Moro leaders' kin happy over support for TransCom
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2012 - 1:25pm


COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Relatives of three renowned ethnic Maguindanaons whose revolutionary ideals helped set aflame the Moro uprising that started in the late 1960s were elated with the separate resolutions last week by the Senate and House of Representatives expressing support to the newly created Transition Commission (TransCom).

The TransCom, which President Benigno Aquino III created last week through Executive Order 120, and to be comprised of representatives from the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, will oversee the setting up of a new autonomous political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Relatives, mostly second and third generation descendants of the Moro chieftain Datu Udtog Matalam, former Senator Salipada Kuder Pendatun and MILF’s founder, Imam Salamat Hashim, converged Sunday in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao, and unanimously committed support to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro, or FAB, and the TransCom.

Matalam and Pendatun both fought the Japanese in World War II through the renowned “Bolo Battalion,” a ragtag band of Moro fighters, mostly armed only with bladed weapons, bows and arrows, and spears, that killed hundreds in clandestine attacks on garrisons and convoys of superior soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army in what are now chartered Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces.

Pagalungan town, which is in the second district of Maguindanao, is the birthplace of the Mindanao Independence Movement, whose activation was inspired by the ideals of Matalam and Pendatun, who are also both related to Hashim.

Hashim, born in Barangay Cudal in Pagalungan, was to become an Egyptian-trained cleric and founder of the MILF.

Sunday’s public consultation in Pagalungan on the intricacies of the TransCom and FAB, which was crafted by the government and MILF panels on October 15, 2012 in Malacañang, was organized by local officials led by Mayor Datu Norodin Matalam.

The gathering was attended by representatives of the Army’s infantry and elite Special Forces units in Pagalungan and surrounding towns led by Lt. Col. Benjie Hao and representatives of the 602nd Brigade.

Hao, commanding officer of the 7th Infantry Battalion, said participants to the dialogue listened attentively to speakers as they explained the implications and benefits of the FAB and the TransCom to the efforts of President Aquino and the MILF in finding durable solutions to the Mindanao Moro issue.

Among the observers to the forum were representatives of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team, which has been helping oversee since 2003 the enforcement of the government-MILF ceasefire accord, lawyer Kirby Matalam Abdullah, who is legal adviser to the mayor of Pagalungan, and local officials and traditional Moro leaders from Pikit town in North Cotabato.

“We in the military are grateful to the local officials, especially Mayor Matalam, the influential datus, and the MILF for embarking on such dialogue,” Hao said.

The mayor was himself a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the early 1970s.

The mayor’s late patriarch, Datu Udtog, was governor of the Empire Cotabato Province, after World war II, for about three decades, a post that wielded political and administrative powers over an area that then spanned from what are now provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Gen. Santos City.

Some of the participants to the dialogue were senior members of the MILF from the 220,000 Liguasan Marsh, who are mostly related by blood to Hashim, who finished an Islamic theology degree at the Al-Azzar University in Cairo, Egypt, prior to his joining the MNLF as revolutionary ally of Nur Misuari. Hashim bolted from the MNLF in 1979 and established the MILF two years later.

Hashim’s relatives welcomed as “positive development” the assurance of support to the TransCom by the House of Representatives and the Senate through separate resolutions last week.

The peace dialogue in Pagalungan was also attended by Hadji Tucao Mastura, mayor of Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of Maguindanao, who is also provincial chairman of the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.

Mastura is younger brother of lawyer Michael Mastura, who is a senior member of the MILF’s peace panel.

Mastura’s entourage was comprised of his political supporters, among them leaders of the Midtimbang clan in the second district of Maguindanao.

The commander of the 602nd Brigade, Col. Ademar Tomaro, said he has ordered all Army units in Maguindanao’s adjoining Montawal and Pagalungan towns, and nearby areas in North Cotabato to maximize the involvement of the Matalams, the Hashims and the Pendatuns in the resolution of domestic security issues.

“We need to continue with various confidence-building projects on the ground to maintain law and order, while the government and MILF panels are striving hard to put a successful conclusion to the peace talks,” Tomaro said. 

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