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Archive for October, 2007

 

Inquirer
Last updated 09:43pm (Mla time) 10/31/2007

 

CAMP DARAPANAN, SHARIFF Kabunsuan, Philippines — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday said it was expecting to sign a memorandum of agreement on territory with the government in December.

The issue was the biggest stumbling block to the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the Moro rebels, and had caused a deadlock in the talks.

But last week, Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential assistant on the peace process, announced that the deadlock had been broken.

But Dureza declined to elaborate.

“We expect the signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain by December this year,” Mohagher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, told reporters here on Wednesday.

Iqbal said the government had agreed to include more villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, the future Moro territory.

With the government agreeing to the MILF proposal for the inclusion of more villages into the territory, many of the problems hounding the peace talks had already been resolved, he said.

“Seventy percent of our demand in the territorial aspect of the ancestral domain was granted by the government,” Iqbal said.

But he declined to state what was actually agreed upon or how large the proposed Moro territory would be.

“It is confidential. What’s important now is that the negotiations are moving forward and we will just tackle some remaining issues,” Iqbal said.

He said the remaining “30 percent of unresolved issues” would be tackled when the exploratory talks resumes on November 14-17 in Kuala Lumpur.

“Right now, we still do not know when we will sign the peace agreement or what we call the political settlement. However, we and the government are still working on it,” Iqbal said.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, told reporters in a separate briefing that even with the signing of a final peace agreement, the Moro group will not lay down its firearms.

“We will create our own security force within the proposed homeland,” Kabalu said. Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Inquirer
Last updated 01:05am (Mla time) 10/25/2007

 

COTABATO CITY—Libya has offered to host peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Libyan President Moammar Gadaffi was influential in the decision of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to sign a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

Ambassador’s message

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military relations chief, said Libya’s desire to host the peace negotiations was relayed to them by former Libyan Ambassador to the Philippines Salem Adem.

Kabalu said Adem also told MILF leaders during a meeting yesterday that Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, said to be his father’s successor, wanted to meet Mindanao leaders in a bid to consolidate efforts that would lead to a peace agreement.

“He wanted the meeting through the facilitation of the MILF to happen before the year ends. Of course, it will be closely coordinated with the government,” Kabalu told the Inquirer.

Impatience

The government is also becoming impatient at the pace the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is moving, a Malacañang official said yesterday.

Earlier, the MILF said it was becoming edgy because of what it sees as government-instigated delays hounding the resumption of the peace talks.

“If the MILF and other stakeholders were impatient, the government is more so because the problem on peace and order is basic to development,” Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, said in an interview with radio station dxMS here.

Best efforts

But Dureza said the government was trying its best to forge a final peace deal with the rebels and that the only way to achieve this is through negotiations.

He also said that the help of every Filipino is needed so that peace would eventually be achieved on the island.

“The peace negotiations are everybody’s concern, your concern, my concern, our concern because we are the stakeholders,” Dureza said.

Government and MILF negotiators have resumed their executive meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, in a bid to break the deadlock in the negotiations.

KL meeting

The deadlock was caused by disagreements over the issue on territory, with the MILF insisting on the inclusion of at least 1000 villages in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) without preconditions.

The government is steadfast on its position that only about 600 villages could be provisionally included in the discussion for territory.

The government also said that the final composition of the territory would depend on the outcome of a plebiscite to be called for that purpose.

“I’m optimistic they will be able to hurdle some of the contentious issues so we can resume formal talks,” Dureza said.

Deal with MNLF

The 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF led to the forming of the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) and the assumption into office by MNLF chair Nur Misuari as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao


Copyright 2007 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 10:56pm (Mla time) 10/25/2007

 

COTABATO CITY—Government and Moro rebel negotiators managed to break the impasse in the peace negotiations following two days of informal talks in Kuala Lumpur, government and rebel sources said yesterday.

Eid Kabalu, civil-military affairs chief of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the panels had managed to hurdle the contentious issue on territory.

No details

Retired Gen. Rodolfo Garcia headed the government panel that met with the MILF team, led by Mohagher Iqbal since Tuesday.

But Kabalu declined to give details on how the problem was solved.

“Basically, that’s the result of their meeting. As to how they were able to break it, we will know when both parties formally issue their joint statement,” Kabalu said.

With the deadlock broken, formal negotiations may resume next month, he said.

