Asia - pacific

Prominent Philippine peacemakers support plebiscite

Party leaders, former and current presidents' role in peace process highlighted as referendum near

Erdoğan Çağatay Zontur   | 18.01.2019
Prominent Philippine peacemakers support plebiscite File Photo

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.

Nur Misuari

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.

Missuari supports the upcoming plebiscite and federalism.

Hashim Salamat

Hashim Salamat, breaking away from the MNLF, formed MILF, announcing their aim for “an independent state in southern Philippines.”

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.

Muslimin Sema

Former mayor of Cotabato City, Muslimin Sema supported MNLF during the last period of his mayorship. Sema is also known as 'Man of Peace' in Moro region. 

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 peace process should also be maintained after his term of office. 

Rodrigo Duterte

Rodrigo Duterte, the 16th and current President of the Philippines, signed BOL in Aug. 2018, giving his support on peace process in Moro.

Duterte expressed confidence on the plebiscite, saying that it is “the legal remedy for Moro conflict.”

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