In historic meeting, MILF, MNLF leaders embrace, spark hopes of reconciliation

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 01 2019 06:57 PM | Updated as of Oct 02 2019 12:47 AM

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari (left) shakes hands with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chair Murad Ebrahim (2nd from right), and former MNLF Chair and Chair of the Bangsamoro People’s National Congress Muslimin Sema (1st from right). Courtesy of OPAPP website

MANILA (UPDATE) - The country's former separatist leaders sparked hopes of reconciliation and ending the decades-long conflict in Mindanao, in a historic moment at the conclusion of National Peace Month celebration on Monday.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim chair Murad Ebrahim shook hands and embraced in a surprising moment, during the 26th anniversary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Pasay City.

The two Moro groups have been at odds since the founders of the MILF broke away from the MNLF over 4 decades ago. 

Ebrahim said he reached out for Misuari’s hand to show his willingness to be united.

“Mainly my purpose was just to manifest na talagang gusto nating magkaisa na ang lahat kasi isa naman ang objective natin. Gusto natin na lahat will already be onboard dito sa peace process," he said.

He also acknowledged Misuari as one of the leaders of the Bangsamoro and one of the leaders of the struggle.

“In fact siya ang unang nag-unite sa Bangsamoro people," Ebrahim added.

“We are extending open arms sa lahat ng mga nagsakripisyo sa mga struggle ng Bangsamoro. Now we are in the government already. Ang dapat lang na attitude namin ay open to everybody. Hindi lang para sa MILF, MNLF kundi para sa lahat," he also said.

For Sema, he’s glad to see his “long-time” comrade.

“It is very heartening dahil for a long-time hindi kami nagkita lalo na si Nur, being a long-time comrade in the struggle, matanda na rin sya, tumatanda na rin kami. I personally was happy," he said. 

Sema said that he is hopeful that someday, everyone will work as one towards peace.

“Although hindi natin alam yung feeling ng other side but as far as we are concerned, we are always moving towards the direction kaya bakit kami nagkaroon ng convergence with MILF, bakit kami nagkasama sa direction for peace because we have a common problem and direction," he said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. saw the rare moment as a sign of reconciliation among former comrades.

"I’m very teary eyed last night. I'm very emotional kasi alam natin na hindi talaga sila naghaharap. Happy ako kasi nakita ko yung humility ng leaders natin both MILF and MNLF in order to rekindle that friendship that they have before," he said.

"I believe we have seen the sign that there is already... the deep wounds that have been lingering for so long a time, its likely the time to heal. Nakikita ko na 'yung usapan namin ni Chairman Nur, he will abide with the desire of the president to have an enduring peace especially in Mindanao," Galvez added.

Along with Galvez, Sen. Migs Zubiri, former MNLF chair and chair of the Bangsamoro People’s National Congress Muslimin Sema, and other active and retired military and revolutionary officials attended the celebration.

- with a report from Arianne Apatan, ABS-CBN News