“It was a breakthrough,” Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, also said when asked about the result of the Kuala Lumpur talks.

New entity

Dureza said both sides agreed on some models for the geographical composition of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). But he declined to give specifics, saying these would be tackled during the resumption of formal talks next month.

The MILF has demanded the inclusion of at least 1,000 villages in the BJE without any precondition, but the government said only about 600 villages could be provisionally included in the Moro territory.


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Edwin Fernandez, Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 11:30pm (Mla time) 10/09/2007

 

BULDON, SHARIFF KABUNSUAN–Nine-year-old Jamael Akmad’s life always began at 6 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m.

During the day, she spends most of her time in school. At home at night, she sleeps early and waits for the next sunrise.

“But now, life has changed,” she said.

Jamael’s village of Kulimpang was one of the recipients of a solar energy program funded by the US government and Mirant Philippines.

“We can now study at night, we can now see the world through our television,” Jamael, a Grade 4 pupil at the Kulimpang Elementary School, said.

The electrification project, which has been ongoing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, provided “light” and “new life” to thousands of children, like Akmad, in the region’s poorest and most remote communities.

Sun’s benefits

For example, the solar energy harnessed by the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (Amore) program also benefited fisherman Ajijul Sampang of Tawi-Tawi.

“I had four Petromax (kerosene lamps) before but I sold three of them. In our village, nobody needs them now except those fishing at night. We already have electricity,” Sampang said.

Bukari Gumaga, 47, an imam of Kulimpang, thanked Allah when the fluorescent lamp installed in his house started to flicker into life on Monday.

“At the mosque in our village, we were previously dependent on kerosene lamp. But now we have electricity. We are thankful. My seven kids can also study longer even at night,” Gumaga told the Inquirer.

Savings

Baidido Macatambog, 36, a mother of four, said the solar-energy project also meant savings for her and her family.

“We can now save the money we spend for kerosene daily. We are planning to buy a television so that we will know what’s happening in our country and we can watch leading soap opera shows,” Macatambog said.

To mark the “energization” of some 12,000 household in the ARMM, Amore beneficiaries participated in the region-wide switch-on ceremony on Monday evening.

The event coincided with the observance of Lailatul Qadr or the “Night of Power” in Islam. Lailatur Qadr is celebrated during one of the odd nights in the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Muslims believe that it was during Laila-tul Qadr when the first Divine revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Inquirer
Last updated 02:17am (Mla time) 10/12/2007

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The military yesterday said there are more Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) operatives, who have sought refuge in Sulu and nearby areas, than was previously thought.

Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga, Western Mindanao Command chief, said these JI members are operating alongside the Abu Sayyaf.

“During the Tawi-tawi incident on Jan. 6, our forces killed one of them along with several Abu Sayyaf members including Jundam Jamalul alias Black killer,” Allaga said.

Dulmatin aide

He said Gufran, also known as Abu Samur, was a trusted aide of JI leader Joko Pitono or Dulmatin.

Aside from Dulmatin, the other prominent JI members now in Sulu are Umar Patek and Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan in Sulu.

All three JI leaders carry a bounty of $5 million each for their capture, dead or alive.

Maj. Gen. Reuben Rafael, chief of the Task Force Comet, said the exact number of JI operatives now in Sulu and nearby areas could not be determined yet.

“But there are more or less 10 of them. That is also the main reason we have been conducting relentless operations against them,” he said.

He said the military was trying its best to prevent the JI operatives from slipping out of Sulu.

“Dulmatin and Patek are still in the area based on the information we gathered,” Rafael said.

Rafael said JI operatives like to seek refuge in Sulu and nearby areas such as Tawi-tawi “because of the support they get (from the Abu Sayyaf).”

In return, JI operatives provide the Abu Sayyaf with logistics and technology on bomb-making.

Funding sources

The Abu Sayyaf, a self-styled Islamist group, has also found other sources of income, according to Allaga.

“They now also peddle drugs to youngsters,” he said.

Rafael said at the height of Oplan Ultimatum phase 1 in 2006, more than two hectares of land planted with marijuana were discovered in Sulu.

On Monday last week, Rafael said they again discovered marijuana plants during another operation.

Chief Supt. Adzar Albani, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Western Mindanao, confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf’s terror activities are now also being funded by money from narcotics. Julie Alipala with reports from Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao


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By Jeoffrey Maitem, Nash Maulana, Germelina Lacorte
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 06:11pm (Mla time) 10/12/2007

 

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Few Muslims fired firecrackers and weapons in the air as they marked the end of the month-long fasting at dawn Friday.

