Maj. Carlos Sol: soldier of peace passes away

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews  / 01 July 2018) —  Major Carlos Sol, Director of the combined secretariat of the government panel’s ceasefire mechanisms in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) passed away late Saturday night at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City, three days after he suffered a second stroke and lapsed into a coma.

Like his counterparts in the MILF, the 61-year old Sol would sit quietly near or behind the principal actors in the peace negotiations, seldom acknowledged in public even as he played a major role in the entire peace process: keeping the peace on the ground between the armed combatants, even if it meant putting himself in harm’s way to prevent armed conflicts in the communities from escalating into a full-blown war.

Dubbed by many as  “soldier of peace,” Sol earned the respect of both government and MILF peace panel members as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) for his work in the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG).

Major Carlos T. Sol, 61. Soldier of Peace. Photo by IONA JALIJALI

Retired Col. Dickson Hermoso, Assistant Secretary for Peace and Security at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said Sol is “best remembered as the man who crosses the line of fire between government forces and the MILF to implement the ceasefire agreement.”

Sol mentored a succession of peace panel members as well as commanding officers and generals of the AFP who were assigned in Maguindanao and other areas with MILF presence, on the ceasefire mechanisms, and regularly kept the peace panels abreast of the developments on the ground.

He was a constant in the government peace panel’s security sector for over a decade. Peace panel members and military commanders came and went but Sol remained, working quietly in the background, the go-to person, the one with the institutional memory of the peace process.

According to colleagues in the peace process, Sol had been suffering from kidney ailment and had been on dialysis for a few years now but sometimes missed treatment due to fieldwork and meetings.

Since late April, Sol had been in and out of the hospital, MindaNews was told. He was in Davao City on in the latter part of June for a check-up and was advised by his heart doctor to undergo angioplasty. He opted to return home to Cotabato City after finding out he was number 63 on the waitlist for the surgical procedure at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao.

Sol joined the Philippine Army in 1987, at the age of 30. Before that, he was a top official of the Ministry of Human Settlements in the region until the ministry headed by Imelda Marcos was disbanded when the EDSA revolution toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

“Faithful sentinel of the peace process”

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel extended his panel’s  “heartfelt condolence” to Sol’s family and the GPH peace implementing panel.

“We miss one of the  mainstays of the peace process, who spent most of his life to see this through and succeed, especially the ceasefire,” Iqbal told MindaNews.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF from July 2010 until his appointment to the Supreme Court in November 2012, posted on  Twitter: “We fondly called him Major Sol. He walked with a limp, had the heart of a father and the courage of a battalion. Many times he put himself in harm’s way to keep the peace, saving many. He will be missed. I salute you.”

(L to R) Director Carlos Sol of the Combined Secretariat for the GPH CCCH and AHJAG. Police Director, DIPO for Western Mindanao, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Irene Santiago, Chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF Peace Accord and Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., Commander of the Western Mindanao Command at the Forum on GPH-MILF Peace Process held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City on 26 April 2017. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Political Science Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, who succeeded Leonen as peace panel chair until the end of the Aquino administration on June 30, 2016, said the ceasefire mechanism “will never be the same without Major/Director Sol. He provided the continuity and carried with him all the goodwill accumulated in a long, difficult but mutually desired process that would bring peace to/in the Bangsamoro. We grieve with the family – he has moved on to another journey where guns and physical pain don’t exist.”

Former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles thanked Sol “for the steadfastness and the courage, for the deep understanding and wisdom honed in the service as a true soldier for peace. You stood guard over the peace process not with a gun (although you had access to that too), but by building bridges, mending fences, overcoming stumbling blocks with both street smarts and empathy, never losing sight of the big picture while you handled the nitty-gritty on the ground always with calmness and good humor.”

“Be still the faithful sentinel of the peace process in your place of reward where pain and worry can no longer touch you,” said Deles. ”

Bantay Ceasefire

“Inna Lillahi wa innah Illahi Rajium (From God we come to God we shall return). Our sincerest condolences to the family of Major Sol and to the peace process mechanism he has served for so long. May his soul rest in Gods peace,” said Guiamel Alim, Executive Director of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus recalls how Sol helped them in their Bantay Ceasefire monitoring work. “Major Sol for me was a figure of strength, a military officer with a unique mission.”

“His accuracy for details and solid information earned him the respect of thousands of combatants every time he asserted and ordered ceasefire. He taught me how to read maps and weaponry which are essential skills for ceasefire monitoring,” Arnado said

She said Sol was instrumental in bringing in the Bantay Ceasefire in establishing the joint monitoring outpost to serve as demarcation post to separate warring combatants.

Arnado noted that while she was soliciting help for the then ailing Rasid Ladiasan, Sol’s counterpart in the secretariat of the MILF’s CCCH who later became its chair, she was informed by somebody from the government’s CCCH that Sol was also sick and was undergoing dialysis. “I asked if I could also inform others for help but Maj. Sol didn’t want to go public with his condition. He boldly fought his illness with regular dose of dialysis alongside a highly stressful and dangerous work on the field. I cannot imagine a ceasefire committee without Major Sol there.”

Ladiasan passed away in May 2016. He and Sol are credited for having worked for an immediate ceasefire following the Mamasapano tragedy on January 25, 2015 where 66 persons were killed — 44 from the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police,  17 from the MILF’s BIAF and five civilians. The tragedy could have been avoided had the Philippine National Police coordinated with the ceasefire mechanisms of the GPG-MILF.

Contributions beyond Mindanao

Iona Jalijali,  head of the GPH peace panel secretariat under the Aquino administration described Sol as “a true pillar of peace in Mindanao.”

“This is how I would always remember you, Sir. Always such an image of quiet strength, and with that ready smile. So much of what I know, I learned from you. It was such a pleasure and honor to have worked with you and call you a friend,” Jalijali, now with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, said.

Jalijali told MindaNews that Sol was “an institution in the peace process, singularly responsible for keeping the peace through the ceasefire agreement with the MILF” and it would be “difficult to find someone who can step in his shoes, who understands as much as he does the cost of war and what it takes to keep the peace.”

Sol’s expertise in the ceasefire process has not only benefited the Philippines but other countries with armed conflicts as well.

Emma Leslie, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia,  said Sol was “tireless in his professional commitment to ensuring a robust and meaningful ceasefire for the Bangsamoro. But personally he always went above and beyond to support the peace process between the GPH and MILF.”

Leslie said that during the Mamasapano tragedy, “he put himself in harm’s way with his friend and colleague, the late Rasid Ladiasan to stop the firefight” and outside the Philippines, “he generously gave his wisdom and experience to fellow soldiers and peace builders in Myanmar as they worked towards their own ceasefire mechanisms.”

“With all those others who have gone before us in the GPH-MILF peace process may he deservedly Rest In Peace,” said Leslie.

Sol’s remains are in his hometown in Alamada, North Cotabato. Interment will be announced later.  Sol is survived by wife Valerie and only child, Karla. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)