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Darapanan 2012: The Road to Peace

Now deemed as another high point in the history of Bangsamoro as a nation, Bangsomoro Peoples’ Assembly by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was successfully held on July 6-9, 2012 at Camp Darapanan, Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The assembly aimed to come up with peaceful efforts to resolve several issues between the Philippine government and the MILF, such as the armed conflict, Bangsomoros’ claim to Right of Self Determination in Mindanao, and peace negotiations, among other things.

According to Ghazali Jaafar, Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, the Moros have been fighting for their freedom in their own land for over 35 years now. But instead of addressing the issue in a peaceful political resolution, he said the government waged war against them.

In 1996, the Philippine government, however, forged a Final Peace Agreement with the MILF, leading to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Unfortunately, the agreement was unacceptable to the Bangsamoro majority. It failed to work, and the struggle between the two parties went on.

But Chair Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) expressed during the assembly the current administration’s sincerity and persistence to achieve peace in Mindanao. “Sa tuwid na daan, walang wangwang, walang mangingibabaw sa batas, ang sambayanan ang boss.  Sa tuwid na daan, tutuparin ang pangako, hindi mangangako ng hindi kayang gawin o ibigay.  Sa tuwid na daan, ang salita ay sagrado.  Sa ilalim ni P.Noy, siya mismo ang diretsong namumuno, gamit ang buong kakayanan at resources ng gobyerno, pati na ang kaniyang sarili, para sa paghanap ng kapayapaan para sa buong bansa,” she was quoted saying, as shared on OPAPP’s website.

As Deles was stating the peace efforts of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, thousands of MILF leaders, members, and their families constantly chanted in agreement “Allahu Akbar,” which means God is the Greatest.

In her speech, Deles also pointed out how the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been performing their roles to support the peace process, as well as how the GPH Panel has been in careful consultation with all government agencies and departments in terms of sharing power and wealth and governance.

Deles also said that the national government recognizes and appreciates the initiative of the MILF leaders to arrange the public assembly, as well as noted the successful collaboration of the MILF and government security forces to ensure safety and security during the assembly.

In fact, even Sultan Kudarat Mayor Tocao Mastura has personally assisted in ensuring and conducting a smooth flow of traffic in Simuay by talking to motorists and explaining the reasons for said traffic.

Meanwhile, all routes that led to Camp Darapanan were provided with military checkpoints to ensure security of participants from other discontented MILF groups.

The army units in Central Mindanao also provided protection, vehicles, and other pertinent services to MILF leaders and members on their travel to said camp.

The MILF peace panel was also praised by Chief government negotiator Dean Marvic Leonen in his speech, for being so patient and wise during the peace negotiations. “To negotiate with your panel and your leaders is indeed a lifetime honor that we will cherish,” he said.

Leonen also emphasized the urgency of signing a peace pact with the MILF soon. “We negotiate for more than peace. We negotiate that we can live in a society that not only aspires for justice but also painstakingly tries to achieve it,” he said.

Various sources have reported that the assembly ended with the Bangsamoro leaders passing a manifesto that contains all the points they openly agreed, which are “to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people and to attain their aspiration, there is need to redefine their relationship with the Philippine State in a State-Substate assymetrical relationship”; “there is need to establish new political entity and other institutions to replace existing ones for the Bangsamoro people to achieve peace and development”; “Bangsamoro leaders to take complimentary steps in support of the MILF efforts”; “commit to be vigilant in protecting and promoting the human rights of the Bangsamoro people”;  “call on the international community to continuously support the GPH-MILF negotiations”; “to support the MILF and express our confidence in its leadership  in articulating and working for the realization of the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for justice, freedom and self-determination, as well as in the MILF peace panel in negotiating political solution to the armed conflict between the Bangsamoro people and the Philippine Government”; and “to call on the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to work for the implementation and operationalization of unity agreements between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, particularly the establishment of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum, which were signed under the auspices of the OIC.”

Said historic event was attended by half a million people, including several government officials; leaders of MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); civil and civic groups, international non-government organizations from Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey Switzerland, and Indonesia; Bangsomoro participants from Tawi-Tawi, Palawan, Sulu, Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Ranao, Cotabato, Maguindanao, Davao, and Northern Mindanao; local and international media; indigenous tribes; and foreign dignitaries.

Not counted in the figure were visitors, guests, and their respective entourages not demanded to register for protocol and courtesy purposes, as well as hundreds of vendors not included in the registration process.

Even the harshest of critics of the MILF were present, such as Mayor Lito Piñol of Mlang, Cotabato and Engr. Zamzamin Ampatuan, former Executive Director of the Office of the Muslim Affairs (OMA).

Because of limited time, not all guests were able to deliver their messages. Nevertheless, everyone congratulated the MILF for the success of the assembly, according to news reports.