Moro soldiers integrated to Army loyal to organization PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 18 September 2013 14:02

A Tausog Army staff sergeant just smiled and pointed to a tiny Philippine Flag sewn on his jacket when asked by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on what can he say about the hostilities in Zamboanga City and Basilan involving his former comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front.

The soldier, who asked not to be identified, apparently apprehensive of the safety of his family in a seaside village in Maimbung town in Sulu, was among thousands who were integrated into the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police under the provisions of the September 2, 1996 government-MNLF final peace pact.

“Ito na ang flag na ginagalang ko ngayon at ng aking mga kasama sa serbisyo Sir, wala ng iba,” the soldier told Mangudadatu, in the presence of journalist, when asked by the governor on what would he do if asked by Misuari to join his followers now fighting government forces in Zamboanga City.

The conversation between the Moro soldier and Mangudadatu, who has been touring Army camps in Maguindanao since last week, was not a loyalty check process, but a confidence-building measure in line with the security thrusts of the 6th Infantry Division, amid the on-going forays of Misuari’s followers in Zamboanga City.

The 6th has jurisdiction over Maguindanao and surrounding towns in North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, who is 6th ID’s public affairs chief, said 5,750 former Moro rebels have joined the Philippine Army under an integration scheme implemented after the signing of the September 2, 1996 GPH-MNLF peace accord.

“Obviously there is no problem with their loyalty and dedication. Many of them have even been awarded with citations and medals for exemplary non-combat peace-keeping roles, and more were cited for gallantry in encounters with lawless elements,” Hermoso said.

Hermoro said some former MNLF combatants that have joined the Army as enlisted privates under the GPH-MLF peace pact  are now either sergeants, or staff  sergeants, in their respective units.

Hermoso said most of the former MNLF combatants are now serving in the Philippine Army’s 1st, 4th, 6th and 10th Divisions that are scattered in Mindanao.

Some have also been working under the Army’s 52nd and 55th Engineering Brigades, which are both presently engaged in various projects in far-flung communities in the South.

“Many of them are also currently involved in peace-keeping missions in areas where the New People’s Army operates and some were, in fact, wounded in action and were awarded with merit medals for bravery and good conduct,” Hermoso said.

Among those who have joined the Army as officers, under the integration process, are the now Major Datu Dido Sema, nephew of former Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema, and 1Lt. Michael Karon, who is nephew of Datu Randy Karon.

The older Karon was a senior MNLF during the 1970s and had served as natural resources secretary of ARMM when Misuari was governor of the region.

Hermoso said a son of Sema, 1Lt Nash Sema, is the current civil-military officer of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion based in Makilala town in North Cotabato.

The patriarch of 1Lt. Sema, who had served as mayor of Cotabato City from 2001 to 2010, prior to his 2010-2013 stint as vice-mayor, is chairman of the MNLF’s largest and most politically-active faction.

The MNLF “Sema Group” has outspokenly disavowed any knowledge on the hostile actions of Misuari’s men in Zamboanga City,  in total disregard of their 1996 peace accord with government. — John Unson