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We didn’t use landmines in North Cotabato, MILF says

August 17, 2008 

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vehemently denied accusation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that it planted landmines in some villages in North Cotabato where series of fierce fighting took place starting July 1, this year.

Sammy Al-Mansoor, chief of staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), told Luwaran in an exclusive interview yesterday that the BIAF is following, aside from its Military Code of Conduct, which is laden with rules of engagement in Islam, the Geneva Conventions especially Protocol I and II..

He also disclosed that the MILF had signed a “Deed of Commitment” with the Geneva Call (GC), in tandem with the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), on the ban of victim’s initiated anti-personnel landmines.


The GC is an international non-government organization, which engages non-state actors, like the MILF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), on the non-proliferation of anti-personnel landmines.


Al Mansoor took exception to allegation by AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna, who was quoted as saying: “We really have this problem on landmines that wounded even one of our soldiers. That is why we are not allowing civilians to go back yet to their barangays. It is very dangerous. The MILF rebels have planted the villages with landmines.”


He said the MILF rebels reportedly used anti-personnel landmines that can be activated by use of pressure, tripwire or remote detonation.


“Unless we have cleared the affected areas of landmines will we allow the evacuees to get back to



August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MILF to Senators: Peace Talks is extra-constitutional right at the start

August 17, 2008 

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reminded some Filipino senators opposed to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that right at the start of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks in 1997, the negotiation was already extra-constitutional, or the MILF was and is not a true and legitimate revolutionary organization but mere non-government organizations (NGOs) or lobby groups fighting for reforms within the very system in this country.


“When you talk to rebels, it is understood that you suspend your laws over them or they will not talk to you and let their guns speak,” Muhammad Ameen, chairperson of the MILF Secretariat, told Luwaran today.


He cited the cases of Machakus Agreement between Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the Good Friday Agreement between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Bougainville Agreement in  Bougainville, Northern Sahara Agreement, the Aceh Agreement between Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement, and the Kosovo Formula.


“It is regrettable that still many senators, who are supposed to be national leaders, are ignorant of these models of conflict resolutions around the globe. They showed their biases, prejudices, and hatred in recent days, and ganged up on the MILF and the Moro people as if they are toughies on the streets,” he gasped.


“Are you not aware of the fact that when a senator files a resolution in the Senate that resolution is not constitutional until it is passed by both Houses and signed into law by the president?” he urged them to contemplate.


 He informed the Senators that the government and the MILF when they signed the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of June 22, 2001 agreed to open “new formulas” that would “permanently address” the centuries-old Moro Problem in Mindanao.


They also agreed in principle that the government will not raise the issue of constitution, territorial integrity, and national sovereignty, and the MILF not to raise the issue of independence.


The agenda was agreed during the time of President Fidel Ramos in 1997, continued to the presidency of Joseph Estrada, but the peace talks collapsed when he declared all-out war against the MILF in 2000. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo picked up the pieces and urged the MILF to return to the negotiating table. Hesitant in the beginning, the MILF agreed later after Arroyo agreed to conduct the talks in foreign soils, facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) or any member country, and acknowledged and implement all past agreements.


Ameen described “new formulas” as some form of self-governance for the Bangsamoro People that the Parties, with third party facilitation, will search and negotiate as they move the peace process forward, as distinguished from the “old formulas” tried by the government but failed miserably to address the Moro Problem.


He enumerated the various forms of old formulas which the government tried but resulted in dismal failures, some of which were very bloody:


1. Assimilation of the Moros to the body politic, the necessary consequence of the unitary setup in this country, the legacy of colonialism in the Philippines;


2. Integration of Moros, which is lower or lesser in impact but still envisioned to integrate the Moros into the body politic. The era saw the creation of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) that offered scholarships, settlements, etc.;


3. Massive resettlement programs in Mindanao of people from Luzon and the Visayas that resulted in displacement, dispossession, and dispersions of Moros and other indigenous peoples in the region;


4. Genocide, as evidenced by the creation of the Ilagas, who killed thousands of Moros including children, women, and old folks, and massacres during the height of Martial Law in the 70s;


5. Resort to all-out wars as a national policy of the government like the ones declared in 2000 by Pres. Joseph Estrada and 2003 by Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Both resulted in thousands of lives lost or wounded, millions worth of properties lost, and a million internally displaced persons (IDPs); and


6. Autonomy, as in the so-called Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is an administrative region and never autonomous.  Instead of giving genuine self-governance, it breeds in corruption never experienced in the annals of Moros in Mindanao


August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ulama to Solons: Do not preempt the Bangsamoro people’s prerogatives

August 16, 2008 

“The political violence this weekend might be considered an abnormal condition,” says the MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, “but not on the basis that the memorandum of agreement is terminated.” Government is holding on to its agreement, however.  With the outbreak of hostilities between the AFP-PNP and MILF forces in Cotabato, its impact on the GRP-MILF MOA is still uncertain.

