Saturday, June 24, 2017

Feature: Peace warrior

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 24): Feature: Peace warrior

 It is said that adversity can bring out the best or the worse in people.

This has been the case for the residents of Marawi who have been caught in the crossfire between government forces and the Maute group which laid siege to the city almost a month ago.

Ali Asgar Solaiman, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a native of Marawi, related that the crisis has become a “very emotional” issue not only for him but for his comrades who have witnessed the ravages of war for decades.

“I still could not hold back my tears when I saw the dead bodies of people I knew and the heavily damaged houses,” he said.

“The civilians have really become collateral damage in this war,” he added.

Amidst the rising number of civilians who have perished and had been displaced by the armed conflict, Solaiman underscored the need to preserve gains of the peace process between the Philippine government and MILF.

“The siege happened at a time when the GPH-MILF peace process is still ongoing,” he said.

Solaiman was specifically referring to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would serve as the enabling law of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that has been tasked to craft the BBL, has already finalized the draft law and is now ready to submit it to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President is expected to present the proposed law to Congress on July 24 when he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Solaiman related that when the armed conflict broke out on May 23, people in the community were asking him what the MILF was doing to help address the situation which continued to escalate by the day.

However, Solaiman said that it was only when the Peace Corridor was established that the doubts and fears of residents were put to rest.

The Peace Corridor aims to a provide a safe and secure zone for civilians fleeing the conflict, as well as a reliable space where humanitarian assistance can pass through.

He said that through the Peace Corridor, which is a collaborative effort of the Implementing Panels of the GPH and MILF, the MILF has shown its strong commitment and sincerity to the peace process.

Under the Peace Corridor Initiative, Joint Coordination and Monitoring Action Centers (JCMACs) were established in Marawi City and Malabang in Lanao del Sur.

Solaiman, who was part of the JCMAC Team which entered the conflict zone on June 4, admitted that he and other MILF volunteers were unsure if they would be able to get out of conflict area alive.

“But in the name of the Bangsamoro, and in the name of humanity, we didn’t mind risking our lives to save our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Solaiman said that the Marawi siege should be “a lesson and the reason” why the peace process should continue between the Philippine government and MILF.

He believes that the MILF’s involvement in the Peace Corridor is crucial, as Chairman Iqbal instructed them to protect the civilian population at all costs, and ensure that terror groups such as the Maute do not derail the peace process.

“We have seen the death and destruction brought about by the armed conflict. But we should also look at this crisis as an opportunity to bring real change and development to our beloved Marawi. Allah will take care of us,” Solaiman concluded.

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