Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday expressed gratitude to Muslim Filipinos for supporting the peace process with rebel groups in Mindanao, in his message for today’s celebration of Eid’l Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice.
Eid’l Adha, declared a national holiday, is Islam’s most important feast, commemorating the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham in Christianity and Judaism) to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
The Feast of Sacrifice is marked by the slaughter of cattle or sheep, with part of the meat given to the poor. It
ends the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
In his message to the Muslim faithful, President Duterte, the first Philippine President from Mindanao, said:
“This occasion reminds us of the virtues that strengthen the very foundation of Islam, truly invigorates our common aspirations and rekindles the true significance of our faith.”
“I deeply appreciate your support to this government and its programs on the ongoing peace process, especially in our efforts to realize equitable and sustainable development in Mindanao,” he said.
Duterte said his dream was “to see our people, regardless of beliefs, join hands in building a united country for our children and the next generation.”
“Let this celebration stand as a reminder that real change requires the sacrifice of our personal interests in favor of the common good of our citizens. Together, we can achieve progress, prosperity and harmony for all,” he added.
Malacañang earlier issued Proclamation No. 56 declaring today, Monday, the exact day of commemorating the 10th day of Zhul Hijja or the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar, as Eid’l Adha.
The Duterte administration has promised to grant wider autonomy to Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao, earlier calling on lawmakers to pass the Bangsamoro bill in fulfillment of a comprehensive agreement signed by the previous Aquino administration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.
Duterte has reached out to Nur Misuari, the fugitive founder of the rival Moro National Liberation Front, to join the peace process.
The Duterte administration also wants to implement wider autonomy in Muslim Mindanao through a shift to a federal form of government, in which the country will be divided in 12 federal states, including one for the Bangsamoro.
Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, in a separate message, called on all Filipinos to join the celebration, saying “awareness and recognition of our diversity is the first step in eliminating prejudice and bigotry.”
He noted that in the Philippines, Muslim Filipinos constitute 10 percent of the 100-million population.
Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon province in Mindanao, earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 131 enjoining all Filipinos to respect the observance of the Muslim holiday.
“In Islam, this day also marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca, pilgrimage being one of the important pillars of their faith. The Muslim world also celebrates this day with prayers, and sharing of food, money and other basic needs [to]all the poor to highlight the pillar of charity which is very important in their faith,” he said.
Zubiri authored Republic Act No. 9849 that declared Eid’l Adha a regular holiday for Muslim Filipinos. Eid’l Adha is one of the 12 regular holidays and 3 special holidays observed nationwide.
Congress has approved a number of measures for Muslim Filipinos, including the establishment of the Mindanao Development Authority and the National Council for Muslim Filipinos, and the Halal Law.
ARMM on alert
In Cotabato City, seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, police and military authorities were placed on alert Sunday, ahead of the celebration of Eid’l Adha.
Police officers and soldiers were deployed to designated areas in Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, where outdoor congregational prayers are to take place early Monday.
Regional government officials have asked the Muslim faithful to observe the religious festivity with charitable activities and prayers particularly for the restoration of peace in the troubled provinces of Sulu and Basilan.
Government forces have been hunting down Abu Sayyaf bandits on orders of President Duterte, to put a stop to kidnapping and beheadings of the extremists who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The 6th Infantry Division, which covers Cotabato City, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and part of Lanao del Sur, put up more checkpoints on major thoroughfares.