For a former enemy of the state, the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro on Thursday was “like a dream come true.”
“We have long wanted to live in peace. Now it is at hand and we are very proud of this victory, victory of our people, the Bangsamoro people,” said Abdullah Adtugan, who belonged to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) before joining the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1970.
The MILF split from the MNLF in the 1970s.
The MNLF had waged a bloody secessionist war with the government before negotiating a peace pact in 1996.
“Peace has come at last in Mindanao,” Adtugan said.
He said he could hardly find the words to describe the feelings of his fellow Muslims.
“We have dreamed of this for a long time. I am hopeful this peace agreement will bring us genuine peace in our land,” he said in Filipino.
Guianima Macacua, 57, a member of the MILF coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, held a similar view.
She said the signing of the agreement “brings us closer to fulfilling peace, not just for our Muslim brothers, but for every Filipino.”
“Everyone deserves to live in an environment of peace and prosperity,” Macacua said.
“We are happy that the signing of the agreement was fulfilled and we hope this will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
Maguindanao Board member Mike Midtimbang said there will be a new challenge for the Bangsamoro once the agreement is in place and implemented.
But he noted that they continue to hope that the peace process will continue smoothly for the sake of the Bangsamoro.
“We are really happy because we peace is at hand. This will pave the road to development in Mindanao. But let’s see what will happen after the signing. We hope this is the agreement that will really give us true peace,” he added.
Adtugan was among the more than a thousand guests that filled the giant tent set up on Malacanang’s grounds for the historic signing.
The signing was also celebrated by Muslim groups in Quiapo and in various parts of Mindanao.
In Cotabato City, a peace rally was held at the Shariff
Kabunsuan Cultural Complex while the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had a “Peacetahan” festival.
Similar events were held in Marawi City, General Santos and Maguindanao.
MILF forces held their own celebration at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat.