Saturday, May 24, 2008

Military Rally Behind New Arroyo Peace Adviser

MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 24, 2008) – Military commanders in Mindanao vowed to support the new government peace adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine leader Gloria Arroyo last week named Esperon as the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, a post previously held by Jesus Dureza, now Press Secretary. Esperon, 56, retired early this month ending decades of glorious past from being a decorated combat commander in the strife-torn Mindanao to peace builder in Sulu.

“From being a military commander to peace maker, we know Secy. Hermogenes Esperon will certainly work hard to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. He knows the problem in Mindanao very well because he had told us many times in the past that the only solution to insurgency problems is peace and development.”

“Secy. Esperon had always told us to support the government peace process because fighting is not the solution to the problems of Mindanao. The solution, he said always, is sincerity to the peace process and peace we shall achieve, he would always say. And Secy. Esperon served well during his time as military chief and we see peace finally coming,” Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Mindanao, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Ando said the soldiers are also behind Esperon and supportive of the government peace process.

Manila is currently negotiating peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence in the South. Besides the MILF, the government is trying to revive peace talks with the communist New People’s Army rebels, which is also fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the Philippines.

The MILF said it would want to see the resumption of the stalled peace talks and how Esperon would be able to help in finding a just and lasting solution to the Muslim insurgency problems in Mindanao.

In Zamboanga City, the Western Mindanao Command, which secures half of the southern Philippines, also threw its support to Esperon, who was previously the chief of the now defunct Southern Command.

“We knew how the General put his efforts in maintaining peace in Mindanao. He would be the last military commander who would want to see fighting in the southern Philippines and that is why troops are elated when they learned that General Esperon has been named as the new Presidential peace adviser.”

“General Esperon has that knowledge and experiences on how to maintain peace and security in Mindanao. He advocated peace in the past and it never changes, it is sill there, peace, he will always tell the soldiers, can be achieved if we work altogether to achieve it,” Maj. Eugene Batara, the spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said.

And the commitment to support the government peace process remains strong among soldiers in the other parts of the South.

In Davao City, home to the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, spokesman Col. Roland Bautista said troops also wanted peace in the troubled region and not fighting with rebels.

“Our soldiers want peace. We do not want any fighting. We want peace to reign in Mindanao so we can help and work together in developing this beautiful region of Mindanao. General Esperon, being the former chief of the Philippine military, can really do a lot to achieve lasting peace and our troops are united behind him as the new government peace adviser,” Bautista said.

In Sulu, the provincial governor Sakur Tan has praised Esperon because of his efforts in bringing peace and development in the island-province, one of six that comprises the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“The man has really worked hard to achieve peace in Sulu and helped us a lot when he was the Armed Forces chief through many partnership projects such as roads and schools and other humanitarian efforts."
"Our support is solidly behind Secy. Hermogenes Esperon and we continuously support the peace and development efforts of President Gloria Arroyo and the ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan,” Tan said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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