military assault on Gaza. At the same time, we join the Palestinian people in demanding justice for those killed, hurt and displaced in the attacks. The attacks are undoubtedly fuelled by US imperialism’s intent to lord over the entire Middle East and corner its abundant oil resources,” says Garry Martinez, Chairperson of Migrante International. “We fear that this attack is merely a prelude to more acts of military aggression as the US seeks to recover from the worst financial crisis it has ever faced.”

The group asserted that the US’ role in the ongoing military aggression couldn’t be overly emphasized. They said since the end of World War II, Israel has been the largest recipient of US’ direct military aid. This vicious attack, they said, is proof that the US considers Israel as its jumping board to assert its hegemony over the Middle East.

As of this writing, over 500 Palestinians have been killed and almost 3,000 have been critically wounded inside the 25 mile Gaza strip. The Israeli Defense Force has also mobilized more than 10,000 of its armed reservists to carry out Israel’s biggest military campaign since the 2006 Lebanon war.

Migrante also slammed the Philippine government “for turning a blind eye to the US-Israeli led massacre of the Palestinian people,” and challenged the Arroyo regime to make a categorical stand in denouncing the attacks.

“We have 120 Filipinos inside strife-torn Gaza and more than 30,000 inside Israel. We believe these are enough reasons for this regime to join the chorus of nations in denouncing US-Israel’s attack on Gaza. This is the best contingency plan that the Arroyo regime can undertake if only to ensure the lives of our kababayans who will surely be caught in the crossfire,” says Martinez, whose wife is currently an OFW in Israel. ###

06 January 2009
His Excellency Zvi AVINER-VAPNI, AEP
Ambassador
Israel Embassy
23rd Floor, Trafalgar Plaza 105 H.V. dela Costa Street,
Salcedo Village, Makati City

Dear Ambassador VAPNI,

Shalom! The SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns, a nationwide alliance of children’s organizations and child rights-based institutions here in the Philippines, strongly condemns and protests the aerial attacks of Israeli army to Gaza’s civilian populated areas that started last December 27, 2008. It is sad to see hundreds of civilians, mostly children, killed with Israeli aerial bombing strikes while thousands more were injured.

The subsequent ground operations conducted by your government’s troops last January 3 which continues to date showed the true objectives of your government’s intention in Palestine occupied territories, which is to annihilate the Palestinian people, and illegally deny them of their homeland.

We are witness to the long struggle of Palestinian people against Zionism, racism and human rights violations committed by Israel’s army with the support of the United States. Worst, the current Israeli’s invasion of Gaza deprives hundreds if not thousands of children their right to life, protection and development.

The recent occupation of Israel’s forces in Gaza, is a violation of existing international laws. The wanton destruction of civilian property, killing and maiming of children and minors further aggravates the violation of Israel to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child wherein Israel is a signatory. It is clearly stated in UNCRC that every child should be protected at all times most especially during war. The fact that airstrikes by the Israeli army and the subsequent ground assaults which victimized children, including very young children, makes your government liable of genocide and infanticide.

We appeal to you to immediately call for a stop to the attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and give the Palestinian people especially the children, their dignity to live peacefully as one country… Palestine.

Stop killing Palestinian children!

Stop US-Israel Aggression against Palestine!
Stop Israeli Attacks on Gaza! Stop the siege of Gaza!
Israeli Troops Out of Gaza Now!
End the Occupation! FREE Palestine!

(sgd)
Mr. Alphonse Rivera
Officer in charge

Bayan Muna condemns the US-backed Israeli invasion of Gaza; calls for an end to the war against the Palestinian people

Bayan Muna strongly condemns the US-backed Israel war of aggression and calls for an immediate pullout of its troops in Gaza. We support all international diplomatic efforts to put a stop to the war that can slaughter more of the 1.5 million Palestinian people, including women, children and elderly. The Palestinian people must be given justice. Their right to exist and to remain in their homeland must be respected.

Since December 27, 2008 Israeli government air bombardment, artillery shelling and the ongoing ground invasion have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Homes, places of worship, hospitals, schools, government offices, oil depots, fishing ports, power plants, water facilities and other infrastructure are systematically being destroyed. Food, medicine, and medical personnel are being blocked by Israeli troops.

We likewise denounce the US government’s full support to the Israeli Zionist aggression versus the Palestinian people. It has stymied every effort in the United Nations Security Council to pass an urgent ceasefire resolution to stop the carnage. It continues to supply Israel with military

and economic aid to starve, subjugate, and evict the Palestinian people from their homeland since 1948. The US has also used Israel as an effective springboard for controlling oil resources in the Middle East, with most governments in the region rendered servile to US hegemonic interests.

We also decry the Macapagal-Arroyo government for its deafening silence when a growing number of the world’s peoples and leaders are calling for a stop to the carnage in Gaza. We urge the Philippine government to condemn the Israeli invasion of the battered Palestinian enclave that has also put in grave danger the lives and livelihood of Filipino expatriates working in Gaza. The Philippine government should support mounting calls for the pullout of Israeli forces in the Gaza strip.

The international community of nations and peoples must work for an immediate ceasefire so urgent humanitarian concerns can be addressed. We join all governments, parliamentarians, peoples’ organizations and agencies that have criticized, protested and condemned the US-backed Israeli war against Palestine and call for an immediate end of hostilities in the Gaza Strip to stop the loss of life and property there. #

News Release
06 January 2008

ANAKPAWIS ASKS PHIL. GOVERNMENT TO DENOUNCE US-BACKED ISRAELI INVASION IN GAZA

THE MILITANT Anakpawis party-list condemned the escalating Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and asked the Philippine government to denounce the US-backed attack.

“The military offensive has already killed more than 500 Palestines including civilians since the air attacks started last December 27 and escalated into the current ground assault. We ask the Philippine government to denounce the invasion and call for an immediate truce to stop the slaughter. The Hamas rocket attacks are but pinpricks on Israel compared to the sledgehammer pounding of Israel on the 1.4-million Palestines in the Gaza Strip,” Anakpawis secretarty-general Cherry Clemente said.

Anakpawis is set to file a House Resolution on the issue but the 14th Congress is still in recess and has yet to resume session till January 19. It has however joined other militant activists in a protest action today at the Israeli embassy in Makati.

“We likewise denounce the inaction of the US at the UN Security Council on the Arab proposals for an immediate truce. There is outright support of the Bush government for the Israeli military attack. Blaming the duly-elected Hamas government in Gaza solely for the turmoil in the region is grossly unjust. The US-backed war will only worsen the local situation and is sure to aggravate the global crisis that the US war on terror has created,” Clemente said.

“The Philippine government shouldn’t reduce the issue on the mere evacuation of Filipino overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and expatriates. Just as the Israeli attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 endangared Filipino lives, the on-going attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while involving lesser number of Filipinos, once again exposed our compatriots to the horrors of an unjust war. The Philippine government should do all it can in the diplomatic community to stop this atrocity and not confine itself to self-seving interests for OFW remittance senders,” Clemente added.

“Failure by the Manila government to denounce the Israeli attack would only show the utter puppetry of Macapagal-Arroyo to the US and her fascist support for the US-led war on terror and Zionist expansion,” Clemente said.

###

http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2009/2009-01Jan06-manila/03_small.jpg

Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy

Itigil ang mga atake sa Gaza! Itigil ang agresyon at terorismo ng US-Israel!
Enero 6, 2009

Kami, sa Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) ay mariing kumukundena sa walang habas na pagpaslang, pambobomba at pagyurak sa karapatang pantao ng sambayanang Palestino sa kamay ng imperyalismong Estados Unidos at ng mga papet na mga pamahalaan katulad ng Israel.

Batayang karapatang pantao na kinikilala ng United Nations ang karapatan ng mga bayang itakda ang kanilang pagsasarili. Sa mahabang kasaysayan ng pakikibaka ng mga bayan para sa pambansang kalayaan, parati nang sumasagabal dito ang mga reaksyonaryong pwersa ng imperyalismo at mga lokal na pamahalaang papet na kakuntsaba nito. Pilit na sinusupil ng mga ito ang karapatan ng mga tao sa pagsasarili sa kadahilanang mawawalan sila ng kontrol hindi lamang sa mga estratehikong likas yaman kundi pati na rin sa mga geo-estratehikal na posisyon ng pagpapalawak pangmilitar.

Muli na namang pinatunayan ito sa kasalukuyang nagaganap na pagpapatindi ngkarahasan laban sa mga mamamayang Palestino. Nagbunga ang walang patid na pambobomba at pag-atake sa mga pamayanan sa daan-daang bilang ng mga nasawi,libo- libong nasugatan, at mahahalagang pasilidad pambayan na nasalanta. Lalo pang pinatindi ang pagdurusa ng mga mamamayan sa pagtanggi ng agresibong pamahalaang Israel na makapasok ang mga lehitimong tulong panghumanitarian para maampat ang pagdurusa ng sambayanang sinasakop.

Sa kaso ng Palestina, nagkukubli ang Israel sa lambong ng kunwang pakikibaka nito laban sa terorismo upang siya mismong maglunsad ng teroristang pag-atake sa mga pamayanang Palestino.Pinalala pa ito ng matagalang blockade na pumigil sa pagpasok kahit ng mga batayang pangangailangan gaya ng suplay ng gamot, pagkain,inumin, at gamit sa ospital at kabahayan na inilunsad ng Israel ilang buwan na ang nakakaraan. Ang pagpayag at pagdepensa ng Estados Unidos bilang amo ng Israel sa nagaganap na karahasan ng kanyang kliyenteng estado, at ang patuloy napagsuporta nito sa mga teroristang pag-atake ng Israel sa mga karatig-bayan ang patunay ng sabwatang nagaganap at ang pag-uugat ng suliranin sa pusod ng imperyalistang bayan. Higit na nakababahala, binabaog ng Estados Unidos at Israel ang maraming resolusyon ng United Nations na kumikilala sa karapatan ng mga Palestinong magsarili at pumupula sa agresyong isinasakatuparan ng magkakuntsabang Estados Unidos-Israel.

Hindi mapipigilang maiugnay ito sa nagaganap na isa pang sentro ng tunggalian sa Middle East. Sa kalagayan ng Iraq, ang di matapos-tapos na karahasan laban sa mga pamayanan ng Iraqi matapos ang ilang taon ng pananakop ng Estados Unidos ang siyang nagdudulot ng lubusang paghihirap sa mga pamayanang Iraqi. Muli, sa lambong ng pagtugis sa terorismo, patuloy ang pag-atake sa mga sibilyan at mga pamayanan na sa bandang huli ay siyang magtitiyak sa geo-estratehikal naposisyon ng Estados Unidos sa pagkontrol sa likas-yaman ng Middle East.

Sa gitna na pandaigdigang krisis ng kapitalismo na sila rin ang may Kagagawan,isinasaka tuparan ng mga imperyalistang bayan ang pagpapatindi ng pakikidigma upang maisalba ang kanilang naghihingalong interes militar at industriyal. Isinasakatuparan ito kahit na magdulot ng pananakop at pagsasamantala sa mga inaaping bayan.

Sa diwa ng pandaigdigang kapatiran at pakikiisa ng mga inaaping sambayanan,naglalaa ng tinig ang CONTEND sa pandaigdigang pagkundena sa terorismong inilulunsad ng Israel at Estados Unidos laban sa mga mamamayang Palestino.

Itigil ang mga atake sa Gaza! Itigil ang agresyon at terorismo ng US-Israel!
Katarungan para sa mga biktimang Palestino ng mga atake ng US-Israel!
Igiit ang kasarinlan ng bayang Palestine!
Mabuhay ang pandaigdigang anti-imperyalistang prente!

From the blog of Prof. Sarah Raymundo, CONTEND’s Secretary General and ACT National Treasurer

Gaza Gazing
January 3, 2009

The spilling of Palestinian blood in Gaza Strip as Israeli bombardment continues (now on its 8th day) demonstrates that this is a one-sided war.

Of course, George Bush blames it on the “terrorist organization” Hamas because, as everybody knows, he is a big fat stupid fly. Meanhwile, Obama’s excuse for his silence is the “fact” that he is not yet president. As though one needs the highest position on earth to take a stand against human slaughter. President Gloria Arroyo must have heard of this yet another barbaric attack on human rights and is by now probably guessing how to milk big bucks from what she probably imagines as one of 2009’s opening salvo.

The historian Khaled Hroub claims that the Hamas is hardly an organization that has a “strong hold” on Gaza Strip. Rather, it is a deeply rooted ideology among the Palestinians in and of the Gaza Strip. But what we can know for sure is this: That at stake in this attack on Gaza is Israel’s interest of turning every space into a West Bank territory where household demolitions have become a normalized feature of everyday life. And the only reason why people from the West Bank have not for the past years been the subjects of Israeli air strikes is because they are “well behaved.” No screwy Hamas to complain nor to challenge Israeli occupation.

So far, we have heard three things from the Israeli Government: 1) that it demands permanent peace in Gaza; 2)that it did not start the fire; 3)that no significant invasion is under way.

But the ferocity of the strikes, the death toll (423 in the past 8 days and 10 more in the past hour), that thick cloud of white smoke that has drenched the northern part of Gaza made apparent yet hyperreal by television, the absolute terror of the Palestinians who barely survive as we speak should all lead us to the conclusion that Israel is not merely exercising its “right to defend itself.”

In one of his more forceful essays (Adrift in Similarity*), Edward Said speaks of an article that “was intended to supply Americans with an original thesis about the “new phase” in world politics after the end of the cold war…(119:2004).” Samuel Huntington (and may he rest in peace despite himself) was banking on a very slick notion of “civilization identity and the interactions among seven or eight [sic] major civilizations, of which the conflict between two of them, Islam and the West, gets the lion’s share of his attention” (Said, 2004:119). After an extended discussion that projects civilization and identity in the most static and essentialist way possible, Huntington argues that the “challenge for Western-policy makers…is to make sure that the West gets stronger and fends off all others, Islam in particular (2004:120).”

The U.S-backed Israeli war on Palestine is none other but the politics of the so-called post-political era of global capitalism. This era is by no means post-political. It is writ with the most hostile of conflicts that are pushed to their extremes by war investors such as Bush and his ilk, and their wager for a thriving military industrial complex through military keynesianism. This context belies the slogan “war solves nothing” because it does save the imperialist economy from total breakdown by creating a particular enemy-terrorist groups-and by subsequently vowing to annihilate them in an atrocious parade of war artillery. Indeed, not only the terrible fraud that was Oslo and Arafat are to be lambasted during these times of stressful spectatorship.

Contrary to its claim as a war against terror,– one that targets particular terrorist groups–this imperialist-led killing is patently racist and colonial. The sustained shelling in Gaza Strip even shows that it cannot target its true enemy, “the terrorists.” There is nothing surgical about the strikes that have affected the non-Jewish general population, 80% of whom are by now incapable of defending themselves; 250,000 of whom are left in the dark on account of busted electrical connection; and 500 people have just turned into refugees who mourn the death of their loved ones as they confront the terror of their own survival.

Tonight as I blog away, food shortage is all over Gaza Strip. And as I respectfully urge all of you to join the indignation protest on Tuesday at the Embassy of Israel in the district of acceptable greed called Makati, the Palestinians of the Strip have nowhere to go since Gaza has been sealed off on all three sides by the Israeli army. It’s a state of war for the people of Gaza. Yet, it is not a war between two equal armies. This leaves us with no reason not to fight on their side.

*in From Oslo to Iraq And the Road Map (2004). New York: Pantheon Books.

The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy or CONTEND is a progressive organization of academics based in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

www.freeweb.com/upcontend/

http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2009/2009-01Jan06-manila/kabong_small.jpg

KMU slams imperialist instigation of Gaza war
Submitted by KMU on Tue, 2009-01-06 11:25. :: English News

Kilusang Mayo Uno joins the international community today in strongly denouncing the latest war of aggression brutally unleashed by the US-Zionist Israeli regime in Gaza.

“Fireworks from tanks, F16s, Apache helicopters and the latest weaponry tainted Gaza’s new year. Imperialist aggression has again demonstrated how it can ruthlessly destroy lives, properties and livelihoods just to preserve itself in power,” said KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog.

Labog claimed that the real culprit can never be clearer, as the US supplies more than US$3 billion of aid, war artillery and vehicles to Israel every year.

“The US resorts to its terrorist-tagging schemes to pin down Palestinians and blame them for starting the chaos. But the Palestinians’ fight for their right to life, liberty, and sovereignty – honed by thousands of years of struggle – are valid and just. They are victims of imperialist interests, just like the rest of the oppressed peoples of the world.”

“The US has all the motives to back Israel, as the renewed attacks can pave the way for their greater control of the Middle East’s natural resources and territory – its precious oil reserves most especially.

“Amid the financial crisis, the US is now more than ever struggling to get hold of the world’s wealth. Wars of aggression such as this serve to suppress the imperialist’s convulsions from the crisis.

“This is no different from the US’ backing up of the war against the MILF and the Moro people in our homeland. In the guise of anti-terrorism, they are threatening to wipe out the strong resistance of the Moro people and use Mindanao in acquiring economic and political hegemony in Asia.

“We warn Gloria Arroyo, one of Uncle Sam’s most favorite puppets, not to deliver support again to this latest war of aggression,” Labog added.

“We are all victims of one war criminal, so we are all called on to partake in this struggle for the liberty and vindication of all. We call on all peace loving people of the world to strongly condemn the US-Zionist Israel war of aggression against the Palestinian people, to call for the immediate end to the Israeli raids and ground assaults in the Gaza strip, and to demand the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli military forces in Palestine.” Labog ended. ###

As of Friday morning, more than 360,000 petitions have been sent!
Please add your voice to the thousands who are demanding: Stop the massacre in Gaza!

Please help get the word out – pass this message along, post it on local bulleting boards & Indymedia,

Sign the Petition Online Now – http://www.iacenter .org/gazapetitio n

Join the ONLINE PETITION initiated by Ramsey Clark – sign on and send the message to President Bush, President-Elect Obama, VP Cheney, VP-Elect Biden, Secretary of State Rice, Secretary of State designate Clinton, Congressional leaders, the U.N. Secretary General, Security Council, the Israeli President, Prime Minister and cabinet, and members of the world media appealing for Israel to Immediately Cease Its Murderous Bombing, Siege and Threatened Invasion of Palestinian Gaza



Urgent Appeal for Israel to Immediately Cease Its Murderous Bombing, Siege and Threatened Invasion of Palestinian Gaza!

To: President George W. Bush, President-Elect Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton, Vice President Richard Cheney, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. Secretary General Ban, U.N. General Assembly President d’Escoto-Brockmann, members of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. member states, the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and Opposition leader of Israel, and Major media representatives:

For 60 years, Israel has persecuted the Palestinian people with impunity in defiance of United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council Resolutions, orders of the International Court of Justice, International Law and fundamental human rights.

Throughout the years, Israel has proclaimed itself the victim as it grew richer, more powerful and more violent, while

URGENT!

The International Action Center is mobilizing for demonstrations across the U.S. to stop the attack on Gaza, and we are networking with activists across the globe who are taking to the streets against U.S./Israeli war crimes. To view a roundup of the growing number of international actions, see: http://www.iacenter .org/palestine/ gazademos123108.

Please consider making an emergency donation at http://www.iacenter .org/donate
to help with the costs of organizing and mobilizing.

NYC: Gaza Massacre: Emergency Demonstration – Sat. Jan. 3, 1 pm, Times Square

Emergency Demo in Boston, Sat, Jan 3: Stop the US/Israeli Attack on Gaza!

LA event Friday at 4:30 pm at the Israeli Consulate at 6380 Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles

Solidarity with heroic Gaza: Statement from the International Action Center – Dec. 27, 2008 / also en Español

Video: Support for Gaza!
http://www.youtube. com/watch? v=E4hejAqOUMY&feature=channel_ page

Palestinians were abused, impoverished, divided and demeaned.

A consistent tactic of Israel through all the years has been to divide Palestinians against their most effective organizations. Through most of the recent years Israel has attacked Fatah. Now it is Hamas that Israel attacks. But there is only one Palestinian people and there can be only one Palestinian State. This has been the guiding principle of the PLO. Israel’s policy has always been to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian State. Its criminal assault on Hamas is in truth Israel’s continuing assault on the possibility of a Palestinian State: divide and conquer.

Now in the waning days of the disastrous Bush Administration, the government of Israel with its Prime Minister under criminal indictment, is testing whether world opinion will permit it to escalate its isolation and impoverishment of Palestine and selective and systematic assassination of Palestinian leadership in Gaza to a genocidal, indiscriminate assault and invasion of Palestinian Gaza, knowing full well its acts will inflame passions throughout the Middle East and Arab and Muslim worlds risking conflict of disastrous magnitude in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, even between India and Pakistan.

Beyond crushing Gaza’s capacity to resist and imposing its final solution on Palestinians, Israel is seeking confrontation that will lead to war with the U.S., the European Union, and NATO fighting for Israel against Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan to impair their ability to prevent expansion of Israel’s domination of the region while the “only one President at a time” the U.S. has, George W. Bush, will support Israel, finding all fault with Gaza.

In these dangerous and difficult days and hours the undersigned call upon the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, NATO members, and European countries independently, the governments of Asia, foremost China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, the nations of Africa, and the Americas to demand an immediate ceasefire throughout Israel and Palestine and the assurance of peace. All borders to Gaza, Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, must be opened for humanitarian relief and a complete arms and trade embargo on Israel until it fully complies with all the requirements of permanent peace.

We call upon all the people, the ultimate power in every nation when organized and energized, to take to the streets where they live and demand that their governments do all in their power to cause Israel to stop its war of aggression against Palestine and for all parties to pursue peace and for Israel, the U.S. and other nations who have provided material support for Israel’s aggression to be held accountable for the deaths, injuries and damage Israel has inflicted.

We call upon governments and humanitarian agencies to provide all needed emergency relief to Palestine – medical care, food, humanitarian supplies, shelter; and on all the media that truly seeks peace, justice and respect for the equal dignity of every child, woman and man on earth to headline the demand that Israel stop its aggression immediately. All parties must engage in continuous negotiation with all Palestinians until a one state solution is agreed or the state of Palestine as mandated not later than October 1948 in UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947) is created, fully implemented, and Palestine thrives.

Sincerely,

Initiated and signed by
Ramsey Clark, winner, 2008 U.N.Human Rights Award and Founder, International Action Center

Add your signature to this letter now – go to http://www.iacenter .org/gazapetitio n

MILF hails EU for its humanitarian concern A 3-day tour by envoys indicates concern for civilians caught in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement

December 17, 2008

By Julmunir I. Jannaral, Correspondent

COTABATO CITY: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday hailed the continuing aid and humanitarian concern of the 27-member nations of the European Union (EU) for the war victims in Mindanao.

Muhammad Ameen, head of the MILF secretariat and also a member of the MILF Central Committee, said the recent three-day tour of Mindanao by EU ambassadors is the clearest sign yet of their concern for the plight of the civilians in the ongoing conflict and the urgent need for a political settlement.

Ameen stressed that the Moro rebels is always for the negotiated political settlement of the Moro problem and the armed conflict in Mindanao but if there is no peace and settlement reached until this day, the Philippine government should be blamed, he added.

He cited the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by both Moro rebels and government peace panels on August 5, and later declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Ambassadors from the European Union started their three-day tour of Mindanao since Monday (December 15), to see for themselves how the European Commission’s assistance to war victims has been implemented.

They are Ambassadors Heikki Hannikainen (Finland), Christian Ludwig Weber-Lortsch (Germany), Rubens Fedele (Italy), Valeriu Gheorghe (Romania), Luis Arias (Spain), Peter Beckingham (United Kingdom) and Alistair MacDonald (European Commission). French Chargé d’Affaires Didier Ortolland represented the EU presidency.

Other officials from the Austrian, Czech, Dutch, Greek and Swedish embassies will also take part in the next visit, along with officials from the World Food Program, led by Stephen Anderson, country director, according to Ameen.

The group will meet with local government officials and civil society organizations and non-government organizations involved in peace and development in Cotabato City, Maguindanao, South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces.

Likewise, they are also scheduled to visit a number of evacuation centers in Maguindanao, where assistance provided by the European Commission is being implemented.

It can be recalled that in October this year, the European Commission agreed to provide some P440 million to help civilian victims of the conflict in Mindanao.

The assistance is used to cover emergency food distribution, drinking water and additional sanitation facilities, non-food relief items, basic shelter assistance, health care and psychosocial support, emergency support to livelihood rehabilitation and protection.

Taken together, the EC’s humanitarian, rehabilitation and development assistance for Mindanao has amounted to P7.9 billion over the last two decades, the MILF secretariat head also said.(ManilaTimes)

MILF pooh-poohs gov’t peace talks statements

December 16, 2008

THE National Government’s statements on the alleged resumption of peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have not impressed the Muslim secessionist group, a Moro leader said.

Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, branded the repeated announcements as nothing but part of government propaganda.

He said: “[These are] gimmicks in order to give false hope to the people, especially those in the conflict affected areas and the international community that the peace talks is going to be held.”

Musa cited the earlier statement of government officials that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) would have a full peace panel before the middle of this month, “but so far only undersecretary of foreign affairs Rafael Seguis was appointed as government chief peace negotiator”.

It was learned that the government set December 15 as the first schedule of talks. As of Monday, nothing has developed in the said talks.

“There is no full peace panel yet and the GRP again announced that the talks would take place on December 22. All these are empty talks,” Musa said.

Musa warned the government “not to make hollow and repeated announcements for the resumption of the peace talks between them [MILF] when no such serious thing is in the offing or set for in the immediate future.”

Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, said the MILF has not received any official communication from the Malaysian government, the chief facilitator of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks, about any schedule of peace talks in December.

There were earlier suggestion for Indonesia to take over Malaysia as the talks’ facilitator, but the MILF disapproved it. (BOT)

A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS

December 4, 2008

This piece was originally posted by the author as a response to the ” STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace” article.

Barangay RP reposted it here now as a major story.  Please read.

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A DEEPER LOOK AT THE BANGSAMORO PROBLEM AND THE ARMED CONFLICT IN MINDANAO AND ITS ISLANDS:

Written by: DATUAN S. PANOLIMBA of
North Cotabato, Philippines

datuan.panolimba@yahoo.com

When the Spaniards set their foot in Manila in 1570, Islam had taken its roots in the bay area. In the southern portion of the archipelago, there were already established sultanates, attesting to the existence of advanced political system the Moros had had. It was during the Battle of Manila that year that the word “Moro” was first used by the Spaniards, reminded of their experience with the Moors in Morocco who fought them for territory and dominance in the Iberian peninsula.

Military campaigns were launched to subjugate the Moro Muslims in 1578. These expeditions came in six stages starting from the Spanish conquest of Borneo in 1578, ending in the attempts to consolidate Hispanic hold in some parts of Mindanao to prevent the other foreign powers at that time (e.g. the British and the Dutch) from penetrating the Muslim sultanates. Each of these aggressions was fiercely resisted by the Moro people. Despite some minor gains towards the end of the Spanish era, the Castelllans, who gained some advantage with the introduction of fast steamboats and the weakening of the Sultanates due to internecine wars on succession, never subjugated the Moros.

But the wounds remained and even grew deeper. The Moro wars as well as the cultural conditions imposed on the Indio’s, e.g. the Moro-Moro, zarzuela and the like, separated the Christianized Filipinos from the Muslims in the South of the Philippines. Stereotypes portraying the latter as “uncivilized and barbaric” persisted giving notion that the Muslims were being treated as second-class citizens.

American colonialism of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan began with the Bates Treaty that was on August 20, 1899. The document was just a tactical ploy designed by the American occupational forces to thwart any alliance between the defenders of the young Philippine Republic and the Sultanates. When the Americans succeeded in crushing the revolutionary government in Luzon, they mounted military expeditions to pacify and subjugate the Moro people. These took several forms foremost of which was the no-nonsense unleashing of full military might capped by the opening of settelemnts for the Filipinos from Luzon and the Visayas here in Mindanao and its islands.

Through the pensionados-scions of Moro families who were sent to institutions of higher learning in Manila and the U.S. – the Americans were able to erect some pillars of their colonial government. In August 1916, the Jone Law (Public Act No. 240 of the Second Session of the 64th United States Congress) was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. This was followed by the abolition of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. The administration of the Moro lands came largely under the Bureau of Non-Christian tribes under the Department of the Interior.

American and Christian Filipino officials were in general agreement on the overall policy on the Moros; their integration into the mainsteam of Filipino society. But this policy was seriously obstructed by at least three circumstances: 1) The atmosphere of mutual suspicion between American and Filipino officials; 2) Continued Moro resistance and struggle against the domination of the imperial government based in Manila; and 3) The priority given to national economic development and security consideration in the Bangamoro Homeland.

Throughout American Regime, the Filipino leaders (Quezon, Osmena, Laurel, Recto, etc) did not manifest interest of the Moros at heart, being motivated to ensure control and demonstrate their capacity to government and hasten the granting of (political) independence. Pockets of small uprisings dotted and shock American presence in Mindanao. Notable among these were: the Maranao revolt in Tugaya, Lanao Sur in 1923; the uprising led by Datu Santiago in Parang, Cotabato in 1923-1924; the one by Datu Tahil in 1927 against land taxation and cedula, among others, and the most notable of all, the one led by Hadji Kamlon of Sulu Province in the 1950’s.

The Americans never grasped what the Moro problem really was. They saw it as underdevelopment of “Non-Christian Tribes” – and the solution was education, economic development and judicious application of force whenever the Moros resisted. Worse, to some, the Moros were considered savages needing to be civilized and the homeland of the Moros as territory promising vast economic resources for an independent Philippines; hence, the term “Land of Promise”. Migration was greatly accelerated in 1936, further boosted with the creation of such bodies as LASADECO, NARRA, and EDCOR. This stage set the process of “denationalization” and “minoratization” of the Moros.

The Japanese occupation force little understood the actual situation of the Moros. They tried to use the “Brother Asians” appeal but the best that they could achieve was the guarded, enthusiastic obedience of some Moros living in occupied towns. The majority of the Moros, however, supported the anti-Japanese war effort, and not a few were pleased at the opportunity to legitimate by show their martial bravery. In many instances, the Moros and the Filipinos fought side by side to repulse the Japanese imperial army.

Under the contemporary period, political analysts and pundits are wont to point out to three underlying causes to the Moro problem and the Mindanao conflict: landlessness, socio-cultural differences, and power struggle. In the eyes of progressive minds, they are four: political autonomy or self – determination, leadership, oppression and exploitation, and mass liberation. The underlying circumstance is that the Bangsamoro Muslims are fighting against “forcible denationalization”, if not actual physical extermination.

Three events in the late 1960s and early 1970s precipitated Mindanao Crisis: The Corregidor incident (Jabidah Massacre) of March 1968 in Bataan Province; the Manili massacre, Carmen, North Cotabato in June 1971, the November 1971 elections, and President Marcos imposition of Martial Law in September 1972. The first event led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). To that however, five Muslim scholars from Mindanao and Sulu were known to have planted the seeds of “JIHAD” on the Bangsamoro ancestral, noble, and belove homeland. One of these scholars was Late Ustadz Salamat Hashim, first Chairman, Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The auspicious birth of the Mindanao Independence Movement (MIM) espoused by the “Grand Old man of Cotabato” Governor Datu Udtog Matalam.

There was a shirt of political power from the traditional MUslim ruling class to the newly – elected Christian leaders as a result of November 1971 elections. Almost simultaneously, a Christian vigilante group called “ILAGA” (acronym fo ILONGO LAND GRABBING ASSOCIATION) came into being. The declaration of Martial Law put an exclamation point to the neo-colonial attempts at finally subjugating the Moros.It only expose the then unified MNLF, and soon it became the rallying force of the Moros in their quest for self – determination.

Finding it difficult to supppress the MNLF, which had gained an Observer Status in the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Philippine government gave way to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement in December 1976. Apart from this, President Marcos of the Philippines unilaterally established autonomous regions in Regions IX and XII and created several offices to dramatize its policy of measured benevolence towards the Moros. These offices included the Offices of the Regional Commissioners for Regions IX and XII, Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), Philippine Amanah Bank, Philippine Pilgrimage Authority , Office of Islamic Affairs in the Department of Foreign affairs, Agency for the Development and Welfare of Muslims in the Philippines, Commissioner for Islamic Affair (later Ministry of Muslim Affairs, OMACC, and now Office of Muslim Affairs), among others. This culminated by the enactment of R.A. 6734 that established the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1990.

The GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976 did not end or solve the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict neither did the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement signed on September 2, 1996. While the MNLF opted to join the government and had a hand in the running of the ARMM and the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the Bangsamoro problem and Mindanao conflict remained. The continued exploitative and oppressive policies of the Philippine government, punctuated by unabated militarization, open human rights violations and myopic initiatives that serve more as palliatives and cosmetical approaches in containing, or denying the existence of the problem, further the strengthened the resolved of the Moros in the struggle for Right to Self – Determination (RSD).

The MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT (MILF), borne by the disenchantment, disenfranchisement and the dejection of the Moro masses from the Philippine government’s refusal to recognize the inherent right of the Bangsamoro Muslims to regain their lost freedom and independence and reclaim their homeland that were subjected to laws promulgated without due representation from and consultations with the Bangsamoros.

From July 17, 1997, the MILF entered into a General Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities with the GRP, the latter, through its Armed Forces continued to violate the agreement and the subsequent documents forced between the GRP and MILF Peace Panels to ensure continuously confidence building and fruitful negotiations. The GRP unveiled its “All – OUt War Policy” to bring down the Moro Mujahideens to their knees. Just like what the Americans did to the Bates Treaty, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ignored the joint statements acknowledging certain MILF major and satellite camps – only for the duration of the peace process-on the pretext that these turned into bases from which “terroristic activities” of MILF were launched. They launched offensives notwithstanding the existence of civilians and holy structures in the communities within MILF camps.

The All-Out War policy bodes well with real intent of pursuing genocide or ethnic cleansing. This leaves no alternative for the Moro Muslims but carve their separate state. The unitary system with sprinkling of autonomy in areas dominated by Moros and tribal peoples did not sit well with the Moro people’s desire for real freedom to control their religion, political, cultural, educational, and economic affairs.

The experience of the Bangsamoro Muslims had its parallel in Algeria and other countries. Emotionally, the former of 2000 are now where the Algerians were in 1955. Mere socio – economic development progress side-by-side with military action by France did not succeed in making the Algerians of the time accept the offer of autonomy. Their suffering galvanized their resistance, until as then French President Charles de Gaulle belatedly realized, independence was the only acceptable solution to the Algerian problem. This is the reality that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) must face, Insha ALLAH Subhanaho Wataalah.

As the MILF, however, firmly believes that the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict can be solved through peaceful means, it has embarked on a negotiation to pave the way to a peaceful and democratic return of the Bangamoro homeland to the Moro people. This is in accordance with Qur’anic provisions contained in Chapter VIII, verse nos. 60-62. It is for this reason that the MILF entered into the AGCC and subsequently submitted a 9-point agenda for the peace talks with the GRP. These nine talking points have been clustered into six, namely: 1) Ancestral Domain and Agrarian Related Issues, 2) Destruction of Properties and War Victims, 3) Human Rights Issues, 4) Social and Cultural Discrimination, Corruption of the Mind and Moral Fiber, 5) Economic Inequities and Widespread Poverty, and 6) Exploitation of Natural Resources. As the negotiation went on, these six talking points were deduced again to only three, namely: 1) Security Aspect, 2) Relief, Rehabilation and Development Aspect, and 3) Ancestral Domain Aspect.

While the GRP Panel preferred to delve on positive and more forward looking aspects, the MILF maintains that the true nature, scope, magnitude, and depth of the Bangsamoro problem and the Mindanao conflict must be emphasized for the well – being and future of the Moro people. No amount of stonewalling or window – dressing will ever justify any effort to arrive at another sets of palliatives and /or short – sighted remedies “in the name of peace process” but to the detriment of the downtrodden, exploited, colonized and oppressed Bangsamoro.

The objective of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is to regain the illegally and immorally usurped freedom and self – determination of the Bangsamoro people through peaceful means. The annexation of the Bangsamoro Homeland through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898 constitutes an illegal and immoral act, which is a violation of human rights. The position of the MILF is very clear. There is no viable and lasting solution to the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao between the Bangsamoro people and their prosecutor except to give way to the aspirations of the native inhabitants of Mindanao and its islands – the Bangsamoro people and the Highlanders, and this is no other than the resoration of their usurped legitimate rights to freedom and self – determination.

THE BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS AND THEIR HOMELAND:

The ancestral homeland of the Bangsamoro is not just located in Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan. In a map found on London Library and Museum, Muslim areas in the Philippines at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines were found throughout the archipelago. There were seven kingdoms and principalities, namely: a) the Sultanate of Maguindanao, b) Sultanate of Sulu, c)Muslim principality of Palawan, d) Muslim principality of Panay, e) Muslim principality Mindoro, f) the Muslim principality of Manilad (Manila), and g) the Muslim principality of Iloco.

Due to the partial success of the Spanish conquistadors’ attempt to proselytize the Indio’s, the Moros were decimated in Luzon and the Visayas. At the end of the Spanish regime, the Moros were found principally in the southern portion of the Philippines: on the island of Mindanao, in the Sulu archipelago, and on the island of Palawan, south of Puerto Princesa City. The dominant Islamized tribes consist of 13 major ethno – linguistic groups : the Maguindanaos (Cotabato and parts of Zamboanga del Sur), Maranaws (Lanao, and parts of the Misamis, Bukidnon and also in Caraga region), Tausogs (Sulu), Yakans (Basilan), Iranons (North of Maguindanao and Cotabato provinces and south of Lanao del Sur, Jama Mapun (Tawi-Tawi and Cagayan de Sulu), Palawani (Southern Palawan), Kalibugan (Zamboanga del Sur) Kalagan (Davao areas), Samal (Sulu), Sangil (Saranggani Island group), Molbog (Balabac Island Southern Palawan), and Badjao (South of Sulu) – (per Yambut et. al., 1975:16). Each of these groups occupies a more or less distict territory, though in some instance the smaller groups have their living spaces penetrated by families belonging to the larger groups.

Then there are highlanders or lumads, the tribal ethnic groups like the T’durays (Tirurays), Manobos, B’laans, Bagobos, Subanons, T’bolis, Bukidnons, and other indigenous cultural communities, who opted not to embrace Islam, but form part of the Bangsamoro nation. They have the same aspiration as the Muslims to reclaim their ancestral domain and be free of exploitation and oppression.

Notwithstanding the unifying bond of Islam and custom and traditions (in the case of the highlanders or lumads), the Moros differ in certain respects: 1) subsistence patterns, 2) historical development and in the intensity of their contracts with the rest of the archipelago and the world beyond, and 3) in the details of their social organization, degree of their Islamic acculturation, and in their dress, custom, arts and many other aspects of culture.

These accidental differences, including patterns of psychosocial behavior, were exploited by the regime of President Marcos to divide the Moros in its attempt to weakened the then unified MNLF. What it could not win in war, it somewhat accomplished, albeit with little success in politics of compromises, concessions, and deception. This strategy also somewhat worked in magnifying the mis – perception that the Moros by themselves could not govern, rendering the various mechanisms devised by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) especially the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), the Bogus Autonomous Regions under P.D. 1618, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as “mean to fail.”

The Bangsamoro homeland consists of the picturesque, crab-like island of Mindanao. The minnows are, the island of the Sulu archipelago (or the Basilan, Sulu, Tawitawi). Moroland is said to be a territory of 36,540 square miles. By way of comparison, it is larger in territory than either portugal or Austria. And the Bangsamoro Population outnumbers that of Albania, Costa Rica, and even of oil-rich desert country of Libya.

In terms of the history of the Bangsamoro, three regions have loomed more important than others: the Sulu archipelago, the Lake Lanao Region, and the Pulangi (River) Valley, that is Cotabato Empire of old.

Sulu is the gateway that connects to Borneo and Malay Peninsula, which explains the very close ties between the people of these areas. In 1994, seeing the tremendous potentials of reviving the thriving trade and commerce that made the region prosperous some 500 years ago, former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, under his much-maligned Philippine 2000 vision, orchestrated the establishment of the BIMP-EAGA (Brunie-Malaysian-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area). The rapid gains of said multilateral borderless economic arrangement were vaporized when the currency crisis struck in the mid – 1997. But then the Bangsamoro people remained in abject socio – economic condition, despite the promised bonanza especially after the signing of the Final Peace agreement between the GRP and tHe MNLF on September 2, 1996.

Lake Lanao, all of its 135 – square-mile size, supplies the electric power generated through hydro plant to larger portion of the island of Mindanao. Paradoxically, a big part of the Province of Lanao del Sur, where it is located is not yet energized up to this writing. The more properous Lanao del Norte, now dominated by Christians, with some big industries located therein, especially in Iligan City, is one enjoying the benefits of cheap electricity, together with those in Northern Mindanao, Caraga region and the Zamboanga Peninsula, all now populated mostly by Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas.

The Rio Grande de Mindanao (Spanish name for Pulangi, which also means “river”) is like Mount Fuji to the Japanese or the Nile river to the Egyptians. It is not just a channel for transportation/navigation, source of irrigation, trade and commercial route, and agro – industrial key production area. More than other, it is a symbol, a source of pride amongst the Maguindanaons and the other Moros in the area. The regime of former President Marcos of the Philippines came up with the cotabato – Agusan river Basin Development Project (CARBDP) aimed at transforming the valley into a modern complex of agricultural production, marketing, and corporate growth. The Marcos era ended without seeing the fruits of such a grandiose scheme.

Three dispensations in succession concocted as set or a package of programs to gain attempt at developing the valley, including the 286,000 hectare-plus Liguasan (Ligawasan) Marsh. There is the Maridagao-Malitubog Irrigation Development Project, a multi – billion peso project, and the aborted Liguasan Marsh Development Project, whose feasibility study was spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) at a cost of P6 million but was flatly rejected by the native inhabitants of the Marsh area. The World Bank is set to bankroll a bigger project to encompass MalMar, Liguasan, and the Pulangi. Yet, the Bangsamoro natives have never participated in the drawing of the plans, never been consulted, or even are going to be dispalced once these projects are in place.

THE BANGSAMORO ANCESTRAL DOMAIN AND OTHER RELATED ISSUES:

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintains that the issue on ancestral domain involves: a) intrusion into the domain (by vested interest, settlers, and multinationals), b) declaration of ancestral domain as public and disposal lands, and c) wanton destruction and irreverence towards ancestral domain.

Throughout contemporary history, the Bangsamoro were subjected to various forms of oppression, subjugation, and genocidal campaigns. The situation of the Bangsamoro people became worst when colonies and settlements projects in Mindanao and Sulu were established to decongest Luzon and Visayas. It was also a palliative to appease for Huk members. The systematic deprivation of the Bangamoro people of their ancestral domain is anchored in the Regalian Doctrine, which has been enshrined in the Philippine Constitution of 1935, 1973 and 1987 with the state declares itself the sole owner of what is called state dome in and reserves the right to classify it for purposes of proper disposition to its citizens. To this effect, the Philippine government enacted series of laws, detriment to the occupancy, use and rights of the Bangsamoro people of their homeland.

On November 6, 1902, the Philippine Commission passed Land Registration Act No. 496 which requires the registration of lands occupied by private persons or corporations, and the application for registration of title, says Sec. 21, it shall in writing, signed and sworn to by the applicant. This provision of law is totally discriminatory. First, the registration was not only totally alien to the Moro communities, most of them would have been unable to comply, illiterate that they were. Second, it failed to take cognizance that the Maguindanao and Sulu Sultanates were independent Muslim States, possession had been, and was a complete and absolute title to their land in accordance with Islamic Law.

To ensure unchallenge exercise of the state authority to dispose of state domain or public lands, the Philippine Commission enacted an Act No. 718 entitled “An Act makig void land grants from Moro Sultnas or Datus or from Chiefs of Non – Christian Tribes when made without governmental authority or consent. Section 82 of Public Land Act No. 926 which was amended by Act No.2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with the Jones Law and finally incorporated in Commonwealth Act 141 under Section 84, enacted and approved on November 7, 1936, continues to carry the almost exact wordings of said law, reiterating further the legitimacy of the transfer of sovereign authority from Spain to the United Staets of America, and the illegality of the Moros claim.

On October 7, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Public Land Act No. 926 which allowed individuals to acquire homestead not exceeding 16 hectares each corporation, 1,204 hectares each of, unoccupied, unreserved, unappropriated agricultural public lands as stated by Section 1. Nothing was said about the unique custom of the Moro Communities.

Public Land Act No. 926, amended through Act No. 2874 by the Senate and House of Representatives on 29 November 1919 in accordance with Jones Law, provided that 16hectares allowed earlier to individuals was increased to 24 hectares, but the Non – Christian , including the Moros, was allowed an area which shall exceed ten (10) hectares with the very stringent conditions, that is, it shall be an essential condition that the applicant apply for permit to cultivate the land and if the applicant has not begun to cultivate and improve the land six months from and after the date on which the permit was granted, the permit shall ipso facto be concelled and land.

Commonwealth Act No. 141, amended on November 7 1936, withdrew the privilege earlier granted to the settlers of owning more than one homestead at 24 hectares each and reverted to one not exceeding 16 hectares. But the non – Christians (including the Moros) who were earlier allowed a maximum of ten (10) hectares were now permitted only four (4) hectares.

For the administration of agricultural colonies, Commonwealth Act No. 141 created the National Land Settlement Administration. This took charge of the settlement projects in Koronadal, Cotabato, and in Malig, Isabel, Cotabato. With the subsequent reorganization of the government in 1950, the office was merged with the Rice and Corn Production Administration, forming a new identity known as the Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASADECO). Later, Republic Act No. 1160 abolished LASADECO and created the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA). With the efforts of the NARRA, it had resetled 20, 500 at the cost of p44.5 million in 1963. The government also created the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR), which issued homestead land to, alleged former HUKS.

THe defunct Commission on National Integration (CNI), created under R.A. 1888, as amended by R.A. 3852 on 4 May 1964 did not succeed in its objectives, but merely perpetuated and made more start the discriminatory oppression and misleading thrust of the Philippine government by implementing more settlement projects, allowing more concession ot the political elite.

On March 11, 1974, former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, issued P.D. No. 410 “Declaring Ancestral Lands Occupied and Cultivated by National Cultural Communities as Alienable and Disposable, and for other Purposed”. This edict had a ten – year period of effectively but it lapsed without getting implemented. It was overtaken by events, one of which was the shaky bureaucratic realignments and reorganizations that plagued the dictatorial regime.

Subsequent laws passed by resurrected congress did not alleviate the suffering and dislocation of the Moro people. Bureaucratic red tape and unconscionable practice of certain irreverent parties taking advantage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as extended, and other programs like the Integrated Social Forestry and the issuance, and other Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) made matters worse. Even wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, like Liguasan Marsh and Lake Lanao, were surreptitiously titled and mortgage with the Land bank of the Philippines (LBP).

DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTIES OF AND WAR VICTIM’S: DISPLACED AND LANDLESS BANGSAMORO MUSLIMS:

The destruction of properties, loss of hundreds of thousands on innocent lives, physical and psychological injuries to those who survived the bloody wars from the early 1970’s to the present, and displacement and or disposition of lot more came as result of genocidal.

As an instrument to fulfill the grand design of the Marcos government, then President Ferdinand E.Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972 to support the ILAGA movement backed up by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and Philippine Army (PA), see the book of Dr. Muslim. Until the middle part of 1971, ILAGA operations were concentrated in various Muslim villages in the municipalities of the then two Cotabato Provinces (North and South) with mixed populations, but largely in municipalities where the Muslims were in minority. In the second half of the 1971, they reached the province of Lanao del Sur, particularly the municipality of Wao which was among the centers of the Christian Filino migration. Then, they spread to several towns of Lanao del Norte and in Bukidnon Province.In 1972, ILAGA operated in Zamboanga del Sur. For the period of two years, practically all – Muslim areas in Mindanao were under seige the ILAGA backed up by Philippine Constabulary (PC),. and the Philippine Army (PA).

June 19, 1971 is a very memorable moment for the Bangsamoro Muslims of Carmen, North Cotabato particularly in the village of Manili with more than 70 innocent Moro civilians were massacred by the agent of the Marcos regime particularly the ILAGAs and the Philippine Constabulary (PC). In six months period from January 1971, a total of 358 Moro Muslim were recorded killed by the ILAGA backed up by the PC and PA. In the town Alamada, North Cotabato alone, about 92 houses were recorded burned. In the nearby towns, 55 Moro Muslims houses in Carmen, North Cotabato; 18 in Pikit, North Cotabato; 25 in Kidapawan, North Cotabato and 22 in Buldon, Maguindanao were all burned by the ILAGA in just five days in August, 1971. A total of 411 Moro Muslim’s houses were burned in the town of Wao, Lanao del Sur and Buldon, Maguindanao, respectively.

Other towns with notable killing and burning of several hundreds or even thousands of Muslim houses, masjeeds, and Islamic schools were: Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte; Kisulon, Bukidnon Province; and Siay and Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur. A notable ILAGA Commander Toothpick reinforced by a PC Captain Manuel Tronco made Upi, Cotabato as his Kingdom. As pointed out by a Muslim leader, Senator mamintal Tamano when interviewing the Muslim evacuees of barrio Kulongkulong, Palembang, Cotabato, after the more than two thousand Muslim (men and women, young and old) massacred in their barrio (village) on January 2, 1972, I could not shake their belief that some of the ILAGA were soldiers of the marcos regime. The incident was popularly known as “Kulongkulong Massacre”. Jubair (1999) in his book, confirmed the findings of Dr. Muslim in his dissertation.

Apperaring simultaneously with the reported ILAGA atrocities, until the middle part of 1972 were series of massacres of Muslims reportedly by the units of the Philippine Constabulary and the Philippine Army.. It was noted thatthere were 73
Muslims massacred by PC in Alamada, Cotabato in January 19, 1971; 40 Muslims were massacred by the Philippine Army in Tacub and Kausuagan all in Lanao del Norte, according to Salah Jubair. In the same incident, some 162 were reported missing allegedly salvaged by the Philippine Army soldiers. In a neighboring town of Magsaysay, Lanao del Norte scores of Muslim civilians were on their way for voting and were gunned down by the Philippine Army soldiers.

These atrocities against the Bangsamoro Muslims by the ILAGA and the military machineries of the Philippine government had converted several Muslim areas as ‘Killing Fields”, where the rest are evacuation centers. Naturally, the Muslims in these areas and those of the neighboring towns were forced to leave behind their farms and homes, many of which were subsequently looted and occupied by the Christian settlers even up to this writing. Worst, those land occupied by the Christian settlers from the Luzon and Visayas were titled forcefully with manipulations and connivance with the corrupt, liar Philippine government officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Register of Deeds.

Records or documents submitted to the Egyptian – Libyan team that visited the Philippines in 1972 could give us a sense of the extent of displacement suffered by the Bangsamoro Muslims. Not to include the recent war victims between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the freedom fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Saranggani, Maguindanao, Basilan and Sulu after the Philippine government did not sign the initialled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008 at Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The following are some of the vacated Moro Muslim areas presently occupied by the Christian settlers from Luzon and Visayas:

1. Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims in this town were totally displaced by the Christians. These Moro Muslims evecuated to Maganoy and Datu Piang towns in Maguindanao Province. Their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

2. Ampatuan, Maguindanao and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat – Moro Muslims in these areas have been driven either to Buluan, Maganoy and Datu Piang towns; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

3. Alamada, North Cotabato – Moro Muslims were driven to the neighboring towns ofBuldon and Sultan Kudarat; their houses and masjeeds were burned and effects looted.

4. Colombio, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Alep (Datu Paglas) and Buluan; their houses and masjeeds burned and effects looted.

5. Upi, Maguindanao Province – Moro Muslims were driven to the poblacion, to Cotabato City and Dinaeg (now Datu Odin Sinsuat town); their house and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

6. Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat Province – Moro Muslims were driven to Lebak, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat and Parang; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

7. Lanao del Sur – Moro Muslm in Wao town were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Sur, their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

8. Lanao del Norte – All Moro Muslims living along the National Highway from one end to the other, a distance of over 100 kilometers were driven to the interiors of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their properties looted.

9. Zamboanga del Sur – All Moro Muslimms in the several small villages along the seacoast of the peninsula were driven to Basilan and Sulu Provinces; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

10. Bukidnon Province – All Moro Muslims living in several towns in Bukidnon were driven to Lanao del Sur Province; their houses and masjeeds were burned; their effects looted.

To sumarize the extent and effect of the first two years of the ILAGA and Philippine government’s military atrocities, we could conclude that the Moro Muslims in the rural areas of the Bangsamoro Homeland were badly devastated which under INTERNATIONAL LAWS needs CONDEMNATION and INDEMNIFICATION. Hundreds of thousands of houses, madaris (Islamic schools) and Masjeeds (House of Worship)were burned and tens of thousands of innocent Bangsamoro were massacred and more than one Million of rural Bangsamoro residents were displaced even up to this writing. About five hundred thousands (500,000) are still living in the island state of Sabah, Malaysia as refugees and thousands upon thousands are refugees in other urban centers in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon. It should also be worthwhile to take note the permanent and partial lost of properties and lives of the Bangsamoro Muslims living along the seacoasts of Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi whose number reached to about one Million.

The problem of refugees has remained unsolved uo to this day. Displaced Moro Muslims could not return to their places of origin , especially in Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur Provinces because either their lands have been stolen and titled by other parties or they fear continued persecution from the Philippine government occupational armed forces. Compounding is what is termed now as “STATISTICAL GENOCIDE” whereby the Bangsamoro people are subjected to minoritization in the national statistics records of the Philippine government. At present even the National Statistical Office could not provide an accurate figure regarding the nearest estimate of the Bangsamoro population. For several years now, the NSO’s census reports have shown a slow growth of the Bangsamoro population, which is quite improbable campaigns and military operations undertaken in the Bangsamoro Homeland today.

HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES AND CONCERS:

The Bangsamoro Muslims are the native inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, who are not Spanish subjects on the eleventh day of April, eighteen hundred and ninety-nine (11 April, 1899), and then resided in said Islands, who have neither been naturalized under either of Act No. 2927 and Commonwealth Act No. 473, nor have ever been elected to public office prior to the adoption of the 1935 Constitution.

The Bangsamoro Muslims have fought against Spaniard, American, Japanese, then Filipino aggressions of their ancestal domain, now invoke the human right protection and guarantees accorded them by international conventions and customary laws.

The subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitute a denial of fundamental human rights, contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. The process of liberation is irresistible and irreversible and that, in order to avoid crises, an end must be put to colonialism.

The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of the Bangsamoro People is the foundation of liberty, justice and lasting and comprehensive peace in Mindanao and its islands. It is essential, if the Bangsamoro Nation and People are not to be compelled to pursue rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that their human rights be protected by the rule of law. The ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone in Mindanao and its Islands may enjoy his or her economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights.

The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every humman person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized. The human right to development also implies the full realization of the right of peoples to self – determination, including their inalienable right to full sovereignty over all of their natural wealth and resources.

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines has undertaken to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the international covenants. The Government of the Republic of the Phlippines has also undertaken to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the international covenants, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necesary to give effect to the rights recognized by international law and conventions. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is under obligation under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, keeping such Declaration constantly in mind, striving by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among its peoples and among the peoples of Mindanao and its islands.

It’s MOA or nothing — MILF Moro rebs OK with new peace panel chief, but…

December 3, 2008

By Jeoffrey Maitem, Julie Alipala, Richel Umel
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 02:39:00 12/03/2008

PIKIT, NORTH COTABATO, Philippines—“It’s MOA-AD or nothing,” the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Tuesday in reaction to the government’s reconstitution of its peace panel.

Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF welcomed the appointment by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis as chair of the government panel, “but still it’s not enough.”

“It’s a good step toward the peace process,” he said by phone, but adding that what was needed to kick-start the negotiations was for the government to honor the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).

The government reneged on a commitment to sign the MOA-AD on Aug. 5 as a prelude to opening formal peace negotiations with the MILF, after numerous stakeholders in Mindanao and elsewhere raised a hue and cry about not being consulted on the deal that would have granted the Moro people a virtually independent state.

The Supreme Court later struck down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.

Since then, Malacañang has said any peace negotiations would be based on agreements that would not violate the Constitution.

Iqbal, however, said the MILF was holding the government to the MOA-AD, and if the government insisted on bringing up new talking points, the MILF would not return to the table.

“How can we resume the talks? Do we have something to talk about? We will only return to the negotiating table if we will both sign the memorandum on ancestral domain,” he said.

Since the talks hit a snag, fighting between the military and MILF forces have broken out in several areas.

Seguis, a veteran diplomat who gained prominence after negotiating the release of two Filipinos held hostage by insurgents in Iraq, said in a statement: “This is a tremendous challenge and opportunity which I humbly accept knowing fully well the difficult road that lies ahead.”

He said his appointment was “the first step in preparation for the resumption of talks.”

The government will complete reconstituting its negotiating panel by Dec. 15 in an effort to revive negotiations with the MILF hopefully before Christmas, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters.

“We may be resuming the talks toward the second or third week of December,” said Ermita.

Seguis, a former ambassador to several Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, replaced retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon.

President Arroyo has faced growing international calls to resume peace talks with the MILF to end the fighting that broke out in August, killing scores of people on both sides and displacing more than 500,000 residents of southern Mindanao.

Several countries, including the United States and Great Britain, have urged the President to find ways to resume talks with the rebels to ease the plight of the displaced villagers. With reports from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

UN, OIC’s help sought in Mindanao conflict

October 3, 2008

By Richel V. Umel and Malu Cadelina Manar


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MARAWI CITY — Some 5,000 Maranaos took to the streets Thursday their call for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to help end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

It was the biggest anti-war rally in Mindanao since full-scale fighting began in August after the junking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Waving banners and streamers with calls for a halt in the indiscriminate bombing of Moro communities, the rallyists marched from Bangolo to the Army headquarters in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City.

“We are angry. We want an end to this war,” said Haj Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, leader of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform for Good Government.

Dalidig said Moro communities in Central Mindanao and two Lanao provinces have bear the brunt of the military offensive to catch the two MILF commanders — Umbra Kato and Abdul Rahman alias Commander Bravo — accused of carrying attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Our communities have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment that did not happen anywhere else in the country. Communities in Luzon and Visayas did not suffer like we do,” he said.

Dalidig said the UN and OIC should step in to end the war and bring the failed peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF back on its track.

The peace rally came as new clashes erupted in Maguindanao province killing four soldiers and five guerrillas Thursday.

In a manifesto, the Consortium for the Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), composed of several non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, academe, and religious groups, said that with the mediation of the two strong and very influential global organizations, there would be cessation of hostilities in Mindanao.

The group has also called on the UN to investigate and determine the true cause and extent of the war in Mindanao.

The group felt the Moro people are still bereft of their inherent rights as a distinct sovereign nation.

“When, after many decades of so-called peace negotiations, the Bangsamoro people wake up to the harsh truth of the abominable situation of sustained betrayal, manipulation, lying, cheating, and killing by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” it stressed.

Meanwhile, International humanitarian agencies have raised concerns over their safety when delivering aid to thousands of people displaced in the southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the issue was aired during a meeting between a special government taskforce on refugee and various UN agencies.

“One of the issues raised was the security of international aid workers and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are helping in the relief operations,” he said.

But providing troops to escort food convoys could also strain soldiers on the frontlines against the MILF, which has been locked in heavy fighting with troops since August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is providing emergency aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting with Moro rebels in the southern Philippines.

The P15-million package will provide medicines and medical supplies and ensure safe water for some 38,000 families in evacuation centers in the south, the WHO said in a statement in Manila.

“Evacuees are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory tract infection that may be acquired because of crowding and less than ideal environmental conditions in temporary shelters,” WHO representative Soe Nyunt-U was quoted as saying.

Journalists covering the war also raised concern of their safety after unidentified gunmen strafed a van carrying reporters and photographers of the Agence France Press in Datu Piang town last Tuesday.

Red Batario, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for International News Safety Institute (INSI), said no one of the journalists was hurt but the incident was “sobering reminder that the situation in hostile environments can rapidly change, putting lives at risk.”

Batario said new guidelines were emailed to news organizations to ensure the safety of their reporters, TV cameramen and photographers.

“It is important for members of the media to make themselves easily identifiable as such especially when using unmarked, private vehicles,” Batario said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

MILF chair: “Be patient in these trying times”

October 1, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:57
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KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has called on his men and fellow Muslims to stay patient in these “trying times” as they celebrate today Eid’l Fit’r or the end of their month-long fasting or Ramadan.


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Ebrahim was referring to the military operations against MILF rebels which saw no letup even during the period of Ramadan.

He said Muslims had to flee their villages even during Ramadan to avoid being hit by aerial bombardments and artillery shelling.

“Some of our women and children were even killed or wounded during the attacks,” he aid in a statement issued to media today.

As a religious obligation, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle during the Ramadan.

Ebrahim said that despite “our efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Bangsamoro problem” the Philippine government and its political leaders were “bent to foil these efforts and instead launched military operations against the defenders of our people homeland, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).”

The MILF chair also hit the government for not signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain even if its negotiating panel had initialed the document.

He said the refusal to sign showed government’s insincerity to resolve the Bangsamoro issue.

“But we have to be patient.  Ramadan taught us that when we feel the pains of deprivation, we have to endure patiently for this is just temporary,” he said.

“There might be some hard times that we have to face in the days ahead that need our patience and sacrifices.  And in meeting these challenges of the hard times, our unity as people is of paramount importance,” he said.

In Cotabato City some revelers greeted Eid’l Fitr with gunshots.

Meantime, Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan will start today his second term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ampatuan will focus more on peace dialogues among his people in the next three years, ARMM solicitor-general Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said.

“Let the essence of this Eid’l Fitr celebration inspire us in the ARMM government to perform our duties, as public servants, with utmost transparency and accountability. Let’s help one another in working out the attainment of lasting peace and development in the ARMM,” Guiani-Sayadi quoted Ampatuan as saying in an official statement. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)

Muslims end Ramadan fast with Eid’l Fitr prayers

October 1, 2008

By EDD K. USMAN

Millions of Muslims around the world, including Filipino members of the Ummah, yesterday marked the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan with Eid’l Fitr (Festival of Breaking the Fast) starting with early morning congregational prayers.

President Arroyo through the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) conveyed her warmest felicitations to the Islamic world, particularly Muslim Filipinos, and noted the significance of Ramadan in adhering to the Islamic virtues of self-restraint, sincerity, perseverance, humility and generosity.

“May the graces of the just-concluded Ramadan foster more understanding on the firm resolve of the government to finally put an honorable conclusion to the decades-old conflict in Muslim Mindanao. The economic gains that we have painstakingly achieved can only be sustained if peace reign supreme in our country,” said Arroyo.

Known as Hariraya Puasa among the Malay race, Eid’l Fitr is also a non-working national holiday in the Philippines through Republic Act No. 9177.

On the recommendation of OMA Executive Director Datu Ali B. Sangki, the President issued Proclamation No. 1625 declaring Wednesday, October 1, a regular holiday throughout the country.

Ramadan officially ended Monday evening. The OMA said the new moon was sighted Monday evening, and according to Islamic tradition, this marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

With this, the Eid’l Fitr, also known as Hariraya Puasa, which marks the end of the holy month, was observed by Muslims yesterday.

However, despite this declaration by Muslim leaders, the non-working holiday set by Malacañang on Oct. 1 will be observed.

Sangki said the Eid celebration shows Islam’s culture of tolerance over bigotry, brotherhood over hatred, and harmony over violence.

“The solemn day of Hariraya Puasa provides the Muslim an opportune time to have a new dawn, to remold his character as he strides and stays the course of his posterity and of his children’s future,” said Sangki.

Malacanang conveyed President Arroyo’s greetings to Filipino Muslims for the celebration of Eid’l Fitr, and called on all Filipinos to pray for guidance and peace in Mindanao.

“As we come to the end of the most venerated and holy month of Ramadan, the Palace sends its greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters and the Islamic world on the joyous Eid’l Fitr,” Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said.

“The Palace enjoins the whole nation to pray for guidance and peace,” Fajardo said.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), re-elected Gov. Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and his constituents performed the prayers for Eid’l Fitr.

“It is my ardent prayer the fasting we have gone through and these trying times would embolden our spirit and strengthen our resolve in creating a healthier, more prosperous and productive society. Let the virtues that fasting instills guide us toward this path,” Ampatuan said.

“The Autonomous Regional Government is exhausting all means at its disposal to bring an end to decades of poverty, illiteracy and conflict in the region. The programs that we have introduced in recent years are designed to usher in a new era, an era of peace and prosperity,” he said.

Prof. Taha Basman, president of Center for Moderate Muslims (CMM), urged his brethren to practice Ramadan’s virtues all throughout the year.

“We should be aware always that Islam’s principles and tenets are every day obligation for everyone of us,” said Basman.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim also sent his Eid’l Fitr greetings.

“May the Almighty Allah accept and reward your fasts, prayers and all the good deeds you performed during the holy month in submission to Allah Subhanna wa Ta’ala,” said Murad. (with a report by David Cagahastian)

Peace is best way to observe Eid’l Fitr — Tamano

By LEONARD D. POSTRADO

Peace, and not hostilities, in Mindanao would be the best way for the country to honor the Muslim holy day of Eid’l Fitr, United Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano said yesterday.

“Today Filipino Muslims celebrate Eid il Fitr which is the culmination of the holy month of Ramadan. We do so with a mixture of happiness and concern because while it is a time for celebration we also know that the conflict in Mindanao has displaced half a million of our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters. This is a true humanitarian crisis,” Tamano, a Muslim lawyer and educator, said.

“The best way to honor the holy month of Ramadan is for the government and the MILF to cease all hostilities and go back to the negotiating table to look for a peaceful resolution to the Mindanao conflict. Not only is war not an option but our country can never move forward until we achieve a just and lasting peace in the south and until Moros are fully integrated in the mainstream of Philippine society,” he said.

Senator Loren Legarda also joined Muslims in the celebration of Eid’l Fitr.

“I wish to convey my sincerest greetings to our brothers and sisters in the Islam faith on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr to celebrate the end of Ramadan,” Legarda said in a statement.

“This month-long tradition of prayer and fasting has been an integral part of your lives. In emptying yourselves of temporal provisions and in devoting your time to worship and prayer, you allow Allah to fill your lives with His strength, wisdom and guidance to achieve the purpose that He has set for your lives here on earth,” she said.

“Setting aside your differences, your self-discipline and obedience to the Holy Quran as well as the importance that you give on the communion with fellow Muslims are practices that serve as model and inspiration to those around you. With the renewed and purified strength that is imbued by the divine spirit of the Ramadan tradition, I trust and believe that the Muslim community will continue to be a strong influence and contributor to our development as a people and as a nation.”

San Juan Mayor and UNO National Capital Region chairman JV Ejercito said the government should have long ago stopped its “yo-yo policy” on Mindanao and insisted on peace for all Filipinos in the south.

“It is the Muslim populace who are paying a high price for the government’s apathy to their situation and the opportunistic few in their midst who insist on the politics of guns and bloodshed to press for their demands for power,” Ejercito said.(ManilaBulletin)

Lanao All-Youth Rally VS Mindanao War

September 27, 2008

MILF admits ‘extremists’ waiting in the wings

September 22, 2008

BY VICTOR REYES

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front yesterday agreed with former government chief negotiator Rodolfo Garcia that failure to strike a peace accord with the secessionists might give rise to a new breed of extremists espousing jihadist activism.

“I would not call it terrorism but the observation is correct,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

Garcia, in a forum on the Mindanao conflict Friday, said the new breed of rebels, including two renegade commanders being pursued by the military, would be a “harder group to deal with.”

Commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias Bravo are subject of a military offensive launched last month after they attacked North Cotabato in July and Lanao del Norte.

Iqbal said the government’s failure to sign the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain has irked a number of commanders. The signing set for August 5 in Kuala Lumpur was stopped by the Supreme Court. The government has since dropped the MOA.

“The government’s non-signing, that gave them enough justification for the commanders, who are actually against the peace process, more reason to prove that their theory is correct: that the government, after all, is not a trustworthy partner in the peace process,” said Iqbal.

A number of sectors outside the MILF are opposing the MOA which would create a Muslim homeland. A number of areas proposed to be covered by the Bangsamoro homeland are questioning the constitutionality of the agreement before the Supreme Court.

Iqbal said there is nothing wrong with the word “jihad” which he said does not necessarily mean religious war.

The nearest translation in English is “utmost striving in the way of Allah and what is followed is the principle of Islam.”

“Among the Muslims, the only justification for war is when it is a defensive war. That is jihad…Jihad has no translation in English… There is no such thing as religious war in Islam,” he said.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said jihad “is actually not something that is always related to violence.”

“Jihad among our Muslim brothers and sisters refers to a cleansing, an internal cleansing of a person,” said Dureza, former presidential adviser on the peace process.

Iqbal said the acts of Kato, head of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, and Bravo of the 102nd Base Command were “merely a question of discipline.”

“They saw that the government is not abiding (by the agreements) so they have gone out of their way and, without the sanction of the MILF leadership, attacked military targets,” said Iqbal, adding government forces instigated the North Cotabato incidents when they attacked MILF rebels.

Kato’s group occupied 15 barangays in North Cotabato on July 1, long before the peace panels announced their agreement on the MOA.

Bravo’s group attacked Iligan City and four towns in Lanao del Norte on August 18.

Iqbal said this was a result of the commanders’ frustration over the non-signing of the MOA. “In the case of Lanao del Norte, it was probably started by Bravo,” he said.

The fatality figures provided by the government in the Lanao attacks are 28 civilians, three soldiers and a policeman.

Iqbal said the government’s “civilian” fatality count included militiamen who he said are considered combatants. A second type of “civilians,” he said, are victims of crossfire and “we don’t know who hit them.” The third type, he said, could not be classified and “their deaths should be looked into to determine who is responsible.”

Iqbal said Kato, Bravo and Aleem Pangalian, a third commander being pursued by the military, would abide by the provisions of a peace accord, if one is finally signed.

Iqbal said that the MILF had no problems with the three commanders “until the Philippine government did not sign (the MOA) at the last hour.”

The military belied Iqbal’s statement, saying the MILF leadership has “no control” over the three commanders.

“In the past, specially Bravo and Kato, were also involved in similar atrocities,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, chief of the AFP public information office.

Bravo is still in Lanao de Norte, “hiding in a forested area,” according to Col. Benito de Leon, commanding officer of the Army’s 104th Brigade.

In Matungao town, a 25-man rebel band believed to be part of Bravo’s group clashed with government troops yesterday.

One rebel was killed in the 30-minute clash, De Leon said, belying the MILF claim that 20 soldiers died in the encounter.

De Leon said the rebel band was responsible for the failed toppling of a power line tower in Kauswagan last Friday.

President Arroyo has said the fighting in Mindanao is a temporary setback to the peace process.

Arroyo on Saturday night attended a breaking of fast with the Muslim community, or the 4th Iftar, hosted by the Libyan Embassy and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS) at the Sofitel hotel. – With Jocelyn Montemayor(Malaya)

Observing Ramadhan, Islam community hits military operations in Mindanao

September 13, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Muslim residents here expressed their concern over the continued military operations in the south directed at the immediate capture of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo” despite the observance of the holy month of Ramadhan.


RAMADHAN PRAYER. Muslims in Baguio City are one in prayer for lasting peace in their homeland Mindanao. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Jamal who did not give his full name, a Muslim trader here, said the government’s continued military operations in Mindanao during Ramadhan is a bastardization of Islam.

“Ramadhan is our most sacred and holy month, it is disrespectful of the government not to declare a total ceasefire,” said Jamal. He said the sentiments of the people especially the Muslims would be diverted to anger against the government.

Abdulwahab Lacsaman, a teacher in the Almaarif Educational Center, along Roman Ayson Road was adamant that the government should respect this very important Islamic practice.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, the month of Ramadhan is from September 1 to September 30, this year.

Meanwhile, Office on Muslim Affairs-Cordillera Administrative Region (OMA-CAR) Director Abdullah S. Macarimpas said the military should observe protocols in their conduct of military operations not just in Mindanao but in any place in the country.

“No civilian should be affected in their operations and the government troops should respect everyone’s human rights,” said Macarimpas.

He was also firm on his opinion that the government is waging an all-out-peace operations and not an all-out-war in Mindanao.

“The president is not waging war but peace against lawless forces such as the MILF,” he added.

The conflict between the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The collapse of the MOA

According to Macarimpas part of the MOA is unconstitutional mainly because of the process it underwent.

“Not all people concerned were consulted about it. Even Malacañang admitted it did not have a copy of the MOA,” he said.

He also stressed that the negotiations between the MILF and the GRP has been going on for a long time. If certain sectors were not consulted it is a fault of government and not the MILF.

In a statement the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) released August 26, it said the MOA, “while recognizing on paper the Moro people’s right to self-determination, in particular their right to their ancestral domain, was calculated to flounder and fail in the face of legal challenges and the unfounded outcry that it would dismember the Philippine Republic.”

According to Bayan, the present administration under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not sincere at resolving the primary issues connected with the armed conflict with MILF, which includes the Moro’s right to a homeland and self-determination.

“Opportunistically, the Arroyo clique wished to take advantage of the situation that the MOA would precisely entail constitutional revision, in order to open the doors wide open to its bid for term extension via charter change,” the statement further said.

Meanwhile, Baguio Muslims are in prayer for peace for their homeland Mindanao as they observe this year’s holy month of Ramadhan. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Pokus: The military operations in Mindanao during Ramadan

September 13, 2008

Malacañang is so serious on its goal for the immediate capture of the rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Commanders “Umbra Kato” and “Bravo,” it is steadfast in continuing military operations in Mindanao even during the holy month of Ramadan.

Under the Islamic lunar calendar, Ramadan starts on September 1 and ends on September 31, this year.

Nordis went around Baguio City to gather the sentiments on the said issue of some Muslims and Maranaw traders residing in the city.

Those interviewed opted not to give their full names for anonymity.

Macarampat, 22, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Dapat nang matigil ang labanan sa Mindanao lalo na at magsisimula na ang Ramadan. Sana naman ay ipatupad ang ceasefire. Kung umalis ang mga sundalo, wala nang gera. Dapat masaya ang Ramadan at hindi magulo”

Rasmia, 38, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Irespeto naman nila sana si Allah. Gusto naming maging tahimik ang pagdaos namin ng Ramadan at hindi magulo.”

Jasmin, 35, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Malayo kami roon kaya di namin talaga nalalaman ang mga nangyayari pero sana naman ay matigil na ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao. Kahit papaano sana ay may katahimikan kahit sa loob ng isang buwan lang. Malaking gulo ang pwedeng mangyari kung itutuloy ng gobyerno ang pagtugis sa mga MILF. Holy war na ang mangyayari kung hindi mag-withdraw ang mga sundalo. Marami na sa aming mga Muslim ang nagagalit sa mga nangyayari.”

Jamal, 32, originally from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. “Di magiging maganda kung di sila mag-ceasefire sa Ramadan. Ito ang pinaka-respitadong buwan sa aming mga Muslim. Ito ay para sa aming Allah. Pambabastos ito kung hindi tumigil ang mga sundalo. Ang mangyayari mas lalong mapapalihis ang simpatya ng mga Muslim at mapupunta ito sa galit laban sa gobyerno. Sa totoo lang hindi kami naniniwala na magagawa ng mga Muslim ang pagpapasabog sa isang Mosque na napanood namin sa balita. Ginagawa nila ito para lang sirain ang mga Muslim. Dinadamay pa ng mga sundalo ang mga sibilyan sa kanilang pambobomba.”

More people wanted to give their stand on the issues surrounding the Mindanao problem. We promise to accommodate as many as possible in our next issue of Pokus. #

Gov’t woos MNLF as peace prospects with MILF hang in balance

August 30, 2008

To pursue full implementation of ’96 peace deal

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:05:00 08/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — With prospects of peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hanging in the balance, the government said it will work for the full implementation of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“We have to clutch at points of certainty, and that is the Tripoli agreement and the 1996 agreement and all other subsequent agreements that can be made as terms of reference,” Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

“While at the same time, we cannot proceed on the other side, on the MILF, because we don’t know what their position is,” he said.

Teodoro and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno met with Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who is also MNLF chairman, on the disarming and demobilization of MNLF fighters and their integration into the military and police.

Sema, who was at the news conference, also denied allegations they connived with MILF forces who staged attacks on civilian communities in Central Mindanao that triggered ongoing hostilities in the south.

The fighting erupted after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against signing of a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the government and MILF which would expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) into the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The ARMM was created under the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF.

“We begin by going back to the 1996 peace agreement, I don’t think well have a problem within the MNLF. What were trying to do is complete the obligations for everyone and ensure compliance of everyone to the terms of the agreement,” Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Teodoro said the MNLF has “kept its peace, kept its side of the agreement,” and government would “make it work in the face of uncertainty.”

Referring to the Central Mindanao fighting, Teodoro said the MILF has not made its position on the “authority of the government to enforce its law” and on the “countenancing or non-countenancing of atrocities committed by some of its members.”

The military is pursuing two MILF commanders — Ameril Ombra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo — blamed for the North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte attacks, respectively.

“Our message to the MILF is to surrender Bravo and Kato. If they don’t, we will get them,” the defense chief said.

Puno explained that “disarmament” and “demobilization” were not the exact wordings of the 1996 agreement but that these meant MNLF members’ turning in their firearms and their integration into the government security force.

While no estimate of armed MNLF members was given, Puno said 1,600 former rebels have been integrated into the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 5,000 others into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Denying that the MNLF was in cahoots with the MILF in the current hostilities, Sema said: “We would like to say that there is no truth to that. The MNLF remains to be a partner of the] national government in the implementation of peace and development for many, many years until today.”

While he admitted that his organization was not consulted when the government and MILF negotiated the terms of the MOA-AD, Sema said he hoped that the government would find a way to “harmonize” any agreement with the MILF with the one it forged with the MNLF deal.

“There was no consultation with the MNLF, we were not party to the talks, we were not involved. We [are] not opposed also to the peace efforts of the government,” he said.

“As to when finally there will be an agreement with government and the MILF, if it will work, how it will work with the present agreement between the MNLF and the government, ask the government, because we have to harmonize if ever there will be an agreement,” he said.

==============

My Take:

Now this government wants Muslims to fight Muslims.  Sick!

The New Settlers: Mindanao Muslims Head North

August 24, 2008

By Claire Delfin

It was 1984. Hadja Amina Jed, then 29 years old, packed her things, left Maguindanao in Western Mindanao and sailed north to Manila.

She is the second of eight children and her mother died while she was still a child. Her father was a fisherman. “Mahirap talaga ang buhay. Pag walang huling isda ang aming tatay, wala rin kaming makain (Life was hard. During times when father had no catch, we also had nothing to eat),” says Amina.

Amina was determined to change her family’s fortune. Going to Manila and finding work seemed the only option.

Twenty-three years later Amina works in Manila as an agent of a manpower agency that sends mostly Muslim Filipinas to the Middle East for work. She stayed single and was able to send all her siblings to school. Today she has a car and a comfortable house in Quezon City.

Lika Amina, Mosrifah Labay also saw the move north as the best option to change her life. She left Marawi City in Mindanao in the 1990s.

Ten years later, she runs a series of small market stalls, selling ready-to-wear clothes in Quezon City.

Amina and Mosrifah are just two of the 1.6 million Muslims who left Mindanao in pursuit of a better life in the capital.

The majority of the Muslims here belong to the three main Moro tribes — the Maranao, Maguindanao and the Tausug.

The Maranao, like Mosrifah, come from Lanao province and have a reputation and tradition for entrepreneurship. As a group, the Maguindanao from Cotabato, Maguindanao, Saranggani and General Santos tend to do less well and are generally the poorest of the three tribes. They come from provinces where the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is most active. Here, many families had already left their farmlands for fear of getting caught in crossfire between the MILF and government troops, as is happening once again this week.

Maguindanao peoples typically find work in companies or in small businesses in Manila. Many females go abroad to work as domestic helpers.

The Tausug hail from Jolo, Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga provinces and also work as employees in businesses or else head overseas.

Former Lanao del Sur representative Benasing Macarambon, Jr. says that the Muslim departure from Mindanao started in the 1970s amidst widespread poverty at the height of armed Moro insurrection in the region.

“War was at its peak. People were starving. There was no choice but to leave,” says Macarambon.

Challenges

In Manila, many Muslims have seen their fortunes change. Their livelihoods have flourished and their finances have improved. Yet for many, life remains a constant struggle.

Amina and Mosrifah no longer worry about what food to put on the table. Instead they worry about their safety. Both claim to be abducted and held for ransom by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

On a late Sunday afternoon in May 2006, Amina was on her way home to Quezon City from a beach excursion in Cavite. While traversing Tandang Sora Avenue, a group of armed men waved to stop her vehicle. Five of them got up and demanded the driver to step out. The strangers quickly commandeered the van.

The men identified themselves as police officers and said they were arresting Amina for involvement in illegal drugs. None of them, however, showed an arrest warrant.

At the police station, another police officer who Amina alleges failed to identify himself, accused her of being a head of a drug syndicate in Tandang Sora’s Culiat village, known for Muslim settlers from Mindanao.

“Sabi niya, drug queen daw ako sa Barangay Culiat (The officer said I was a drug queen in Culiat village) ,” Amina recalls.

She was told that a criminal case had already been readied against her but that she could escape the charges if she handed over PhP 600,000 (USD 13,636).

Amina who claims never to have been involved in any illegal activity told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project that she was left frightened, confused and intimidated. She called her relatives and appealed for help. Together they raised more than PhP 300,000 (USD 6,818).

The police officer accepted the ‘offer’ and Amina found herself freed four days after her ‘arrest.’ No case was ever filed against her during her detention but she was threatened she would be killed if she reported the incident.

Mosrifah tells a similar story: One day, also in 2006, armed men suddenly jumped out of a maroon van parked outside her store and pushed her inside their vehicle.

With each brandishing a gun, the men took her jewelry, cellular phone and purse. Mosrifah reports being scared for her life believing any sudden or rash move she made might be her last. Her abductees introduced themselves as police officers who were arresting her for selling drugs — but that she would be freed and the charges dropped if she paid a million pesos (USD 22,727). She was driven around in the back of the van for what seemed like hours.

Luckily for her, her relatives had alerted the government’s Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA), which immediately got in touch with senior officials of the PNP. Mosrifah believes the officers in the front of the van must have gotten wind of an attempt by their superiors in the PNP to plant a trap for them and so she was dumped in Cubao without any ransom changing hands.

‘Hulidap’

The incidence of renegade police officers kidnapping Muslims and extorting them is so common according to the OMA that it has coined its own word for it: hulidap. ‘Huli’ being the Tagalog word for arrest, and ‘dap’ short for kidnap.

“There were days we have as many as 10 people coming to our office to complain about hulidap,” says Datu Hassan Dalimbang, OMA director for the National Capital Region (NCR).

But while many come to OMA to complain, very few are willing to divulge their full identity and file cases for fear of reprisal.

As a result, the OMA has set up its own surveillance and entrapment system in partnership with the PNP. In one successful operation, Amina’s captors were arrested and are now facing charges in court. OMA has also gone around Muslim communities, conducting awareness campaign to educate Muslims of their rights.

One percent

According to Dalimbang, about one per cent of police officers comprise these renegade officers who regularly target Muslim businesses in hulidap syndicates.

But despite official attempts to clamp down on the corruption, hulidap remains a serious problem according to Dalimbang. Corrupt officers are believed to run paid informants in the Manila Muslim community who alert gangs to rich pickings among the Islamic business world here.

These rogue cops usually accuse their victims of involvement in illegal drugs. Attorney Sittie Rahana Jhan Ganda, OMA legal officer, says it is an “easy concept” because there have been several Muslims who have been arrested in legitimate police operations against illegal drugs.

“We don’t tolerate these Muslims who are involved in illegal activities,” says Ganda who adds that some have managed to bribe officers to stay out of jail.

Torture

A number of hulidap victims have complained of physical torture too. Dalimbang says men were beaten to pressure their families to give money fast, while some women have been raped while abducted.

Alima Mangotara has yet to get over from the trauma she went through while negotiating for the release of her husband who was allegedly abducted by a hulidap gang on Valentine’s Day two years ago.

Over the phone, she would hear her husband screaming in apparent pain while being beaten. “Pag naisip ko yon, naiiyak ako (I cry whenever I remember it),” says Alima.

Alima is 27 years old and says that when the gang learned of her age they demanded she too go to the police station — alone. Having heard of cases of hulidap victims being raped, Alima politely begged off, saying she was heavily pregnant and near labor.

Blank wall

The issue of hulidap has reached senior PNP management which maintains it is strenuously battling the problem. But senior officers complain they face an uphill struggle since most alleged victims are too scared to come forward and register an official complaint.

“We cannot work in an environment where everyone’s afraid,” says Director Geary Barias, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief. But he says that this is not even a reason for the PNP to ignore the crime.

Instead the PNP has run surveillance and counter-intelligence operations on its own men. As a result, more than 200 police officers in Manila have so far been dismissed or charged with different offenses, including extortion.

“We are committed to discipline our people. We cannot allow undesirables in our roster,” says Barias.

The PNP has also been active in meeting with different Muslim organizations in a bid to rescue its tarnished image among Muslims. The meetings are also part of its campaign to establish rapport with communities.

Battling misconceptions

While Muslims have learned to fit in well with their fellow countrymen in Metro Manila, many still complain of discrimination. Some blame this on media, which they say are responsible for perpetuating misconceptions and bias against Muslims.

Hadja Alnahar Baby Lazo, OMA-NCR Settlement Division chief, says it is common for news reports to identify criminal suspects as Muslims. “I cannot understand why the media have to identify a suspect as a Muslim. Why is there a need to include somebody’s religion? They should just identify the name.”

“People think we Muslims are war freaks and violent,” says Abubakar Sansaluna, chief of the OMA-NCR Cultural Division.

He says misconceptions are hard to fight. But stereotypes have to be constantly challenged if there is to be any real improvement. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

(The author is a television news reporter of GMA Network, Inc. and a regular contributor of special reports on women, children, health, education, and the environment to the network’s news and public affairs website, GMANews.TV.)

STATEMENT: Arroyo regime renders impossible formal talks between GRP and MILF

August 23, 2008

STATEMENT: Arroyo regime renders impossible formal talks between GRP and MILF PDF Print E-mail
Prof. Jose Maria Sison/NDFP
Thursday, 21 August 2008 23:11
var sburl8682 = window.location.href; var sbtitle8682 = document.title;var sbtitle8682=encodeURIComponent(“STATEMENT: Arroyo regime renders impossible formal talks between GRP and MILF”); var sburl8682=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=5009&#8221;); sburl8682=sburl8682.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl8682=encodeURIComponent(sburl8682);Contrary to the propaganda issued by the psywar experts of the Arroyo regime, I am not in any position to issue orders to the New People’s Army (NPA) to undertake tactical offensives in sympathy with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). My role as NDFP chief political consultant is assisting peace negotiations and not issuing military orders to the NPA.

In a recent interview, I merely commented as follows: that there is a longstanding alliance between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the MILF and that the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and command of the NPA which are both based in Philippines have issued declarations (through http://www.philippinerevolution.net) that NPA tactical offensives are in the interest of the Filipino people and are also in sympathy with the Moro people and MILF who are under attack by the armed forces of the GRP.

It is the Arroyo regime that is accountable for the escalation of the armed conflict in Mindanao and in the entire Philippines. It agreed with the MILF to formally sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in Malaysia on August 5. But long before the Supreme Court issued the temporary restraining order, the regime all along had the malicious intent of withdrawing from the scheduled signing and had already mobilized and deployed military forces for large-scale offensives against the MILF.

The Arroyo regime’s multiple acts of betraying the MILF have rendered impossible the opening of formal talks of the GRP and MILF. By announcing that it wants to review, further negotiate and revise the MOA-AD, the Arroyo regime veritably tells the MILF to bend and break by giving up what it has gained on paper through many years of informal talks and indefinite ceasefire. The clear message of the regime to the MILF is to keep the ceasefire and never to expect the signing of the MOA-AD.

The regime is using against the MILF the same stratagem (devised by Arroyo, General Ermita and NSA Gonzales) that it is trying to use against the NDFP. The GRP negotiating panel agrees to a draft and then freezes it with demands for revision, while requiring the MILF to submit to informal talks and prolonged ceasefire or, in the case of the NDFP, while pressuring it to submit to indefinite ceasefire that lays aside the substantive agenda and amounts to capitulation and pacification.

Apparently, by pretending for a while to be for MOA-AD and then backing out, the Arroyo regime has calculated that it shall have inflamed the armed conflict in Mindanao to the point of justifying martial law and charter change in a bid to prolong itself in power. Blinded by hubris, the regime misses the fact that it is besieged by a severe economic and financial crisis, that the MILF can fight back effectively within its own territory and that it is self-defeating for the regime to fight on two war fronts, one against the MILF in Mindanao and another against the NDFP in the entire country.

The reactionary armed forces have been overstretched and fatigued by so many years of Oplan Bantay Laya. In recent months, even former GRP president Fidel V. Ramos has observed this fact. The concurrent military offensives of the the Bangsamoro Islamic Liberation Army (BILA) and the New People’s Army have the potential of breaking the backbone of the reactionary armed forces and encouraging the reasonable elements therein to support the ouster of the fake president and serious negotiations with the MILF and NDFP.

STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace

August 23, 2008

STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace PDF Print E-mail
Bangsa uth Leaders Forum
Thursday, 21 August 2008 23:20
var sburl8991 = window.location.href; var sbtitle8991 = document.title;var sbtitle8991=encodeURIComponent(“STATEMENT: Moro Youth Leaders push for Peace”); var sburl8991=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=5010&#8221;); sburl8991=sburl8991.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl8991=encodeURIComponent(sburl8991);The Philippine government is once more trying to dupe the Bangsamoro people in its persistent desire to suppress the Moro’s inherent and legitimate right to govern themselves in accordance with the prescriptions of the Holy Qur’an. Still not contented with giving us bogus autonomy named Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which literally further divided not only the Bangsamoro homeland but the Bangsamoro people themselves, the imperial Manila is again granting deceptive concessions in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The government has also never showed it can implement agreements it entered into with the Bangsamoro people, like the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

However, with the recent SONA of President Arroyo, worries and frustrations surface all over again for not giving an emphasis on the peace process that the government engages on with the MILF. Further, the situation has been worsened by the issuance of the Supreme Court of the Temporary Restraining Order on MOA-AD instigated by some peace saboteurs and politicians like Cotabato Vice Provincial Governor Emmanuel Piňol, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Congressman Teodoro Locsin, Senator Francis Escudero and United Opposition Spokesperson Adel Tamano, to name a few, who have vested interests in Mindanao and some cabinet officials of the government who have been praying that the peace agreement won’t be realized.   Obviously, the government as in the previous dealings with other legitimate revolutionary fronts doesn’t want peace to reign in the Bangsamoro Homeland.The present scenario only reminisces the agonies and miserable experiences of the Bangsamoro in the hands of the Philippine Government that added insult, injury and even attacked the dignity of the Muslims not only in the Philippines but through out the globe.

With this heartless and deliberate act of some demons disguised as politicians and with the strategies of the Philippine government on how to deceive the Bangsamoro People, the Bangsamoro Youth Leaders Forum (BMYLF), a broadest alliance of Bangsamoro Youth Leaders in Mindanao and in the country is again expressing its doubt on the sincerity of the government to address the problems of the Bangsamoro people.

Therefore, now, more than ever, is the compelling time for all peace-loving citizens of Mindanao especially the Bangsamoro Youth to join hands and become an agent and a catalyst in achieving peace by all means. This is the idea that binds us together in our commitment and desire to have a lasting peace in our own Homeland. Towards this end, we put forward the following commitment and calls:

1.       Condemning in the strongest term Vice Gov. Pinol, Mayor Lobregat, Rep. Locsin and other allies of PGMA who are anti-Moro and renown saboteurs of peace. Indeed, these personalities deserve to be thrown out of Bangsamoro Homeland;

2.       Appealing to the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision on the MOA-AD and finally lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in order for the Peace Process to push through the signing;

3.       Reiterating our all-out support to the Moro Revolutionary fronts in the struggle towards the attainment of Freedom and Right to Self Determination of the Bangsamoro People;

4.       Reminding the MILF to be vigilant and cautious in dealing with the Philippine government which is an expert in the art of treachery and fraudulence;

5.       Reiterating further our call for the Bangsamoro People, MNLF and MILF leadership to unite and to revert to the original objective of struggle, which is “independence” of the Bangsamoro people of Mindanao as an option in order to achieve our aspiration for total peace, justice, development and freedom pursuant to the inalienable right as a people being guaranteed by the Charter of the United Nations;

6.       Finally, we appeal to the international Muslim community to help us in pushing the talks forward to attain the kind of peace that we want, not what others want for us.

Irrevocably, the BMYLF shall continue the struggle Fii Sabillah through to the end. Whenever and wherever we are needed, there we must be!

Contact Persons:

Rahib Kudto                                               Ardan D. Sali                    Bobby Benito
National President, UNYPAD                      Secretary General              Executive Director

United Youth for Peace and Development Bangsamoro Youth Assembly  Bangsamoro Center for JustPeace

MILF chief sought US assistance in 2003

August 16, 2008

By TJ Burgonio, Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:38:00 08/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had sought the United States’ assistance in securing an “equitable peace agreement” because of the latter’s “strong leverage” over the Philippine government, according to a report of the US Institute of Peace (USIP).

In a special report on peace in Mindanao released in February, the USIP said then-chairman Hashim Salamat of the MILF requested US support for the peace process in a January 2003 letter to President George W. Bush. (Salamat died in July of that year.)

“[The MILF’s] leaders and other Moros frequently stated that unless the US government became involved and used its influence to persuade the [Philippine government] to implement a fair settlement, the [peace] talks would not succeed,” the USIP said in the special report, titled “Toward Peace in Southern Philippines,” which is a summary of the project written by G. Eugene Martin and Astrid S. Tuminez.

The government panel held a different view then, the USIP said. It wanted the US government to use the threat of designating the MILF as a terrorist organization to pressure the latter into agreeing to a quick settlement.

“Without question, the US government could and must take an active lead role in any peace process in Mindanao,” the USIP said, citing the United States’ special relations with the Philippines, security interests and investment in development projects.

Within Philippine borders

In a speech Friday, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said peace in Mindanao should be negotiated only within the bounds of Philippine borders.

Early this month, along with Philippine officials and other ambassadors, Kenney flew to Kuala Lumpur, the host of the informal talks, a day before the scheduled signing of the MOA-AD.

Explaining her presence at the aborted signing ceremony, the US envoy said, “I was invited, as were other members of the diplomatic corps, by the government of the Philippines. Usually, as a diplomat, if you’re invited by the government and you’re available, you gotta go.”

“We do not believe, on the part of the US, that independence for Mindanao is appropriate. And that’s been our policy for years,” Kenney told alumni of the National Defense College of the Philippines gathered at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

“We believe lasting peace in Mindanao should be done within the territorial integrity of the Philippines, a way forward that builds strength for all of the Philippines,” she said.

But Kenney’s remarks were made without specific reference to the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which was to have authority and jurisdiction over an expanded Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao.

The US role in the peace process has come under a spotlight amid the furor over the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD) between the Philippine government and the MILF that proposes an expanded Bangsamoro territory with wide economic and political powers.

The agreement was to have paved the way for the resumption of peace negotiations long stalled on the issue of ancestral domain.

The Aug. 5 signing of the MOA-AD was temporarily halted by the Supreme Court on the petition of certain local officials in Mindanao, who said they had not been consulted on the terms of the agreement. See story on Page A1.

House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo and University of the Philippines law professor Merlin Magallona have claimed that the United States has been actively involved, through the USIP, in the peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Ocampo, of the party-list group Bayan Muna, has further charged that the United States prodded the Philippine government into forging the controversial agreement.

State department

On its website http://www.usip.org, the USIP said it was engaged by the US Department of State in 2003 to do a project to help expedite a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.

Through the Philippine Facilitation Project, the USIP held meetings with government officials and MILF leaders, and hosted workshops on ancestral domain as well as training sessions on conflict management for all stakeholders.

The activities were held from 2003 to June 2007.

In its special report, the USIP that while it was in close touch with the Department of State it had kept a “degree of separation” from official policy channels.

The USIP said that after the project was introduced in 2003, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Philippine government welcomed the institute’s engagement, but appeared to have reservations and lack of understanding of its “quasi-official, track-one-and-a-half role.”

“Some Moro and non-Moro leaders and civil society activists assumed that USIP was a Central Intelligence Agency front organization whose true objective was to infiltrate the MILF…,” the USIP said.

But over the years, it said, the project built sufficient trust among most Mindanao leaders and observers, and affirmed its status as a “track-one-and-a-half, nonpartisan player.”

‘Haven’t read it’

Asked in an interview whether the MOA-AD was in violation of the Philippines’ territorial integrity, Kenney said: “I can’t answer that because I haven’t read it. I’ve only seen pieces of it in the papers.”

She said it was “not a role for me to know the details” of the agreement or of the BJE.

“You know, I don’t have an opinion on the BJE as it is called because I haven’t seen the MOA. I don’t know the provisions of it, and again that framework is really for Filipinos and Philippine institutions to determine,” she said.

Expounding on her earlier point, Kenney said: “We support the territorial integrity of the Philippines. It’s been our position for, I think, 100 years. We believe the territorial integrity of the Philippines works as an institution.”

Oil interest

With a chuckle, Kenney denied accusations that US interest in Mindanao was rooted in getting a share of the Philippines’ potential oil sources.

Said Kenney: “It’s unclear to me that there is any oil interest involved. I’ve made very clear, I think, why we are interested in peace in Mindanao. It’s good for security, it’s good for economic activity. And as your largest trading partner, I assure you, we benefit from the Philippines economically. And it’s good for our citizens and yours, too.”

Separation of two warring forces in Aleosan starts today (Full Text of the Joint Resolution on the “Separation” included)

August 8, 2008

August 8, 2008
Rasid T. Ladiasan, Correspondent

The Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) together with the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) will give way today for the repositioning of the warring forces in Aleosan, Cotabato Province .

In a special meeting last night, the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT flesh out the facilitation for the withdrawal of forces belonging to the MILF and Civilian Volunteers Organization (CVOs) / CAFGU and military. This morning the Joint CCCH and IMT will go to Aleosan tojumpstart the repositioning of troops.


The non local residents who got entangled with the three-weeks long sporadic firefight between the MILF forces and government forces in the embattled barangays of Pagangan, Bago Libas, Dualing, and Dungguan in Aleosan and in barangays Baliki, Upper and Lower Labas in Midsayap shall be moved out from the area back to their places of origin.


The repositioning of warring troops, particularly those who not from of the area, is part of the Joint Resolution of the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT forged last August 1, 2008.


The full text of the joint resolution is as follows:


JOINT RESOLUTION


WHEREAS, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities (AGCH) in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997 with the primary intent of providing a conducive environment for the GRP – MILF peace process aimed ultimately at forging a negotiated political settlement of the conflict in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro problem.


