“Our organization in Mindanao, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), has already signed a peace agreement with the government and we are already working for peace and working to have peace in our homeland. This will be our contribution to the struggle for world peace and we will welcome working together and cooperating with HWPL in order to achieve peace in our area and peace in the world.”
Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the Chairman of MILF, who attended the 1st Anniversary of the September 18th HWPL World Peace Summit showed a firm determination to bring peace in Mindanao, Philippines. Since this time, he and the people of Mindanao have not stopped stepping toward peace; in fact, they completely put an end to a 40-year-long armed conflict that caused 120,000 casualties and have changed Mindanao into a land of peace.
Photo from BBC/AFP
On Jan 21st, the official voting for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was held in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). On Jan 26th, the Commission on Elections announced that about 83 percent of a valid ballot approved to ratify the law. According to international press, voters came to the poll braving the threat of extremists’ attacks made on the morning of the election. The government kept a high state of alert during the process.
The essence of the Bangsamoro Organic Law aims to disband the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and form the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region with extended territory. Once the law is enacted, it will allow for Bangsamoro people to elect the governor and have a parliament with the authority to draw up a budget and plan for development. MILF and Ebrahim, the chairman of MILF, have actively pursued the ratification of the law with, by far, the most passion.
Photo from Reuters News Agency
After MILF made a peace agreement with the Philippine government in March 2014, they laid down their weapons and made an effort to establish the autonomous region. There was also behind the scenes support from HWPL, paving the path of peace that MILF has been taking. Before MILF and the government made the peace agreement, earlier that year on Jan 24th, Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL, visited Mindanao and drew up a private peace agreement between the Islamic and Catholic leaders.
During an interview with Cheonji Daily News in 2015, Ebrahim, Chairman of MILF, stated that he heard from Esmael Mangudadatu, the governor of Maguindanao, about the peace agreement between the Islamic and Catholic leaders that was mediated by Chairman Lee. He also said, “Our organization negotiated with the government for 18 years but had not reached a settlement. The private peace agreement between the Islamic and Catholic leaders with the mediation of Chairman Lee in January 2014 helped to make the agreement between the government and MILF possible.”
For the 2nd anniversary of the Mindanao Peace Agreement, MILF erected the Mindanao Peace Agreement Monument at MILF’s Camp in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao and held an unveiling ceremony in January 2016. On that day, there was no end to the line of people standing on both sides of the road to welcome Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL, and the Peace Delegation.
In an interview with HWPL in 2015, PTV reporter Elizabeth Kachin recalled the 2014 Mindanao Peace Agreement stating, “When Mr. Lee intervened, he is a foreigner, he is not Filipino, but he came all the way from South Korea to talk to these… religious leaders and ask them for peace.”
She went on to explain, “I think that’s a very aggressive step that hit me and Filipinos. So, his passion and his advocacy for peace (first) I think to do that even, government leaders and government officials were able to think like that. So, that step of Mr. Lee visiting the Philippines and intervening, made them sign. All of these things are really a mark in the history of the Philippine. So, from then on, I think the law makers heard of it, so it’s the only time they could wake up from their long sleep, and then they enacted this law. And they proposed this Bangsamoro Basic Law for the autonomy of Mindanao. I think those are the only times it was truly conceptualized.”
“For those who want peace, please raise your hand.” The simple request by Chairman Lee in January 2014, created the hope in people’s heart that they can bring about the realization of peace. On that day, the peace that was found in each one raising their hands and in the glistening of their eyes has been leading Mindanao. We are greatly anticipating the day when Mindanao becomes a complete land of peace and people around the world rush to it in order to find peace.