Moro leaders set foot on ‘seat of oppression’By Ryan D. Rosauro
For years, Moro rebel leader Ghadzali Jaafar looked at Malacañang as the “seat of Moro oppression.”
The Palace by the Pasig River symbolized the enemy for more than 40 years.
“It is there where the actions and decisions of the Philippine state emanate,” Jaafar told this reporter on the bus ferrying him and his colleagues in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to Malacañang for Monday’s signing of the framework agreement creating the Bangsamoro political entity.
Little did he know that he would set foot on the ornate home of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines the MILF guerrillas had been battling in Mindanao.
“I never imagined then that we would be in the corridors of the seat of power of the Philippine state,” Jaafar said.
Like his MILF colleagues, Jaafar’s visit to Malacañang was his first.
This must be the reason
Jaafar and eight other senior members of the MILF were silent most of the time as the coaster that fetched them from the Sofitel Hotel was running on the road to Malacañang, escorted by Presidential Guards and policemen.
Jaafar’s silence would only be broken by the Inquirer’s questions but after answering them, he would fall silent again.
Also on the bus, Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, appeared to be in pensive mood.
But even if they were not talking, hope was visibly etched on their faces.
MILF chair Murad Ebrahim was in the lead vehicle, a BMW, of the convoy heading for the Palace.
One can only guess what was in the minds of the MILF leaders during the 20-minute trip but some of them were later overheard speaking in Maguindanaon, albeit the topic was not clear.
Arriving at Malacañang around 11:15 a.m., the MILF leaders in their neatly pressed suits and ties were met by Malacañang protocol officers.
Murad was met by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles while government chief negotiator Marvic Leonen welcomed Iqbal.
It was only at this time that Iqbal broke his silence and exchanged pleasantries with Leonen.