ZAMBOANGA CITY (DWDD) – July 1, 2018 – He dodged bullets and even howitzer shells for the sake of peace in Mindanao.
Now Retired Philippine Army Major Carlos T. Sol Jr. — Head of the Combined Secretariat of the Government of the Philippines’ Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the GPH-MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) — is himself at peace.
He passed away on June 30, 2018 in Cotabato City two days after suffering a stroke. He was 61.
Sol is survived by his beloved wife Valerie and their daughter Karla.
In the line of fire
Sol survived countless fighting and got caught in the middle of war zones to implement the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.
Sol himself said his “baptism of fire” was when he was ordered to fix the first major incident involving Philippine Marines and MILF fighters in the village of Guinanta in the town of Al-Barka, Basilan in 2007.
It was barely a year after he was assigned to oversee the ceasefire implementation, and he was flown, together with his counterparts in the MILF, to Basilan to establish the needed truce.
“We have several and unforgettable experiences relative to that,” Sol had said at the time, narrating how they had to endure “not only bullets, but also howitzers and mortar fire flying over our heads because we had to go between to talk to the two fighting sides.”
That incident left at least 23 soldiers and five MILF fighters dead — placing the fragile peace process in peril.
“The situation back then was very different and tense when we began to implement the ceasefire agreement on the ground during an outbreak of hostilities. Our relationship with our counterpart in the MILF was not yet that well established, and there was a high incidence of violent hostilities throughout Mindanao,” he recalled.
Sol would face similar incidents in succeeding years. These was the 2009 misencounter in the town of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan which left almost 50 casualties from both sides, another in 2009 still in Basilan, and then the 2015 Mamasapano tragedy in the province of Maguindanao that left 44 Special Action Forces (SAF) members and 18 MILF and BIFF members dead.
For Sol, these tragic incidents only confirmed the necessity to carefully guard the gains of the peace process.
From soldier to peace warrior
Sol was the son of a retired Army soldier and a housewife from Alamada, North Cotabato and Kiamba, Sarangani Province, respectively. He had three brothers and three sisters. He graduated from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in 1978 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture.
He was the corps commander of the ROTC (Reserved Officers’ Training Corps) unit of USM in 1977-1978. He later underwent the Advanced Summer Camp Military Training in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro and was commissioned as 3rd Lieutenant by then-President Ferdinand Marcos.
Sol was with the Ministry of Human Settlement (MHS) from 1979 to 1986 and became its manager in Region 12 and Cotabato City. As MHS manager, he worked very close with the people in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. In 1984, he was awarded by Malacañang as one of the Ten Outstanding Citizen-Soldiers (TOCS), the equivalent to the renowned Ten Outstanding Young-Men (TOYM) given to military reservists.
After the EDSA People’s Power Revolution in 1986, Sol was called to active duty in the Philippine Army. His first assignment was with the 27th Infantry Battalion as an infantry officer fighting the New People’s Army (NPA) in North Cotabato. In this posting, he earned the Gold Cross Medal — the fourth highest military award — for gallantry in action against the attack of the NPA in Kisante, Makilala, North Cotabato.
As he grow in the military service, Sol became the Commander of 12th Military Intelligence Group (MIG) of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP). Concurrent to his position, he was designated as member of the GPH CCCH Secretariat from 2003-2005 which was then chaired by Colonel Dickson Hermoso (now OPAPP Assistant Secretary for Peace and Security Affairs).
When Hermoso left the GPH CCCH Secretariat in 2005 to study abroad, he recommended Sol as his replacement. Sol served several GPH CCCH chairmen, namely Brigadier General Ramon Santos, BGen. Eduardo Gurrea, Major General Reynaldo Sealana, BGen. Gilberto Roa, BGen. Glenn Macasero, BGen. Charlito Galvez, and BGen. Cirilo Donato.
He also served GPH Panel chairs Ambassador Rafael Seguis, Dean (now Associate Supreme Court Justice) Marvic Leonen, and Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. Sol was also a good friend of the late renegade MILF commander Uztads Amiril Umbra Kato.
Sol was instrumental in nipping conflict in the bud, especially in the second district of Maguindanao where he earned the respect and admiration of military, police, and MILF commanders. He placed himself in the line of fire several times to deescalate actual armed conflict in the name of the ceasefire agreement. His holding on the ground also included building relationships among civilian stakeholders and impartiality among adversarial combatants.
“His work was the epitome of an emerging new warrior for peace,” Hermoso said of Sol. “A new breed of a citizen-soldier who understood the true meaning of peace in his native land of Cotabato. A manager who morphed to become a soldier, then to peacemaker, peacekeeper, and peacebuilder not to win the war but to win the peace.”
AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, who worked with Sol when he was Brigade Commander in Basilan, said the passing of Sol is “a great loss for all of us who continue to relentlessly pursue peace in Mindanao.”
He said Sol helped him understand the complexity and nuances of the situation on the ground.
Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil Tan, who is the chair of the Government Implementing Panel on Bangsamoro Peace Accords, said he can attest to the sincerity of Sol. “He was there through several challenges, including the Mamasapano incident, among others, appearing in the Senate investigation hearing, providing whatever info he had,” he said.
“He has long been involved in the peace process, having established good working relations with our partners in the MILF Peace Process especially in the CCCH. His network is far and wide. He has a good grasp of the ground situation which he brought to OPAPP as Director of the Joint Secretariat of the CCCH and AHJAG,” Tan added.
“We have lost a hardworking and dedicated peace officer. He has definitely left a big void, so difficult to fill. And it will definitely impact on our peace works,” he said.
Sol’s years in overseeing the ceasefire mechanisms also earned him the great respect of the leadership of the MILF.
“Sol had been with us in the peace process for decades. We miss him forever but his contributions to peace and the ceasefire will be of value to us forever,” Mohager Iqbal, the chair of the MILF Peace Implementing Panel, said.
“The MILF Peace Implementing Panel extends our sincere condolence to the passing away of Carlos Sol,” he added. OPAPP (OPAPP Assistant Secretary for Peace and Security Affairs Dickson Hermoso contributed significantly to this feature.) / MCAG