Politicians in the Philippines' capital Manila are busy campaigning for the country's May national election, but conflict and peace efforts continue in the southern part of the country.
The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were set to resume peace talks on Monday in Malaysia hopefully to complete the last two annexes of the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro, China's Xinhua news agency quoted a rebel official as saying Sunday.
On March 7 and 9, the Office of the Maguindanao governor held a two-part summit aimed at cooperation between Christian, Muslim, and the region's indigenous groups' elderly.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu believes the province's elderly can be a vital influence in Philippines President Benigno Aquino III's peace and development initiatives with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The event came after an ambush of a pastor, his wife and their two children in the nearby province of Sultan Kudarat.
A pastor from the Fundamental Baptist Church and his family were gunned down on Feb. 20 in the province's capital of Isulan.
The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that a church representative alleged that high-ranking government officials in the town protect the perpetrators.
A report by Minda News identified the suspects as Muhammad and James Sangki who remain at large.
The parts of Mindanao island colored in red comprise the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippines government, ARMM will be named Bangsamoro. Bangsamoro will be a semi-independent region of the country.
Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat together with North Cotobato used to be a part of the old Cotobato province.
Former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos separated the three provinces in 1973. Of the three, only Maguindanao voted to be a part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through a plebiscite in 1989.
ARMM is composed of five Mindanao island provinces.
Maguindanao is considered the bastion of MILF, a Muslim rebel group with around 12,000 members operating in the central region of the island.
The central Mindanao region is composed of four provinces and one city namely South and North Cotobato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City. The island of Mindanao is home to the majority of Muslims in the Philippines.
In October 2012, Aquino signed a preliminary peace deal with MILF called Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
Under the agreement, Philippines government agencies will help improve the lives of MILF members through the social development program Sajahatra Bangsamoro.
In return, the group will give up its armed struggle and recognize the government's national security and foreign policies.
In early February, Aquino visited Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat to personally lunch Sajahatra Bangsamoro.
Aquino's visit to the MILF-controlled Camp Darapanan came with health insurance cards, vouchers for scholarship grants, and certificates qualifying MILF members and their families for the government's livelihood trainings.
Mangudadatu together with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles on March 12 launched a women's center project for another crucial sector of the region.
In Maguindanao, more than 600,000 of the residents are women.
Two days later, Mangudadatu launched another project with ARMM Gov. Mujib Hataman that is a spinoff of the agreement, the ARMM's Health, Education, Livelihood, Protection and Security Interventions (ARMM-HELPS) Program.
Mangudadatu and Hataman handed fishing equipment, orchard tree seedlings, and portable grinders to residents of Maguindanao's fishing village of Kalutan.
In a report by philstar.com, Abba Kuaman, manager of the ARMM Social Fund Project (ASFP), said MILF members have been participating in various projects related to peace and development initiatives in the region.
MILF's decades of armed struggle has left thousands of Christians, Muslims, and other civilians in Mindanao dead.