TABUK CITY, Kalinga – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wants to enter into a peace agreement with the Regional Council of Elders for Indigenous Peoples Education in the Cordillera in order to strengthen the camaraderie and brotherhood of Muslims and Cordillerans not only within their areas of jurisdiction but also in other parts of the global village.
Engr. Andres Ngao-I, chairman of the Cordillera Council of Elders for Indigenous Peoples Education, said the proposal was proposed to them by MILF leaders during their visit to Mamasapano, Maguindanao where they performed the “aray-at’ or “ karay-at,’ an Igorot ritual to call for the spirits of those who have perished in accidents outside their house.
Ngao-I cited the proposal of the MILF leaders was a welcome development considering that Cordillerans are still hurting on the untimely demise of at least 14 out of the 44 Special Action force (SAF) members whi were kiiled by the MILF during the bloody encounter in Mamasapano last January 25, 2015 during the service of the warrant of arrest of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Binhir alias Marwan in his hideout in the area.
“We were invited by the MILF leaders after we were abuse to successfully perform our rituals. The MILF leaders explained to us what actually happened during that tragic incident and then they proposed that we enter into a peace agreement for us to be able to strengthen our camaraderie and brotherhood as well as lasting peace in Mindanao and the Cordillera,” Ngao-I stressed.
He said the Council of Elders will evaluate and assess the proposal of the MILF leaders before scheduling the date and place where such agreement will be forged.
According to him, their trip to Mamasapano was not easy to achieve because even during their preparations, many of those who committed their support to such plan, particularly Cordillera congressmen and some regional line agency officials, withdrew their support at the last minute for fear that President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino will get back at them in the future.
The conduct of the age-old ritual in Mamaapano where the incident actually occurred was planned by the Cordillera Council of Elders for Indigenous Peoples Education and was fully supported by Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel Ferrer who were with them at the airport prior to their flight to Maguindanao.
He said that part of their expenses were shouldered by the foundation of presidential sister Biel Aquino Day while their air transport to Maguindanao was courtesy of the C-130 of the Philippine Air Force.
Ngao-I revealed the first part of the ritual was done in Mamasapano where they butchered and offered native chickens while the second part of the ritual was performed at Teachers’ Camp in Baguio City before relatives of the 14 Cordillera SAF members went home to their respective places with the spirits of their departed love ones.
However, Ngao-I expressed disappointment over the sudden withdrawal of support by the Cordillera congressman to such activity when they earlier committed to shoulder their trip back from the airport in Manila to Baguio city, saying that even the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) also withdrew its support to such endeavour when the agency was supposed to be there to promote the practice of age-old proven customs and traditions.
Moreover, he added that eight hours before their scheduled flight to Maguindanao, they received a call that the C-130 for their use was no longer available because it will undergo the required repair.
While admitting that they nearly lost hope in pursuing their endeavour after greeting the call, Ngao-I said the group immediately sought the assistance of Biel Aquino Dy and after an hour, they received a call that the newly purchased Korean plane was the one that they will use.
However, an hour before their scheduled flight, they again received a call from the air force that the C-130 was already available for their use which caused the activity to proceed as planned.
Ngao-I narrated that it seems that some influential people were behind the withdrawal of support by the Cordillera congressmen and the NCIP to an activity to spouse the rich culture and traditions of Cordillerans and to bring home the spirits of those who have died in battle to protect the country from the influence of terrorists, saying that such incident should no longer happen in the future because it is an insult to the preservation and promotion of local culture.
By Dexter A. See