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Government, MILF security forces in Zambo Sibugay affirm support to Bangsamoro peace process

IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay -- “Nakakataba po ng puso na ‘yung dati mong kalaban, your former adversaries, ay kasama na natin ngayon, kasama ko kayo ngayon at pinangarap ko po ito (It makes my heart full that [our] former opponents, [our] former adversaries, are with us now, I am with you now and I dreamed of this).”

This was the emotional message of Brig. Gen. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the Philippine Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade during the Peace Fellowship and Open House hosted by the brigade for Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders in Zamboanga Peninsula.

The event, held here on October 23, was the first time members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces-MILF had set foot inside the brigade -- not as enemies but now as partners for peace.

“Ako ay nagpapasalamat na andito po kayo at pinaunlakan ninyo ‘yung aking imbitasyon dahil ito po ‘yung isang pagkakataon na maipakita natin hindi lang sa Sibugay na tayo ay nagkakaisa na sa ngalan ng kapayapaan (I am grateful that you are here and you have accepted my invitation because this is an opportunity for us to show not only in Sibugay that we are united in the name of peace),” Nicolas added.

Nicolas recalled that 23 years ago, his troops operated in the area. He feels that some of the attendees of the gathering may have been the very combatants they were exchanging gunfire with.

The Peace Fellowship aimed to promote and sustain a harmonious and peaceful relationship between Government of the Philippines (GPH) security forces, MILF leaders, and residents of MILF communities.

Barhama Ali, a member of the BIAF-MILF’s 113rd Base Command, shared that even during the height of the armed conflict between government and Moro forces, he made sure that his children attended school and were preparing for a brighter and more peaceful future.

“Yung mga anak namin, pinapaaral namin dahil ang iniiwasan namin, kung magkaroon ng usapang pangkapayapaan at dumating ang ganito, saan lulugar ang mga anak namin kung walang [di nakapag-aral]? Magiging sakit na naman ng ating lugar dati magrerebelde na naman?,” said Ali.

(Our children, we send them to school because what we want to avoid, if there is peace talks and something like this comes, where will our children be if there is no [education]? Will our place be torn apart again just like before?)

Ali said that although their base camp is situated outside the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) core territory, he and his comrades strongly support the Bangsamoro and national governments.

“Simula nang maging batas ang RA 11054, ang 113 Base Command, sampu ng kanyang mga kasamahan, ay sumusuporta na sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas dahil ang BARMM ay sumusupurta sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas. Kaya kahit kami nasa outside ng BARMM territory, sinusuportahan namin ang BARMM. Kung sinusuportahan namin ang BARMM, sinusuportahan din namin ang national government,” he said.

(Since RA 11054 became law, the 113 Base Command, and all its members, have been supporting the Philippine government because the BARMM supports the Philippine government. So even though we are outside the BARMM territory, we support BARMM. If we support BARMM, we also support the national government.)

The fellowship was also conducted to return the warm welcome the MILF extended to the 102nd Infantry Brigade during their visit to the MILF community in Brgy. Datu Tumanggong, Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay in April of this year.
One of the major highlights of the activity was the signing of the “Affirmation of Support to the Peace Agreement” signed by government and MILF security members.

According to the GPH’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), this Affirmation of Support shall serve as a commitment of local leaders and residents to sustain the gains of peace and development in Zamboanga Peninsula.
During the fellowship, the GPH CCCH also provided a briefing on the functions, protocols and accomplishments of the ceasefire mechanism.

“Yung paglagda ng suporta para sa peace agreement natin. Ito ay senyales na nakamtan na natin ang kapayapaan dito sa Rehiyon Mindanao. Ito ay simbolo ng pagbabago, kaunlaran para sa lahat sa atin dito (The signing of support for our peace agreement. It is a sign that we have achieved peace here in Mindanao. It is a symbol of change, development for all of us here),” said Police Lt. Col. Mark M. Azur of the Zamboanga Sibugay Police Provincial Office.

“Nawa’y ang bawat panig po ay kalimutan na natin ang nangyaring karahasan nung una. Isa alang alang natin ang bawat isa, ang pagtutulungan, at pagkilala sa batas ng ating bansa para hindi Pilipino laban sa kapwa Pilipino. At nang sa gayon, makamit natin ang maayos, maunlad, at mapayapang pamayanan,” Azur added.

(May each side forget the violence that took place in the past. May we put importance to cooperation and recognition of the law of our country so that no Filipino will be against fellow Filipinos. And so, we can achieve a harmonious, prosperous, and peaceful community.)

The Peace Fellowship was also supported by Zamboanga Sibugay’s political leaders represented by 1st District Congressman Wilter Palma II and 2nd District Congressman Dulce Ann K. Hoffer, who both reaffirmed their support to the Bangsamoro peace process.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, Western Mindanao Commander, underscored the importance of continuous dialogues between the GPH and the MILF security forces to resolve issues.

“Yung mga concerns na ‘yan, ‘yung mga problemang ‘yan ay laging napag-uusapan. ‘Wag na po tayong bumalik sa dati.

Napakahaba na ng ating nilakbay. Napakarami na ng kasamahan nating nagbuwis ng buhay so igalang po natin sila. Bigyan natin ng hustisya ang pagkamatay nila sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong (na manatili ang kapayapaan),” Rosario said.

(Those concerns, those problems can always be talked about. Let's not go back to the past. Our journey has been long. Many of our colleagues have sacrificed their lives so let's respect them.

Let's give justice to their passing by helping (sustain the peace).)
Also in attendance were Sirawai Mayor Gamar Janihin of Zamboanga del Norte; Tungawan Mayor Carlman Climaco of Zamboanga Sibugay; Lt. Col. Peter Garciniego Jr., commanding officer of the 42nd Infantry Brigade; and Lt. Col Filven Noche, commanding officer of the 44th Infantry Brigade.

The event was also attended by Malik Caril, officer in charge of the BIAF-MILF Western Mindanao Front and member of the MILF CCCH; Suaib Edris, commander of the BIAF-MILF’s 113 Base Command; deputy base commanders and staff of 113 Base Command; MILF political chairmen and vice chairmen from the Zamboanga Peninsula and Zamboanga City; MILF AHJAG representatives from Zamboanga Peninsula; and MILF LMT members from Zamboanga Peninsula.

The Peace Fellowship concluded with an agreement between government and MILF security forces to continuously generate goodwill and trust, and for both parties to help create a peaceful environment in the region that is conducive to sustainable development. (OPAPP)

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Kate Shiene Austria

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Information Officer III under the Creative Production Services Division of the Philippine Information Agency. 

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