Lawyer members of the MILF Negotiating Panel told Luwaran: “The situation created by the outbreak of hostilities does not result from a breach invoked by the parties.”


Nor is it because of withdrawal from the MOA or any prior agreements between GRP and MILF. The stumbling block is the so-called “politics of law”.  They said that Supreme Court is a “nonmajoritarian institution” for its legitimacy rest elsewhere than to implement the will of the people.  Asked if people should be worried they said the specter of instability still haunts Mindanao (and) will not go away so long injustices and serious grievances of the Bangsamoro people are not addressed.

Even the moderates will have little reason then to warm up to the mindset of Supreme Court justices. Given that the TRO is set for oral argument before the Supreme Court yesterday August 15, for the MILF and Government negotiators two questions linger. What has sparked the outburst? And what can be done about it?  MILF leaders are in no doubt as to the true reasons for the outburst spawned by the abortion of the signing of the MOA-AD.


Asked to comment, Muslim religious scholars (ulama) have issued this terse admonition: “Power without an attributable source causes unease.  Solons are making a big mistake to rush in only to preempt the collective prerogatives of the Bangsamoro people.”  The ulama described the “angry mood” of Senator Mar Roxas seen on TV footage and so, they said, the motive is suspect.  Taunting the former senate president, Khaled Musa says Frank Drilon has joined the petition to intervene in the TRO losing his statesman bearing to the call, all of a sudden, of his Ilonggo forebears.


The oral argument on MOA-AD before the Supreme Court throws into question powers not yet derived immediately from the principle of ‘advise and consent’ of the Senate, warns lawyer Datu Michael O. Mastura.  Most serious still, according to Mastura, a former congressman, Senators Roxas and Drilon are inclined “to drag the Puno Court whose policy is judicial activism into the politics of law.” 

The two opposition solons are stalwarts of the Liberal Party, but in all probability, some civil society sectors suspect, both are colored by the prejudice of their fellow ethnic Ilonggo, Manny Pinol. If that is true, these figures have ceased to represent the whole nation confusingly switching leadership roles, the same source said.


Most, if not all, the Justices of the Supreme Court do not come from Mindanao but are men and women of prudence, according to observers.  The elaboration of arguments on the MOA can be seen “as a token of growing maturity to examine the relative functions of the major branches of government,” so a federalist advocate group based in Davao City can embraced the issues.  “Nothing that was attempted earlier in GRP-MNLF agreements was of the same scope,” says lawyer Abdul Dataya, arguing that it would be wrong to conclude that the Government has capitulated any territory or territorial waters to the MILF.  


Meanwhile, the Mindanao prelates including Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato and who met yesterday, August 14, with Mohagher Iqbal, Michael Mastura and Abdul Dataya, in the chancery of Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao admits that of the 9 bishops in attendance 2 are members of the CBCP permanent council.  “But technically we cannot speak for the whole body.”  What matters, they said, is to reverse “the hostile public perception of MOA-AD” cautiously confirming that “right now the support of MOA is based on the conviction that it does mean secession.”


Conversations at lunch shifted to the plebiscite and lack of consultation.  The head of the MILF panel secretariat Jun Mantawil recalls the Manili massacre in Cotabato and so “armed collisions with history” have become a recurring cycle around conflict-affected areas.  Why?  “I also want to remind anti-MOA politicians,” he says, “there is a sense of betrayal and double standards about consultation.”  When the big province of Cotabato was divided up by the Christian leaders “under martial rule, there was no big talk of plebiscite or of consulting the Moros from both local and national leaders,” he told local residents.



August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iligan City Barangay Officials Paid to Oppose MOA-AD

August 16, 2008 

An unimpeachable source who insists that his name be not mentioned for security reasons has disclosed to Luwaran that officials of the eight (8) barangays of Iligan City which have been included in the territory of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) have been paid to oppose the MILF-GRP Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The eight Moro-dominated barangays are: Digkilaan, Dulag, Hindang, Kalilangan, Lanipao, Mainit, Panorogonan and Rogongan. 

