By Ahmet Furkan Mercan
COTABATO CITY, Philippines
A plebiscite on Monday will grant the Bangsamoros -- a collective term for Filipino Muslims living on an island south of the Philippines -- autonomy after a nearly 50-year process.
Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); Hashim Salamat, founder of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who became the leader of MILF after Salamat died in 2003; Muslimin Sema, Cotabato province’s former mayor; former President Benigno Aquino and incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte emerged as trailblazers of the peace process.
Born in 1939 in Sulu province of the Philippines, Misuari founded MNLF in 1972 to unite Moro people. The MNLF leader signed the Tripoli Agreement with the Philippine government in 1976, but shortly after the group broke into two factions.
Hashim Salamat, breaking away from the MNLF, formed MILF, announcing their aim for “an independent state in
Salamat supports the idea that Muslims and Christians in the region can live in harmony.
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim
In 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III and MILF leader Al Haj Murad Ebrahim -- who became the leader of the group after Salamat died in 2003 -- signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
The MILF and the Manila government also signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014, paving the way for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
The 2014 deal brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in the country’s south.
Moro peace talks gained momentum when Rodrigo Duterte came to power as the president in 2016.
Benigno Aquino III
Born in 1960 in capital Manila, Aquino served as the 15th President of the Philippines from 2010 until 2016. During his presidency, on Jan. 25, 2015, police commandos (SAF) descended on the remote town of Mamasapano in the south's conflict-ridden Maguindanao province to arrest two wanted militants.
Aquino, also known as “man of right path” in the region, stated that
Rodrigo Duterte, the 16th and current President of the Philippines, signed BOL in Aug. 2018, giving his support on
Duterte expressed confidence on the plebiscite, saying that it is “the legal remedy for Moro conflict.”