Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said he believes that Islam is a religion of peace.
Gapay made this during a meeting with Sulu local government officials and religious leaders in Sumadja Hall, Sulu Provincial Capitol on December 10, 2020.
The meeting aims to strengthen the military’s relationship with the Tausug Muslim community and the people of Sulu.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, Sulu First District Representative Samier Tan, and several municipal mayors and Ulamas of the Sulu province including 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 were present in the said meeting.
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 were also present in the meeting.
“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.
Gapay clarified he “never said that the madaris are spreading radicalization or sowing terrorism among its students.”
Gapay was referring to a recent statement where he said “Madrasas and other schools in Sulu” are being monitored by the military.
Gapay called for unity and cooperation between the AFP and Muslim communities to protect and shield vulnerable sectors of the society from attempts of radical groups to “infiltrate our educational system”.
Gapay also emphasized the role of Muftis, Imams, and local chief executives in spreading moderate Islamic teachings “to restore the glory of Islam.”
Gapay 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 said.
Gov. Tan and Sulu religious leaders acknowledged Gapay and his military contingent for visiting Sulu and coming face-to-face for a dialogue with religious and local leaders to clarify the AFP chief’s statement regarding Madrasas.
Tan said Gapay’s statement may have been taken out of context.
“It is better that Gen. Gapay is here to tell us on what he meant. I think he is here to bring goodwill,” Tan said.
“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)