Residents push final truce in Mindanao
- John Unson () - February 13, 2012 - 8:24am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Hundreds of descendants of the legendary Moro warrior Sultan Kudarat urged the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to craft final and lasting truce in Mindanao as they resume their formal talks in Kuala Lumpur today.

The call was made in a rally last weekend in Sultan Kudarat town.

Sultan Kudarat Mayor Hadji Tucao Mastura said the event was organized to show support of Maguindanao’s royalty and its cross-section constituents to the efforts of the government and MILF to sign peace deal before the term of President Aquino ends in 2016.

Sultan Kudarat town and its immediate neighbors, Sultan Mastura in Maguindanao and Cotabato City are old contiguous seats of the Maguindanaon royalty where Moro rule existed as early as the 14th century.

Mastura, who is the provincial chapter chairman of the Liberal Party here, is himself a 16th generation descendant of Sultan Kudarat.

Sultan Kudarat was a warrior-chieftain of the Maguindanaon, Maranaw and Iranun tribes that waged bloody resistance against the Spaniards in Central Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan and Lanao del Sur areas.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the 603rd Brigade were jointly represented in the rally by Lt. Col. Joel Abregana, commanding officer of the 37th Infantry Battalion, and his subordinate-officers.

Mastura said there are positive indications that the GPH and MILF peace panels can possibly reach a consensus on signing a final peace pact soon.

This as he observed that there are close resemblances on their positions on how to address the demand of the MILF for a self-governing mechanism in various Moro-dominated areas in Mindanao.

“Besides, in the first place, the MILF is not asking for independence. It merely wants a smaller, but very comprehensive form of government inside the much bigger Philippine government,” said Mastura, who was a guerilla of the Moro National Liberation Front in the 1970s.

6th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Rey Ardo has been utilizing local government units in Maguindanao and surrounding provinces in helping the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) oversee the implementation of all preliminary GPH-MILF security agreements.

“We ought to thank the chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee, Major Gen, Ariel Bernardo, and his counterpart in the MILF, Said Sheik, for the fragile peace there is now in Maguindanao,” said retired police officer Dicalingan Masla.

Catholics and other non-Muslim groups also participated in the three-hour peace rally, capped with a prayer for the enlightenment of all members of the GPH and MILF panels.

“This government and MILF peace process will not just benefit our Muslim neighbors but will benefit us too. We don’t fear being governed by Muslims because Islam has strong teachings on religious tolerance and unity amidst religious diversities,” said Richard Sebastian, a resident of Sultan Kudarat who works in Cotabato City.

Ethnic Maguindanaon Mario Taba, chairman of Barangay Damanoig, said the government and MILF have both been transparent in their dealings with each other lately.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF started January 7, 1997, but gained headway only in 2003 with the participation of Malaysia as facilitator.

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