According to the source, the barangay captains and officials of these underdeveloped barangays have disclosed to him that they were paid by people in the city government and promised more ‘cash assistance’ if they join the opposition to the MOA-AD. Accordingly, they were made to attend rallies and speak out against the MOA-AD organized by city officials.

These barangay officials also told the source that although they were pressured into accepting the cash offer by people from City Hall, they very much secretly welcome the inclusion of their Moro barangays into the BJE.
Meanwhile, further according to the source, officials and residents of another mixed Moro-indigenous people-dominated barangay also of Iligan City that was not included in the BJE feel dismayed that they were not included in the BJE. They were asking the source to make representation to the MILF Negotiating Panel to have their barangay included in the BJE. The source withheld meantime the name of the barangay concerned, saying he does not want to complicate the situation in Iligan City. But, he also said, the wishes of the people of this barangay should be addressed in the future. 



August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tacurong Mayor orders stores, banks closed or fined during rally

August 16, 2008

About 5,ooo people joined the protest rally against the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) in Tacurong City yesterday, August 15, even as owners of stores, banks and other establishments were told to close shops or faced fines clamped by city local government executives.

Tacurong City Mayor Lino Montilla and his brother defeated gubernatorial candidate Angelo Montilla organized the rally. But report said no other local executives joined the rally.

 Wearing red shirts, students, teachers, government employees, religious, professionals, and other individuals from different business and transport groups attended the peace rally which started around 8 a.m. held at the Tacurong City plaza.


However, most of those who attended the rally were students of public  and private schools, except Notre Dame schools, whose principals refused to respond to the call of the Montillas to actively oppose the BJE.


No Moro attended the rally, the report added.


The Montillas owned the African oil plantation in Tacurong City and Isulan, which is being claimed by Moros as their lands.


In the meantime, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the MILF committee on information, blasted the group of North Cotabato Vice Governor Emmanuel Piňol as the emerging extremist group of settlers’ politicians, whose agenda is to oppose everything good to the Bangsamoro people.


Pińol, a one-time Catholic seminarian but quitted after one year, because he cannot defy the lure of earthly things, led petitioners to the Philippine Supreme Court to stop and declare the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) from being formally signed by government peace negotiators.


Musa desrcribed Pinol as like Adolf Hitler, whose hatred for the Jews led him to massacre them in millions both by firing squads or in gas chambers.


He recalled that when the Moros were incorporated into the Philippine government in the grant of independence in 1946, there was no plebiscitary consent by the Moros.


He said this was repeated when the Empire Province of Cotabato was gerrymandeered into several provinces in the 80s.


“Why does Pinol protest the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) when only Moro-dominated areas are the subject of plebiscite?” he inquired.


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Mindanao Bishops, MILF: pursue peace process, call for ceasefire

August 15, 2008

Rasid Ladiasan, Correspondent

The Mindanao Bishops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reiterated their commitment to pursue the realm of peace, justice, solidarity and development as well as the peaceful resolution of the Mindanao conflict and Bangsamoro problem through the ongoing peace process between the government and MILF.


“The MILF and the Bishops reiterate unwavering moral commitment to pursue the path to peace, solidarity, justice and development in Mindanao, and resolve and support to the continuation of the peace process between the MILF and the government until its successful conclusion is achieved,” stated in their Joint Communique’ issued after their peace dialogue held at the Archbishop’s Residence in Davao City on August 14, 2008.


The dialogue was the first-ever between the Catholic Bishops of Mindanao and MILF which the sides described as epitomizing utmost sincerity, trust and cordiality, and a historic significant initiative as a way forward in advancing the common quest for genuine peace, unity and development in Mindanao.


Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, co-convenor of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, led the Bishops and the MILF officials by Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Peace Negotiator.


“We are indeed very happy to host this historic occasion. This is the very first time that high officials of the MILF were able to come to the Bishop’s House and we are very glad to be with,” said Archbishop Capalla, adding that His Eminence Cardinal Rosales, Cardinal Vidal and the Papal Nuncio in Manila were informed of the dialogue.


For his part, Chairman Iqbal said “We went our way to be here with you in the hallowed name of peace with our strong appeal for strong cooperation from all sectors in our stride to achieve peace in Mindanao .”


