Bangsamoro mourns death of first Wali

Wali Khalifa Nando. Photo courtesy of Bangsamoro government

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 06 February) – Sheikh Khalifa Nando, the first Wali of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) died on Sunday morning of natural causes.

“It is with a deep sense of loss that we express our condolences and sympathy to the family of Sheikh Khalifa Nando, the Wali of the Bangsamoro on his return to the mercy of Allah today,” said lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo,  BARMM spokesperson and interior and local government minister.

“The Wali is the symbolic Head of the Bangsamoro Government and his demise is a loss not only to his family but to the entire Bangsamoro,” Sinarimbo added.

Nando, one of the founders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was 81.

Around 1,500 family members, MILF leaders and fellow Muslims attended his burial on the same day in Barangay Kayaga, Pandag, Maguindanao del Sur. 

Officials estimated the attendees at about 1,5000 family, friends and Bangsamoros.

Social media was flooded with messages of condolences and prayers.

Nando was last seen in public during the opening program of the BARMM 4th foundation anniversary last January 25, standing side by side with Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and traveled to Matanog, Maguindanao del Norte for the turnover of the facilities for the orphans and grand Masjid.

Defense Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr, also the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity was saddened by the passing of Nando.

“Wali Nando was considered a major pillar of the Bangsamoro peace process,” Galvez said in a statement sent to the MILF and BARMM leaders.

“But Wali Nando will be best remembered for his work as a religious leader and peacebuilder. As the BARMM’s Wali, he was instrumental in promoting the culture of peace, inter-religious dialogue, and social healing and reconciliation among the Bangsamoro people,” he said.

“His legacy of peace will continue beyond his passing,” he added.

Nando, more known as “Sheikh Khalifa,” studied at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt along with MILF founding chair Salamat Hashim.

As a co-founder of the MILF, he served as chair of its Central Committee on Education, chair of Majlis Al-Shura (Consultative Assembly), and as head of the MILF Sharia Supreme Court.

During the inaugural session of the Interim Bangsamoro Parliament on March 29, 2019, he was appointed as the first Wāli of the newly constituted BARMM.

He likewise opened the inaugural session of the second interim parliament on September 15, 2022.

Sinarimbo said Nando led some of the efforts in strengthening the Bangsamoro resistance movement and was a constant source of wisdom and advice in the transition to peace and governance of the MILF.

“He has been very active even during these past few months in carrying out his role as symbolic head of the Bangsamoro Government and in visiting Bangsamoro communities in the islands and even in Muslim communities in Luzon,” he said.  

The wālī is an elective position endorsed by the council of elders to be nominated by the parliament and is regarded as the ceremonial head of the Bangsamoro Government. 

The holder of the position performs the following ceremonial functions: Opening of the parliament session, administering the oath of office, dissolving the Bangsamoro Parliament as advised by the Chief Minister, calling for the election of a new parliament, attending public ceremonies and welcoming foreign and local dignitaries. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)