Aquino pact restores, strengthens MILF camps

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The clear and imminent danger to the Republic emerging from the “Annex on Normalization” President Aquino’s negotiators agreed to with the insurgent Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is in its official document’s Section J, innocuously titled “Confidence-Building Measures.” Its first paragraph reads:

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“Upon the signing of this Annex on Normalization and as a gesture of good will, the two parties shall constitute joint task forces for the following previously acknowledged MILF camps:

a. Camp Abubakar as-Siddique in Maguindanao

b. Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur

c. Camo Omar ibn al-Khattab in Maguindanao

d. Camp Rajamuda in North Cotabato and Maguindanao

e. Camp Badre in Maguindanao

f. Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur,

The task forces will assess the needs, plan appropriate programs, and undertake the necessary measures to transform these areas into peaceful and productive communities.”

President Estrada inspecting captured MILF rocket-propelled grenades in Camp Abubakar in July 2000. At extreme left is then AFP chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes. Aquino’s pacts with the MILF could hand the camp back to the Islamic insurgents.

President Estrada inspecting captured MILF rocket-propelled grenades in Camp Abubakar in July 2000. At extreme left is then AFP chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes. Aquino’s pacts with the MILF could hand the camp back to the Islamic insurgents.

But these had ceased to be MILF camps in July 2000, when government troops overran them in a campaign that lasted nearly four months.

Exasperated over the peace talks then and with MILF continuing its attacks on the military, then President Joseph Estrada mobilized a force of 15,000 army and marine troopers to invade these camps at a cost of over 200 MILF fighters and government troops killed.

I would learn later, poring over documents when I was an official in Malacañang, that it cost of over P500 million, using up not only most of Estrada’s confidential funds but also money from the Presidential Social Fund which had been designed for social projects. I even suspect that Estrada probably was pressured to illegally acquire money from jueteng operators and from stock-market illegal manipulations to finance or make up for the money used in his attack on MILF camps.

All that steep cost in lives and money, only to be reversed by Aquino now.

“Acknowledged MILF camps”
What did the Annex refer to when it described these as “previously acknowledged MILF camps”?

These were “acknowledged” as such in February 1999 by then chief government negotiator former Lt. Gen. Orlando Soriano as part of the 1997 “Implementing Administrative Guidelines of the GRP-MILF Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities.” But government recognized these as MILF strongholds only for the duration of the peace talks.

But the peace talks broke down in late 1999, and then several months later, Estrada launched his four-month all-out war against the MILF. He angrily declared he did not authorize Soriano to agree to recognize those camps, since there cannot be “MILF territory” in “Philippine territory.”

Contrary to expectations that the MILF would defend Camp Abubakar—the MILF’s biggest— to the last man, since it had been its headquarters for two decades and where its chairman Sheik Hassim Salamat lived, Estrada’s troops—then led by Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes—conquered it in a month’s time, after pounding the stronghold for two weeks with bombs dropped by its OV-10 attack helicopters and with shells by the army’s heaviest artillery.

Several of the other MILF camps listed in the Annex were actually merely Camp Abubakar’s satellite camps, making up its perimeter defense, which the Marines one by one overrun on their way to the MILF headquarters. Camp Omar for instance is a stronghold a visitor to Abubakar first passes to be cleared for entry.

The stress of the battle, or his difficult flight through mountainous terrain, took a toll on the MILF’s head Salamat’s health. He became sickly since then and died of a heart attack in 2003.
 
Camp Abubakar
I was the first journalist to visit Camp Abubakar and to interview Salamat in 1996. It is a vast 15,00 hectare camp on a plateau in Maguindanao covering 12 towns. I would understand the stress place on Salamat’s health when he was forced to evacuate such an idyllic place as Abubakar.

On July 11, 2000, in a quintessential demonstration of his braggadocio and propaganda skill, Estrada himself went to the conquered camp to raise the Philippine flag. Estrada enraged Muslims everywhere when after raising the flag he celebrated his victory with a feast with the soldiers in which beer and lechon were served, both banned in the Muslim faith.

Only one who has visited Camp Abubakar and other MILF camps will realize as fiction what our negotiators have wholeheartedly accepted as fact — that these camps could be transformed into peaceful and productive communities. This is simply because few civilians would want to live in these remote areas, unless they are mountain tribesmen who love this environment and bandits or insurgent groups who love the safety it gives them. The terrain in these areas is not ideal for rice farms, the main crop, next to coconuts, in the region.

