Civil society group sets celebratory mood
MANILA, Philippines—While hopeful of someday returning to their homes in Mindanao, residents of the Muslim community in Quiapo were not exactly in a jubilant mood over the news of the peace agreement between the government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
It took a civil society group from Marawi City to bring the celebrations into the community.
“We were a bit saddened when we came here because there seems to be no observance in Manila,” said Agakhan M. Sharief, chair of Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development.
“Anyone would want to return to where he or she was born,” said Asliah Sharief Murad, 45, a Muslim resident of Quiapo, expressing the hope that Thursday’s signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro would bring peace to Mindanao.
Asliah left Lanao del Sur province in the 1980s to escape the conflict and seek livelihood opportunities in Manila.
“We couldn’t find jobs then because of the fighting. I hope there will be peace now. I hope there will be livelihood,” she said.
Sharief said they formed the group to support the Bangsamoro agreement and have been organizing celebrations in Mindanao. They thought of bringing the celebrations to Luzon, visiting Muslim communities in Tarlac, Baguio, Pangasinan, Greenhills in San Juan and Baclaran.
“This is a very important event because the agreement recognizes Bangsamoro autonomy. There will be exclusive authority for Bangsamoro government such as education and agriculture while the central government will exercise authority on national defense and budget. There will also be joint authority,” Sharief said.
The group held prayers, a unity walk, cultural night and a forum to educate the Muslim youth and other residents in Manila. They will converge with other Muslim groups on Mendiola for Thursday’s signing.
“When they see that there’s peace in Mindanao, there might be less Moros here. Some of these people have properties and farms but they choose to live like squatters here because of the turmoil,” Sharief said.
Ustad Solaiman Pasandalan, 42, used to plant rice and corn in Marawi City, but he’s now one of the vendors on Globo de Oro Street in Quiapo.
“It’s a good thing if there will be a Bangsamoro government, there will be peace and quiet. We own a piece of land but we can’t make a living because of the conflict,” he said.
Hajisaid Badron, 45, said he would also return to Marawi City if the agreement is implemented. “The climate is pleasant there,” he said.
“Everyone wants peace. When there’s chaos, everyone is affected. It has an impact on the national economy,” said Alidden Sultan, secretary of Barangay 384 Zone 39.
“Some want to go back to Mindanao, but they are waiting for good results. There is still a lot to be worked on. Hopefully, this peace agreement will be given a chance,” he said.
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