WHEREAS, there has been an intermittent armed clashes and hostilities in some barangays in Aleosan, Cotabato between the armed local Civilian Volunteers Organizations (CVOs) and forces of the MILF which started on July 14, 2008 , which can potentially affect the bordering barangays at the adjacent municipality of Midsayap , Cotabato.


WHEREAS, the prevailing situation had rendered adverse effects and repercussions to the civilians, good relationships, and the GRP-MILF peace process.


WHEREAS, there is an immediate need to stop the aforementioned armed clashes and hostilities between the two contending forces in order to sustain the truce, preclude unnecessary loss of lives, destruction of  properties, displacements of civilians, effect restoration of normalcy in the area, and above all, uphold the primacy of the peace process.


THEREFORE BOTH PARTIES, resolve as it is hereby resolved:

A. That both the warring forces must immediately cease and desist from firing each other and strictly adhere to the Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities signed in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997, particularly and especially on the movements and activities of respective forces.


B. That a JOINT MONITORING and ASSISTANCE TEAM (JMAT) composed of representatives from GRP CCCH, MILF CCCH, IMT and Bantay Ceasefire be established immediately in a strategic area, mutually agreed upon, in Aleosan to maintain and monitor the ongoing Ceasefire Agreement; and that to strengthen the existing JMAT-Rangeban in Midsayap in order to prevent spillover of the conflict.


C. That the repositioning of warring forces be facilitated in order to preclude repetition of armed clashes and hostile acts that undermine the Ceasefire Agreement and the peace process.


D. That a Fact-Finding Committee to be composed of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), GRP CCCH, MILF CCCH and Bantay Ceasefire be created in order to verify the proximate cause of the armed clashes and come up with a viable solution / recommendations leading to the normalization of the situation.


E. That the return of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) must be facilitated through concerted efforts of duly constituted and concerned entities.


F. That relief and rehabilitation programs must be given priority for the affected areas / communities / families / individuals.


G. That peace advocacy, dialogue and reconciliatory programs must be undertaken particularly in the municipalities of Aleosan and Midsayap, both of Cotabato Province.


H. That advocacy and engagements, as far as practicable, with the concerned local government units must be initiated to ensure their support for the implementation of this resolution.


Meanwhile, the GRP – MILF CCCH and IMT appealed for the full cooperation of all concerned agencies and stakeholder in order to ensure the success of the resolution.They also expressed confidence that the 24-hour ultimatum given by the government for the withdrawal of the MILF forces from the area, who are non locals, will also give way for the smooth and successful implementation of the resolution.


JMAT, paragraph B of the Joint Resolution, was already installed last week August 2, 2008.

Editorial Cartoon: MILF-Deal is a Trick

August 7, 2008

Pity the MILF.

Satur, other strange bedfellows in KL

August 7, 2008

By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:11:00 08/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—No, it has nothing to do with past reports that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had forged a “tactical alliance” with leftist groups.

“We were invited by both panels,” Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said, explaining his presence at the scuttled signing on Tuesday in Malaysia of what could allegedly have been a landmark agreement between the MILF and the government.

“I was there basically as a peace advocate and as a friend of the Bangsamoro,” Ocampo said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He said it was also his way of expressing “appreciation to their efforts to advance their principle of self-determination.”

Ocampo was with Mujiv Hataman of Anak Mindanao and other personalities whose presence in Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia just outside Kuala Lumpur, was deemed a statement by itself.

Ocampo blamed the government for its “lack of sincerity” in seriously pursuing a peace process with the MILF.

He noted, for instance, that as early as 2005, the MILF and government panels already discussed the inclusion of certain areas in Zamboanga City and North Cotabato.

“Even before, the government should have consulted with the LGUs (local government units), the stakeholders. It’s very apparent now that the government failed to do this,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo was a former spokesperson of the National Democratic Front, an umbrella organization for communist groups and the New People’s Army. The NDF has had a problematic peace process with the government.

On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order preserving the status quo requested by local officials in Zamboanga City and North Cotabato who questioned the proposed expansion of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Also in Malaysia upon the invitation of the Philippine peace panel were Sulu Rep. Yusop Jikiri, a former high-ranking official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, chair of the House committee on Muslim affairs; and Anak Mindanao party-list Representative Hataman.

Jikiri said that instead of witnessing a signing ceremony, lawmakers and members of civil society met with Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to be apprised of what may be expected following the Supreme Court’s action.

A great embarrassment

“There is a great embarrassment,” Jikiri said, pointing to the presence in Malaysia of officials of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the US and Japanese ambassadors.

“The Supreme Court TRO was premature because while it is an agreement it is still subject to a plebiscite,” Jikiri said. “It is a disappointment.”

Balindong said that while he met with some officials in Kuala Lumpur after the cancellation of the signing ceremonies, he also went to see the sights in Kuala Lumpur, including the Petronas towers.

50-man delegation

In all, some 50 people were in the Philippine delegation, including invited diplomats, politicians and representatives of civil society groups and nongovernmental organizations.

There was Ruben Torres, former labor secretary and executive secretary under the administration of President Fidel Ramos. He helped broker talks with the MILF in 1996.

The ambassadors were led by Kristie Kenney of the United States, Makoto Katsura of Japan, Rod Smith of Australia and Sayed Al Masry of the Islamic Conference. World Bank country director Bert Hoffman also joined the group.

A way of saying thanks

A Filipino diplomat said that representatives of donor countries to development programs in Mindanao were invited as a way of “thanking them for their commitment and perseverance” to the peace process.

Among the accredited observers were Irene Santiago, chair and CEO of Mothers for Peace; Amina Rasul of Philippine Democracy for Islam and Democracy; and Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of Mindanao’s People’s Caucus. With reports from Norman Bordadora and Christine O. Avendaño

Editorial Cartoon: On MILF-GRP M.O.A.

August 4, 2008

Naisahan ang MILF

Muslims, Christians to stage protests vs gov’t-MILF deal

August 4, 2008

Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 18:21:00 08/03/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines–Muslims and Christians in the Southern Philippines have assailed the “landmark deal” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that seeks to expand Moro autonomy in Mindanao.

None other than Sultan Esmail Kiram, the heir of Sultanate of Sulu, expressed disgust over what he called government’s insensitive action of offering the areas which have been part of the ancestral domain of Sultanate of Sulu, to the MILF without prior consultation.

“I feel really very bad. What we know prior to the agreement, the MILF was claiming ancestral land somewhere in Central Mindanao. The government committed a very drastic move by offering areas, including our ancestral domain which, unfortunately, the MILF approved,” Kiram said in an interview.

“Ano ba talaga ang aim ng Philippine government, papag-awayin ang mga Muslim at Kristyano dito sa Mindanao? [What is the true aim of the Philippine government? Get the Muslims and Christians to fight each other?] Do they want us here to fight each other over ancestral domain?” Kiram said.

Kiram said he had nothing against the MILF. “We support them, but for Allah’s sake, no one has full authority to seek historical rights or encroaching over it,” Kiram said about the impending agreement on ancestral domain.

In a press conference on Saturday night, Sheikh Abdul Wakil Tanjil, deputy mufti for Western Mindanao and executive director of Salamat Islamic Institute, also questioned the memorandum of agreement (MOA).

Tanjil said even the Sultanate of Sulu, which “has all the rights for Ancestral Domain claim, respected certain territories.”

“People have the right to be consulted before agreeing and signing any deal,” he said.

Datu Albi Julkarnain, chair of the Council of Royal Datus, said the MOA on ancestral domain would “encroach in areas supposedly under the Sultanate.”

Kiram and the other Muslim leaders said they would support the protest action in Zamboanga City on Monday, a day before the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat said he was expecting thousands of residents, not just from this city but as well as from neighboring towns and provinces, to join the protest action to “dramatize our opposition to the inclusion in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (JBE).”

Spearheaded by Lobregat, the protest rally will coincide with the city’s formal filing of a case before the Supreme Court.

The case seeks for a stop to the signing of the proposed memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The rally will be the first since the mass protest in 2001 when residents, then led by Celso’s mother, the late Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat, also marched on the streets expressing their opposition to the proposal to include Zamboanga City in the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), the transition government for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“We, Christians and Muslims alike, have spoken and resoundingly voted against this,” Lobregat said.

Idjirani likened the MOA to modern colonization.

“Before Mindanao or the Philippines was colonized by foreigners. Now Muslim counterparts, not foreigners, are colonizing our own people,” he said.

Ustadz Shariff Mohsin Julabbi, chairman of the MILF in Western Mindanao, objected to the idea of giving parts of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi to the MILF.

“I am an official of Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I am a spiritual leader. Now I can say that those agreeing to the territories given by the government are not MILF like me, they are Maguindanaoan Iranon Liberation Front,” Julabbi said.

Julabbi was referring to the MILF leaders who belong to the Maguindanao and Iranon Muslim tribes.

Citing the Quran, Julabbi said no one had the sole right to own a place except to take care of the resources.

In Zamboanga City, at least eight villages are included in the proposed BJE. There are Barangays (Villages) Zone 3, Zone 4, Landang Gua, Busay, Landang Laum, Manalipa, Pasilmanta and Tigtabon.

Covered by the BJE are Lobregat’s ancestral home, the Fort Pilar shrine, the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, the City Hall and the entire city center.

Teresita Sebastian, vice chair of the Mindanao Business Conference and regional governor of the Zamboanga Peninsula Philippine Chamber of Commerce, said the BJE would be “divisive and only sow confusion among the people.”

“When we were young, we did not highlight the differences in us. We looked at the commonalities and appreciated it. With this ongoing development, we are now seeing differently. The government should have done something to make people meet and see on common ground, not further divide them,” Sebastian said.

Sebastian said the business community did not deal with people based on differences. “We engage actively in business not because they are Muslims, Christians or Lumads [indigenous peoples]. In fact, our co-existence is not just mere toleration, but appreciation.”

But Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, assured that they would uphold the rights of people, particularly Christians, upon signing a deal with government.

“We are not barbaric. We guarantee that we will respect their rights. While we are in Islamic State, we will still follow a democratic form of government,” Kabalu said.

“We are asking the people of Mindanao to widen their thinking and not to entertain selfish desires. The past administrations tried but failed to address the Bangsamoro problem. Now, the agreement we will sign in Malaysia on August 5 will not benefit the people of Mindanao but the entire nation,” he added.

Despite Kabalu’s appeal for an open mind, protests will be held in various parts of Mindanao, including Iligan City on Monday.

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the protest action would be their way of expressing their opposition to the inclusion of eight upland villages in the proposed BJE.

The Iligan City villages that were included in the proposed BJE are Rogongon, Panoroganan, Mainit, Dulag, Lanipao, Kalilangan, Hindang and Diigkilaan.

Cruz said these villages have been engaged in agricultural food production.

“Why should we be included again in another referendum when Iligan City twice rejected the move to include the city in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?” Cruz asked.

“We are not against the peace process nor are we against the expansion of the ARMM. However, we cannot allow divisions to destroy the harmonious relationship among Muslims, Christians and lumad,” Cruz added.

In North Cotabato, Vice Governor Manny Piñol said they would stage protests on Tuesday, the day of the MOA signing.

Reports from Julie S. Alipala, Richel V. Umel, Aquiles Zonio and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao

Conflicting provisions between peace pacts, MNLF warns

August 4, 2008

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:51:00 08/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines–The impending signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) might spark a new wave of violence and armed confrontations in Mindanao, ranking officers of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) warned on Sunday.

MNLF officials, led by Dr. Parouk Hussin, likewise argued that the plan of the Commission of the Elections (Comelec) to push through with the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) could further complicate the volatile security situation in the region.

“This is not a warning but a harsh reality,” Abu Ambri Taddik, MNLF’s deputy secretary general for military affairs, said in a press briefing in Quezon City.

The group lamented that while the government had yet to fulfill its obligations under the peace agreement it signed with the MNLF in 1996, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) was already embarking on a new peace treaty with another separatist group.

Hussin, the group’s chairman for foreign affairs, said the MNLF was never consulted by GRP representatives regarding the draft of the MOA between the government and MILF on the issue of ancestral domain.

Even their request for observer status during the GRP-MILF negotiations was not granted, he said.

He said MNLF leaders, including founding chairman Nur Misuari, expressed deep concern over the effects of the MOA on the existence of ARMM as the sole mechanism to implement the contents of the peace agreement between MNLF and GRP.

With the likelihood of the GRP-MILF pact to “superimpose” on the ARMM territory, Hussin said a renewed armed conflict across Mindanao would not be far-fetched.

“In an environment where everybody is armed, the breakout of violence is a possibility,” said Hussin.

Hussin, however, clarified that the MNLF would not be against the signing of a GRP-MILF agreement, but was only concerned about probable conflicts between the GRP-MNLF pact and the one with the MILF.

“The MNLF and the MILF are brothers. We have the same ideologies and aspirations for the Bangsamoro people… We’re hoping that the government will find a certain mechanism (to avoid conflict in territory),” he said.

Hussin also lauded President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her “determination to bring genuine peace and development to Mindanao.”

“Unfortunately, bringing peace to Mindanao is very complex. The important thing is the President’s determination to move the peace process forward.”

Asked what could be done to avoid conflict between the MILF and MNLF leaders, Hussin said postponing the scheduled ARMM elections could help them set up a caretaker administration composed of leaders from both groups.

He, however, stressed that the chairmanship of ARMM should be given to the MNLF representative “in the spirit of the 1996 peace agreement.”

Taddik said a number of former MNLF combatants have already decided to join extremist groups after becoming disillusioned with how the government reneged on its promise to spur economic development in the region after the MNLF signed the peace accord.

He said “thousands of MNLF combatants” have been thinking of joining “MNLF lost commands and breakaway groups in pursuit of genuine peace in Mindanao” after learning of the recent suspension of the tripartite review of the peace agreement.

Taddik said a significant number of his comrades joined the group of MNLF commanders Habier Malik and Indama Furuji.

“Some even went with JI (Jemaah Islamiyah) and the Abu Sayyaf just because they were very disappointed,” Taddik said.

“We have been talking with our comrades to be patient and wait until the technical review of the tripartite peace agreement is finished,” he said.

“But many of them, especially the younger ones, are getting restless. We cannot control them anymore.”

“Many of them are asking, ‘Why are we still poor?’ or ‘Why are the roads in Mindanao still impassable?'” he added.

Mujahab Hashim, Hussin’s deputy, said stipulations contained in the proposed GRP-MILF agreement had legal and technical repercussions on the earlier accord they signed with the government.

Hussin said the MOA on ancestral domain would include the territory of ARMM consisting of Marawi City and the provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan.

Once approved, he said the MOA would virtually abrogate the contents of the GRP-MNLF peace pact.

“The government is moving so fast on signing agreements with sister organizations like the MILF. It’s not proper. The 1996 MNLF-GRP accord should take precedence before any other agreements,” Hashim said.

“We are willing to support other agreements if it will not result in the ejection of the MNLF in the equation.”

Hashim underscored the importance of ARMM as the primary and most potent tool for implementing political, socio-economic and military reforms as stated in the MNLF’s peace agreement with the government.

He said by signing a conflicting treaty, like the MOA with the MILF, the government would practically abolish the ARMM.

“If that happens, the Bangsamoro people will be like Palestine, a nation without a state,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Abdurahman Amin, MNLF’s permanent liason to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the government should realize that MNLF was the “only recognized representative” of the Bagsamoro people to the 56-nation OIC.

“As such, we should be consulted on the MOA. The existence of ARMM should be respected,” Amin argued.

Taddik also lamented how officials of Malacañang intervened with the elections in ARMM. He said because of the Palace’s penchant for controlling the results of the elections in Mindanao through “controlled votes,” ARMM returned to the hands of old political clans in the region.

He said this was very different from what they envisioned when they decided to enter into a peace pact with the government.

At present, the MNLF only has a lone representative to the regionwide body, with MNLF vice chairman Hatimil Hassan sitting as board member in the 24-member ARMM regional council.

The MILF broke away from the MNLF after the latter signed its peace agreement with the government.

GRP-MILF draft pact on Bangsamoro homeland (Full Text)

August 4, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 08/04/2008

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) herein referred to as the “Parties” to this Agreement.

Terms of Reference

The context of referents follows:

The Agreement for General Cessation of Hostilities dated July 18, 1997 Between the GRP and the MILF, and its Implementing Administrative and Operational Guidelines;

The General Framework of Agreement of Intent Between the GRP and the MILF dated August 27, 1998;

The Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks Between the GRP and the MILF dated March 24, 2001;

The Tripoli Agreement on Peace Between the GRP and the MILF dated June 22, 2001;

The Tripoli Agreement Between the GRP and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) dated December 23, 1976 and the Final Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement Between the GRP and the MNLF dated September 2, 1996;

Republic Act No. 6734, as amended by R.A. 9054, otherwise known as “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)”;

ILO Convention No. 169, in correlation to the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and Republic Act No. 8371 otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, the UN Charter; the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and internationally recognized human rights instruments; and

Compact rights entrenchment emanating from the regime of dar-ul-mua’hada (or territory under compact) and dar-ul-sulh (or territory under peace agreement) that partakes the nature of a treaty device. For the purpose of this Agreement, a “treaty” is defined as any solemn agreement in writing that sets out understanding, obligations, and benefits for both parties which provides for a framework that elaborates the principles declared in the Agreement.

Have agreed and acknowledged as follows:

CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES

1. It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as “Bangsamoros”. The Bangsamoro people refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of full blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be respected.

2. It is essential to lay the foundation of the Bangsamoro homeland in order to address the Bangsamoro people’s humanitarian and economic needs as well as their political aspirations. Such territorial jurisdictions and geographic areas being the natural wealth and patrimony represent the social, cultural and political identity and pride of all the Bangsamoro people. Ownership of the homeland is vested exclusively in them by virtue of their prior rights of occupation that had inhered in them as sizeable bodies of people, delimited by their ancestors since time immemorial, and being the first politically organized dominant occupants.

3. Both Parties acknowledge that ancestral domain does not form part of the public domain but encompasses ancestral, communal, and customary lands, maritime, fluvial and alluvial domains as well all natural resources therein that have inured or vested ancestral rights on the basis of native title. Ancestral domain and ancestral land refer to those held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure, or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth, or as a consequence of government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.

4. Both Parties acknowledge that the right to self-governance of the Bangsamoro people is rooted on ancestral territoriality exercised originally under the suzerain authority of their sultanates and the Pat a Pangampong ku Ranaw. The Moro sultanates were states or karajaan/kadatuan resembling a body politic endowed with all the elements of nation-state in the modern sense. As a domestic community distinct from the rest of the national communities, they have a definite historic homeland. They are the “First Nation” with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations.

The Parties concede that the ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space is to secure their identity and posterity, to protect their property rights and resources as well as to establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as distinct dominant people.

5. Both Parties affirm their commitment to mutually respect the right to one’s identity and the parity of esteem of everyone in the political community. The protection of civil rights and religious liberties of individuals underlie the basis of peace and justice of their totality of relationships.

6. Both Parties agree that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) shall have the authority and jurisdiction over the Ancestral Domain and Ancestral lands, including both alienable and non-alienable lands encompassed within their homeland and ancestral history, as well as the delineation of ancestral domain/lands of the Bangsamoro people located therein.

7. Vested property rights upon the entrenchment of the BJE shall be recognized and respected subject to paragraph 9 of the strand on Resources.

TERRITORY

1. The Bangsamoro homeland and historic territory refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region. However, delimitations are contained in the agreed Schedules (Categories).

2. Toward this end, the Parties entered into the following stipulations:

a. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the Parties to this Agreement commit themselves to the full and mutual implementation of this framework agreement on territory with the aim of resolving outstanding issues that emanate from the consensus points on Ancestral Domain.

b. The Parties confirm their understanding that the mutual goal of reaching an agreement on Bangsamoro territory specific to mapping the outlying borders and the boundaries affecting local government units will lead to consolidation of the agreed texts on the Ancestral Domain Strands.

c. The Parties affirm that the core of the BJE shall constitute the present geographic area of the ARMM, including the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite;

d. Without derogating from the requirements of prior agreements, the government stipulates to conduct and deliver, within six (6) months following the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, a plebiscite covering the areas as enumerated in the list and depicted in the map as Category A attached herein (the “Annex”). The Annex constitutes an integral part of this framework agreement.

e. The areas covered by Category B has already been reflected on a map and officially agreed by both Parties.

f. Internal Waters:
The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) shall have jurisdiction over the management, conservation, development, protection, utilization and disposition of all natural resources, living and non-living, within its internal waters extending fifteen (15) kilometers from the coastline of the BJE area.

g. Territorial Waters:
(1) The territorial waters of the BJE shall stretch beyond the BJE internal waters up to the Republic of the Philippines (RP) baselines south east and south west of mainland Mindanao. Beyond the fifteen (15) kilometers internal waters, the Central Government and the BJE shall exercise joint jurisdiction, authority and management over areas and [of] all natural resources, living and non-living contained therein. The details of such management of the Territorial Waters shall be provided in an agreement to be entered into by the Parties.

(2) The boundaries of the territorial waters shall stretch beyond the 15-km BJE internal waters up to the Central government’s baselines under existing laws. In the southern and eastern part of the BJE, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from the Maguling Point, Palimbang, Province of Sultan Kudarat up to the straight baselines of the Philippines. On the northwestern part, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from Little Sta. Cruz Island, Zamboanga City, up to Naris Point, Bataraza, Palawan. On the western part of Palawan, it shall be demarcated by a line drawn from the boundary of Bataraza and Rizal up to the straight baselines of the Philippines.

The final demarcation shall be determined by a joint technical body composed of duly-designated representatives of both Parties, in coordination with the appropriate Central Government agency in accordance with the above guidelines.

h. Sharing of Minerals on Territorial Waters:
Consistent with paragraphs 5 and 6 of the provisions on Resources, all potential sources of energy, petroleum in situ, hydrocarbon, natural gas and other minerals, including deposits or fields found within the territorial waters, shall be shared between the Central Government and the BJE in favor of the latter through production sharing agreement or economic cooperative agreement.

i. Activities Allowed on Territorial Waters:

(1) The Parties shall have authority to carry out the following activities within the territorial waters:

(a) Exploration and utilization of the natural resources, whether living or non-living within the territorial waters;

(b) Establishments and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(c) Marine scientific research;

(d) Protection and the preservation of the marine environment;

(e) Conservation of living resources;

(f) Regulation of shipping and fishing activities;

(g) Enforcement of police and safety measures, including interdiction of the entry and use of the waters by criminal elements and hot pursuit of suspected criminal elements;

(h) Regulation and control of contraband and illegal entry of prohibited materials and substances, including smuggling; and

(i) Such other measures as the Parties may otherwise mutually agree.

(2) Activities relating to exploration and utilization of non-living resources, as well as paragraphs (c) and (d) of the Authorized Activities will be carried out on a joint basis agreed by the Parties which may be in the form of production sharing agreements or joint development pacts.

j. Establishment of a Joint Commission:

(1) The Parties shall establish a Joint Commission, which shall elaborate the modalities for the implementation and the carrying out of the Authorized Activities and the measures adopted in cases of allegation of breach, and carry out any other functions which may be assigned to it by the Parties for the purpose of implementing the joint management of resources.

(2) The Joint Commission shall consist of one representative from each Party, who are assisted by advisers as may be needed. The conclusions of the Joint Commission shall be adopted by consensus and shall only be recommendatory in nature. Only when the conclusions of the Joint Commission are adopted by the Parties do they become binding on the Parties.

k. Demarcation and Status of Territorial Waters:

The demarcation and status of the BJE territorial waters shall be finally determined together with the demarcation and final status of Category B of the BJE.

3. From and after entrenchment of compact rights over the Bangsamoro homeland and the territorial jurisdictions for associative governance shall likewise embrace those under proclamation for agricultural and human settlements intended for the Bangsamoro people, all alienable and disposable land, pasture lands, timberlands together with all existing civil and military reservations, parks, old growth or natural forests declared as forest reserves, watersheds, mangroves, fishponds, wetlands, marshes, inland bodies of water and all bays, straits and channels found within the BJE.

4. All territorial and geographic areas in Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and the Sulu archipelago that have been recognized, and/or delineated as ancestral domain and ancestral land of the Bangsamoro people as their geographic areas, inclusive of settlements and reservations, may be formed or constituted into political subdivisions of the Bangsamoro territorial jurisdictions subject to the principles of equality of peoples and mutual respect and to the protection of civil, political, economic, and cultural rights in their respective jurisdictions.

5. For purposes of territorial delimitation, the Parties have agreed to the joint determination of geographic areas encompassed within the territorial borders of the Bangsamoro homeland and territory based on the technical maps and data submitted by both sides as provided above.