“We all know that peace is so precious for all of us and so in the spirit of openness and frankness, we shall move forward with the process in searching for truth and justice as paramount foundation towards peace in Mindanao ,” Iqbal said.


Joining them for the dialogue were Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Auxialiary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Cotabato, Bishop Honesto Pacana of Malaybalay, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, Bishop Neri Ochimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, Bishop Edwin dela Pena of Marawi City, Bishop Anonieto Cabahug of Surigao City; MILF Senior Peace Panel Member Atty. Datu Michael Mastura, Ustaz Mohammad Montasir and Ustaz Mohammad Abdullah, both members of the MILF Central Committee, MILF AHJAG Chairman Atty. Abdul Dataya, MILF Peace Panel Head Secretariat Jun Mantawil,  MILF Peace Panel Secretariat Member Mohajirin Ali, and MILF Ceasefire Committee Secretariat Head Rasid Ladiasan.


During the dialogue, the Bishops asked the MILF on its stand on the present status of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), clashes in some towns of North Cotabato, concerns on the indigenous peoples’ issues, and how can the Bishops be help to the GRP – MILF peace process.


Reverend Archbishops Quevedo, who in his recent write ups said the MOA-AD could bring lasting peace in Mindanao for all its people, said the “new information” shared by the MILF on the MOA-AD are very helpful in appreciating further the document.


However, Bishops Quevedo stressed the imperative of holding more dialogue and education campaign to avoid the negative repercussions that the MOA – AD could possibly unfold.


“The Bishops and representatives of the highest leadership of the MILF called on all sectors of the society for sobriety and calmness in confronting and resolving the issues besetting the forging of the GRP – MILF: MOA–AD,” said the Joint Communique.


It also stated “Both Parties also manifested their strong appeal for an immediate declaration of ceasefire to the ongoing armed clashes in some towns of North Cotabato, and immediate delivery of relief assistance and rehabilitation programs for the affected communities by all concerned institutions, local and international.”


Both parties resolved that dialogue and educational programs must be intensified, particularly by the religious leaders and academic institutions, relative to the ongoing peace process in Mindanao

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Roxas tell LGUs in Sultan Kudarat to reject ancestral domain deal

August 15, 2008 

Senator Mar Roxas, who emerged recently as the most outspoken enemy of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), arrived at Isulan, Sultan Kudarat Province, Wednesday, August 13, and told all provincial and municipal local government executives (LGU) to oppose the deal up to the Supreme Court so that it would be shelved forever.

He asked the local executives to support the current move of Senator Frank Drilon in filing a permanent restraining order before the Supreme Court to declare the MOA-AD “unconstitutional”.

“The MOA-AD is cancer to the Philippine government and will lead to Moro-Christian conflict in Mindanao,” Roxas said.


“No to Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in Sultan Kudarat” banners hang in the boundary of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, while Roxas was meeting the LGUs in Isulan, the capital town of the province.

Roxas’ anti-Moro stance and his bitter opposition to MOA-AD endeared him to the ultra-rightist settlers’ group in Mindanao composed of North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, Iligan City in Lanao del Norte led by Mayor Lawrence Cruz and in Zamboanga City led by Mayor Celso Lobregat.

Analyst viewed pro-settlers’ stance of Roxas as one of the platforms of government when he formally seeks the presidency in 2010.


The gambit, the analyst said, is to woe Ilongo settlers but deliberately offend the Moros, because they are minority voters being negligible and have very minimal voting strength.

The same analyst, however, considered Roxas as a weak president, enumerating the following reasons:


1. In Mar Roxas’s entire career as a public official, he is not known to be very decisive on major national issues, least of all to handle national security matters, in particular the conflict in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro problem;


2. Not a few view him as “not very manly” or is still undecided to marry, yet privately seen to be “flirting and frolicking” with older married women (and with popular television personality Korina Sanchez), which in a way is a “plus celebrity factor” but offends high moral or ethical grounds of immorality; and


3. In business circles, the analyst suggest that constituencies judge Roxas on the basis of who he represents and who funded him in past senatorial elections who want to establish an oligopoly using Mindanao resources as a neo-colonial capital.


Political obersevers and critics of Mar Mar Roxas warn that Frank Drilon and the Liberal Party stalwarts stand to lose his supporters by aligning himself with anti-MOA constituents who have exaggerated “the politics of fear”.

August 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment