MILF considers Piñol no longer ‘anti-Muslim’

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SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) now considers Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol as a friend of the Muslims and is no longer “anti-Muslim” as previously perceived by the Bangsamoro.

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Piñol, former North Cotabato governor, entered for the first time the MILF main territory – Camp Darapanan – in Sultan Kudarat town to bring the agricultural programs of the Duterte administration.

It can be recalled Piñol was on the opposite side of the government in the peace process in Mindanao in late 2000. He used to trade barbs on air particularly over radio stations raising a different stance on the peace process and the development of Mindanao.

But now as Duterte’s agriculture secretary, he bravely stepped into the MILF camp, not to discuss disagreements over peace issues but how to improve farmers’ lives, especially among MILF families long neglected by the government.

It was Piñol who spearheaded the petition before the Supreme Court that nullified the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008 between Manila and the MILF.

Because of this stance, the MILF branded Piñol as “anti-Moro.”

But on Wednesday, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs with whom Piñol traded barbs in the past met harmoniously.

While they may have opposing views, Piñol and Jaafar used to work together in the 70s at DXCM-AM Radio in Cotabato City.

Hence, Pinol’s visit to push for President Duterte’s agriculture program removed the impression that they were “mortal enemies.”

Jaafar and Piñol hugged each other as if they did not exchange harsh words in the past.

“It’s not easy to move forward without facing our past,” Piñol said as he spoke before MILF leaders and former Moro combatants.

“The bottom line is we are here to bring government agri program to your people,” he added.

Murad said the MILF hierarchy were surprised to learn that the Department of Agriculture (DA) was to hold the graduation rites of 362 farmer beneficiaries inside the MILF identified territory.

“At first there was reluctance since many perceived Piñol to be anti-Muslim. But now, he is a friend of Muslims,” Murad said.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Philippine Rice Institute (Philrice) have partnered with the DA to help former MILF combatants-turned farmers by providing them the training on agriculture and giving them tractors and other farm machineries.

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