Gov’t vows justice for MILF fighters slain by local terrorist group

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019   •   185

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr.

MANILA, Philippines – The government on Monday vowed to bring to justice the perpetrators of an attack that killed seven members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a statement, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed his apologies and sympathies to the families of the former MILF combatants who were slain by an attack claimed to have been carried out by an Islamic State (IS)-linked terror group.

“In solidarity with the leadership of the MILF, the government will assist in every way possible the families of these slain MILF fighters,” Galvez said.

“We will exert all efforts to make sure that justice will be served to the perpetrators of this dastardly act,” he added.

The MILF members were killed after the IS-linked group, Turayfe-Dawla group attacked their camp near Shariff Saydona in Maguindanao last week.

The Turayfe-Dawla is a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which opposes the peace agreement that the MILF signed with the government.

Galvez said the attack demonstrates the “brutality of these terror groups, and the violent methods they will utilize to sow fear, anger, and discord among the populace.”

“Their twisted ideology does not recognize ethnicity nor religion. They have no place in a humane, peaceful society,” he added.

The Cabinet official further said the government recognizes the gallantry of these former MILF fighters who fought against the terror group.

“For us, they are heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice so that their people can live in peace,” he said.

In the previous weeks, the MILF began the decommissioning of its weapons and combatants as part of the peace treaty they forged with the government aimed at ending the decades-long separatist insurgency in Mindanao.

During the second phase of the decommissioning held in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao last month, thousands of weapons were turned over to the government.

Decommissioned MILF fighters also received socio-economic assistance.

“As we sympathize with our Moro brothers and sisters for their loss, I would like to call on the Filipino to unite so that we can address the roots of violent extremism, and bring enduring and long-lasting peace to our nation,” Galvez said.

Gov’t eyes special scholarship program for decommissioned MILF combatants

Robie de Guzman   •   November 7, 2019

Agents of an independent decommissioning body inspect surrendered firearms in the town of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines, 07 September 2019 (issued 08 September 2019). More than six months after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified in a plebiscite, Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) turned over close to a thousand high-powered firearms to an independent decommissioning body, reports said.

MANILA, Philippines – The government is eyeing to provide a special scholarship or capacity development program for decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their families.

The program is among the key points provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III said the MOU, which was signed last Oct. 30, aims to provide assistance and ensure access to quality tertiary education in the BARMM.

The MOU was inked by De Vera, OPAPP Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., and BARMM Technical Education Minister Mohagher Mohammad Iqbal.

“We are assisting the BARMM consistent with the policy of President (Rodrigo) Duterte that all young Filipinos must have access to quality education and that no qualified student is denied access to education on account of poverty,” De Vera said in a statement.

He added that the implementation of initiatives relating to higher education is consistent with Executive Order No. 79 or the Implementing Annex on Normalization Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Aside from providing special scholarship program, the MOU also seeks to do the following:

  • Determine the areas to extend technical assistance to the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) in relation to BARMM higher education institutions (HEI) and the CHED Registry;
  • Capacitate MBHTE in monitoring the compliance of BARMM HEIs with the standards of quality education;
  • Communicate to DSWD the importance of ensuring the inclusion of underprivileged BARMM students and the children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the Six MILF camps in Listahanan 3.0;
  • Encourage the deputized Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) HEIs in Mindanao to help children of decommissioned MILF combatants and selected beneficiaries from the six MILF camps to complete their undergraduate study;
  • Offer study grants and capacity-building programs to target beneficiaries, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations and procedures
  • Propose professional development programs to faculty and staff of BARMM HEIs through the available CHED and other national government funds;
  • Mobilize leading HEIs to provide technical assistance to BARMM higher education needs identified by MBHTE;
  • Provide MBHTE with necessary assistance in the creation of a tribal university system;
  • Assist MBHTE with the necessary technical assistance in the crafting of the Education Code.

Galvez, for his part, said they are requesting Congress to allocate funds for the implementation of the scholarship program for the decommissioned combatants.

“I hope that through this agreement, we shall be able to reach out to those students residing in the ‘last mile’ areas, the underserved and most especially, the children of decommissioned MILF combatants. We are committed to supporting them until they achieve their full potentials,” he said.

Galvez believes the recipients of this program will eventually become the next leaders of the BARMM and strong advocates of peace and moral governance.

US Military: No footage on Baghdadi’s death will be released

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question as he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 07 October 2019. At right is United States Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs

Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.

Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.

The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.

On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)

PH military vows to continue anti-terror efforts after death of ISIS leader Baghdadi

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2019

An undated file image taken from a video released by the militant group calling itself Islamic State (IS), purportedly showing the caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, giving a speech in an unknown location (reissued 27 October 2019). According to media reports on 26 October 2019 citing US officials, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a US Special Forces raid in Idlib province, Syria. EPA-EFE/ISLAMIC STATE VIDEO

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said government troops would remain alert and will continue its efforts to counter terrorists who threaten the country following the reported death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Marine Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo said, the death of Baghdadi dealt a severe blow on terrorist organizations across the globe.

“We expect that his death will impact negatively on the leadership of terrorists in various parts of the world,” Arevalo said.

“The AFP will continue with our vigorous efforts to prevent or counter terrorist extremists who continue to threaten our country,” he added. “Our troops in the frontlines remain on high alert to thwart possible attempts to ride on this development.”

The military issued the statement after United States President Donald Trump announced that Baghdadi killed himself by detonating a suicide vest during a raid launched by US troops on Saturday. Baghdadi led the jihadist group in controlling and declaring a caliphate in large areas of Syria and Iraq at one point.

Arevalo also vowed to continue blocking the Daesh-inspired groups from recruiting new members and exploiting the situation in the countryside, calling their attempt towards resurgence as “futile.”

“We will build from our triumph in Marawi in frustrating ISIS move to establish a caliphate in our country,” he said.

The military also urged the public anew to stay alert and be actively involved in reporting to authorities any suspicious persons or activities in their localities.

“Vigilance will surely help security forces in our campaign to deny the ISIS foothold in our country,” Arevalo said.

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