RESOURCES

1. The Bangsamoro juridical entity is empowered with authority and responsibility for the land use, development, conservation and disposition of the natural resources within the homeland. Upon entrenchment of the Bangsamoro juridical entity, the land tenure and use of such resources and wealth must reinforce their economic self-sufficiency. Among the purposes or measures to make progress more rapid are:

a. Entry into joint development, utilization, and exploitation of natural resources designed as commons or shared resources, which is tied up to the full setting of appropriate institution, particularly affecting strategic minerals.

b. Stimulation of local economy by a range of mechanism, in particular the need to address unemployment and improvement of living conditions for the population in the Bangsamoro juridical entity;

c. Intensification of measures needed to uproot the cause of poverty in the Bangsamoro juridical entity through responsible harnessing and development of its natural resources; and

d. Undertaking program review of public services, industrial or trade-related and agrarian-related issues in situations of different sectors of the society in the Bangsamoro juridical entity, which acquire communal character deriving from the special nature of their industry.

2. The Bangsamoro People through their appropriate juridical entity shall, among others, exercise power or authority over the natural resources within its territorial jurisdiction:

a. To explore, exploit, use or utilize and develop their ancestral domain and ancestral lands within their territorial jurisdiction, inclusive of their right of occupation, possession, conservation, and exploitation of all natural resources found therein;
b. To conserve and protect the human and natural environment for their sustainable and beneficial enjoyment and their posterity;

c. To utilize, develop, and exploit its natural resources found in their ancestral domain or may enter into a joint development, utilization, and exploitation of natural resources, specifically on strategic minerals, designed as commons or shared resources, which is tied up to the final setting of appropriate institution.

d. To revoke or grant forest concessions, timber license, contracts or agreements in the utilization and exploitation of natural resources designated as commons or shared resources, mechanisms for economic cooperation with respect to strategic minerals, falling within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro juridical entity;

e. To enact agrarian laws and programs suitable to the special circumstances of the Bangsamoro people prevailing in their ancestral lands within the established territorial boundaries of the Bangsamoro homeland and ancestral territory is within the competence of the Bangsamoro juridical entity; and

f. To use such natural resources and wealth to reinforce their economic self-sufficiency.

3. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, and the Central Government agree on wealth-sharing based on a mutually agreed percentage ratio in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity through an economic cooperation agreement or arrangement over the income and revenues that are derived from the exploration, exploitation, use and development of any resources for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people.

4. The Bangsamoro juridical entity is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign countries: provided, however, that such relationships and understandings do not include aggression against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines; provided, further that it shall remain the duty and obligation of the Central Government to take charge of external defense. Without prejudice to the right of the Bangsamoro juridical entity to enter into agreement and environmental cooperation with any friendly country affecting its jurisdiction, it shall include:

a. the option to establish and open Bangsamoro trade missions in foreign countries with which it has economic cooperation agreements; and

b. the elements bearing in mind the mutual benefits derived from Philippine archipelagic status and security.

And, in furtherance thereto, the Central Government shall take necessary steps to ensure the Bangsamoro juridical entity’s participation in international meetings and events, e.g. ASEAN meetings and other specialized agencies of the United Nations. This shall entitle the said juridical entity participation in Philippine official missions and delegations that are engaged in the negotiation of border agreements or protocols for environmental protection, equitable sharing of incomes and revenues, in the areas of sea, seabed and inland seas or bodies of water adjacent to or between islands forming part of the ancestral domain, in addition to those of fishing rights.

5. Jurisdiction and control over, and the right of exploring for, exploiting, producing and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, in situ, fossil fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, whether onshore or offshore, is vested in the Bangsamoro juridical entity as the party having control within its territorial jurisdiction, provided that in times of national emergency, when public interest so requires, the Central Government may, during the emergency, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be agreed by both Parties, temporarily assume or direct the operations of such strategic resources.

6. The Bangsamoro government-take or profit split from total production shall be shared with the Central Government on a percentage ratio of 75%/25% in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity. All royalties, bonuses, taxes, charges, custom duties or imposts on natural resources and mineral resources shall be shared by the Parties on a percentage ratio of 75%/25% in favor of the Bangsamoro juridical entity.

7. The legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people arising from any unjust dispossession of their territorial and propriety rights, customary land tenures, or their marginalization shall be acknowledged. Whenever restoration is no longer possible, the GRP shall take effective measures of adequate reparation collectively beneficial to the Bangsamoro people, in such quality, quantity and status to be determined mutually by both Parties.

8. All proclamations, issuances, policies, rules and guidelines declaring old growth or natural forests and all watersheds within the BJE as forest reserves shall continue to remain in force until otherwise modified, revised or superseded by subsequent policies, rules and regulations issued by the competent Bangsamoro authority or juridical entity.

9. Forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining concessions, Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA), and other land tenure instruments of any kind or nature whatsoever granted by the Philippine Government including those issued by the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) shall continue to operate from the date of formal entrenchment of the Bangsamoro juridical entity unless otherwise expired, reviewed, modified and/or cancelled by the latter.

10. The Parties recognized an immediate need to establish a five-member Bangsamoro economic-expert mission (the “Mission”) bearing in mind that the functioning of the economy and the operation of institutions involve financial and other resource management as well as parallel or complementary means, by which the Bangsamoro Development Agency will manage and administer resources acquired for the above purposes, especially in coordinating strategies and programs for cooperation in all fields.

11. The said Mission acts as a link in the conduct of Bangsamoro juridical entity’s associative parallel relationships and shall cooperate fully with all organizations involved in implementation of the peace settlement. It shall launch a plan and joint international appeal for the repatriation and development of the conflict affected areas in Mindanao. Persons appointed thereto must be familiar with the specific economic, political and legal characteristics in the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region and must possess recognized competence, integrity, and high moral standing.

12. Cognizant that the Bangsamoro economic-expert Mission will benefit from international expertise, both the Central Government and the BJE hereby join the Third Party facilitator in inviting international funding institutions or equivalent entities for reconstruction and development to appoint two members and to designate one as the Chairman. The BJE shall designate one member as Co-Chairman. The remaining two members shall each be designated by the Central Government and the BJE.

GOVERNANCE

1. The recognition and peaceful resolution of the conflict must involve consultations with the Bangsamoro people free of any imposition in order to provide chances of success and open new formulas that permanently respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

1. The ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space is to secure their identity and posterity, to protect their property rights and resources as well as to establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as a distinct dominant people. The parties respect the freedom of choice of the indigenous peoples.

3. The Parties agree to invite a multinational third-party to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the comprehensive compact which will embody the details for the effective enforcement of this Agreement. The participation of the third-party shall not in any way affect the status of the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE.

4. The relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro juridical entity shall be associative characterized by shared authority and responsibility with a structure of governance based on executive, legislative, judicial and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in the comprehensive compact. A period of transition shall be established in a comprehensive peace compact specifying the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE.

5. The modalities for the governance intended to settle the outstanding negotiated political issues are deferred after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

The establishment of institutions for governance in a comprehensive peace compact, together with its modalities during the transition period, shall be fully entrenched and established in the basic law of the Bangsamoro juridical entity. The Parties shall faithfully comply with their commitment to the associative arrangements upon entry into force of a comprehensive compact between the MILF and GRP.

7. The Parties agree that the mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA AD shall be spelt out in the comprehensive compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

Any provisions of the MOA on Ancestral Domain requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force upon signing of a comprehensive compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the comprehensive compact.

8. The parties agree that the BJE shall be empowered to build, develop and maintain its own institutions, inclusive of, civil service, electoral, financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, and police and internal security force, judicial system and correctional institutions, necessary for developing a progressive Bangsamoro society the details of which shall be discussed in the negotiation of the comprehensive compact.

9. The Parties further agree to undertake activities which will enhance the capacity of the government institutions during the transition through technical assistance, information-sharing and human resource development.

10. Matters concerning the details of the agreed consensus points on Governance not covered under this Agreement shall be deferred to, and discussed during, the negotiations of the comprehensive compact.

Only SC can stop deal now

August 4, 2008

RP, MILF set to sign pact in Malaysia

By Leila Salaverria, DJ Yap, Nikko Dizon, Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:45:00 08/04/2008

MANILA, Philippines—It’s all systems go for the signing on Tuesday of an agreement which critics say will pave the way for the creation of a new state out of a proposed expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and his Malaysian counterpart Rais Yatim are expected to witness the signing in Kuala Lumpur of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“It’s a go,” said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s peace adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr., unless the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, which some Mindanao officials were seeking.

“It’s all systems go for the signing of the agreement on Aug. 5,” MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu also told Agence France Presse by phone from his base in Mindanao. “Our men on the ground want to see peace in Mindanao, and we have been talking for a long time already.”

Esperon, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that after the signing, the government would launch an “all-out consultation” preparatory to the holding of a plebiscite in one year.

The MOA grants an expanded Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) its own basic law, an internal security force, a system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative institutions, full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and natural resources.

The government of the proposed MILF-controlled area would also have the power to send trade missions overseas and to enter into international arrangements, according to a draft of the agreement obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

Adel Tamano, spokesperson of the United Opposition, said that under the MOA, the President had “effectively ceded part of the territory of the Philippines to the MILF.”

Tamano cited Section 3 on concepts and principles of the MOA, which states that “ancestral domain does not form part of the Philippines’ public domain.”

“Obviously, GMA (Ms Arroyo) is not empowered to give up any part of our country to any group, only the Filipino people can do that in their sovereign capacity and only via amending the Constitution,” he said.

Declaration of independence

Tamano warned that the signing of the MOA would grant the MILF the “status of belligerency” and could open the door for a declaration of independence.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita dismissed claims that the MOA would violate the Constitution and constitute an impeachable offense against Ms Arroyo. He said the MOA was just one of three major undertakings in the peace agenda, the others being security and economic issues.

“There is no final agreement yet,” Ermita said in a phone interview.

The signing of the MOA will pave the way for the resumption of formal peace negotiations and from there, both panels will firm up a “comprehensive compact” of the final peace agreement, he said.

Referring to the petition in the Supreme Court seeking to stop the Kuala Lumpur signing, Esperon said government lawyers “will argue that the power of negotiations is with the executive branch.”

Enabling law required

Both Ermita and Esperon contended that the MOA was a “preliminary agreement” and pointed to provisions there stating that nothing would be executory unless there was a law enabling its implementation and everything must be done within the legal framework.
Ermita said this meant that any agreement between the government and the MILF had to be in accordance with the Constitution.

Both Ermita and Esperon stressed that the MOA called for the holding of a plebiscite in order to expand the Moro homeland.

“Any plebiscite will be pursuant only to an enabling law enacted by Congress,” Esperon said. “We are not giving away Mindanao.”

He also said the MOA only “defines the rights over the land” and thus, “it was not saying we will confiscate or revoke all land titles.”

Not impeachable

“That’s why I don’t see anyone can say that there is a violation and this would be an impeachable offense,” Ermita said, dismissing claims that the President was using the peace pact with the MILF to amend the Constitution so as to extend her term.

“I think we are extending our imagination too much,” said Ermita, who also expressed hopes that Congress would postpone the ARMM election scheduled for Aug. 11 as part of a “big confidence-building measure.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez also said that the MOA would undergo “constitutional processes,” including the requirement of an enabling law before it could be implemented.

“If Congress will pass something else, then the MOA will not hold. It’s up to Congress,” he said. “There are no shortcuts being taken here.”

Gonzalez also branded as “inaccurate” the news reports that a new state would be created under the MOA on ancestral domain.

No deal on secession

“What’s being given is an enlarged autonomous region. Never in the discussions have we agreed to secession,” he said. “There is no such thing as peace at any price. But we will give a chance to peace because peace is better than shooting,” he said.

The proposed ancestral domain, to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), is the last remaining hurdle for a final political settlement that is expected to end the four decades-old insurgency that has claimed more than 120,000 lives. This would include plans for the future of the MILF’s 12,000 fighters, many of whom have said they will not disarm.

Esperon also dismissed suggestions that the MOA amounted to making the proposed Moro homeland a state.

“In the highest form, it could be a state within a state, if it comes to that,” Esperon said. But he added that only a constitutional amendment would allow this to happen if there was a shift to the federal form of government.

“But if our lawyers will say that the BJE will be under an expanded ARMM that will be enough, then we don’t have to have an amendment in the Constitution,” Esperon said.

Aside from the current ARMM provinces of Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, and city of Marawi, the proposed Moro region would include six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and hundreds of barangays (villages) in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The proposed MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.

Copies of the draft MOA were distributed to retired generals during a forum on July 24 in Camp Aguinaldo and made available to the Inquirer.

Shared authority

Under the MOA, the Philippine government and the BJE are to exercise “shared authority and responsibility” over the Bangsamoro homeland.

The details of the structure of shared governance will be defined in the “comprehensive compact.” A multinational third party will be jointly invited by the government and the BJE to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the “comprehensive compact.”

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled on the contentious issue of ancestral domain since December 2007.

Only on July 25, informal talks aimed at getting the peace negotiations back on track broke down in Kuala Lumpur, with the MILF panel accusing the other side of trying to “undo” provisions in the “breakthrough” agreement forged on July 16.

The MILF said the meeting had been intended to finalize the text of the draft agreement on ancestral domain, but that the government panel led by retired Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia wanted certain settled issues reopened.

On July 27, the government and MILF panels led by Garcia and MILF’s Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, initialed the final draft of the agreement on ancestral domain, Malacañang said. With a report from Agence France-Presse

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

August 4, 2008

Press Statement
25 July 2008

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

The inclusion of several villages in Zamboanga City in the mapping of the Moro people’s ancestral domain should not appear as a threat to the people of Zamboanga. Rather it should be a venue for the people of Mindanao to assert their right to land and ancestral domain.

It is not new for the Moro people to hear landed families and politicians of Mindanao react to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. However, politicians should know better than to fan anti-Moro hysteria by accusing their Moro brothers and sisters of reclaiming lands and inciting them to arm themselves the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The mapping out of the Moro people’s ancestral claim should undergo a process, and should not be forced on the people. The decision of which and how many villages should be included in the Moro people’s territorial claims should not solely be at the hands of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or be limited at the negotiating table of the GRP-MILF peace talks.

It is the responsibility of the government to correct the pervading notion that the Moro people are out to forcibly take the lands of the Christian settlers and the Lumads. While plebiscite may be a venue for the people to decide whether they want to be part of the Moro people’s ancestral domain, the government should inform and educate the public by providing venues wherein the people can fully discuss not only the Moro people’s claim to ancestral domain, but the issue of ancestral domain and land rights of the people of Mindanao as a whole.

We may view the BJE as the Moro people’s way of correcting historical injustice, that of decades of forcible evacuation as a result of government policies on land ownership, forcible evacuation of residents due to decades of war and military operations and the accumulation of lands by the few business and landed elite families– Christians and Moros alike.

To correct our biases, we must learn lessons from our history. The settlers and the Lumads in Mindanao lost their lands for these same reasons. We were made to fight over what was left of the land, ravaged by multinationals and landed elite. Even in our small tracts we were reduced to being tenants, plantation workers with small pay and, worse, driven away.

The MILF and even the Moro National Liberation Front have yet to realize the aspirations of the Moro people’s right to self-determination. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a far cry to the genuine autonomy they agreed with the government, for it did not even give the right for the Moro people to utilize and manage their natural resources. ARMM remained tied to the economic polices of the national government, and deep in debt.

The national government and the politicians have had so many years to correct their policies, yet they chose the status quo. Under the Arroyo administration, lands remained at hands of the rich and being sold to multinational companies. Already the government has signed a deal with Exxon Mobil for the exploration of the oil-rich Sulu Sea and other multinationals lining up to get a chunk of the natural gas in Liguasan Marsh.

President Arroyo even intensified the mining policy which has flushed out thousands of Lumads out of their mountains, and continued the land conversion programs that has forced the Christian and Lumad farmers out of their lands. Only the multinationals rake in profit from the low pay of workers in the rubber, palm and fruit plantations in Mindanao.

We must unite to resolve the problem of the people of Mindanao. The people of Mindanao should respect the land of its fellow people. Let us put a stop to the monopoly of land by one clan, one government official and foreign businesses. Let us assert that the Mindanao lands should be for the people – for the Moro, for settlers and for the Lumads. #

Amirah Ali Lidasan
National President, Suara Bangsamoro
Telefax (064)421.5860; Mobile: 09196603839
email: suarabm@yahoo.com

Editorial Cartoon: On MILF Peace Talks

August 3, 2008

Unwitting Chacha Partner.

Now if all of us opposes again the admin-led chacha move, PGMA can easilly call us anti-Moro. Ang galing naman ng pamahalaang ito. Bwisit!

What I am afraid of is the religious war it my cause.  (Remember dude, the Catholic Church is anti-Chacha.)

Bangsomoro to get own state

August 3, 2008

Gov’t, MILF to sign ancestral domain pact Tuesday

By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:43:00 08/02/2008

PRACTICALLY A NEW STATE WITH “A DEFINED TERRITORY” and “a system of governance suitable and acceptable to [the Bangsamoro] as a distinct dominant people” will be established in Mindanao under the proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Under the proposed agreement, which is scheduled to be signed on Tuesday, the planned Bangsamoro homeland will have its own “basic law,” its own police and internal security force, and its own system of banking and finance, civil service, education and legislative and electoral institutions, as well as full authority to develop and dispose of minerals and other natural resources within its territory.

Copies of the draft MOA were distributed to retired generals during a forum on July 24 in Camp Aguinaldo, where Hermogenes Esperon, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s adviser on the peace process, was the guest of honor. The Inquirer obtained a copy.

But Inquirer sources privy to the peace process said the proposed agreement with the MILF would require amending the Constitution.

They said its provisions on territory and governance would require amendments to the “existing legal framework” and a plebiscite in areas to be included as part of the Bangsamoro homeland.

The proposed homeland will be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which will have authority to send trade missions to and enter into economic cooperation agreements with other countries provided it does not include aggression against the Philippine government, and send representatives to the Association of Southeast Nations as well as agencies of the United Nations.

Described as a “landmark deal,” the proposed MOA will pave the way for the crafting of a “comprehensive compact” seen to finally end the 40-year, on-and-off Moro armed struggle in Mindanao.

The conflict has left 120,000 dead despite the signing of a peace agreement between the government and another separatist group, the Moro National Liberation Front, in 1996.

Ultimate objective

According to the proposed MOA, the “ultimate objective of entrenching the Bangsamoro homeland as a territorial space” is to “secure [the Bangsamoro’s] identity and posterity, protect their property rights and resources, as well as establish a system of governance suitable and acceptable to them as a distinct dominant people.”

The proposed homeland will include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City); the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and hundreds of barangays in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The proposed MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.

Definitions

“Ancestral domain” and “ancestral land” are defined in the proposed agreement as land “held under claim of ownership, occupied or possessed, by themselves or through the ancestors of the Bangsamoro people, communally or individually since time immemorial continuously to the present, except when prevented by war, civil disturbance, force majeure or other forms of possible usurpation or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of a government project or any other voluntary dealings entered into by the government and private individuals, corporate entities or institutions.”

“The ‘Bangsamoro homeland’ and ‘historic territory’ refer to the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region,” according to the proposed agreement.

It also states: “It is the birthright of all Moros and all indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be accepted as ’Bangsamoro.’ The ‘Bangsamoro people’ refers to those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization of their descendants, whether mixed or of full native blood. Spouses and their descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the indigenous people shall be respected.”

Shared authority

Per the proposed agreement, the government — referred to in the document as the “Central Government” — and the BJE are to exercise “shared authority and responsibility” over the Bangsamoro homeland.

The details of the structure of shared governance will be defined in the “comprehensive compact.”

A multinational third party will be jointly invited by the government and the BJE to observe and monitor the actual implementation of the “comprehensive compact.”

The other salient points of the proposed MOA are:

Internal waters extending to 15 kilometers from the coastline belong to the BJE. Waters beyond the 15-km limit belong to both the government and the BJE.

The government and the BJE will share all natural resources such as gas, hydrocarbon, petroleum, etc.

The BJE has the sole power to revoke or grant forest concessions and enact agrarian laws, and to explore or obtain minerals, oil, natural gas, petroleum, etc. within its territory.

Stalled peace talks

Peace negotiations between the government and the MILF have been stalled on the contentious issue of ancestral domain since December 2007.

Only on July 25, informal talks aimed at getting the peace negotiations back on track broke down in Kuala Lumpur, with the MILF panel accusing the other side of trying to “undo” provisions in the “breakthrough” agreement forged on July 16.

The MILF said the meeting had been intended to finalize the text of the draft agreement on ancestral domain, but that the government panel led by retired general Rodolfo Garcia wanted certain settled issues reopened.

Stumbling blocks hurdled

But both Garcia and Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, himself a peace negotiator with the separatist rebels for more than 10 years, expressed optimism that the stumbling blocks would be hurdled and the peace process would go forward.

Indeed, on July 27, the government and MILF panels led by Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, initialed the final draft of the agreement on ancestral domain, according to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

“This will lead to the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain on Aug. 5,” Ermita said.

===============================

My Take:

This is a brilliant move for the government, especially to those who’se sole ambition is to amend the constitution and extend their reign as warlords and political lords of this ailing country.

The Bangsamoro people are clearly being used by this government, to justify any planned means to get their juicy ends

The easy part of this show will be done by Tuesday (if a signing would indeed happen).  The hard part of the show will extend for many generations to come, because i have a strong feeling that after the signing, a series of problems will arise, that might lead to yet another armed conflict.

Mindanao execs file TRO petition vs ‘ancestral’ pact

July 30, 2008

By Mike Frialde
Wednesday, July 30, 2008

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Gov. Jesus Sacdalan and Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol of Cotabato province asked the Supreme Court yesterday to stop the government from signing an agreement on Aug. 5 granting more territory to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said unless the SC issues a restraining order, the signing of the agreement would push through.

“Unless there is a restraining order by SC then the normal course of events as set would push through,” he said.

A plebiscite will be held on the ancestral domain agreement so the people would be directly consulted, Dureza said.

In Congress, Pangasinan Rep. Arthur Celeste, House of Representatives committee on national defense and security chairman, said they will study thoroughly any bill that would seek to formalize the agreement with the MILF.

“In support of President Arroyo’s call that a just and lasting peace be signed between the government and the MILF before her term ends, we in Congress are ready to scrutinize and support any legislation that would be filed in relation to the Agreement,” he said.

“I have instructed the committee secretariat to be ready to expedite any measure that would be filed to legalize the GRP-MILF Peace Agreement.”

In Cotabato, a 12-man Army platoon is holding out against a superior MILF force without food and water.

A military field commander said MILF rebels have surrounded a military detachment of the 40th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Dongo, Aleosan town.

“There’s no way to resupply them,” said the commander, who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.

“All the MSRs (main supply routes) are now controlled by the MILF.”

The military officer said ground commanders are ready to take action but are awaiting orders from the high command so the peace talks with the MILF would not be affected.

“Our hands are tied by the peace talks,” the military commander said. “But we cannot just go on like this.”

Inspector Orlando Panzo, Aleosan police chief, has appealed for military intervention because his 23-member police force could not defend the town from an attacking force of 500 MILF rebels.

In a 31-page petition, Sacdalan and Piñol said the government must be compelled to disclose the terms of the agreement.

Named respondents in the petition are members of the government peace panel Secretary Rodolfo Garcia, lawyers Leah Armamento, Sedfrey Candelaria and Mark Ryan Sullivan, and retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., presidential adviser on the peace process.

Sacdalan and Piñol said it was reported that under the agreement, Cotabato province will be included in the planned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

“In other words, respondents’ actions to incorporate the province of Cotabato in the plebiscite were made by the so-called peace negotiators without the benefit of information dissemination or consultation with the leaders and the people of the province,” read the petition.

Sacdalan and Piñol said they have also received reports that a plebiscite would be conducted six months after the signing of the agreement to determine the areas to be added to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Such inclusion was unilaterally advocated by respondents without effective and massive consultation with the people of the province, the same people who would directly stand to be benefited or prejudiced by the inclusion,” read the petition.

Sacdalan and Piñol said reports that Cotabato will be included in an expanded ARMM had caused alarm among residents.

“The alleged powers and authority granted to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is almost tantamount to becoming an independent state,” read the petition.

Reports from newsbreak.com said that the government has agreed to recognize the Bangsamoro people as “distinct from the rest of the national communities”; grant them their own “distinct territory” and their “own government”; and concede international recognition to the Bangsamoro people.

Reports also said the agreement defines the Bangsamoro people as “those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands, including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization, and their descendants whether mixed or of full native blood.”

Spouses and descendants, including the Lumads, are also classified as Bangsamoro “unless they choose otherwise,” newsbreak.com reported, quoting the agreement.

Reports said the Bangsamoro territory will be composed of the present ARMM, the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan, and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte, and additional areas in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, and North Cotabato, are “subject to a plebiscite.”

The Bangsamoro homeland will not be within the jurisdiction of the Philippine government and will be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, reports said.

Zamboanga fears Bangsamoro entity

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat has expressed fear over reliable information he has received that some eight barangays in his city are among the 712 barangays to be included in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

“This is alarming,” he said.

