Archive for the ‘moro struggle’ Category

Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put”

June 8, 2008

Gus Miclat*/Special to MindaNews
Saturday, 07 June 2008 20:32
var sburl4310 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4310 = document.title;var sbtitle4310=encodeURIComponent(“Anwar Ibrahim: “Malaysia should stay put””); var sburl4310=decodeURI(“”); sburl4310=sburl4310.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4310=encodeURIComponent(sburl4310);MANILA (MindaNews/07 June) — “Malaysia should stay put,” former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in response to an appeal by the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW) for him to assist in the peace talks in Mindanao.

Ibrahim’s comments on the reported pullout of the Malaysian contingent in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao was on MPW’s specific request for him to “help us (MPW) convince your government to please continue to stay on as the leader of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao and to be in general patient with our peace process.”

In an exclusive interview, Ibrahim said the quest and accompaniment for peace must be paramount even if there may have been compelling reasons for Kuala Lumpur to think about pulling out as the peace negotiation has continued to drag and some initial agreements on the framework of the talks had been reneged upon.

The Mindanao Peaceweavers,  the broadest coalition of civil society peace networks in the island, sent their letter to Ibrahim saying it was awed by what he represented and epitomized “not only in your beloved Malaysia but also in this region and the Muslim world in general.”

“We understand that it may be very disappointing for Malaysia to facilitate and broker the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front without seeing any huge strides, but the IMT has definitely contributed to the relative silence of the guns in Mindanao. Trust and harmony among the combatants and more so among the general population could also be attributed to their presence.  Leaving the IMT, or even a hint of downsizing your presence has released a deep anxiety among our people. And we know that anxiety can lead to hostilities,” the MPW said.

The Malaysian IMT contingent is set to end its mission in August. Its tour of duty can be extended according to the Terms of Reference but only upon the request of both the Philippine government and the MILF. The Philippine government has sought more Libyan presence at the IMT.

Both panels have yet to meet after its last exploratory talks in November 2007.

Earlier, in September 2006, the talks ended in an impasse which was finally broken 13 months later, in October 2007.

In December 2007, when both panels were supposed to finalize the draft memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, the MILF peace panel refused to meet with its counterpart after receiving a government draft that the MILF claimed, veered away from the two sides’ consensus points.

Ibrahim arrived in Manila last Thursday to address a colloquium on Islam, Politics and the Prospects for Peace sponsored by the De La Salle Graduate School and the Asian Institute for Democracy.  Deposed President Joseph Estrada tendered a dinner in his honor, with former President Corazon Aquino among the guests.

Ibrahim could become Malaysia’s next Prime Minister as the People’s  Justice Party he founded and led by his wife chalked up a hefty number of seats in the recent parliament elections and is reportedly on the verge of forming a government along with defectors from the ruling  Barisan coalition which he also once led along with his mentor, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

Mahathir sacked him after Ibrahim questioned certain policies related to fiscal reforms prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis and sent him to jail on sodomy and other graft charges which the courts dismissed after six years in detention. Mahatir meanwhile retired from his post and resigned from the ruling party after a row with his successor and incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir’s choice to replace Ibrahim then and eventually anointed him his successor as well.

Ibrahim’s three-party alliance won an unprecedented 82 seats in the March 8, 2008 elections, shaking the ruling national front’s grip on power for the last 40 years.  They only need another 30 seats more to form a government. Malaysia’s parliament has 222 seats. Ibrahim thinks he can form the government by September but wants the transition to be peaceful and democratic. September is symbolical, as September 16, 1963 was when the Malaysia Federation was formed.

Ibrahim said that if his party takes over the government, the dynamics will entirely be different, thus, the approach and role of the Malaysian government in the Mindanao peace process will also be one that is more pro-active and inclusive.

He said he would have loved to meet with and listen to leaders of the MPW and civil society in general and offer anything to help achieve peace not only in Mindanao, but apologized that his visit to the country was brief. He promised to do so in the next opportunity. The MPW has meanwhile invited him to come to Mindanao.

