Latest Stories


An encounter for peace in Al-Barka


MEMBERS of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Army’s 103rd Brigade test their strengths in a game of tug-of-war in October last year to celebrate the formal signing of the framework peace agreement between the government and MILF negotiators in Malacañang. RICHEL V. UMEL

ZAMBOANGA CITY—The last time they met, heads rolled as blood flowed in what was seen as one of the most grossly lopsided encounters between soldiers and Moro rebels in Basilan.

On Jan. 4, pleasantries, not bullets, were exchanged in Al-Barka town. The erstwhile protagonists shared food and coffee in a meeting arranged by the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), which was overseeing the ceasefire between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Lead peace negotiators of the government and the MILF signed in Manila in October last year a historic framework agreement on the Bangsamoro toward ending the decades-long Moro insurgency in Mindanao.

Many of the rebels who came to Barangay Magkawa in Al-Barka, like Dan Asnawi and Hud Limaya, have been wanted by the law for their supposed roles in the deaths of 42 government troopers in 2007 and 2011.


Fourteen of the soldiers were beheaded.

The military has filed murder charges against Asnawi and Limaya for their alleged roles in the deaths of 19 soldiers and officers on Oct. 18, 2011, and the deaths of 23 Marine soldiers on July 10, 2007.

Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the Basilan-based  104th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said the Al-Barka meeting was born out of a short notice.

“It was actually not part of our scheduled activities. A member of the IMT suggested to us to make a surprise visit to the [MILF] camp there. We agreed and we went there without any fanfare,” Galvez told the Inquirer by phone.

TWO MONTHS after the signing of the peace agreement, gestures of reconciliation abound between Moro guerrillas and government soldiers. Col. Carlito Galvez, head of the 104th Army Brigade, embraces Dan Laksaw Asnawi, head of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front command. JULIE S. ALIPALA

Aware of past military debacles in the town’s jungles, Galvez said he agreed to meet with the MILF leaders, including Asnawi and Limaya, because “if we want to achieve genuine peace with the rebels, we must start somewhere, and this is an opportunity we cannot easily ignore.”


Maj. Franco Alano, acting spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, said the meeting was part of the series of dialogues tied to the signing of the framework accord.

Families of soldiers who died in the 2007 and 2011 attacks in Al-Barka might resent the meeting, Alano said, but he stressed that the “healing process is a must, and we need to make them understand.”

Striking peace was also important for the military, he said.

While the cases and the arrest warrants against Asnawi and Limaya are still live, Alano said “legal actions are beyond the AFP now.”

“We are doing this as part of the confidence-building measures and to facilitate and increase coordination between our tactical units so that development programs will flourish in Al-Barka, with the help of the Japanese government,” Galvez said.

Abdurasad Sirajan, MILF action officer of Ad Hoc Joint Action Group for Western Mindanao, described the meeting “as historical and very festive.”

“It was the first time in the history of Basilan for military commanders from both sides to come face-to-face, embrace each other, share food served on banana leaves and dreams for Basilan,” Sirajan said.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Al-Barka , Armed conflict , Basilan , MILF , peace

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Ex-PBA player Bryan Gahol dies in road mishap


  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Marketplace