- Posted February 12, 2013 by
My safety is a small price to pay for peace in Mindanao -- Aquino
By Ben O. Tesiorna
Monday's visit by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's lair in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao worried many of his friends and his family.
Arriving at the Bangsamoro Leadership Management Institute in SK town around eleven in the morning, security in and around the area was tight. State security forces and the Presidential Security Group surround the venue while four attack helicopters hovered up above.
Contrary to many perception though, the venue is not actually the MILF's main lair, Camp Darapanan. The MILF camp is located several kilometers away from Monday's venue. Nevertheless, the area is still within the control of the MILF.
In his speech, President Aquino admitted that many of his friends and family were worried on his scheduled visit to the MILF camp.
"Kaninang umaga po, marami ang nagsasabi sa akin goodluck sa pagdalaw ko dito. Ang iba nagtatanong kung kelangan ba talaga akong pumunta dito? Ang sabi ko ganito na lang ho, kung magiging tulay ako, sulit na yata ang sakripisyo ng isang Noynoy kapalit ng napakarami nating kababayan," the President said.
Aquino said his visit is also his way of repaying the trust given by the MILF to his administration.
"At sinusuklian ko lang naman po ang pagtitiwala ninyo na talaga namang malayo-layo ang inabot nating paguunawa dahil handa tayong magbigay sa bawat isa. Dahil handa tayong isipin ang kapwa bilang kapwa Pilipino at hindi miyembro ng magkatunggaling paksyon," he said.
No less than MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim greeted the President upon his arrival at the BLMI for the launching of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program in the MILF community.
The program aims to uplift the health, education, and livelihood conditions of MILF communities. Aquino this is just the beginning of many more government programs to be implemented in the MILF areas all over Mindanao.
"Simula pa lang po itong Sajahatra Bangsamoro program. Isang sangay sa malawak na istratehiya ng pag-aangat ng buhay ng ating mamamayan. At pagsigurong walang Pilipinong maiiwan sa pagtahak ng tuwid na daan," he said.
Monday's event was the second time Aquino and Murad met face to face. The first was back in August 2011 in Japan. President Aquino said he was glad he went out of his way to meet with Murad in Japan. He said it was then that they started planting the seed of peace.
"Kailangang magpunla ng tiwala upang sa wakas ay maiusad na ang Pilipinas tungo sa landas ng kapayapaan. The first seeds of trust were planted as the leadership of MILF and I met in Japan in August of 2011. We watered those seeds with patience and fortitude,"' said Aquino.
And if one is to observe the gains achieved by the Aquino administration in the peace process, it seems that gaining the MILF's trust has already taken the government a long way. BOT