Thousands gather to welcome Duterte for Bangsamoro confab in Mindanao
SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao – Thousands of Muslims from across Mindanao started to converge along a two-kilometer stretch here Monday, hours ahead of the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte for the Bangsamoro General Assembly.
The Miss Universe 2017 pageant, aired live via free TV and social media, pre-occupied the attendees, some of them watching the beauty contest in roadside houses.
Traffic had to be rerouted as an estimated 2 million people have occupied the roadside of portions of Cotabato-Davao highway.
Roadside stores that sell foods, drinking water, even “Ukay-Ukay” (used clothing) spouted like mushrooms on both sides of the road leading to the old Maguindanao provincial capitol in Barangay Crossing Simuay here as the biggest Muslim gathering organized by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) culminates this Monday.
Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the MILF, said the assembly aims to update the Moro people about the status of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would establish a new political entity that would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a result of the GPH-MILF peace accord.
Shamera Gundang, 30, of Pikit, North Cotabato, said she and her husband, an unarmed sympathizer of the MILF, said she wanted to hear from the President what is in store for the Moro people under his government.
“I voted for him because I know he has a heart for the Moro people,” Gundang recalled.
Another Moro, a 60-year-old man from Malabang, Lanao del Sur, said he endured the pain of traveling from home to this village to personally listen to President Duterte’s message on the quest for genuine peace in Muslim Mindanao.
Denz Gumarandang said he vowed to support all peace efforts under the Duterte administration while he is still alive.
Mr. Duterte is expected to arrive and land on a chopper at a sprawling Lamsan Trading compound here Monday afternoon. He would then motor to the old provincial capitol, about 200 meters away, to speak before the Bangsamoro assembly attendees.
Chief Inspector Julhani Asdani, Sultan Kudarat town police chief, said no untoward incident has been reported in the days leading to the huge gathering except for some traffic problems.
Army troops in full battle gear backed by armored personnel carriers as well as MILF in fatigue uniform but unarmed are securing the vicinity of the venue. /kga
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