Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez, Jr. welcomes MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim during the latter’s historic visit at the Headquarters of the AFP in Camp Aguinaldo on Monday Nov. 19, 2018. Chairman Murad was accompanied by MILF-BIAF Chief of Staff Sammy Al Mansour (left).

MILF Chairman makes historic visit to Camp Aguinaldo, boosts AFP-MILF ties

For the very first time, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim set foot on Monday (Nov 19, 2018) in Camp Aguinaldo—the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), stressing that the visit manifests the strong partnership between the two institutions.

“This visit is a concrete manifestation, not only of the solid partnership of our institutions, but 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 speech.

“More than four decades ago, I walked out of university without completing my engineering degree. Many Bangsamoro colleagues did the same. Since then, I have avoided military installations and camps. During those times of war, I have thought only of destroying or neutralizing military camps,” he revealed.

The MILF chair added, “I never imagined during those dark days that I will, one day, step inside a military camp and be feted with this honor of what used to be our adversary.”

“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,” Chairman Murad said.

During his visit to the MILF headquarter, Galvez declared the “war between the AFP and MILF is over.”

“I was much honored when around 6,000 men and women of the MILF lined the five kilometer road in Sultan Kudarat to welcome us,” Galvez said.

He added, “I welcome MILF chair Murad and his party to our headquarters. This reciprocal visit of Chair Murad signifies the strong trust and confidence of the MILF leadership on the Armed forces and the national government.”

Chairman Murad, however, clarified that the MILF never considered the AFP or any soldier as their enemy. “What we have considered as enemy is the oppression and injustice,” he emphasized. 

“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 (BIAF),” he said.

The MILF chief further related, “In pursuit, however, of our struggle for the right to self-determination of our people, we saw then the AFP as the instrument of the 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.”

Chairman Murad said those were very true during the martial law years under the regime of the late President Marcos.

He further recalled, “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.” 

Chairman Murad, however, said they have noticed the start of transformation of the AFP during the 1986 EDSA 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,” he said.

The MILF chief related how the values of “integrity, loyalty, professionalism and service to the people,” equally shared by the two institutions, defeated the looming bigger armed conflict after the Mamasapano incident when the leadership of the AFP refused to be drawn into a full scale war with the Front.

Chairman Murad said the last hurdle of the peace process is the forthcoming plebiscite by January 21, 2019 which presents both an opportunity and challenge.

“There are many challenges that lies ahead in this process and the road is fraught with great danger, however, we will persevere and hopefully surmount all of them,” he pointed out.

“From the ashes of war, let us build together a prosperous and peaceful Bangsamoro because a peaceful Bangsamoro will usher in a progressive Philippines,” Chairman Murad said.

The MILF chief closed his message thanking President Rodrigo Duterte for pushing forward the attainment of peace in the Bangsamoro.

Chairman Murad was accompanied by MILF-BIAF Chief of Staff Sammy Al Mansour, MILF Central Committee members and selected commissioners of BTC.