Ibrahim also met last Friday with former President Fidel Ramos, former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Senate President Manny Villar, administration senator Edgardo Angara and other officials from both the current and past administrations and the opposition.

Ibrahim was in the country last September to keynote the second assembly of the World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA).  The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Davao-based regional advocacy and solidarity organization and Mindanao Peaceweavers’ lead secretariat, organized and hosted the assembly. (*Gus Miclat is the Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue).

MILF fighters told to boycott Armm elections

June 6, 2008

KORONADAL CITY — Al Haj Murad Ebrahin, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has ordered its 10,000 strong combatants to refrain from participating in the coming elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

In a statement released Monday, Murad reiterated the front’s policy on the “non-recognition, non-participation” in any elections the government is undertaking.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

His statement, which was posted at the rebels’ news website, jibed with the beginning of the election period in the Armm, which the MILF denounced as an antidote to the genuine resolution to the centuries-old Bangsamoro problem.

Its release came the same day that a powerful bomb exploded outside Edwin Andrews Airbase in Zamboanga that reportedly injured 10 people.

The latest Zamboanga bombing, however, will not affect preparations for the Armm polls, assured Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose A.R. Melo, who added the that they are contemplating on augmenting security forces in the wake of the attack.

Armm Governor Datu Zaldy U. Ampatuan is seeking reelection with the backing of the Lakas administration party.

Murad claimed: “Armm did not and cannot cater to the basic needs of the Bangsamoro people and instead has worsened their already depressed condition and added confusion to the populace.”

On several occasions, the government has allegedly dangled the Armm to leaders of the MILF but each time it was offered, it was turned down immediately, the statement said.

Murad was reported to have rebuffed a very high unnamed Philippine government official, who offered him the Armm few years ago, saying: “What happened to our brothers in the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) when they accepted Armm will also happen to us.”

A cabinet member of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also offered Abdulazis Mimbantas, MILF vice chair for military affairs, the same post, but it was also turned down.

This cabinet member, who was not named, was reported to have converted to Islam as a means to win the trust and sympathy of the Moro people.

The Comelec has started accepting certificates of candidacy for the positions of governor, vice governor and assemblymen for the Armm polls on August 11.

The filing of COCs will run until June 4.

The Armm election is expected to be under close public scrutiny, as it will serve as a prelude to the automation of the 2010 national and local polls.

“We will learn how much better automated elections can be; and we will discover unique challenges this new model will present,” the MILF statement quoted Melo as saying. (BSS) (SunStarGenSan)

We Did Not Attack Gov’t Troops in Basilan – MILF

June 3, 2008

MILF welcomes ceasefire violation rap by AFP, says they will also protest

The MILF through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the AFP, and announced that it will file its own protest.

Vol. VIII, No. 17, June 1-7, 2008

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, denied taking part in a May 25 attack on a Marine outpost in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan that left two Moro fighters dead and 17 Marines wounded. The Moro revolutionary group also “welcomed” the filing of a ceasefire violation complaint against it by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and announced that it will file its own protest.

Marine commandant Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino had pointed to both the MILF and the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the instigators of the May 25 firefight. According to Dolorfino, the MILF’s 3rd Brigade and the ASG attacked the Marine detachment in Barangay (village) Tongbato, Ungkaya Pukan at around 5:45 a.m. on May 25. Ten Marines were wounded in the first attack, Dolorfino said, while another was wounded when a V150 commando vehicle was fired at in Brgy. Materling, Ungkaya Pukan.

Soldiers on the way to Tongbato as reinforcement were also attacked, Dolorfino said. Six Marines were wounded and two Moro fighters were killed in the ensuing encounter.

“They (MILF) always join (ASG attacks) so indeed that’s a violation of the ceasefire agreement,” Dolorfino told reporters on May 25. “They are supposed to help us against the Abu Sayyaf.”

But Iqbal denied that the MILF took part in the attack on the Marine outpost in Brgy. Tongbato.

