Archives for posts with tag: MILF

Children suffer most in conflict situations around the world. Lack of adequate food, medicine, shelter, and deprived education bear their toll. But nothing is more damaging psychologically, socially, and developmentally than their use as instruments of war and child soldiers.

To summarize our report two weeks ago, “Will Moro-Philippine Peace Prevail?”  we described a conflict that has dominated the islands from Spanish colonial times, to the US who followed, and finally the Philippines Government. The Moro are ethnically, culturally, linguistically and by religion distinct from the rest of the Philippines. News that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front might have reached peace and a degree of autonomy sought in Mindanao and the adjoining islands in the southern chain, and with President Benigno Aquino III making resolution of the conflict his administration’s priority, was greeted favorably albeit cautiously by the world at large. We posed the question: “Would peace hold?”  

Yesterday, 24 October, the United Nations Representative for Children and Armed Conflict provided encouraging news of progress for the Philippine Government and the rebel peace accord and its children.

UN News Centre Source

 
A senior United Nations official has welcomed the recent peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), establishing a framework for settling the decade-long conflict on the southern island of Mindanao.

“This is a major step not only to bring peace and reconciliation to the region, but also to alleviate the plight of children affected by the conflict,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, said in a news release issued on Tuesday evening.

Earlier this month, the Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino announced that his Government had reached a preliminary agreement of autonomy with the MILF, which has been fighting for decades for an independent Islamic state on Mindanao. The new autonomous region will be named Bangsamoro.

In August 2009, the MILF and the United Nations signed an action plan to halt and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict on Mindanao. The MILF, with the world body’s support, has taken action to build awareness of its international obligations within their ranks and communities, as well as to provide alternatives to children to prevent their association with the armed group, according to Ms. Zerrougui’s office. In Mindanao, children associated with the MILF often perform tasks in support of combatants which expose them to clear risk.

“The MILF and the United Nations, with the much needed support of the international community, must seize the opportunity of this peace dialogue to fully implement the action plan to ensure that children have no role in armed groups,” Ms. Zerrougui added.

Ms. Zerrougui also expressed concern over reports of recruitment and use of children by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters – a break-away faction of the MILF – and called for the release of children from their ranks as an immediate priority.

Susan Sacirbey

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Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Ebrahim Murad passed a gong to Philippine President Benigno Aquino heralding hopes for peace between the Moro and Philippines.  

The framework deal would set up an autonomous region in the south “Bangsamoro”,  providing for greater political powers and control of natural resources by Bangsamoro.  In a month, both sides will return to the negotiating table in Malaysia. After 40 years of conflict, if successful, this peace deal would be a significant political boost to President Aquino, but much still remains to be done for peace to be assured among all Muslim rebel groups. Today, there is much celebration to “give peace a chance.”

This is an update to our previous article on October 7 by Ambassador Mo: “Will Moro – Philippine Peace Deal Prevail?” which is reprinted below for those who may not have previously seen it.

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Conflict has been waged with Spanish colonialists, the US who followed and finally the Philippines Government, but the Moro Islamic Liberation Front may have finally reached peace and a degree of autonomy sought in Mindanao and the adjoining islands of the southern chain. President Benigno Aquino III has made resolution of the current phase of the conflict a priority of his administration, but will it hold? If it does, it may also represent significant positive momentum for the Philippines as a whole to catch up with most of its neighbors to drive real economic growth. As in the case of Indonesia where resolution of the East Timor and Ache conflicts, the Philippines may become a driver of economic growth in Asia.

However, this is not the first such deal: a 1976 draft agreement fell through as did a 1196 agreement for semi-autonomy. A 2008 agreement was torpedoed by settler groups, who are largely Christian and oppose autonomy for the largely indigenous Muslim population.

The Moro are ethnically, culturally, linguistically and by religion distinct from the rest of the Philippines. They fought Spanish colonialists and the US who gained control of the island chain in the late 19th Century after the Spanish-American War. The US tried to impose greater control over a series of small sultanates or datus. Conflict became brutal. History agrees that many of then America’s military veterans of the “Indian Plains wars” viewed the Moro in a similar light as the Native Americans: “the only good Indian is a dead one.” Several atrocities are documented as well as brutal battles.

Benigno Aquino III, the son of the Philippines first freely elected President Corazon Aquino, (she was also widow of assassinated Benigno Aquino II chief opponent to dictator Ferdinand Marcos), has the standing to make the deal work. He has challenged establishment authority on several fronts, from the Catholic Church on birth control to corrupt politics dominated by family clans. Nonetheless, the deal could be exploited by his political enemies playing the always venomous nationalist card.

As a member of ASEAN, the Philippines still lags behind its neighbors economically despite size, resources and educated population. The Philippines also faces a challenge from China’s claims to some of its coastal islands and waters, as do many of its ASEAN neighbors. More than ever, the Philippines and the Moro need to give peace a chance.

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