Thursday’s signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) will be the biggest and grandest event to be held in Malacanang, with more than a thousand guests, including former “enemies of the State”, expected to attend.
The event’s scale will also be the biggest security nightmare for the Presidential Security Group (PSG) who, for the first time in history, would welcome into the Palace grounds members of Muslim groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and even representatives from the sultanate of Sulu.
These three major Muslim factions had at one time or another engaged government either in deadly clashes or fierce “word wars” such as in the case of the “invasion” of Sabah by fighters of the sultanate.
But both Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and the PSG commander both downplayed the possibility of any incident that could mar the activity.
Lacierda said there were no intelligence reports of plots to disrupt the ceremonies or reason to put the military and police on heightened alert.
Lacierda said that Instead of the historic Rizal Hall, the signing rites will be at the Kalayaan grounds which he said can accommodate from 500 to 800 guests. About a thousand guests are expected to turn up.
He said that without question it will bde the biggest event ever to be place “inside the Palace premises or the Palace compound” since President Benigno Aquino 3rd became president.
“For that reason, we don’t want everyone to feel very uncomfortable in a very tight place owing to the fact that we’re expecting more than a thousand,” the Palace official explained.
PSG chief Raul Ubando said security preparation are already well in place to ensure the safety of local and foreign guests and dignitaries.
“No red alert. Because of [the]magnitude of guests, we will deploy additional personnel. We have asked help from MMDA [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority] and Manila Police for the traffic,” Ubando said.
The guest of honor during the event with be Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak who, prior to the signing ceremony, will have a short meeting with President Aquino.
Malaysia has been the facilitator of peace negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front since 2001, and has hosted the talks in Kuala Lumpur. It is also the leader of the International Monitoring Team observing the ceasefire.
There will be a giant tent where the signing will take place at 4:00 p.m. The guests will start arriving around 2:00 p.m. and there will also be prayer areas for Muslims.
There will be statements to be made by Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles, Prime Minister Najib Razak, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad and Aquino before the actual signing of the peace document.
“Then the negotiating panels from both sides, five each from both panels, will be present and [will]be witnessing the signing,” Lacierda said.
The event will be aired live in most parts of Mindanao, especially the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, where many activities were lined up to drum up awareness about the signing of the agreement.
Aside from MILF leaders and members, invited to attend were MNLF leaders Hadji Abul Khayr Alonto, Jimmy Labawan, and Muslimin Sema. Likewise, Esmail Kiram, the successor to the throne of the late sultan jamalul iram 3rd, was invited.
JOSE JOEL M. SY EGCO