The sites of these camps were precisely chosen because of their geographical features as strongholds for bandits and rebels. Its picturesque landscape of waterfalls, streams and small forests make up its military advantage: these features would slow-down or even stop tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Camp Rajah Muda, which was the MILF’s second biggest camp, is in the midst of the vast Liguasan Marsh in Pikit, North Cotabato, so difficult to reach that it has traditionally been the safe haven for kidnapping and other well-armed gangs. In fact Umbra Kato, who heads an MILF breakaway group against the peace talks, still uses this camp as his refuge from our military’s efforts to capture him.

The Annex’s claims that the listed camps would be transformed into “peaceful and productive” communities may sound like a noble aim. In reality, only the MILF and its fighters’ families would want to live there. The MILF has always used “peace” to mean what its slogan, which was prominently displayed at the entrance of Camp Abubakar when they still had it: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”

The Annex has no provisions requiring the MILF to lay down their arms if they return and live in these “camps.”

MILF lost these camps
These camps no longer really exist as MILF camps since Estrada’s troops drove out the MILF in fierce fighting in June and July in 2000. President Gloria Macapagal officially named camp Abubakar Camp Iranun in 2005, since Moros in the area are mostly Iranun Moro tribe people who aren’t big supporters of the MILF. It has become the headquarters of the Army’s 603rd Brigade of the Army’s 6th (“Kampilan”) Division, the force together with the Philippine Marines that drove out the MILF out of Camp Abubakar.

Now the Aquino government is recognizing these six strategic areas as “MILF camps”? Will the Army’s 603rd Brigade as well other military detachments in the conquered camps be asked to leave so it could be transformed into productive communities under the protection of the MILF?

Most of the agreements in the “Annex on Normalization” — even the organization of a Bangsamoro police — would be implemented when the Bangsamoro “entity” is created, which I doubt would happen since this requires the Supreme Court’s decision as to its constitutionality, the enactment of a law by the Congress, a referendum by people in the areas covered by the substate, and even amendments to the constitution.

Not so for the agreement on the MILF strongholds. These would be recognized as MILF camps, and measures undertaken to transform them into “productive communities” “upon the signing of this Annex on Normalization and as a gesture of good will.”

Aquino’s spokespersons and his negotiators will of course deny that the Annex on Normalization provides for the creation of a MILF-controlled Bangsamoro Police and the recognition of and restoration of the six MILF camps.

Perhaps they simply didn’t understand the import of provisions they agreed to. They will claim that the agreement refers only to the communities that are in the camps, but not to these as camps of the MILF.

But why were these referred to using the MILF’s official names for them—“Camp Abubakar as-Siddique, Camp Omar ibn al-Kahttab “ etc.—and described as “acknowledged MILF camps”? Why weren’t they referred to as “former MILF camps that had been captured by the GPH’s military in 2000″?

The silence on these issues by the MILF will be deafening. Perhaps they will be too busy laughing at our negotiating panel’s gullibility to comment.

tigao.manilatimes@gmail.com
Facebook Pages: Rigoberto D. Tiglao and Bobi Tiglao

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10 Comments

  1. I strongly believed that this peace signing is with U.S.A blessing. Since the beginning, Americans want to make peace with the Muslims because they want to build another military base somewhere in Mindanao area. There is already a site where they gonna build it, according to some Mindanao residents, due to the fact that visiting forces never leave the area.

  2. Dapat kasi ang ginawang peace negotiator nang gobyerno ay Lapulapu hindi Deles.
    What I mean is that Pnoy could have assigned people from Mindanao to be his peace negotiator coz they are familiar of the real situation there and understand the mind set of the muslim rebels instead of people from Luzon na hindi yata nakaapak sa lugar that they are negotiating. Well what can you expect from someone who is naga parunong runong pero hindi naman marunong.

  3. Ang estratehiya ni P’noy ay iisa lang, tulad sa Kongreso at Senado,
    para kontrolin niya at pasunurin sa gusto niya ang mga kongresista
    at Senador. Tawagin at idagdag natin sa napakaraming aka. niya
    ang “BOY SUHOL” Akala niya makukuha rin niya sa suhulan ang
    mga muslim, dahil pabigla bigla and desisyon niya, di niya inisip
    na maraming paksyon ang mga rebeldeng muslim, di ka pwede
    makipagkasundo sa iisa lang at sunod sunuran na ibang paksyon.

    Tulad din ni pres. tita cory, ang daming maling ginawa at pilit na
    sinasabing legacy. Gaya ng binanggit niyo nanahimik na si misuari
    at natalo na nuon, pero pilit na ginising, ganun din si Joma,
    naka kulong na nakipag kasundo sa bilanggo para raw mahinto
    ang NPA, pinapunta sa Netherland, kaya yung dalawa si misuari
    at Joma sison binuhay ang kani kanilang pangkat, yan ang naging
    legacy ni tita cory ang pagpapakawala sa puno ng mga rebelde
    para ipag patuloy ang pag rerebelde.

