MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) believes that Islam is a religion of peace, its chief said on Thursday.
Gen. Gilbert Gapay made this remark following a meeting with Sulu local government officials and religious leaders in Sumadja Hall, Provincial Capitol Thursday.
“We in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, kaming mga kasundaluhan (we the military), believe that Islam is a religion that espouses peace above all matters,” Gapay said in a statement.
In attendance during the meeting were Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, First District Rep. Samier Tan, and several municipal mayors and Ulamas of the province.
“Again, I would like to clarify that I never said that the madaris are spreading radicalization or sowing terrorism among its students,” Gapay said, referring to an October 13 statement where he said “Madrasas and other schools in Sulu” are being monitored by the military.
He added that this is a call for unity and cooperation between the AFP and the Muslim community to protect and shield vulnerable sectors of the society from attempts of radical groups to “infiltrate our educational system”.
Joining Gapay in the proceedings were Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr and 11th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales and senior officers from the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Also present were Ustadz Abdul Muhaimin Abubakar, Chairman of Sulu Ulama Council for Peace and Development; Jul-Asiri Abiron, Mufti of Sulu, and Adbulgafar Mangabong, Head of Tablig.
The visit aims to strengthen the military’s relationship with the Tausug Muslim community and the people of Sulu.
Gapay also emphasized the role of Muftis, Imams, and local chief executives in spreading moderate Islamic teachings “to restore the glory of Islam.”
He also promoted the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism, which calls for political and socio-economic intervention to address the root causes of conflict in Western Mindanao.
“The AFP recognizes that the Madaris are religious educational institutions through which the Muslim community ensures that the future acquires the right knowledge about Islam. We seek to preserve this peaceful Islamic religious tradition and identity,” Gapay added.
Meanwhile, Tan welcomed Gapay and his staff for visiting Sulu and coming face-to-face for a dialogue with religious and local leaders.
“Alam naman natin may statement si (We all know that there was a statement from) Gen. Gapay a month or so ago that was maybe taken out of context or he was misunderstood kaya mas maganda na nandito si General (So it is better that Gen. Gapay is here) to tell us on what he meant. I think he is here to bring goodwill,” he added.
The religious leaders in attendance also welcomed the AFP chief’s visit and his intention to clarify his earlier statement.
“Para sa amin, iyon ay nangangahulugang sa (kagandahang) loob at mabuting layunin ng Heneral na kaharapin ang mga taga rito lalong lalo na ang mga religious leader upang liwanagin ang pagkamaling pag-unawa ng iba sa kanyang pahayag o sinabi tungkol sa Madrasa (It seems to us that the General is showing goodwill and has a good purpose in facing the people here, especially the religious leaders, for him to shed light on what his previous statements regarding Madrasa meant),” Sulu Grand Mufti Sharif Jul-Asiri Abirin said. (PNA)