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MILF, AFP ‘were never enemies’ – Murad

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By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – Buoyed by a series of accolades from state authorities, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Murad Ebrahim on Sunday claimed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as an institution has never been the enemy of his revolutionary group.

‘Historic visit’ – MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim signs in on the guests’ log of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao where he visited for the “first time” Sunday as Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, camp commander (standing next) and his staff officers look on. (Photo courtesy of 6ID public affairs office/ MANILA BULLETIN)

‘Historic visit’ – MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim signs in on the guests’ log of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao where he visited for the “first time” Sunday as Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, camp commander (standing next) and his staff officers look on. (Photo courtesy of 6ID public affairs office/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“We were never enemies,” Ebrahim, popularly called Hadji Murad, told the rank and file personnel of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID), referring to the MILF and AFP as organizations.

“Our enemies are oppression, injustice and exploitation, not the military as an organization. The armed conflicts we had were only circumstantial because the military is part of the government’s defense structure,” Murad stressed.

Murad unveiled his perspective of the AFP during his unprecedented visit at the 6ID headquarters in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Combatants of the 6ID and the MILF have figured in countless bloody encounters that waned only when the country’s largest Moro revolutionary group saw feats in its 2013 and 2014 major peace deals with the government.

Murad thanked Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6ID commander, for arranging his “first ever” and “historic” visit to the camp.

The 6ID covers operationally the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and parts of Lanao del Sur where the MILF maintains more than 30 major enclaves.

Murad’s visit to the 6ID was his second in an AFP camp. The first was in Camp Aguilando where then AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. hosted the MILF chieftain on Nov. 19, 2018. It was a reciprocation of Galvez’s first visit too at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Oct. 6 of same year.

Murad and Galvez have since maintained their partnership bolstered by their common push for the ratification of R.A. 11054, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), in two upcoming plebiscites. The latter, who once served as 6ID commander, is now the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The two MILF-GPH accords, especially the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), were the main bases for R.A. 11075, which the 17th Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte enacted in July last year as a major instrument in ending the decades of secessionist rebellion in the country.

Gen. Sobejana’s hosting of Murad visit jived with the conduct of caravan by several thousands of pro-BOL supporters aboard motorbikes and four or more-wheeled vehicle around the highway of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato that started early morning and winded up here in late afternoon.

Sobejana and his staff officers presented to Murad some memorable presents citing the latter’s continued assurance for MILF forces’ shift from combat orientation to peace advocacy.

He and Murad have agreed on mutual cooperation in ensuring the safe and orderly conduct of two plebiscites set on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 for the ratification of the BOL, which seeks to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) in replacement of the 29-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The BOL prescribes for BAR’s absorption of all ARMM component areas – Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan – as well as the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan, six towns in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in six North Cotabato towns.

The Jan. 21 plebiscite will cover all ARMM areas and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela, while the Feb. 6 referendum is meant for Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato provinces as well as other local geopolitical units with approved petitions for inclusion in BAR, according to the Commission on Elections.
President Duterte signed last week to orders mandating AFP and police forces to safeguard the conduct of the two plebiscites.

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