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.

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  • Benito Juarez

    Sooooo nice and wonderful seeing the worst of enemies enjoying the best of times as a result of elusive peace. Peace was just a fantasy unmasked by stark reality in that part of the Mindanao. War must now be a worst nightmare of the past when fathers and grandfathers buried their sons and grandsons. Let’s give peace a chance to thrive for all.    

  • XY ZEE

    Justice first before peace.
    Let the law take effect first for those accountable for their crimes.
    Without genuine justice, all this back-slapping is nothing more than hollow propaganda.  

  • Benito Juarez

    Justice? Injustice abound all over the land. One suffers injustice as he’s born a peasant and dies of injustice that even a priest refuses to give him his last rites. That part of Mindanao had gone crazy; the blood of friendly and enemy forces soaked the ground. Those bloods are still fresh – a reminder of injustice.  Injustice leads to revenge, a cure for people who are hurt. What comes next after revenge, and after taking another revenge?  The cycle of violence goes on and on. The pain comes back to haunt the nation.  Justice must come when peace prevails over Mindanao.  Unless our nation is at peace and unified there will be no streams of blood and pile of dead bodies.  It’s better to preserve the worst kind of peace than to prolong the best kind of war.

  • ApoLapullapu

    Since I was a boy conflict in  Mindanao is always common.  And now I realized that it was because the protagonists were not talking with one another or if they ever did, everybody wants to talk without listening to the other for understanding.

  • Yobhtron

    Hopefully a lasting peace in with the Moro rebels will come into fruition. 

  • Dag Erickson

    It is the Malaysians who has to gain here. Billions of dollars in contract in the miniral rich LIGWASAN MARSH and the surrounding areas. The government looks like is shortchanged in this area. The Aquino government is not transparent on this despite President Aquino’s election slogan on transparency.
        Komander Bravo who claimed on TV that he is not Filipino, expresses  that he wants to have a share in the new prosperity in the region. 

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