PIGCAWAYAN, Cotabato—Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and Pigcawayan Mayor Jean Dino Roquero joined Muslim residents and officials in a peaceful gathering for ceremonies where only very few men in uniform from both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were present to secure the area.
And neither the usual heavy presence of armored personnel carriers (APC) was in sight on a Tuesday morning assembly (in strict observance of social distancing), in honor of 150 widows of war at ceremonies in Barangay Datu Binasing here.
Honoring and ensuring the welfare of orphans and widows of war is an avowed commitment of a Muslim government sought in Chapter 4 of the Qur’an (Surah An-Nisa, meaning The Chapter on the Females of Humanity)
Senior Minister Abdulra of Macacua and Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) led the distribution of relief and cash assistance to 150 widows of war, including wheelchairs to 15 of them.
Republic Act 9994 of 2021, the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, entitles elderly citizens with welfare assistance.
Motorized bancas were awarded to groups of inland fishermen in the barangays adjoining the marsh. Macacua also symbolically switched on the solar street lights complementing the street lighting project of the BARMM’s Ministry of Public Works under Minister Eduard Uy Guerra.
Macacua said he was moved seeing widows of Moro combatants happy to have received their share of the regional government’s gift package (wheelchairs and food assistance) to mothers of children orphaned by wars. The recipient widows of wars have now turned senior citizens themselves. Macacua recalled he was also wounded in an encounter decades ago with state forces in one of these villages.
The United National Development Program (UNDP) has helped organize and is paying the wages of a team of young Moro women and men assisting the community in needs-assessment forums, and in preparing proposals seeking to establish projects that residents deem most needed, like water system, schools, livelihood, farm-to-market roads, agricultural pre- and post-harvest facilities, and inland fishing implements.
During the years of Moro conflict, parachute journalism would usually bring the story back to base at Manila newsrooms, sadly in the context of “killings” and animosity involving religions— like a lead that reads: “Muslim rebels seek to bring down a Catholic-led Philippine Government.”
Supporters of the peace process have said spoilers of peace may even attempt to revive the old conflict that gave rise to the Moro movements in response to covert government support to armed Christian militias, then evolving in the 1969 (through 1971) political events, and land-grabbing expeditions stemming from the post-World War II agrarian unrest of the communist-backed Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) in the administrations of Presidents Quirino and Magsaysay. Under Marcos, some local Christian leaders had no choice but to host the transient pro-government militias behind the hit-and-run attacks on Moro communities in the 1970s.
The cycle of attack-and-retaliation had left local Muslims and Christians bitterly divided—even in terms of economic connectivity and community development initiatives.
But here lies the reality: Village leaders from old families of Christian settlers in villages nearby did not cash-in on what could be a “common knowledge” with their Muslim neighbors about a clandestine situation that Ebrahim was in— or that he might just be in any of the adjoining communities that Muslim and Christian shared. Indeed, Murad’s experience is a living proof that there is simply no real enmity between Christians and Muslims— or at least, in the MILF turf.