AFP commanders to MILF: celfone numbers, please?

The suggestion, said Fr. Roberto Layson, head of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate’s Inter-Religious Dialogue, was intended to “enhance coordination” so that they can call the other to verify from each other.  “They will be textmates. Something like that.” Layson said.

Officials and commanders of the government and the MILF did not go to Pacific Heights Hotel in Cotabato City in their military uniforms last Saturday morning. They wore civilian clothes although a number of them wore another kind of uniform: collared shirts – beige, red, blue – printed with “1st AFP-BIAF (Armed Forces of the Philippines-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) Roundtable Discussion.’

They were also given bull caps as additional souvenir to remind them of the historic meeting with their “enemy” in the battlefield.

Fr. Layson told the commanders gathered that “if you want peace, don't talk to your friends. Talk to your enemies.”

“Seeing AFP and BIAF officers gathered here in the same hall makes me believe that peace in Mindanao is, indeed, not entirely impossible,” Layson said.

The historic meeting was initiated by the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Aside from 6th ID chief Maj. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Brig. Gen. Alexander Gurrea of the government’s Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Brig. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHAG), 34 military officers from colonels down to second lieutenants were present – three colonels, 10 lieutenant colonels, one major, five captains, 12 first lieutenants, three second lieutenants. The police was represented by the police chiefs of Southwestern Mindanao and Cotabato City.

The MILF was represented by 20 commanders and members of the peace panel’s CCCH) and AHJAG.

Rasid Ladiasan, head of the secretariat of the MILF’s CCCH,  served as the master of ceremonies of the program that started at 8 a.m. and ended at noon at the Pacifc Heights Hotel in Cotabato City.

Participants were first introduced before Maj. Gen. Dato MD Ismail bin Khan, IMT head of mission, spoke on the “mission, roles, objectives and mandate of the IMT and the supremacy of ceasefire.”

Gurrea, chair of the government peace panel’s CCCH, talked about the ceasefire mechanism while the MILF peace panel’s AHJAG chair, Atty. Abdul Dataya, discussed the AHJAG mechanism.

The creation of the CCCH and AHJAG was agreed upon in earlier talks by the government and the MILF.

Fr. Layson and Ustadz Abdul Kadir Abdullah of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, discussed the peace process from the religious perspective while lawyer Benedicto Bayani, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), gave the synthesis of the discussions.

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