At the city hall and Cotabato City Central Pilot Elementary School grounds, thousands of Muslims convened around 6 a.m. for their congregational prayer on the occasion of Eid’l Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Mayor Muslimin Sema told reporters that less gunfire was heard throughout the city at dawn as majority heeded an appeal not to fire guns. Muslims traditionally welcome the end of the fasting with guns and firecrackers.

“The Eid’l Fitr is not all about firing of weapons and firecrackers. The most important are prayers, unity, and sharing. Islam does not teach about such thing during Ramadan and Eid’l Fitr,” said Sema, also secretary general of the Moro National Liberation Front, once the country’s largest Muslim rebel group that signed a peace pact with government in 1996.

The road to Eid al-Fitr started in Muslim communities as early as Thursday night, when Islamic faithful observed the Takbiran, a procession in the old days but a motorcade in more recent times.

In the Takbiran, groups of scholars went around communities and recited “Allahu Akbar,” an Arabic chant which means “God is great.”

“We are happy that Ramadan ended peacefully,” Sema said.

As elsewhere in the country, Muslims gathered in their communities for prayers, and later shared food with relatives and neighbors’ as part of the Eid’l Fitr celebrations.

The government also declared Friday a national holiday.

For many Muslims, fasting during the Ramadan was more meaningful this year because of support from other faiths, said Mahid Mutilan of the Bishops-Ulama Conference.

On September 30 Catholic bishops and leaders of other Christian denominations hosted Muslim religious leaders in a Ramadan dusk dinner at the start of a two-day peace dialogue in Davao City.

Although interfaith outreach calls are not new in Vatican edicts, Filipino Christians who joined Muslims neighbors in the day long fasting during Ramadan gave ecumenism a new face in the interfaith dialogue with the minority Moro Muslims, according to Mutilan.

In the early 80s, peace activists organized the “Duyog Ramadan” not only as venue for Christian-Muslim dialogue, but followers of both faiths made Ramadan an occasion for deeper interfaith involvement in peace-building through basic understanding of comparative religions.

“Duyog” is a Visayan word which means “to do along with.”

Fr. Reynaldo Roque, who specializes on the church-media relationship, said while the Church was beset with issues generated by some reported cases of sexual harassment, Muslims were equally concerned about global problem of extremist violence and terrorism.

One participant pointed out that Muslims are enjoined to fast along with the “People of the Book,” when the Koran says: “O! ye who believe… Fasting is prescribed unto you as it was prescribed unto those before you that you may learn self-restraint.”

By “People of the Book,” the Koran refers with reverence to the Jews and the Christians, or the followers of Abrahamic religions, of which Islam is one, said Dr. Salipada Tamano of the Mindanao State University’s King Faisal Institute of Islamic Studies in Marawi City.

Tamano even quoted a Koranic verse that says: “Verily! You will find good friendship unto those who say, ‘We are Christians’.”

Shariff Julabbi, who has a doctorate in Lugatul Arabiya, the language of the Koran, said it is not true that the Muslims’ Holy Book refers to Christians and Jews as “unbelievers,” “pagans” and “hypocrites.”


Copyright 2007 Mindanao Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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By Jeoffrey Maitem
Mindanao Bureau
Last updated 04:32pm (Mla time) 10/13/2007

 

COTABATO CITY — The government is setting up amnesty centers in rebel-infested areas in Central Mindanao as part of the Arroyo administration’s peace and reconciliation efforts, a regional police official said on Saturday.

Chief Superintendent Felizardo Serapio, Central Mindanao police director, said that the establishment of amnesty centers in municipalities where there are many active rebels “will encourage state enemies to avail of the government’s program.”

“It would also make the processing of their papers easier,” he said.

Serapio said the proposed program is part of Proclamation No. 1377, which entitles members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front to avail themselves of amnesty.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the amnesty program last month as uncertainty over the resumption of the stalled peace talks with the communists continues.

The NDF backed out of the Norway-brokered peace talks after the government declined to lobby for the removal of the NPA from Washington and European Union’s terror lists.

The amnesty covers “the crime of rebellion and all other crimes included therein or incident thereto in pursuit of political belief as defined by jurisprudence, whether punishable under the Revised Penal Code or special laws.”


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