“We are very alarmed because we have consulted the government panels on many occasions and expressed our firm stand that not a single area of the city have expressed (interest) to be part of the ancestral domain.”

Lobregat said they have informed chief government peace negotiator Rodolfo Garcia and Dureza, then presidential adviser on the peace process, of the city’s firm stand in the previous years.

“The government panel knew the city residents’ stand and we have opted out twice in past referendums,” he said.

Zamboanga City will take legal action to prevent its inclusion in the planned MILF ancestral domain, Lobregat said.

Zamboanga City Rep. Maria Isabel Climaco said the government has sold out Mindanao to the MILF.

Muslim lawmakers at the House of Representatives do not favor the inclusion of their areas in the Bangsamoro entity, she added.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process must make public the agreement on ancestral domain, Climaco said.

Four killed, one snatched in Lanao Sur

In Lanao del Sur, suspected Moro rebels killed four people and snatched a fifth passenger from a van traveling on the Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway yesterday.

Killed were Larry Revina, 29; Elisique Taniola, 32; Silverino Sillote, 35; and an unidentified passenger, who were reportedly residents of Pagadian City.

Police are searching for the fifth passenger, a certain Manuel de la Cruz, 40, whom the gunmen took with them.

Superintendent Danilo Bacas, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police spokesman, said the gunmen in combat fatigues flagged down the Pagadian City-bound van in Malabang town and took the five Cebuano-speaking Christians at gunpoint.

The gunmen commandeered the van, after robbing the non-Christian passengers of their valuables, he added.

Bacas said the bodies of the four passengers were found on a roadside cliff in Calanogas town, also in Lanao del Sur.

Calanogas is a known MILF stronghold, he added.

They had bullet wounds and powder burns on their heads, indicating they were shot at close range, he added. – With Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Jaime Laude, John Unson, Roel Pareño(PStar)

Kawagib Moro Human Rights calls for the release of Basilan detainees

July 29, 2008

Kawagib
Wednesday, 23 July 2008 22:29
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COTABATO CITY (Kawagib/21 July) — The Kawagib Moro Human Rights appeal to the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City to be fair in deciding the fate of the Free Basilan73, Moro detainees who were victims of 2001 crackdown in Basilan, as the kidnapping case against the Abu Sayyaf will have its final hearing at the sala of a Pasig RTC judge that will be held at the Camp Bagong Diwa today.

Kawagib has stood for the innocence of Moro detainees who were illegally arrested, tortured and detained as a consequence of a intensive military crackdown conducted by the Philippine Army on July 13-15, 2001 in different areas in Basilan.

The crackdown was the response of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against the rising Abu Sayyaf kidnapping, while the case filed against Free Basilan 73 was that of the kidnapping of a Claretian priest, teachers and students in Tumahubong, Sumisip in Basilan in 2000.

Bai Ali Indayla, spokesperson of Kawagib Moro Human Rights, believes that it is the Arroyo government who has to be held accountable for the reported human rights violations against those who were arrested during the crackdown, and as a proof that most of those arrested were innocent was the release of more than 16 Basilan detainees in year 2003 for lack of evidence.

Indayla believes that Atty Pura Calleja, the lead counsel of the Free Basilan73, has presented all evidence that will vouch for the innocence of her clients hence she has freed some of them in 2003.  Indayla hopes, that the rest will be freed next month as the Pasig RTC judge presiding the case will issue the final verdict on the accused.

Indayla believes that justice has long been overdue to the victims of crackdown.  In 2005 more than 11 of them died in an overkill operation lead by then DILG chief Angelo Reyes that aimed to quell the uprising of some Abu Sayyaf members inside Camp Bagong Diwa.  And throughout the seven years, six of them have already died because of sickness.

Indayla also prays that the Pasig RTC decision in August will be timely for the Muslim observance of fasting during the month of Ramadhan, and that their release is a gift that for the first time in seven years of incarceration, the Free Basilan73 will observe fasting as free men.

Reference: Bai Ali Indayla
KAWAGIB Spokesperson
#23 Oblates Drive, Rosary Heights 6
Cotabato City
email:
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SONA 2008: Mindanao peace process mentioned in passing

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:06
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In seconds, however, President Arroyo shifted to another topic, as if the initialing Sunday night of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, was not significant.

The President also said nothing about the postponement of the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which she endorsed to Congress on July 22.

“Wala akong narinig” (I heard nothing), Guiamel Alim, head of the council of elders of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, told MindaNews. Guiamel was referring to the very quick mention of the Mindanao peace process in the President’s SONA.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said,

“either she has nothing or doesn’t know what to say or that is how she views Mindanao – on the margins – as is our sad wont from leaders from imperial Manila. Why is this not surprising?”

Amirah Lidasan, president of Suara Bangsamoro party list, told MindaNews the President may be “weighing reactions re postponement of ARMM elections.”

“Either way, it is favorable to her most favored political ally because the term of (ARMM Governor Zaldy) Ampatuan will be extended (if the election is postponed),” she said.

Lidasan also said the President mentioned talked about the economic agenda in her SONA but from Zamboanga to North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao are all plantations.”

She said the President mentioned “nothing about the plight of the Moro masses, especially the halaw (those deported from Sabah).”

In her speech, the President said, she named in her 2006 SONA, North Luzon and Mindanao as the country’s food baskets but “the sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.”

”The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office,” she said.

The President did not specify the “legislative” and “political” reforms she wanted, although she specified she wanted this done during “our term of office.”

“The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney,” she said.

Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy noted the “very short reference to peace process” in the President’s speech. “General marching order to Congress. Vague as to election postponement. Good thing she emphasized she wants changes in legal framework to implement peace pact during her term.”

Fr. Jonathan Domingo, publisher of the Mindanao Cross, said “I guess she just said on the peace process, appropriate legislative acts.”

The President is “focused on short-term, palliative solutions. The SONA lacks vision of hope that can inspire people.”

“Kailan ba naging totoo si Madame?” (Since when has she been genuinely concerned) asked Fatmawati Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum.

Fr. Bert Layson, former parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato, a town visited by war four times from 1997 to 2003, said the President issued a “very general statement.”

”She could have elaborated it further for the public to understand and support it,” Layson said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

MOA on Ancestral Domain signing on August 5; plebiscite in August 2009

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:09
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 August) – The Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain on August 5 in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

The MOA was initialed Sunday night, two nights after the talks ended in an impasse.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and senior member Michael Mastura on Friday night walked out of the executive session with their government counterparts following a government proposal to reopen an issue that had already been previously agreed upon.

Government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia. accompanied by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon, returned to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday to “restart” talks, as Esperon put it, and by 8:20 that evening, had initialed the MOA that would be signed formally next week, in the presence of the Foreign Affairs secretaries of the Philippines and Malaysia,

The government last Friday wanted the conduct of plebiscite in the 712 predominantly Moro villages that both parties had identified to be contiguous to the member-provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), be held after the comprehensive compact has been signed, not six months after the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain as agreed upon.

The final version agreed upon on Sunday was that the plebiscite would be held a year after the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain. That would be August 2009.

Both parties also agreed to complete in 15 months the negotiations on the comprehensive compact – the consolidation of all agreements on the three agenda items of rehabilitation and development; security; and ancestral domain and the political settlement that will be negotiated after the MOA signing. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Will ARMM polls proceed as scheduled?

July 29, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:12
var sburl5181 = window.location.href; var sbtitle5181 = document.title;var sbtitle5181=encodeURIComponent(“Will ARMM polls proceed as scheduled?”); var sburl5181=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=4827&#8221;); sburl5181=sburl5181.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl5181=encodeURIComponent(sburl5181);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 July) – Has President Arroyo abandoned her proposal to have the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) postponed in view of the developments in the negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)?

The President mentioned nothing about the postponement in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, where she also certified as urgent bills extending the agrarian reform program but no mention on the ARMM election postponement which is exactly two Mondays after her SONA.

Arroyo announced her endorsement of the postponement on July 22, five days after MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal asked government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia at the end of their talks in Kuala Lumpur to have the election postponed “in deference to the GRP-MILF peace process.”

In her very short statement on the peace process in her SONA last Monday, Ms Arroyo said she will “ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office” but did not mention what these reforms are.

On July 19, two days after Iqbal’s proposal, House Speaker Prospero Nograles told MindaNews the House was “not inclined to postpone the elections.”

“What’s the factual and legal basis to postpone? To postpone we need at least two weeks to process bill which will amend. Senate must concur. It’s not certified urgent by Palace. Too late to postpone in ordinary legislative process. Commission on Elections has not asked us to postpone. If they are not ready, they will. They didn’t ask us,” Nograles said.

But asked to comment on the President’s announcement on postponement, Nograles told MindaNews on July 22 that “as Lakas President, I shall defer to and consult our ARMM loyal allies, the Ampatuans. Should they advice that postponement will speed up the Mindanao peace process, I shall personally try to fast track move to postpone.”

The ARMM Governor is Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, whose father, Datu Andal, is the Maguindanao governor.

Nograles added that “as Speaker, I have called for Mindanao congressmen and women caucus in the House on (July 29), 2 p.m. after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) and we (will) decide collectively to postpone or not.

Congress resumed session on July 28, when she delivered her SONA and announced the bills she certified as urgent.

Asked if the President’s silence should be interpreted as her abandonment of the postponement proposal, Nograles told MindaNews evening of July 28: “her position has been consistent. Leave the decision to Congress. She won’t dictate what Congress wants or does not want.”

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said, “she asked Congress to enact laws in support of peace process.”

Dureza said there will be a “congressional meeting re postponement and MOA.”

“The bottomline is Congress decides,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Editorial Cartoon: Request

July 27, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: Peace Kill

July 26, 2008

The Bird Hunter

Peace talks collapse — MILF

July 26, 2008

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, INQUIRER.net
First Posted 11:55:00 07/26/2008

ZAMBOANGA — Peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim separatist rebels collapsed after Manila tried to go back on an earlier agreement, rebel spokesmen said Saturday.

The separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) charged that government efforts to back down on a draft agreement, recognizing the MILF’s “ancestral domain” in the southern Philippines, had led to the breakdown, preventing the resumption of formal negotiations.

Chief MILF negotiator Mohaqer Iqbal said “the talks collapsed because the government was undoing settled issues on ancestral domain.”

This forced the cancellation of a meeting to resume formal talks on August 5, Iqbal said in a statement issued from Kuala Lumpur, where informal negotiations were being held.

Sources from the government and the MILF told Reuters on Saturday that Manila’s negotiators tried on Friday to delay the referendum on enlarging a previous Muslim homeland until after a political agreement was reached.

That would have reneged on a previous commitment to hold the vote six months after a deal on territory was signed, originally scheduled for August 5.

Continuing peace process

Malacañang would not confirm this except to say that the “peace process is a continuing effort.”

“In the latest talks in Kuala Lumpur over the last few days to finalize the draft agreement, there remain some differences,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said in a text message Saturday.

But he said that while the “meeting did not immediately bring about progress in the ancestral domain issue, I am sure that the parties will continue to look for ways to hurdle the difficulties and move the process forward.”

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said in Mindanao that the government had earlier agreed on a draft agreement on ancestral domain but it has backtracked now.

He said “this is the choice of the government, to go back to the issue of ancestral domain.”

“The MILF cannot be blamed on this,” he said.

“They should consider the consequences of their actions,” Kabalu said, warning that the MILF leadership could not always control hardliners among the guerrillas.

Moro homeland

Formal peace talks with the 12,000-member guerrilla group which signed a ceasefire with Manila in 2003, have stalled for months due to disagreements over what authority the MILF would exercise over areas they claim as their ancestral homeland.

The MILF has been insisting on the inclusion of at least 1,000 villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity but as to where these villages are located has been kept secret.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks on an ancestral homeland this week in Kuala Lumpur ahead of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s annual state of the nation address on Monday.

About a week ago, government and MILF representatives reached a deal on the controversial “ancestral domain” issue that both sides said would lead to a resumption of formal negotiations.

More work needed

But Dureza said on Friday that a draft agreement with the MILF still needed a lot more work.

He also warned that any agreement would not be automatically implemented but would have to be enacted by law or by constitutional amendments.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF and Arroyo’s reliance on their support mean Manila’s negotiating strategy is wobbly and easily thrown off course.

“Government has to get its act together,” said Camilo Montesa, policy adviser at the Institute for Autonomy and Governance at Notre Dame University on the southern island of Mindanao.

“It must have a more comprehensive and coherent strategy on how to deal with the Muslim problem in the south and do away with its more tactical approach on the peace negotiations.”

Not a total collapse

Rodolfo Garcia, a retired army general and Manila’s chief negotiator, said on Saturday the negotiations remained open, describing it as an “impasse not a total collapse”.

“We can still save it,” he told Reuters.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato, was similarly optimistic.

“Let’s not be prophets of doom, the collapse is temporary,” he said.

Based on statements he has been reading, Begaforo said the breakdown pertained only to the date of the next talks and not the entire negotiations.

“It’s the date that was postponed… no hurry. Things might be for the good of all. More time to look at the documents. Both parties can give it a second look,” he said.

Bagaforo said the quest for lasting peace should continue for better life for all in Mindanao.

“Ergo, let’s not kill it with all our threats but revive again with our support and encouragement,” he said.

Ending violence

While a deal on ancestral lands was no guarantee a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia’s most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was an important step along the way to ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

Real progress appeared to have been made when Arroyo this week supported postponing August 11 elections in the Muslim south because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some lawmakers in Manila were opposed to the postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They said Congress was not consulted on the issue.

“Some of these people were allies of the President and their opinions and sentiments may have somewhat affected government’s position,” Montesa, a lawyer, told Reuters.

Cementing the MILF, which has been observing a fragile truce with the government since 2003, into a political structure in the south would unleash a wave of investment into the resource-rich island of Mindanao and boost the entire country.

The two sides have been talking, on and off, since 1997.

With reports from Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, INQUIRER.net; Edwin Fernandez and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao(PDI)

More work needed on MILF peace pact, says Malacañang

July 25, 2008

A draft peace agreement with Muslim rebels waging a separatist campaign in southern Philippines needs a lot more work before it can be signed, President Gloria Arroyo’s spokesman said Friday.

Government negotiators resumed consultations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Malaysia on Thursday expecting to set a timetable to sign an agreement on revenue-sharing on natural resources that would be a cornerstone of a political settlement. (See related stories A7.)

“There is no good news yet,” Palace spokesman Jesus Dureza told reporters.

The two sides announced in the previous week that they had reached a deal on “ancestral domain” in the Muslim-populated areas of largely Roman Catholic Philippines that the rebels claim as their homeland.

Formal peace talks with the 12,000-member guerrilla group, which signed a ceasefire with Manila in 2003, had stalled for months because of disagreements over what authority the MILF would exercise over the areas they claim as their ancestral homeland.

“The meetings are still ongoing and therefore there is no date yet set for the signing of the ancestral domain [deal],” Dureza said, while insisting that the delay was not a setback.

The type and powers of a Muslim government that would rule the area however “are still something that has to be worked on,” he added.

The nearly four decades-old rebellion has left thousands dead and left Mindanao, the southern third of the country, mired in poverty.

The government has offered a federal-style state for the Muslims, which make up a large minority in the country.

The Muslims now have a self-rule area that includes four provinces in the South, created after a 1996 peace agreement with another Muslim rebel faction.

But Dureza said any agreement to be signed with the MILF would not be automatically implemented but would have to be enacted by law or by constitutional amendments.

“Hopefully we’ll have a final settlement as a legacy of the President before she leaves office,” Dureza said. President Arroyo’s term ends in mid-2010.

“She wants to leave a peaceful legacy of a developed and peaceful Mindanao,” he added.

Esperon optimistic

Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the newly appointed presidential adviser on the peace process, was more optimistic, saying on Friday that peace in Mindanao seems to be within reach as the government and the MILF are expected to sign an agreement on ancestral domain soon.

“We are a few strides away from signing the [agreement] that includes concept, territory and governance,” he said. “We hope to ride in this momentum.”

The MILF earlier threatened that they will not sign any peace pact with the Arroyo government if they were not given self-determination.

“The concept of the agreement is more than their land and property. It defines their identity, their roots for self-governing community and giving respect to their religious and cultural beliefs,” added Esperon, a former Armed Forces chief of staff.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo described the ancestral domain issue as the big challenge for the peace process.

“We have fought long and hard on this, and we think we have done all the necessary provisions that will put both parties on the same page,” he said.

“We feel that the signing of the MOA [agreement] on ancestral domain will mark the smooth sailing of the peace process.”
— AFP with Llanesca T. Panti(ManilaTimes)

================================

My Take:

Hmm… I am seeing a newer version of MNLF-experience here.

US shies away from ARMM polls debate

July 25, 2008

The United States government will leave to Manila the decision on whether to postpone scheduled elections in an autonomous region in southern Mindanao.

“I think that [delaying or not the regional polls] is an issue that should be decided by Philippine authorities,” US Ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney said Friday at the sidelines of the launching of a judicial project that is assisted by the US Agency for International Development.

“I think they, the relevant authorities, have to determine whether postponing the elections is the right way,” she added.

On August 11, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will hold the voting in Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces.

During the launching of the Supreme Court’s Management Information System project, Kenney said the US government fully supports the Philippines’ quest for lasting peace in southern Philippines, a hotbed of communist and Muslim insurgencies for almost four decades.

“We are hopeful and eager to see a comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao,” the US ambassador told reporters, apparently referring to the possible pact between Manila and the Muslim separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Kenney said the search for peace in Mindanao must be pushed forward as it is crucial to the economic prosperity of the Philippines. Mindanao, the country’s second-biggest group of islands, has been called “Land of Promise” for its rich agricultural and mineral resources. The Muslim insurgents there, including the MILF rebels, claim that economic development has only marginalized them.

“What we are able to do is to help both parties [the government and the separatist rebels] to move forward and make progress. We’re eager to look at top communities develop so that Mindanao can reach its economic potential, as can the rest of the Philippines,” the US ambassador added.

According to Kenney, the United States will always be a “dedicated partner” of the Philippine government in its effort to end the insurgencies in Mindanao.

The MILF last week sought the postponement of the ARMM elections. It said the deferment paves the way for the smooth entry of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in Mindanao that would be established by a final peace agreement between the two sides. Bangsamoro refers to the Muslim minority in Mindanao.

President Gloria Arroyo earlier last week endorsed delaying the regional polls, a move that drew criticism from senators, who said only Congress can reset elections.

Sen. Richard Gordon said the proposal to postpone the elections in the autonomous region was a move aimed at amending the Constitution. He warned that he will block both moves.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will not call off joint military and police security preparations for the ARMM polls despite President Arroyo’s endorsement, its chief, Alexander Yano, said also on Friday.

Yano added that the military will only call off the security preparations if the elections are scrapped.

The military has readied for deployment around 5,000 soldiers and 2,000 policemen.

Five lawmakers from Mindanao have filed House Bill 5832 seeking to reset the ARMM elections from August 11 and hold them simultaneously with the presidential elections in 2010.

The bill was authored by Rep. Faysah Dumarpa of Lanao del Sur, Rep. Simeon Datumanong of Ma­guin­danao, Rep. Munir Arbison of Sulu, Rep. Mujiv Hataman of the Anak Mindanao Party-list and Rep. Panga­lian Balindong of Lanao del Sur.

According to the five lawmakers, the postponement will allow peace talks between the government and the MILF to proceed at the formal level. In a breakthrough, both sides also last week reached agreement on “ancestral domain,” or territory that will constitute an Independent Islamic homeland in Mindanao. The talks were suspended last year over disagreement on the issue of the ancestral domain.
— William B. Depasupil and Jefferson Antiporda(ManilaTimes)

==============================

My Take:

The US clearly sends a message here that they’re okay to the postpnement of the ARMM elections.  After all, they are in favor of a situation where they can plunder the natural wealth of Mindanao with less blood spilled and less attention from the media.

SC rule on Shariff K proves lack of autonomy; shows limits of Consti as framework for Moro self-rule

July 23, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 July) — The Supreme Court’s decision nullifying the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan province is proof that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has limited powers, political analysts say.

“It shows the inherent weakness of the ARMM,” Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, said.

“The logic of that SC nullification decision is now proof of lack of autonomy or limited powers of the ARMM. The MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is right to reject it as a false solution to the BangsaMoro people’s grievances,” Datu Michael Mastura, a senior member of the MILF peace panel, said.


Mastura’s brother Tocao, ran for governor in the 2007 elections against Datu Bimbo Sinsuat, who was elected Vice Governor of Maguindanao in 2004 and appointed Acting Governor of Shariff Kabunsuan province in late 2006. The Commission on Elections has not declared a winner in the polls as both sides filed protests.

The Supreme Court has declared “unconstitutional” a section in Republic Act 9054 on the Regional Legislative Assembly’s power to create new provinces and cities, saying that power belongs to Congress alone.

“In summary, we rule that Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, insofar as it grants to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces and cities, is void for being contrary to Section 5 of Article VI and Section 20 of Article X of the Constitution, as well as Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution,” the Supreme Court said.

“Only Congress can create provinces and cities because the creation of provinces and cities necessarily includes the creation of legislative districts, a power only Congress can exercise under Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution.  The ARMM Regional Assembly cannot create a province without a legislative district because the Constitution mandates that every province shall have a legislative district.  Moreover, the ARMM Regional Assembly cannot enact a law creating a national office like the office of a district representative of Congress because the legislative powers of the ARMM Regional Assembly operate only within its territorial jurisdiction as provided in Section 20, Article X of the Constitution.  Thus, we rule that MMA Act 201, enacted by the ARMM Regional Assembly and creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan, is void,” the High Court said.

Shariff Kabunsuann, which comprises 210 barangays in 11 municipalities, according to the National Statistics and Coordination Board, was carved out of Maguindanao which has at present 279 barangays in 22 provinces.

The Supreme Court’s decision raises several questions such as what will happen to the officials of both provinces and the employees in Shariff Kabunsuan?

In Shariff Kabunsuan, no winner in the gubernatorial race has been proclaimed due to protests from both sides but Vice Governor Ibrahim Ibay is acting governor. Will all the , positions be deemed vacant because the province does not exist?

Will Shariff Kabunsuan’s towns be “returned” to Maguindanao? If no, to whom shall they belong? If yes, what will this mean for Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan who was not elected governor by voters in these towns?

What will this mean for the constituents of Shariff Kabunsuan? What will happen to an estimated 700 employees under the newly-created provincial offices in Shariff Kabunsuan?

Lawyer Zen Malang, executive director of the Moro Law and Policy Center said the Supreme Court’s decision “exposed the inadequacy of the ARMM as a political structure for Moro self governance.”

But it is not only the weakness of the ARMM that has been exposed by the Supreme Court decision, he said.

“After the Supreme Court ruled that one of the ARMM’s basic legislative powers is unconstitutional, it showed limitations on present Constitution as framework for Bangsamoro self rule,” Malang said.

Lawyer Benedicto Bacani, former Law dean of the Notre Dame University and now executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, said the High Court’s decision “makes urgent and absolutely necessary that the Constitution be amended to clearly grant powers to the autonomous region or to any Moro regional structure for self-governance in the future.  The constitution is an obstacle to fully implement the 1996 agreement (between the government and Moro National Liberation Front). Powers to the (proposed) BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity under the proposed government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreement) will be declared unconstitutional under the present charter.”.

Bacani gave MindaNews permission to quote his comment at the Kusog Mindanaw e-forum.

Bacani said he has been pointing out to the ARMM that “there is much that can be done under current laws if only their leaders go beyond creating and dividing political subdivisions. Under competent leaders, there’s so much that can be done in the ARMM.  But how do we bring in good leaders? Through elections? I won’t bet my house that elections ARMM style will do the trick.  The only way I see is to reconfigure power relations by restructuring relations between Manila and the Moro region as a way of empowering communities and to open the field of leadership to more people.  Empower the Moro region in clear terms –we sink and swim by the incompetence and inaction of regional leaders.  But as long as Manila stifles self-governance or perpetuates malgovernance by raising the constitutional gambit, Moros will continue to blame Manila and turn a blind eye on the incompetence of their own leaders.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Real ‘breakthrough’ in GRP-MILF pact is correcting historical injustices vs Bangsamoro

July 23, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Monday, 21 July 2008 10:46
var sburl5082 = window.location.href; var sbtitle5082 = document.title;var sbtitle5082=encodeURIComponent(“Real ‘breakthrough’ in GRP-MILF pact is correcting historical injustices vs Bangsamoro”); var sburl5082=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=4774&#8221;); sburl5082=sburl5082.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl5082=encodeURIComponent(sburl5082);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 July) – The real “breakthrough” in the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreement in Kuala Lumpur last week was not in the alleged “dropping” of the word “freedom” by the MILF because that word is already in previous agreements, but the fact that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain that they will sign now that all issues have been settled, is going to correct historical injustices against the Bangsamoro people. Correcting historical injustices includes, among other issues agreed upon, the Philippine government’s recognition of the Bangsamoro as a distinct people with a homeland where they can govern themselves, have jurisdiction and control of their resources and realize their aspirations for freedom, self-determination, self-governance.

The government’s 1976 and 1996 agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) merely provided for “areas of autonomy” and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was not a product of any peace agreement but a unilateral move by the government, was supposed to have served, along with the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Develompent (SPCPD), as the transitional implementing mechanism prior to what was supposed to have been the “expanded” autonomous region as agreed upon.

To date, the MNLF is still questioning the government’s implementation of the 1996 peace pact, claiming RA 9054, the law that was supposed to have incorporated the peace agreement rendered the present ARMM “less autonomous than it already was.”

While the MNLF got “areas of autonomy” the MILF managed to build on what the MNLF had been granted by negotiating for and getting the recognition of the Bangsamoro people and homeland, among others.

Father Eliseo Mercado, Jr., convenor of Kusog Mindanaw, told the group’s e-forum that the “real substance” of the soon to be signed MOA on Ancestral Domain is “found in the first strand which people have missed in their narrow reading.”

“Once the first strand is conceded, the other strands appear as only details and specifications of what is already granted in the first strand,” he said. Mercado gave permission to MindaNews to quote his comment to the group.

The first stand Mercado was referring to is “concept.”

Under “concept,” Father Mercado listed as among the “real issues” the recognition by the Philippine government of the following: that ancestral domain (AD) is the birthright of the Bangsamoro; that ownership of the AD is exclusively vested in the Bangsamoro; that AD is not part of the public domain; that the right to self-determination is rooted on ancestral domain with defined territory and system of governance, to allow them to fully determine their future political status by popular consultation.

“The other strands flow logically from these basic concepts recognized and respected by the Philippine Government in the proposed MOA. These are the real big stones… the rest are pebbles,” Mercado said.  \

Mercado was reacting to the “big stones” comment posted by lawyer Camilo “Bong” Montesa, policy advisor of the Cotabato-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) and Director General of the Liberal Party.

But Montesa wrote the e-forum a shorter version of what he wrote in his blog.

In his blog, the former chair of the government peace panel’s Technical Working Group who was involved in crafting the substantial agreements, said that while there was a “big buzz about the ‘breakthrough,’ there is actually a general public ignorance on what the purported agreement contains. Even so-called peace advocates, the stakeholders, the people of Mindanao, the political leaders – senators, congressmen, (local government) officials, are in the dark. Media gets its stories only from the official press releases or interviews by either GRP or MILF. But the question remains: what is contained in the agreement that will be signed next week? What will be the main agreements and what are its implications to Mindanao and to the Philippines at large? Should we rejoice or should we be afraid?”

Montesa (http://bongmontesa.wordpress.com/) summed up the “big stones” or the “major” agreements into four: that the Philippine government recognizes the Bangsamoro People as a distinct people; grants the Bangsamoro People their own distinct territory; grants the Bangsamoro People their own government; and concedes “historical” international recognition of the Bangsamoro People.

On the issue of territory, Montesa wrote that the territory of the Bangsamoro People, as agreed upon “shall consist of the present geographic area of the ARMM, including the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite.

Veteran journalist Patricio Diaz, a columnist of MindaNews, said reports that five provinces will be annexed to the ARMM is “not true, but provocative.”

“Only barangays or municipalities that are predominantly Muslim are being considered.  Instead of telling the media ‘five provinces,’ to be truthfully informative, the Malacañang sources should have enumerated the 712 barangays and towns included,” Diaz said.

A review of the past agreements shows that the two parties had earlier agreed upon ARMM as the core of the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

In the past, plebiscites were held in the then 13 provinces and nine cities that were listed as “areas of autonomy” in the government-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976. In 1977, 1989 and 2001, voters in these areas (some transformed into new provinces or cities) were asked to vote yes or no to inclusion in the autonomous region.

Unlike the plebiscites in 1977, 1989 and 2001, what will happen after the MOA on Ancestral Domain is signed is that, after six months, a plebiscite will be held only in the 712 predominantly Moro barangays the two parties have identified to be contiguous to the ARMM areas — in Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato — to determine if voters there want to be part of the BJE.

The present ARMM comprises the cities of Marawi and Lamitan and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan which was carved out of Maguindanao in 2006 but whose creation has been nullified by the Supreme Court.

The rest of the predominantly Moro villages that are not contiguous to the ARMM will be classified as “Special Intervention Areas” but will remain in their respective political units.

To recall, when the Arroyo administration re-started in March 2001 the peace talks that collapsed under the Estrada administration’s “all out war” against the MILF a year earlier, the two parties immediately focused on three agenda items: rehabilitation and development, security and ancestral domain.

Agreements on the first two items were reached in 2001 and 2002 but talks dragged when the parties tackled ancestral domain.

Ancestral Domain was then divided into four strands: concept, territory, resources and governance.

In a joint primer on the peace process in October 2006, the government and MILF listed as question number one why the government was negotiating with the MILF when it already signed a peace agreement with the MNLF in 1976 and on September 2, 1996.

The MILF did not recognize the 1996 pact as it also reiterated that the ARMM was “an experiment that had failed” and was not the answer to the Bangsamoro problem.

According to the joint government-MILF primer, the 1976 and 1996 peace agreements between government and the MNLF “have not fully addressed the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, self-governance and recognition of their ancestral domain, their identity, history and way of life.”

“Over the last 100 years, the Bangsamoro people and other indigenous peoples had been marginalized due to colonial and national government policies that encouraged and supported the waves of settlers from the Visayas and Luzon to settle in Mindanao. National integration programs failed to correct the resulting inequities. The Bangsamoro people want these historical injustices corrected and the Philippine government is willing to address these,” the primer added

The Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, it said, is “anchored on historical, legitimate and just rights and is validated and affirmed by international and humanitarian laws as exemplified by the recognition as ‘First Nation’ of the Iroquois and Inuit peoples, by the USA and Canada, and the Right of Peoples to Self Determination as enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other similar UN covenants.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Arroyo wants ARMM polls postponed; Nograles says he’ll consult first

July 23, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 22 July 2008 16:19
var sburl3170 = window.location.href; var sbtitle3170 = document.title;var sbtitle3170=encodeURIComponent(“Arroyo wants ARMM polls postponed; Nograles says he’ll consult first”); var sburl3170=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;task=view&amp;id=4778&#8221;); sburl3170=sburl3170.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl3170=encodeURIComponent(sburl3170);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 July) – President Arroyo wants the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) postponed to give way to recent developments in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Arroyo issued the announcement Tuesday afternoon (July 22) at the airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat in what used to be Shariff Kabunsuan province. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon told MindaNews the President wants to “give peace more space and chance to succeed.”

After resolving in Kuala Lumpur last week the last contentious issue on the ancestral domain agenda, the MILF asked the Philippine government through peace panel chair Secretary Rodolfo Garcia to postpone the ARMM elections “in deference to the GRP-MILF peace talks.”

The two panels are set to meet again in Kuala Lumpur on July 24 to finalize the draft Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain and schedule the formal signing of the MOA and the resumption of the formal talks to tackle the political settlement which will be embodied in a comprehensive peace compact.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal welcomed Ms Arroyo’s announcement on postponement. “We thank the government, especially the President, for heeding our request to postpone the ARMM elections. This postponement is good to the peace process,” he told MindaNews.

The President, however, does not have the power to postpone elections. It is Congress that decides on the matter and on July 19, House Speaker Prospero Nograles had told MindaNews the House was “not inclined to postpone the elections.”

But asked to comment on the President’s announcement today regarding postponement, Nograles told MindaNews in a telephoned message that “as Lakas President, I shall defer to and consult our ARMM loyal allies, the Ampatuans. Should they advice that postponement will speed up the Mindanao peace process, I shall personally try to fast track move to postpone.”

The ARMM Governor is Datu Zaldy Ampatuan, whose father, Datu Andal, is the Maguindanao governor.

Nograles added that “as Speaker, I have called for Mindanao congressmen and women caucus in the House on Tuesday, 2 p.m. after the SONA (State of the Nation Address) and we (will) decide collectively to postpone or not.”

On July 19, Nograles asked, “what’s the factual and legal basis to postpone? To postpone we need at least two weeks to process bill which will amend. Senate must concur. It’s not certified urgent by Palace. Too late to postpone in ordinary legislative process. Commission on Elections has not asked us to postpone. If they are not ready, they will. They didn’t ask us,” Nograles said.

Congress resumes session on July 28, the day the President will deliver her State of the Nation Address (SONA). The President lists the measures certified as urgent during the SONA.

In the MILF’s website, Iqbal pointed out that they wanted the ARMM polls postponed because the ARMM election “has direct bearing on the current peace talks.”

He cited two reasons: “pushing through with the election would create the impression that the government is not really serious in the present talks and President Arroyo is not really determined to wind up the talks during her term of office” and “it will postpone the start of the transition period of the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) once the government and the MILF sign the Comprehensive Compact because elected local officials  of the ARMM will have to finish first their term of office in 2011.”

Iqbal also said officials in the provinces, municipalities or cities purported to be included in the area of the BJE will finish their terms of office, like President Arroyo, in June 2010.

Lawyer Datu Michael Mastura, a senior member of the MILF peace panel, said postponing the ARMM polls would be a “clear manifestation of President Arroyo’s policy of the ‘primacy of the peace process.’”

Luwaran, however, quoted Mastura, as saying that the MILF “is not against the candidacy of anyone in the ARMM especially Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan and Bombet Adiong, currently the regional governor and vice regional governor, respectively.”

ARMM Governor Ampatuan told MindaNews in Jeddah last November that while he was willing to sacrifice his post should it be warranted by the peace process, he would run for reelection if the election pushes through on August 11.

Ampatuan told MindaNews in a 2005 interview during the campaign for the ARMM elections that he supports the peace initiatives of President Arroyo and that he had told the leaders in the ARMM “that if I and my running mate are given the chance to lead the ARMM as governor and vice governor, respectively, if within our term a peace agreement would be forged, in the name of unity and peace, in the name of the Bangsamoro, in the name of Islam, we are willing to sacrifice our posts for the Bangsamoro.”

“If we are elected, I as governor and my vice governor, we are willing to leave our posts for the sake of the majority, in the name of peace and unity and in the name of Bangsamoro and Islam,” he said then. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Government to present a revised draft on ancestral domain

July 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the National Security Council has come up with a revised draft of the government’s position on ancestral domain to resume peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Yesterday, the National Security Council had a meeting and the government came up with revised draft on ancestral domain,” Arroyo told a gathering of Lakas-Kampi party members at the Apo View Hotel here. “Soon we will present this to the MILF so that the peace negotiation can resume,” Arroyo said.

The Malaysia-brokered talks stalled last year over disagreements on the ancestral domain provisions. MILF leaders walked out of the negotiation table, saying that the government’s draft on ancestral domain was totally unacceptable to them.

Arroyo graced the signing of the declaration of merger between the Lakas-CMD and Kampi political parties and announced the administration nominees for the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) polls in August.

Incumbent ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and vice governor Ansarrudin Adiong led the rest of the party nominees, mostly incumbent officials in the provinces of Sulu, TawiTawi, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Shariff Kabungsuan and Maguindanao.

Arroyo said the ARMM nominees led by Ampatuan pursue a “permanent peace” as part of the party platform and asked the nominees to help “convince the Moro rebels” to resume talks with the government.

“We hope our ARMM Governor, vice governor and all the rest of the party, can help the government convince the MILF that this is for the peace and development of Muslim Mindanao,” Arroyo said. “So, malaki ang inaasahan natin sa (we have great hopes from the) candidacy of ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan,” she said. “We hope that under your leadership, we can finally achieve peace and development in Mindanao,” Arroyo said. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

Group slams troop deployment in Armm

July 6, 2008

By Malu Cadelina Manar
Correspondent

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KIDAPAWAN CITY — The militant Suara Bangsamoro fears that deployment of additional Army troops in conflict-affected Shariff Kabungsuan province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) may result to violence, which will lead to massive displacement of Moro people.

Amira Lidasan, national chair of Suara Bangsamoro, said the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion (SRB) was deployed near Camp Darapanan — one of the biggest headquarters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) located in Sultan Kudarat town in Shariff Kabungsuan.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

“Their (Army troops) presence in the area provokes conflict instead of peace,” said Lidasan.

The group has also questioned the troop movement as it was done “just in time for the Armm elections.”

Colonel Julieto Ando, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the troop movement in most areas in the Armm is part of their preparations for the upcoming August polls.

Ando said the Army’s 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion (SRP) in Sultan Kudarat is part of the 7,000 troops to be deployed for Armm elections.

The SRB’s base is at the 6th Division Artillery Regiment in Pigcalagan village in Sultan Kudarat, Shariff Kabungsuan.

The 6th ID Artillery Regiment is just few kilometers away from MILF’s Camp Darapanan.

“The movement does not mean we’re gearing up for a war in Mindanao. There’s no truth to that,” Ando said.

But the military, he stressed, maintains its defensive position.

“If they would be attacked, then of course, they will respond,” said Ando.

Ando meanwhile told Lidasan: It’s better for Suara to convince the MILF to stop its offensive so they would not doubt the 2nd SRB. Many civilians and business establishments are affected by (these) offensives.”(SunstarDavao)

Moro group hits Balikatan

July 6, 2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The United States has been allegedly probing resource-rich Mindanao in the guise of the Balikatan military exercises, a proof of this is the planned exploration of Exxon Mobile Corp in Sulu Sea, a progressive Moro group has asserted.

“The affirmation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes that “Exxon Mobile will not go into any area unless the reserves are large scale or there is a large amount of quality oil” is a proof that the United States of America has long been probing the vastness and productiveness of the Philippines soil in the guise of Balikatan exercises and humanitarian missions,” Bai Ali Indayla, Suara Bangsamoro secretary general, said.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

But Philippine and American military officers said that the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are simply meant to enhance each other’s tactical or operational capabilities.

Earlier, Reyes announced that Exxon Mobile, a giant in the oil industry based in the United States, is set to explore the resource-rich Sulu Sea for crude oil deposits this year.

Sulu Sea is home to Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, considered one of the world’s best heritage sites. Sulu Sea connects the South China Sea and Celebes Sea, which serves as route for tuna and other varieties of fishes going in and out the Pacific Ocean.

Indayla assailed the imminent effects of the looming exploration to the people of Sulu, whom she said “have had enough of never-ending wars, kidnaps, hamlets and killings since the American occupation.”

She said her group is strongly opposing the exploration of Exxon Mobile in Sulu Sea “because it would not only affect and devastate the environment and people’s livelihood but also because it is a testament to the long-list of documents that Filipino people vend their natural resources to foreign countries.”

Exxon Mobile will reportedly shell out $110 million for its exploration activities alone.

Suara Bangsamoro raised fears that Exxon Mobile’s exploration in the Sulu Sea will mark the onset of large-scale explorations in other oil-rich areas in the country.

Indayla chided the government’s concession to foreign oil companies to explore the Philippines, noting the country is continuously importing oil and experiencing oil price increases.

Reyes has said that Exxon Mobile will be farmed into service contract 56 in the Sulu Sea, which is currently being held by Malaysian exploration company Mitra Energy Ltd.

He said Exxon Mobile will be the 50 percent owner of the contract, and will be allowed to operate this project in Sulu.

Indayla lamented that the country’s natural resources are benefitting foreigners, especially those from the United States, rather than Filipinos.

“We are putting our hands to a tiger’s mouth by allowing them to utilize and exploit our own reserves,” she said.

Indayla asked the government to safeguard the welfare of its people first before the interest of foreign corporations. (BSS)

==============================

My Take:

US is so addicted to oil it will invade any nation just to have a grasp of that sticky black gold.

MNLF, MILF want ARMM polls deferred after Isnaji arrest

July 4, 2008

By Roel Pareño
Friday, July 4, 2008

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ZAMBOANGA CITY – The two largest Muslim secessionist groups urged government to postpone the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) due to the arrest of Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called for deferment of the regional elections next month, also citing the tensions brought by the attacks staged by some restive MILF groups in recent weeks.

Isnaji, a gubernatorial candidate in the regional polls, was arrested by the police after being implicated in the kidnapping of broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her crew early last month.

Isnaji will be running in the ARMM election under the banner of the MNLF. His candidacy is being supported by one of the two dominant factions in the MNLF.

MNLF chairman and Cotabato City Mayor Muslimen Sema could not be reached for comment on the alleged unity call of the two fronts to postpone the election.

But Sema earlier urged the postponement of the ARMM elections and called on Malacañang to instead appoint the governor.

Sema said the appointment of the ARMM governor instead of holding an election for the position would be cost efficient and would abide by the 1996 peace accord that allowed the MNLF to govern the autonomous region.

ARMM administrator Norie Unas, concurrent regional secretary-general of the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, said they have received similar reports but could not confirm if the plan has been forwarded to Malacañang.

But incumbent and reelectionist Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, the anointed candidate of President Arroyo, remained unperturbed by the calls to postpone the election.

“We respect anybody’s views not only concerning the election but also other issues confronting the ARMM region,” Ampatuan said.

Ampatuan believed the effort to cancel the regional elections would be futile since any postponement would need amendments to the law that has scheduled the ARMM elections on Aug. 11.

Unas also said it would be too late to amend the law to postpone the elections since Congress is on recess and would resume session on July 28, just 12 days ahead of the elections.

Unas said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already prepared for the elections that will showcase the government’s efforts at full automation of the electoral process.

Comelec earlier expressed its opinion on the possible postponement of the ARMM elections, particularly in Sulu, citing the security situation stemming from military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf extremists.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said this would only be the “extreme measure” if the poll body cannot ensure the integrity of elections in ARMM.

He said Comelec has the power to recommend the postponement of the elections but only as an extreme measure.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo also expressed concerns over the possible effects of military operations in the upcoming elections in Sulu and five other provinces under the ARMM.

Melo said the military operations might discourage voters from going out to vote, with other armed groups taking advantage of the situation to sabotage the elections.

The military has intensified the offensive against the Abu Sayyaf following the release of Drilon and two others held captive by the bandit group for nine days.

Isnaji, who acted as negotiator, was among those implicated by the police in the kidnapping.

Concerns over the recent attacks by some MILF factions in Central Mindanao were also raised.

A ranking military official said the attacks by the MILF were meant to force the government into accepting the ancestral domain issue and their demand for self-rule. – With John Unson(PhilStar)

Gov’t receives MILF reply to draft agreement

July 3, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) – The Philippine government received Tuesday the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) reply to its draft memorandum of agreement on the ancestral domain, government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia announced.


Garcia, who retired as Armed Forces vice chief of staff, told MindaNews the MILF has counter proposals he cannot as yet divulge.

But he quickly added “there are good possibilities.”

“Once cleared by our side, I believe talks will then be scheduled,” he said.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews Wednesday morning that their “proposal this time is multiple choice. Three options for GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) to choose one, for each of the remaining three issues on governance.”

“I can’t go into details,” Iqbal said but he acknowledged the “three governance issues” are the only kinks that need to be ironed out.

Iqbal, like his counterpart Garcia, sounded optimistic. “I think the gap will eventually close if GRP really wants to sign (the agreement on ancestral domain).”

The MILF received the government peace panel’s draft through the Malaysian facilitator, on June 25 and sent its reply last Sunday, June 29.

The Philippine government’s peace panel received a copy on July 1.

No date has been set for the government and MILF peace panels to meet in Kuala Lumpur.

This as the government’s policy on the “primacy of the peace process” was put to test again Tuesday with military commanders holding on amid harassments from the MILF and calls for engagement from their own men.

“If (Major) General (Raymundo) Ferrer (commander of the 6th Infantry Division) will commit my battalion, the situation will be irreversible,” a field officer in one of the areas that were reportedly harassed by MILF forces, told MindaNews.

Ferrer, a division commander who adheres to the primacy of the peace process and whose leadership is marked by peace-building seminars within his command, did not.

The field officer said the MILF central committee “must not be ambiguous in what they are talking about and what they are doing on the ground.”

”Tell them to be patient and just adhere to the ceasefire agreement. The Malaysians (the facilitator of the talks ) will not lose. We will lose when fighting ensues,” he said.

Last week, a paramilitary element was killed and hundreds were displaced in Maitum, Sarangani when MILF forces swooped down on the area.

On June 30, a farmer was injured in Barangay Malamote, Matalam town. On July 1, an unidentified farmer was killed when suspected members of the MILF clashed with elements of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion in sitio Tugal, barangay Pagangan-Uno in Aleosan, North Cotabato.

Iqbal said “the serious provocation is coming from the government by dilly-dallying, not complying with the signed documents… We will look deeply into the larger picture,” he said.

Iqbal said they were “on our way home from Kuala Lumpur.”

“We submitted our reply to the GRP draft,” he said. Only the MILF panel representatives went to Kuala Lumpur. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Civil society groups launch campaign to bring nego panels together

July 3, 2008

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 July) – Alarmed with the growing tension and sporadic skirmishes between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces, civil society groups here have designed a 16-day campaign plan that they hope would culminate with the convening of the peace panels. “Each day counts. We dread the sight of more people trooping to the evacuation center everyday. We do not want to hear more people dying,” representatives of organizations working in the conflict-affected areas, said.

Among those who met are the Peacebuilders Community, Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW) and Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC), including the grassroots ceasefire monitor, Bantay Ceasefire, and representatives from Overseas Development Agencies.

The campaign will be launched on July 7, shall culminate on July 22 with CSOs convening the peace negotiators of the government and MILF.

“We will just call them to a meeting that will merely bring them together to discuss whatever it is that they have to talk about. We will not interfere with their agenda,” said lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, the secretary-general of the MPC

Rexall Kaalim, coordinator of Bantay Ceasefire, said that since the government and the MILF have yet to scheduled the resumption of the talks despite persistent calls for them to immediately go back to the negotiating table, “we, the people, will schedule a day for them to come together.”

Kaalim said they will use the scheduled meeting as reason to “persuade the restive forces on the ground to hold their fire, go back to their respective camps and give us 16 days to bring the panels together.”

Within the period, peace groups vowed to solicit the broadest support they could muster to help them pressure government and the MILF to go back to the negotiating table and sign the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

The peace groups will call on the Bishop-Ulama Conference, business groups and Overseas Development Agencies (ODA).

Elwyn Neri of the Peacebuilders Community said they would call preliminary conferences with military generals, church leaders, businessmen and foreign donors who have projects in Mindanao to convince them to support their plan.

Neri said that “while we are preparing the communities, our colleagues would also meet the opinion-makers and other stakeholders of peace in Mindanao.”

Kaalim said that if both panels would not heed their call to meet on July 22, they may ask “businessmen to close shop for a day or two. We will also request ODAs to suspend their operations in Mindanao until the government and the MILF resume talks.”

He explained that because of the tension happening on the ground, the ODAs could not really do what they want to do because of travel advisories. “This has happened in the past. When ODAs threatened to momentarily pull-out their staff in Mindanao and for the time being suspend their operations, the government and the MILF listened to them,” Kaalim added.

The government and MILF peace panels were supposed to have met in December to sign the agreement on ancestral domain but the MILF peace panel opted not to meet with the government when it saw government’s draft veered away from the consensus points earlier agreed upon.

The MILF peace panel received government’s revised draft on June 25 and submitted its reply on June 29. The government panel received the MILF’s reply on July 1. (Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews)

MILF: Gov’t dragging the peace talks

June 22, 2008

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) described government’s approval of the draft proposal on the ancestral domain issue in Mindanao as another scheme of the government to make fool of the Moro rebels.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Calling it as a “paikut scheme,” the MILF said the government is simply dragging the peace talks “inconclusively until President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down in 2010 and passes on the legacy of war in Mindanao to the next president.”

The government is proposing to submit to Congress at least six points in the said proposal for legislation before the whole memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain can be implemented or enforceable.

These include the redefinition of the word “freedom,” control over natural resources, including strategic minerals, self-governance, and territorial waters.

In a report posted at http://www.luwaran.com, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, said the MILF does not want the government to violate its Constitution by undertaking whatever necessary legal steps to implement any agreement with the MILF, but this should not be done on piece-by-piece basis.

“We can sign the memorandum on agreement on ancestral domain and then let the government undertake a constitutional process as its internal requirement to comply with commitment. That is perfectly good,” Musa said, adding that there must be timetable to do that in order to have accountability and fixed timeline to comply.

Reacting to statements that the proposed draft practically sealed by the parties after the Malaysian chief facilitator made his last shuttle between Manila and Darapanan on February 19 to 22, 2008 is “unconstitutional,” Musa retorted: “Even ordinary resolutions presented to Congress are unconstitutional until they are passed into law. How much more for agreement, which is extra-constitutional right at the start.”

He also cited the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States of America, saying before it was ratified, it was not constitutional.

Musa urged the government and its leaders to be fair enough and open their eyes and use their good senses to look around and see for models around the world, in Northern Ireland, in Sudan, in Bougainville, and even in Aceh, Indonesia.

“Why can Sudan do this thing and the Philippines can’t, because the Sudan government is Muslim and the Philippines Christian?” he asked. (BOT)