By Noel Y. Punzalan and Edwin O. Fernandez
COTABATO CITY, July 20 (PNA) – The Mindanao peace process is among the greatest accomplishments of the Aquino administration in southern Philippines which his three predecessors failed to achieve.
The Bangsamoro people, meaning the Muslims in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country, considered the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March this year as “unprecedented, historic and showed the President’s desire for lasting peace in the land of promise,” said Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the MILF after the GPH and MILF peace panels forged the peace deal.
Started during the time of then President Fidel Ramos in 2007, the peace process leaped former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and gained momentum early on the term of President Benigno Aquino.
Like his mother Cory Aquino whose administration forged a peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1986, P-Noy has been making history, starting with his surprised meeting with MILF chieftain Al Haj Mohammad Murad in Japan.
That meeting offered high hopes to Bangsamoro people wanting to live peacefully and out of armed hostilities that accompanied them for decades in Mindanao.
Murad said he felt the President’s sincerity when he met and talked with him in Tokyo and the signing of the peace deal in March proved his instinct right.
It was followed by the visit of the President to the bailiwick of the MILF in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao in October last year to launch the Sajahatra Bangsamoro aimed at bringing peace and development projects to the Bangsamoro who, due to armed conflict, have been denied with government services and projects.
Mohaymen Bagan, a resident of Sultan Kudarat and a supporter of the MILF, described the government peace initiatives as “gift of Allah to the Bangsamoro.”
”Now is the time for us to live in peace in Mindanao and that Mindanaons, more than any other human beings, desire more for peace in our homeland,” he said in the vernacular.
International peace advocates recognized the achievements of the Mindanao peace process with the Malaysian and other Muslim countries declaring both the government and the MILF religiously abide by the ceasefire agreement.
Representatives from the European Union repeatedly visit Mindanao for them to feel the “real peace” building up in previously conflict affected communities in the region.
Following the signing of the CAB, European Union member-representatives, led by EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux led diplomats in visiting Central Mindanao to back the Mindanao peace process.
Ledoux met with officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and MILF leaders in its bailiwick in Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao.
Ledoux told reporters then that their visit in Mindanao shows EU’s continuous support for the peace overtures of President Aquino and development in the region.
”The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the completion of the draft of the Bangsamoro Law, a peaceful transition in Mindanao is essential for the country’s economic and social development, especially in conflict communities in Mindanao,” he said.
The EU has been funding various peace and development projects in southern Philippines aimed at addressing poverty and underdevelopment and under-education in far-flung Muslim communities.
President Aquino’s desire for peace in Muslim Mindanao earned the “all out support” of the country’s second highest Catholic Church leader – Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, archbishop of the archdiocese of Cotabato.
The MILF described President’s Aquino’s winning peace in Mindanao as unique and comes from the heart as proven by his repeated meeting with the MILF chieftain.
In its website, the MILF said it lauded the government efforts and focused on winning the peace in Mindanao.
The Mindanao peace process has been met with an outpouring of good wishes for the Philippines. Both the GPH and MILF had been welcoming the conclusion of the peace talks with high optimism, the MILF said.
Murad was quoted as saying that the peace process must be completed and enforced within the term of President Aquino because there will be uncertainty when the efforts are passed on to the next chief executive. (PNA)