MILF chair visits Camp Aguinaldo in historic first

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Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, talks about the Bangsamoro Basic Law versions that the House of Representatives and the Senate passed last week in a sit-down interview with MindaNews late Thursday afternoon, June 7, 2018, in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Monday set foot inside Camp Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a historic visit that aimed to emphasize the end of hostilities after decades of an armed conflict that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

Murad made the visit a month after AFP Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. went to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, where he declared an end to the war that started in the 1970s as a secessionist struggle.

“This visit is a concrete manifestation, not only of the solid partnership of our institutions, but a testament of an enduring personal friendship built upon the solid foundation of our mutual commitment to work for peace and see through the dawn of day not just for the Bangsamoro but for this country as well,” Murad said.

“I welcome MILF chair Murad and his party to our headquarters. This reciprocal visit of Chair Murad signifies the strong trust and confidence of the MILF leadership on the Armed forces and the national government,” Galvez said.

Galvez, former chair of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, said Murad’s visit meant the Moros now trust the government.

Murad recalled that their struggle forced him to leave university without completing his engineering degree, and that during those times of war he thought only of destroying or neutralizing military camps.

“I never imagined during those dark days that I will, one day, step inside a military camp and be feted with this honor of what used to be our adversary,” he added.

But he clarified that they fought the AFP as “the instrument of the injustices committed against our people such as the loss of our homeland, discrimination and prejudices, massacres, as well as the denial of our freedom to practice our religion” especially during the martial law regime of President Marcos.

He said the military has transformed after the dictator was ousted via the 1986 Edsa Revolt.

The MILF leader said the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Law on January 21 next year is the final test of the peace process.

In March 2014, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The agreement tasks the government to pass a law that would grant greater autonomy to Muslims, including effective control of resources in the envisioned autonomous region.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chiar Al Haj Murad Ebrahim assists Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez as he wears the jacket marked with Bangsamoro Organic Law that the MILF gave Galvez when the latter visited the MLF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on 6 October 2018. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

The proposed Bangsamoro region covers the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Cotabato City, Isabela City, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte and 39 barangays in North Cotabato.

In March 2016, more than a year after the Mamasapano encounter that almost dealt a death blow to the GPH-MILF peace process, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal also made history by becoming the first Moro revolutionary leader to visit the Philippine Military Academy.

Iqbal, together with then GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, spoke in a forum organized by MindaNews on the prospects of the peace process after the tragedy in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that claimed the lives of 44 police commandos, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians.

The police operatives went to Mamasapano to arrest Malaysian bomb maker Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marawan. (MindaNews)

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