    Gaya niyan hindi ata sila nagka intindihan, ayaw mag disarma
    ng MILF, Di nila inisip ang paghihirap ng kasundaluhan na
    nasukol at natalo na yang MILF at nakuha na ang abubakar
    tapos isosoli sa mga rebelde. Malinaw sa sinumpaan niya
    bilang presidente ng bansa na ipagtangol ang bansa, kailan
    man hindi sang ayon sa konstitution ang pag hahati hati sa
    territoryo ng bansa at ibigay sa rebelde at maki hati sa
    yaman, sa buwis, at sa kapangyarihan. Kundi niya kaya
    gawin ito dapat mag resign na lang bilang presidente.
    Kung hahayaan na lang itong maling maling gawain ng
    presidente maaring isunod niya na maki hati narin sa
    NPA sa pamamalakad sa bansa, susunod sa china naman.
    Parake pa nag momodernize pa ang sandatahan di naman
    pala kayang ipag- tangol ang bansa ng ating panggulo.

  4. Wala eh. talagang ang magkatulad ng kulay eh para sa isa’t isa. The Spender-n-chief Boy Sisi is giving away what the Estrada Administration has accomplished in 2000 by taking over those muslim camps. Estrada was right. They are not ‘Muslim Territories” but “PHILIPPINE TERRITORIES”. Better remind Noynoy of this thing. Isosoli pa yung mga lupain na nabawi ng gubyerno mula sa mga rebeldeng Muslim (di naman lahat) at bibigyang muli ng pagkakataon na makapagtatag at makapagpalakas ng kanilang puwersa sa darating na mga panahon. Ungas talaga eh. Atin na nga eh, inari lang nila nung una, tapos nabawi na, ngayon isosoli naman. Peste talaga itong presidente na ito. sino-sino ba mga bumoto dito? Magsisi na kayo sa nagawa nyong kasalanan na naging daan para maging presidente ang ungas na kalbong ito.

  5. Good analysis!

    I myself am laughing so much at the stupidity of Teresita Ging Deles, this super mayabang woman, and her companion Miriam Ferrer Coronel..the other part of the duo act….

    They have been Al-Taqiyyah-ed by the MILF…And Miriam says she come to trust Iqvbal….

    What a statement; when in a negotiation, and one side says he trusts the other, clearly one HAS BEEN HAD…

  6. suicidal nga ang ginawa nila para maipakita nila na si pnoy ay magaling makipagkasundo. wala na siya di tapos ang gulo na inumpisahan niya. ang dami pa ibang faction na kailangan kausapin eh iisa lang ang kinampihan nila.

  7. Well -put and well phrased Mr Tiglao. Wish you would also expound on the Plenipotentiary Powers given Prof Miriam Coronel Ferrer to sign on behalf of RPG or on behalf of Deles who has been taunted as the Chief Negotiator in the Peace Process. Nur Misuari and Carmelo Barbero also both signed on what became as a prelude to the Tripoli Agreement now customarily referred to as a Peace Treaty with no less than then Pres Cory giving Nur Misuari an undeserved status as Head of State when she came down to meet with Nur in Jolo on 6 September 1986. Unless the powers given and delegated to the late Barbero, and now to this Prof Coronel Ferrer were clear and specific, there is ample reasons to reject the proceedings as null and void, ab initio, even as there are many constitutional provisos that have not been met by this brouhaha of a final peace settlement. Present instability and clashes now happening in Mindanao are mere extensions of the designs and schemes of stirring enmity and disenchantment when the “secessionist” movement was launched 40 years ago.

  8. I honestly believe that the only way to settle the war in Mindanao is to change the Charter to a “Federal System” of Government – good bye Presidential System. If it is a Federal system like America, Mindanao will be a State like say “California” but it is a part of the Republic of the Philippines. The Mindanao people will govern their own state.

    But why is the President do not like to change the Constitution? I think, it is because the Constitution was crafted during the Presidency of President Cory Aquino – her mother. History right? Senator Ninoy Aquino is now a National Hero – Right.

    The Bangsa Moro is a pet project of President BS Aquino and by all means he wanted it to succeed. If he succeeds, a Nobel Prize is waiting for the President – possibly another Hero. Right!

  9. Thank you sir for bringing those facts. That is a safe assumption, the negotiators doesn’t understand what they agreed!