CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews/ 15 October) – Euphoria was everywhere at this sprawling bastion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as hundreds of rebel fighters in military formation raised their assorted high-powered firearms to greet the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on Monday in Malacañang.
Chants of “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is the greatest) echoed in the scorching heat as tall coconut trees, intercropped with banana plants, swayed gracefully in the background.
Elsewhere in Maguindanao province, green was the color of the day carried through pandalas (flaglets), streamers, ribbons and even plastic wrappers that lined up the roads of the towns of Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi, Guindulungan, Talayan and Datu Odin Sinsuat to Cotabato City and finally in Sultan Kudarat, host of the MILF’s largest camp.
In Islam, green symbolizes peace.
By 1 p.m., male fighters began their formation in the open field as members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB), wearing full fatigue uniforms and in hijabs, marched in single line before thousands of civilian supporters. BIWAB members bear no firearms but they have been trained to use them in case the situation calls for it. They mainly act as a support force to the mainstream MILF fighters, like providing food or medical assistance.
Various speakers, in the Maguindanaoan dialect, took turns hailing the Framework Agreement while they waited for the activity in Malacañang to start.
There were no television monitors mounted in the field.
Shortly past 2 p.m., an audio feed rumbled from the speakers and silence fell until MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim delivered his speech, which they greeted by chanting “Allahu Akbar.”
Mohamad Nasif, a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) general staff and the one authorized to speak to the media, said they want to show to the world that the MILF is committed to the peace process by signing the Framework Agreement.
“What happened now (signing) is just so excellent and it is for the good of the Bangsamoro [people],” Nasif, also the BIAF operations chief, told MindaNews after the speeches in Malacañang.
However, he expressed a guarded optimism, noting that much work need to be done, especially in the implementation of the Framework Agreement.
Nasif nevertheless said the MILF central committee does not doubt the sincerity of the government to implement the signed document.
Hours before, Nasif told reporters that the Framework Agreement will be inclusive to all the Bangsamoro people and that those that have not been implemented under the peace deal between the Moro National Liberation Front and the government “will be addressed by the Framework Agreement.”
The solution to the Bangsamoro problem is the Framework Agreement, he added.
In Shariff Aguak, the capital of Maguindanao, traffic at the national highway in front of the public market was stalled to give way to students from the Shariff Aguak Ibn Ampatuan Islamic Memorial Academy to cross the road, waving small green flags as a show of support to the signing of the Framework Agreement.
They convened at the house of Mayor Zahara Ampatuan, wife of former Shariff Aguak mayor Anwar Ampatuan Sr., one of the detained suspects in the Ampatuan massacre on November 23, 2009 that killed 58 people, 32 of them media workers.
“The Framework Agreement has built the trust of the government and the MILF to each other. This is a key to the peace we’ve been longing for,” she told MindaNews.
But Ampatuan declined to comment on questions that the powerful clan, with former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. on top, used to go after the MILF during the reign of the previous Arroyo administration.
Delegates coming from the towns of Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi and Datu Piang held a motorcade to support the signing of the Framework Agreement, with green as their dominant color.
A separate motorcade and march was held in Cotabato City, which later convened at the city plaza for the speeches.
Both events were organized by the Mindanao Alliance of Peace.
In Cotabato City, Dats Magon, spokesperson of the rally, hailed both the government and the MILF for signing the Framework Agreement after 15 years of negotiations.
He said that civil society groups in Mindanao will remain vigilant to ensure that the details of the agreement will be implemented both by the government and the MILF.
“Hopefully, both parties will also consult the civil society, especially those in conflict-affected areas, on the details of the Framework Agreement,” Magon told MindaNews.
Around the city, green ribbons were tied to poles along the roads. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)