Piñol steps into ‘enemy’ MILF territory to bring agri program

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Piñol and Murad at Camp Darapanan. MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 9 March) – They used to be the worst of enemies, trading barbs on air, or maybe if opportunities allowed, even killed each other.

But former North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, branded as “anti-Muslim” for so long who is now President Duterte’s secretary of agriculture, stepped into the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s camp Wednesday not to continue disagreements with the MILF leadership but came to talk about how to improve farmers’ lives, especially among MILF families long neglected by the government.

It was Piñol who spearheaded the petition before the Supreme Court that nullified the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) crafted by the government and the MILF peace panels in 2008.

At one point, Piñol was branded by the MILF as “anti-Moro” because of his stance.

But on Wednesday, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar, whom Piñol traded barbs with in the past, have shown gestures of reconciliation and sincere commitment to attain a lasting peace.

Clearly, they may have opposing opinion but Piñol and Jaafar used to work together in the ’70s at DXCM-AM Radio in Cotabato City.

Piñol’s visit to push for President Duterte’s agriculture program erased that impression that they were “mortal enemies.”

Murad and Piñol hugged each other twice as if they did not exchange harsh words in the past.

“It’s not easy to move forward without facing our past,” Piñol said in Filipino as he spoke before MILF leaders and former Moro combatants. “The bottom line is we are here to bring government agriculture program to your people,” he added.

Murad said the MILF leadership was surprised to learn that the Department of Agriculture was to hold the graduation rites for the 362 farmer beneficiaries who underwent a training on agriculture inside camp known as the MILF’s main headquarters.

“At first there was reluctance since many perceived Piñol to be anti-Muslim. But now, he is a friend of Muslims,” Murad said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) have partnered with the DA to help former combatants help themselves by providing them training on agriculture and providing them agriculture machinery. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

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