CAMP BILAL, MUNAI, Lanao del Norte – For the first time last Saturday, Feb. 6, Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo (2nd Dist., Lanao del Norte) and his wife, Gov. Imelda “Angging” Quibranza-Dimaporo, set foot on the home base of Abdullah Macapaar, otherwise known as Kumander Bravo of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who had staged various attacks in the province years back.
The event was the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao at Camp Bilal, home of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces’ Northwestern Mindanao Front Base Command.
Macapaar, notorious for leading the attack in the municipality of Kauswagan in March 2000 that led to former President Joseph Estrada’s declaration of an “all-out war” against the MILF that spread to many parts of Mindanao, is now a Member of Parliament of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
Gov. Dimaporo told MindaNews that she could not refuse the invitation of Brig. Gen. Facundo Palafox, commander of the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, and Musa Mohamad Sanguila of Pakigdait, Inc. (a peacebuilding organization), who she said worked hard to attain sustainable peace and development in the area.
“As I step in your place for the first time,” she told Macapaar, “we look forward that this would not be the last, that I have to keep coming back as frequently as possible to help uplift the living condition in the community.”
The governor said she was thankful that the Bilal community welcomed her and her husband “with open arms, hearts and minds.”
She said she will sit down and discuss with the MILF as to their priority needs. The governor added that they would need to discuss with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the local government unit of Munai to assess what has been implemented in the Bilal community, and what else needed to be done, to avoid duplication of projects.
Rep. Dimaporo, on the other hand, recalled an incident during World War II when Kumander Bravo’s father risked his life to help his father (the late governor and congressional representative Ali Dimaporo) in the fight against the Japanese in the municipality of Malabang in Lanao del Sur.
Dimaporo said it was his turn to help Kumander Bravo’s brother Lama, who was a former provincial board member, during the MILF’s attack on Kauswagan town in March 2000. “I went there to stop the bombing of Kauswagan and to save his brother,” he added.
Macapaar likewise recalled the two Lanao provinces’ history and their forefathers’ fight against foreign colonizers, from the Spaniards to the Americans to the Japanese.
“We look forward for Muslims and Christians in the Lanao provinces to unite for peace and development,” he said.
Macapaar urged the provincial government to help build the road network and potable water system in the Bilal community, which he said are key factors for the area’s economic recovery. “We need the province’s support for the livelihood of our constituents,” he added.
He recognized the efforts of the 55th Engineering Brigade and 544th Engineering Battalion in helping build the road network and other infrastructure in the Camp Bilal community. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)