Joint Army-MILF to secure PNoy during visit to MILF turf

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/10 February) —  A battalion from the Army’s 6th  Infantry Division and another battalion from the central command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will provide perimeter security during President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s  scheduled visit on Monday in the turf of the MILF in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao,  near its main camp, Darapanan.

Aquino is set to launch “ Sajahatra Bangsamoro” (Peace Bangamoro) at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute  (BLMI)  compound, described in the primer as “President Benigno Aquino III’s concrete, socio economic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of MILF communities”

“Sajahatra” is an Arabic – Bahasa – Melayu derivative denoting blessings, properity and peace

The program “aims to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions in MILF communities towards realizing long-term peace and development for Bangsamoro that will benefit all Filipinos,” the primer said.

The project, spearheaded by the Office of the President, is in partnership with the MILF.

Several government agencies, through the inter-agency technical working group convened by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (OCS) have committed to deliver services to MILF communities. All activities under the program, however, will be jointly undertaken by the government and the MILF.

Key leaders of the MILF led by chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Cabinet secretaries, local officials, representatives of donor agencies and other  organizations are expected to grace the event.

The launching comes nearly four months after the October 15  signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) which provides for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called “Bangsamoro” that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016.

The GPH and MILF peace panels are still working on the four Annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace pact:  Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

The two panels were supposed to have completed these by yearend 2012. In their last meeting in Kuala Lumpur on the third week of January,  not one of the Annexes was signed during the five-day talks but they issued a Joint Statement claiming the talks “successfully ended” with both parties “achieving a milestone” with the signing of the Terms of Reference for the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the body that will “review, assess, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes.”

President Aquino in December issued an executive order creating the Transition Commission (TransCom), the 15-member body that would draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law and prepare the transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro.

The TransCom will be composed of seven members from the government and eight from the MILF, including the chair.

The press release from the OCS, the principal organizer of the event, said the MILF has been collaborating with the government in naming the target beneficiaries of the services to be delivered by government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Agriculture and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras was quoted as saying that both sides are trying to enhance their relationship. “It’s a process of getting to know each other. And so far it’s been wonderful. They (MILF) also want to test if this will work. They also want to test how sincere we are.”

Col. Manolito Orense, commander of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, said the Army and MILF have  prepared for the President’s arrival.

“Basically our set-up is a joint effort. We have 11 key areas to monitor, critical or strategic that our counterparts also want to secure. We will have one squad from the 37th Infantry Battalion and one squad from the MILF. It’s one on one,” he said.

FORMER FOES. MILF and Army soldiers at the briefing on security preparations last Saturday in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The former foes will provide joint security for President Aquino when he launches "Sajahatra Bangsamoro" on Monday. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

FORMER FOES. MILF and Army soldiers at the briefing on security preparations last Saturday in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The former foes will provide joint security for President Aquino when he launches “Sajahatra Bangsamoro” on Monday. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

Gordon Zaipullah of the MILF  said they will deploy forces around their bases as an added blanket of protection not only for the President and his entourage but civilians as well.

“We will provide outer security since we are tasked on the  external perimeter of the activity area,” he said.

A send-off program was held at the old capitol of Maguindanao in Sultan Kudarat town on Saturday,  where a briefing was given to both troops.

Maj. General Cesar Ordoyo, chief of  the Army’s 6th Infantry Division emphasized the slogan “TRUST” when  he spoke to both military units. The acronym means Tiwala, Respeto, Unawa, Sinsiridad and Tapat (Trust, Respect, Understanding, Sincerity and Faithful).

The ceremony was followed by a “boodle fight” where soldiers and rebels shared food and beverage laid down on banana leaves on a long table, the food eaten using bare hands.

Sultan Kudarat mayor Datu Tucao Mastura said he is elated” by the turn of events. “Imagine we were just dreaming this before. A few years ago, these two opposing groups were fighting to kill each other. Now they  fight for a noble cause for the majority. I am so elated with the flow of events where peace is real now,” he said.  (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews with a  report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)

 

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2013/02/11/joint-army-milf-to-secure-pnoy-during-visit-to-milf-turf/

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