THIS weekend, on July 7-9, 2012, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will hold what it calls a “Bangsamoro General Assembly” at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.
Recognized by the government as the MILF’s main camp, Camp Darapanan has hosted previous consultation meetings that have drawn hundreds of thousands of MILF followers. The last one held in 2005 drew 900,000 followers who flocked to the camp to listen to a progress report by the MILF peace panel on the peace talks then. This time, the MILF wishes to once again update its followers on the seemingly slow, if also steady, progress in its ongoing peace talks with the Aquino administration.
By all indications, it will be one huge and important assembly. By the middle of this week, hotels in nearby Cotabato City were already fully booked, as reporters, diplomats, and travelers, visitors, and participants prepare for what could be a show of unity, a show of support, or a show of force by the MILF.
The MILF has engaged the government in battle over the last 30 years. While peace will certainly do the nation more good than harm, the road to peace in Mindanao remains mired in trials, false starts, and testy clashes of views.
To help offer background and context to the long, difficult process of securing peace in Mindanao, we are sharing with you this two-part report by PCIJ Multimedia Director Ed Lingao, who has spent the greater part of his journalistic life immersed in the issues and stories of the island.
Part 1 looks at the extended peace narrative of Mindanao, across the terms of six Philippine presidents. Its sidebar focuses on the trial-error, love-hate engagement that most rebel leaders, including the MILF, have had with journalists and media agencies. At a recent press conference, the MILF leaders, in fact, had sounded an appeal for the media to support the peace process.
Part 2 reviews the costs, casualties, and impact of the conflict in Mindanao, and why it is a story that all Filipinos must care about, even as it often seems too distant or difficult to understand.
children are often the first casualties of war