MILF chairman Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim visits AFP

Published November 19, 2018, 4:31 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Francis Wakefield

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed Monday Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim on his first visit to Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez welcomes Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim during his historic visit at the AFP General Headquarters, Monday. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)
Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez welcomes Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim (2nd from left) during his historic visit at the AFP General Headquarters, Monday. (ALVIN KASIBAN / MANILA BULLETIN)

AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. led high-ranking military officials in welcoming Chairman Murad and his party on his historic visit to the AFP’s main headquarters, a first by a MILF official.

Following arrival honors held at the Canopy in front of the General Headquarters, Murad and his entourage were taken inside the VIP lounge of Bulwagang Balangiga, where they made a courtesy call to Galvez.

Both officials also exchanged tokens/gifts as a sign of their friendship. The tokens include a glass mug and a framed “bayanihan” glass art.

Military and MILF officials, which include AFP Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Chief Lt.Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, Maj. Gen. Rosseler Murillo, the chief of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division based in Pagadian City, Abu Mohammad Ali, 2nd vice chair, MILF and Abdulrauf Abdul “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, chief of staff, BIAF-MILF and Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) commissioner, then proceeded to Silid Lapu-Lapu for a two-hour executive meeting.

In a press briefing, Galvez said the reciprocal visit of Al-Hadj Murad following his visit to Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, last October 6, 2018, signifies the strong trust and confidence of the MILF leadership on the AFP and the national government.

Galvez said last July, MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar and BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) chief of staff Sammy Al Mansour and colleagues at the BTC set foot in Camp Aguinaldo to convey their commitment towards the peaceful resolution of all conflicts in the Bangsamoro region.

Murad said words cannot express his gratitude and those of his people of being honored by the military following decades of fighting, resulting in the death of thousands of people, including soldiers, MILF fighters and civilians.

“Today, I am truly honored to join our partners in peace, from the highest leadership of the AFP, down to the lowest ranking elements of this institution to reciprocate the visit of your chief-of-Staff, General Carlito Galvez, Jr. when he visited Camp Darapanan last October 6, 2018. This visit is a concrete manifestation the solid partnership of our institutions, a testament of an enduring personal friendship built upon the solid foundation of our mutual commitment to work for peace and see through the dawn of day not just for the Bangsamoro but for this country as well,” Murad said in his opening speech.

“More than four decades ago, I walked out of a university without completing my engineering degree. Many of my Bangsamoro colleagues did the same. Since then, I have avoided military installations and camps. And to be very candid, during those war years, I have thought only of destroying or neutralizing military camps and I never imagined during those dark days that I will one day step inside a military camp and be feted with this exceptional honor by what used to be our adversary,” he added.

Murad, however, insisted that the MILF never did consider the AFP or any soldier as their enemy. He emphasized that their enemies are oppression and injustice.

“This is the teaching of Islam and this is what we have always adhered to in the Code of Conduct of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. We saw then the AFP as the instrument of injustices committed against our people such as the loss of our homeland, discrimination and prejudices, massacres, as well as the denial of our freedom to practice our religion,” the MILF chair said.

Murad explained this was very evident during the martial law years under the Marcos administration.”The resort to an armed struggle was a last and difficult option from what we view then was a genocidal war being pursued by the Marcos regime against our people,” he said.

He pointed out that the AFP started its gradual transformation following the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution where the military refused to heed the order to kill or maim the people it has sworn to defend and protect.

“From this early sign, you have slowly trodden the path of justice and professionalism despite the many challenges. Like many organizations, you have had your fair share of successes and failures,” Murad said.

In an earlier interview, AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said, “We are very pleased that this is happening at this time of our history as a nation.”

“If only the CPP-NPA can show the same sincerity to the talks and fidelity to the peace agreements that the MILF says and does, we could have a lasting peace to bequeath to the future generation of Filipinos,” he said.

When asked if the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law) plebiscite in January 2019 is included in the agenda, Arevalo said he is not sure. “I haven’t seen the agenda yet. The level and the extent of the AFP’s participation will depend upon the poll body that shall issue deputation order,” Arevalo said.

AFP Public Affairs Chief Colonel Noel Detoyato said not only will it be Murad’s first visit to Camp Aguinaldo but also his first time to make a call on the AFP Chief of Staff

“The relationship of the MILF and the AFP has evolved for the better and as the former head of the AFP CCCH (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities), he expressed his support for BOL during our visit to Camp Darapanan last October 6, 2018,” Detoyato said.

 
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