CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 February) — A prominent Maranao civil society leader has urged the administration of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Congress not to forget that the face of the alleged corruption in the military is the conflict in Mindanao.
“Muslims and Christians alike are dying here in Mindanao because of the greed of powerful persons and a gang in the miltary,” said Datu Lacs Dalidig, convenor of the Muslim Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Development.
He added the challenge to the Aquino administration now is “how it should resist doing a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who fomented escalation of conflict in Mindanao in order to justify big spending in the military and in order to raise billions of pesos worth of projects in the name of peace and development for Mindanao.”
The President should immediately work for the settlement of the conflict in Mindanao, Dalidig said, hinting that any delay may again result in the re-escalation of armed conflict between “the Bangsamoro and the Government.”
He said the corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) being exposed now in the congressional hearings is just the tip of the iceberg as the whole corruption scheme may have gone up to Malacanang.
Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he said, allegedly benefited from the corruption “at the expense of the Mindanawons who are suffering from the decades-old conflict.”
The reported resignation of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato as commander of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and his setting up the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) should not pose a problem in the peace process but a challenge.
Dalidig said he believes Ameril Umbra Kato is still loyal to the MILF but may have renamed his forces into BIFF over suspicion on the real motives of the Aquino “peace plan.”
“For me, it is a challenge to the Aquino administration to have a comprehensively inclusive peace process,” Dalidig told MindaNews.
He said Abdullah Macapaar alias Kumander Bravo may follow Kato. Both Kato and Bravo have been blamed for atrocities on civilian communities in August 2008 in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato to protest the cancellation of the signing of the Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF. The Philippine Supreme Court eventually ruled the MOA-AD unconstitutional.
The Senate hearings that exposed how corruption is done in the AFP have stirred the corridors of power in Manila. One of those implicated, former Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Secretary of Defense Angelo Reyes committed suicide Tuesday.
Former renegade soldier and now Sen. Antonio Trillanes III has hinted that the brains of the AFP corruption may be Ms Arroyo.
Among the grievances that Trillanes and his Magdalo group aired is the alleged Oplan Greenbase which was said to have escalated the armed conflict in Mindanao in 2003 by blaming the MILF for “destabilization in urban areas such as the Davao International Airport…”
Malacanang had denied the existence of Oplan Greenbase. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)