Moro rebels jubilant over peace framework pact

Posted at 10/15/12 11:10 PM

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp in Maguindanao broke out in jubilation following the signing of the peace framework agreement between the rebel group and the Philippine government.

Several MILF members were emotional as they thanked President Benigno Aquino for the historic deal.

Members of the MILF's armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), gathered at Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao early Monday morning.

Security was tight, with all vehicles entering the camp undergoing a thorough inspection.

At the center of the MILF's main camp, some 2,000 BIAF fighters stood in formation while waiting for the signing of the framework agreement.

At past 1 p.m., everyone at the camp was glued to what was happening in Malacañang.

ABS-CBN found a way to provide an audio feed of the events , which was aired live over ANC.

There was much jubiliation during the speeches.

When the agreement was finally signed, shouts of jubilation and "Allahu Akbar!" reverberated throughout the camp.

Many prayed and some were brought to tears.

"Kasi di ko lang maisip ang nararamdaman ko. Nakikipagpalaban kami tapos maalala ko ang kasamahan namin na nawala na," said one MILF member.

The female members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Women's Auxilliary Brigade (BIWAB) also became emotional.

"Sana nandito pa ang mga kasamahan namin," said BIWAB officer Wilma Madato.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, a peace caravan was held in South Cotabato, from Tupi, Polomolok to Koronadal City to show support for the signing of the agreement.

In Davao City, a printed tarpaulin of the framework agreement was signed by Muslims, Christians and soldiers at the Freedom Park.

Filipino Muslims hopeful on peace deal

Other Filipino Muslims are also optimistic that the peace framework agreement will resolve the conflict in the south.

Many of them also sang, chanted and waved flags as the agreement was signed on Monday.

The peace agreement serves as a roadmap to forming a new autonomous region in the south, but both sides agree much more needs to be done to end over 40 years of conflict.

A successful agreement would be a boost for President Benigno Aquino at home and among foreign investors, managing what two presidents before him failed to achieve - peace with the MILF.

Hundreds of Muslims, many in a vehicle caravan from Mindanao, gathered on a busy street about 200 meteres from the presidential palace where the signing took place, to lend support to the peace agreement.

Some shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), the demonstrators waved banners and held placards which read "Give peace a chance" and "We support lasting peace in Mindanao."

Dozens of Muslim rebel leaders, businessmen and civil society groups arrived in Manila via a chartered flight from the southern Cotabato City to witness the signing ceremony.

Muslims who migrated to Manila from Mindanao also joined the rally.

"We have felt the pain of losing spouses, children, and siblings on both sides of the conflict. So we are very happy, and in our belief, the problem in Mindanao has ended," said an elderly Muslim woman.

4 decades of armed conflict

The four decades of armed conflict has killed over 120,000 people, and has displaced over 2 million people. Constant evacuations have interrupted children's schooling and hampered farmers' livelihoods.

"Would you just realize how many forefathers that have been, passed away because of this conflict and fighting for the freedom. So this is a fruitful of what they have started, struggled for," said Maudi Mahadiri, an aid worker who came all the way from the southern Philippine island of Sulu to participate.

The demonstrators held vigil on the street, awaiting the hour of the signing. Loud speakers broadcast a radio commentary of the palace ceremony, and the Muslims cheered "Peace in Mindanao Now!" as the proceedings went on.

The Philippine business community also hailed the signed agreement as the first crucial step towards a progressive Mindanao, citing the positive social and economic effects of increased trade in the region.

"We're fully supportive of this framework agreement. We know that there is much more that needs to be done, but it's an important first step and we are sure that this will help open up a road map for business and investment road map for Mindanao, which is long overdue," said Peter Perfecto, executive director of the Makati Business Club.


Manila and MILF want to set up the region, to be known as "Bangsamoro," in the south of the mainly Roman Catholic country before Aquino steps down in 2016, giving the Muslim-dominated area greater political powers and more control over resources.

The agreement did not give details of the power-sharing arrangement between the national government and the Bangsamoro, leaving it to a 15-member transition committee who will draft a law to be passed by Congress.

Negotiations resume next month in neighboring Malaysia to discuss details on wealth and power sharing, as well as the pace of decommissioning the rebels' 11,000-strong army. - with reports from ANC, Reuters.