“There were two separate firefights last May 25,” Iqbal said. “The first was between Marines and the ASG at Brgy. Tongbato; the second from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. between MILF forces and Marines, which took place in Brgy. Materling. The first was initiated by the ASG, while the second took place right inside an MILF territory. The Marines were the ones who started the second firefight.”

He also denied Dolorfino’s claim that the MILF “always joins” ASG attacks. “ASG is a separate group, their ways of doing things are mostly contrary to our ways,” Iqbal said.

“The MILF has a very clear and legitimate agenda to pursue,” Iqbal also said. “We do not resort to anti-people or ‘terroristic’ methods of pursuing our cause.”

The AFP filed a ceasefire violation complaint against the MILF before the Joint Committee on Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) on May 26.

“The reasons why the protest was filed are the following: one is to know the reason why the attack was carried out, and second is to determine the perpetrators of the incident,” said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP information chief, at a news briefing on May 26.

Iqbal said the MILF “welcomes” the filing of the protest. “We welcome the filing of the protest in order to ferret out the truth of the incidents, especially the second,” Iqbal said. He added that the MILF would be filing its own protest before the JCCCH.

First clash after Malaysia pullout from IMT

The May 25 encounter is the first firefight between government troops and MILF fighters since Malaysia started pulling out its contingent from the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which is tasked to observe and monitor the cessation of hostilities between the two parties to the negotiations as well as the implementation of socio-economic projects in the areas of conflict.

The IMT – which is composed of delegates from Malaysia, Brunei and Libya – was deployed to several areas in Mindanao in 2004. Malaysia, which facilitates the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, had the biggest contingent in the 60-member IMT.

An initial group of 29 Malaysian delegates left Mindanao on May 10. The remaining 12 are set to follow by August.

Malaysian facilitator Othman Abdul Razak was reported as saying on May 3 that the GRP-MILF peace negotiations “will not move forward” if the GRP kept insisting that the talks be conducted in accordance with “constitutional processes.”

Last December, the GRP-MILF peace negotiations reached a deadlock over the ancestral domain issue.

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, causing lawyer Eid Kabalu, then MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

Roots of conflict, prospects for peace

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” grant to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao Muslims.

Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Dr. Salamat Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP, which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a concession to the group. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City.

Meanwhile, the recent armed encounter between government troops and MILF rebels seems to confirm what Iqbal said earlier that with the pull-out of the IMT, the peace talks are “shaky on the ground.”

When asked whether the May 25 fighting could lead to a renewed escalation of fighting between government forces and the MILF, Iqbal said it depends on the government. Bulatlat

“History must highlight Moro heroism”

May 31, 2008

ALABEL, Sarangani (MindaNews/31 May) — A respected leader of the Indigenous Peoples here said history must be rewritten for the public to know the bravery and heroism of the Moro people who fought in defending the country against foreign invaders.

Fredo Basino, one of the leaders of Blaans here and the provincial administrator of Sarangani said, “If Mindanao is considered part of the Philippines, then we must highlight the struggle of the Moro people who defended this land.”

He said people fought for freedom. He noted that everyone must still possess the will to fight for freedom. “And we need to attain freedom, freedom from poverty,” Basino stressed.

He noted that an economic revolution is essential considering that “we are not well developed and can be considered one of the weakest links in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“Now the battle is against poverty,” he pointed out. “Let us tell the people to fight poverty,” he said.

Oscar Solaiman, a Tausug leader in General Santos City, said “Mindanao history has to be revised to be able to tell what transpired before.”

“And we must not forget that there are Moro and the Indigenous people who have been heroes in their own history, he added. “They were defenders, thus they must be recognized,” he stressed.

Al Nezzar Ali, a Moro artist and local historian from General Santos City said “there is no history written for the Moro people, only opinions.”

He stressed that history must not be focused mainly on heroism and idealism. “History must be rewritten to accommodate new findings and propose new insights and thesis,” Ali said. (Gandhi C. Kinjiyo/MindaNews)