Gov’t backs MILF leadership institute

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/6 June) – The government is supporting the setting up of a leadership institute by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), noting this is one of the building blocks to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.

In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, stressed that building blocks for peace are being put in place to complement the ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.

The GPH and the MILF peace panels recently concluded the three-day 28th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur last month with both parties agreeing to return to their principals and further refine their respective positions on the substantive agenda.

Deles cited positive developments on the ground, such as the ongoing governance reform agenda of the Aquino administration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the recent reconciliation between the political families of the Hatamans and Akbars in Basilan, underscoring that these are important for promoting peace in the local communities.

At the same time, the peace adviser mentioned the upcoming inauguration of the building of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

“The government supports the initiative by the MILF to establish the said institute. This has been formally agreed upon by the two parties in 2007 because this is a good preparation for a possible peace agreement, that they are mainstreamed into politics and governance. As an institute, it serves to prepare young Moro leaders for governance and leadership,” she stated.

Deles added that “we should support such moves because anything that goes into preparation for development and governance are energies that are taken away in preparation for war. Physically, we can see the efforts of the MILF for the peace process.”

The peace adviser reiterated her message that “peace can be won not just on the table; it has to be waged on the ground.”

The Government of Japan through its Embassy in Manila will turn over the BLMI training center on Thursday (June 7), with Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe expected to unveil the marker, a report in the MILF website said.

The BLMI was created during the 14th Exploratory Talks held in Kuala Lumpur on November 14-15, 2007, under the previous Arroyo administration.

The government poured P6 million as help for the leadership institute. The Asia Foundation, the Development Academy of the Philippines, the Asian Institute of Management, and the Non-Violent Peaceforce also extended help by funding or conducting various skills and capacity-building trainings.

The BLMI’s building stands on a half-hectare lot situated near the Cotabato-Davao National Highway in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Also invited to the turnover ceremony are GPH Peace Panel Chairman Dean Marvic Leonen, the current Malaysian facilitator, His Excellency Dato’ Tengku AB’ Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed, members of the International Contact Group (ICG), members of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), and the five provincial governors in the ARMM, among others.

Meanwhile, Deles underscored the importance of promoting “respect and understanding of cultural diversities” in the peace process during the 38th National Qur’an Reading Competition anchored on the theme “The Holy Qur’an: Beacon of Guidance, The Halal Way of Life.”

Organized by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), the event was held recently at University of the Philippines Film Center in Diliman, Quezon City.

In her message, Deles said she is “happy to support the event that preserves, promotes, and enhances the Islamic heritage of Muslim Filipinos.”

“We cannot have peace without being able to appreciate and accept diversity of the many peoples that inhabit our many islands. We are gathered here to celebrate the distinct identity of Muslim Filipinos,” she added.

NCMF officials led by Secretary and Chair Mehol K. Sadain, the rest of the Commissioners as well as foreign envoys, including Pakistan Ambassador Mohsin Razi and Saudi Arabia Deputy Head of Mission and Counsellor Muhanna Alkhail, were present during the opening program.

Sadain relayed the “spiritual, moral, intellectual and artistic value” of reading the Qur’an. He conveyed that the “beauty of the Holy Qur’an is living it; it’s appreciation and application in our (Muslims’) daily lives.”

For his part, NCMF Commissioner Sama Mirkarl Allian echoed hopes that such religious undertakings will “strengthen the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for peace and unity so that development will be achieved” in Mindanao. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)