Tears for peace
That moment was not captured on camera but forever etched in the memory of lead government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen, who made the disclosure during a briefing on the preliminary peace agreement.
Iqbal, chairman of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is Leonen’s counterpart in the peace talks brokered by Malaysia.
Both panels were in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday when President Benigno Aquino, in a nationally televised announcement attended by his entire Cabinet, announced the approval of the “framework agreement” that would lead to the creation of a new autonomous region in Mindanao that would be home to the Bangsamoro.
While the President was addressing the nation, Iqbal was in tears and his two companions were struggling not to show their emotion.
When the President finished speaking, Iqbal stood up without being prodded and applauded.
Leonen said the President was given a standing ovation by all members of both panels gathered at Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Leonen said he was somehow taken aback by the display of raw emotion by a battle-scarred “revolutionary” who seemed to have never lost faith in the search for peaceful means to end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.
Iqbal has seen it all, negotiating with a succession of nine government peace panels for 11 years.
And now he is seeing the beginning of the realization of the Bangsamoros’ dream of self-determination.
President Aquino, who stayed up until 3 a.m. that day to finish writing his speech with Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas and other Cabinet members, was no less dramatic.
Explaining the need to create Bangsamoro, Mr. Aquino said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao was a “failed experiment.”
Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun.
We cannot change this without structural reform.
And in a statement that finally recognized the sacrifices of the Moro freedom fighters, whose self-rule aspirations date back to the 15th century.
The agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao and celebrates the history and
character of that part of our nation.
That name will be Bangsa Moro.”