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PUBLISHER’S NOTES | 2003 “Buliok War”: A sudden attack on MILF’s Main Camp

IN  2003, the so-called “Buliok war” erupted. “Buliok” is the name of the place where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintained its main camp  and where MILF head Hashim Salamat stayed.

This was during the  leadership of the late General Angelo “Angie” Reyes. He was National Defense  Secretary  of President Gloria M. Arroyo   at the time. One day, he ordered the sudden  attack on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF) main camp, keeping all of us totally in the dark. At that precise time, we at the peace panel level with the prior clearance of President Arroyo  were meeting in Estosan Hotel  in Cotabato City.  Presidential Peace  Adviser  Secretary Eduardo  “Ed” Ermita concurred and allowed that meeting to take place. Kagi Murad Ibrahim was my co-chair as panel chair for the MILF. Chairman Hashim Salamat was MILF “guru” at the time.

The sudden attack literally stirred the hornet’s nest. I was suddenly faced with a serious problem of how to manage the safe exit of the key  MILF leaders who were with me in Estosan Hotel in that Cotabato City meeting. It was a responsibility I had to assume. I did not know what was happening. Someone up high in government must have planned this, I told myself. It was literally a “stab in the back” of those who  were managing the difficult work for peace . I knew this was the “doing” of SND Angie Reyes, no one else!

Luckily, the MILF leaders were able to safely escape and avoid the AFP attacks. That however   forced them to disperse to many Muslim areas all over Mindanao. Their  main headquarters at Buliok, by the Pulangi River were taken over by the AFP, “courtesy” of the late Defense Secretary Reyes! He later committed suicide while visiting his mother’s grave. ( God bless his soul.)

As a result, it scuttled our on-going efforts to find peace with our Muslim brothers.

Dabawenya Journalist Carolyn O. Arguillas documented that incident that coincided with  the celebration of Eid’l Adha, the end of islamic fasting. Those were unforgettable, precious moments that “are better left forgotten”.

(H)ISTORYANG MINDANAW published in MindaNews (By Carolyn Arguillas)

BULIOK WAR — Tuesday. Eid’l Adha, 11 February 2003 — The signs of war were palpable. Civilians along the Pulangui River in Pikit, North Cotabato had evacuated since late afternoon of February 8, a Saturday, as tanks and troops were moving in.

Monday, February 10, Government peace panel chair Jesus Jess Dureza and his panel members met separately with House Speaker Jose De Venecia and Senate President Franklin Drilon to hand over the draft final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At 1:33 p.m. Dureza sent  this text message to MindaNews: “Everybody relax” as he allayed fears that war would erupt between government forces and the MILF.

Dureza assured no military offensive against the MILF would be launched to ensure the gains of the peace process are sustained, particularly “now that we’re on the eve of forging a final peace pact.”

He said he called for and the MILF agreed, to meet in Cotabato City on Wednesday, February 12.

The next morning, there would be no celebration of Eid’l Adha. What would greet residents was the sound of cannons and fighter planes.

The Buliok War was finally launched, in the midst of the peace talks. (End of Journalist Carol’s story)

The Buliok AFP assault of the hideaway of MILF “Guru”Hashim Salamat had far reaching effects, no doubt.

I personally visited the area and felt so devastated. MILF Chairman Salamat escaped and relocated to Lanao del Sur where he eventually died.  MILF panel chairman Kagi Murad Ibrahim became the new chairman and head of the MILF. The peace process which I headed as chairman of the government  panel was in shambles! It took many years later when the peace talks again resumed!

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