Manila Troops on Know-Muslims Mission

Philippine troops plan to start visiting mosques and madrasahs in the capital of the Roman Catholic nation to learn more about the community and address their problems, though Muslim locals are worried about their real intentions.

Manila Troops on Know-Muslims Mission

"The idea here is that rather than imposing theright-handed approach — military operations — we're offering the left-handapproach or enhancing community-based relations," Major-General BenjaminDolorfino, commander of military units in Manila, was quoted as saying byReuters.

He said troops would hold a series of meetings toknow more about the Muslim community's problems and offer them solutions.

"The primary approach is dialogue aimed atknowing the problems and eventually bringing in the stakeholders so that we canbring solutions to the community's problems."

Dolorfino, himself a Muslim, believes visits totraditional Islamic meeting places would deny militants "potentialsanctuary, where they can plot to explode bombs in the cities".

"We're trying to hit so many birds with justone stone," he said.

An estimated 800,000 Muslims reside in metropolitan Manila, the sprawlingcapital of 12 million people.

The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao,Islam's birthplace in the Philippines,is home to 5 million Muslims out of the country's 87 million population.


But local Muslims were cautious about the plans.

"We're not against deployment of soldiers inour villages," Nasruddin Amerol, one of the community leaders in Manila, told Reuters.

"As long as we would be informed of the realpurpose of their stay, we're happy to host them."

The army came under sharp criticism after itdeployed soldiers around slum areas of the capital, amid reports the troopswere conducting an invisible campaign against left-wing activists ahead ofcongressional elections in May.

The local Commission on Human Rights on Tuesdaycriticized the deployment of soldiers in slum communities, citing evidence theyare violating the right to assemble and freedom of expression.

Amerol said he could not blame some Muslim residentsif they feared the presence of soldiers because of their past experiences inthe south.

"They're welcome here as long as they respectour culture and our religion," he asserted.

"We're not allowing them inside our mosquesunless there are Muslims among them."

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and theMoro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the largest and oldest groups, areseparately pursuing peace talks with Manila.

MILF said Saturday, March 10, that the governmenthas offered Muslims in the southern provinces a self-determination, anunprecedented move expected to push forward stalled peace talks to end one ofthe world's longest-running conflicts.

Manila has also announced that it would meet MNLF representativesin July in the Saudi city of Jeddahfor peace talks brokered by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

The MNLF fought for an independent Islamic state inthe south from the late 1960s until the OIC, through Libya,intervened and convinced them in December 1976 to accept autonomy for 13 Muslimprovinces, including the western island of Palawan.

Manila and MNLF signed in 1996 a peace agreement, which wasfloundered due to a lack of funds, poor implementation and opposition fromhardliners on both sides.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16