I wish to defend the reputation of Tabang Mindanaw.
The letters that I received from the MILF was signed by Muhammad Nur, by authority of Chairman Hashim Salamat. The source of the letter at least from our perspective at Tabang Mindanaw is unassailable. We received notices of the first 10 day ceasefire of the MILF from the same source. Murad Ebrahim’s letter to me acknowledging my appeals as CBCP President came to me through another source. But this does indeed mean that the MILG top leadership received my appeal letters through the source we used.
But the media reports on the MILF response to my appeal for another ceasefire is FALSE. Nowhere in the letter does Muhammad Nur, writing by authority of Chairman Salamat, state that the MILF was withdrawing its forces from the munipacilities mentioned. The letter states that as a gesture of goodwill to former President Cory Aquino and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and to show MILF sincerity regarding its quest for peace, the MILF forces would stay away on June 13 from the towns mentioned so that the launching of the program for the return of evacuees from Inug-ug would not be disturbed. I was shocked to read in the newspapers that the MILF was WITHDRAWING its forces from the municpalities mentioned. That is totally false. That is not what the MILF letter said.
As for Datu Paglas taking up the matter with his uncle, maybe that would be good in order to clear up the whole matter. I would also suggest that Mr. Iqbal should also confer with Mr. Murad and the MILF Chairman himself with regard to this matter. I would not want the reputation of Tabang Mindanaw tarnished, since it has taken up the cudgels for thousands of Muslim evacuees from 2000 up to the present. And Tabang Mindanaw is certainly not a mouthpiece of the military. In fact it has often taken positions contrary to the military and the government. If the responses to my appeals to the government and to the MILF for ceasefire and for the resumption of peace talks were NOT from the MILF, then let the Chairman himself tell us so. For now we shall continue to work for the evacuees and for peace.
With prayers and best wishes — and PEACE to all.
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.(SGD)
Archbishop of Cotabato
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on June 19th 2003