Rebel-turned-peacemaker: Ghazali Jaafar, 75

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FLAGS were flown half-mast at the Bangsamoro People’s Compound in Cotabato City in honor of Ghazali Jaafar, one of the most prominent leaders of the Moro armed struggle and later negotiator for peace.

Mr. Jaafar, 75, succumbed to a lingering illness at around 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, at Metro Davao Medical Research Center Hospital in Davao City.

Itong latest na nangyari dito sa ospital sa Davao, ang findings sa kanya ng mga doktor ay nag-malfunction ang kanyang kidneys at meron siyang parang asthma,” said professor Raby B. Angkal, chief of staff of the Office of the Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and aide of Mr. Jaafar, in a phone interview on Wednesday, March 13. (The latest that happened in the hospital in Davao, the doctors found out that his kidneys had malfunctioned and he had asthma).

Mr. Angkal said Mr. Jaafar was hospitalized in Manila last year after the bicameral meeting on the proposed Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Nu’ng after bicam, nagkaroon na siya ng panghihina. Nu’ng sinuri siya sa St. Luke’s [Medical Center], may diperensya siya sa puso, then tinakbo siya sa [Philippine] Heart Center, nagkaroon muna po siya ng masusing gamutan ng puso…gumaling pa siya diyan,” said Mr. Angkal. (After the bicam, he was already getting weak. When he was brought to St. Luke’s, he had a heart problem, then he was rushed to Heart Center, he had a thorough heart medication,…his condition improved).

But after the BOL was ratified early this year, Mr. Angkal said Mr. Jaafar became weaker.

Pero after ratification ng BOL, lalo siyang humina. Ito na nga three days before, napasok na siya sa ospital sa Davao at kaninang gabi nga po ay napasok sa ICU [Intensive Care Unit], at ‘yun na po hindi na naka-recover,” said Mr. Angkal. (He got weaker after the ratification of BOL. Three days before, he was rushed to the hospital in Davao and last night he was brought to the ICU and he was not able to recover).

Mr. Jaafar was first vice -chairperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), witnessing the beginnings of his rebel group’s transition into the mainstream and the Bangsamoro region into an official autonomous region.

He was chairman of the BTC, which drafted what would become the Bangasamoro Organic Law following the peace deal between the MILF and the government.

BTA Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim said the passing of his comrade in the MILF, who was among those who started their movement in the 1960s, is “a big loss to the leadership of the BARMM and the MILF.” He described Mr. Jaafar as “someone who dedicated most of his life to the Bangsamoro struggle.”

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr., said in a statement, “We will never forget that despite his health condition, Jaafar went the extra mile to join several campaign rallies to push for the realization of the Moro people’s aspiration for a genuine and meaningful autonomy.”

“Jaafar selflessly dedicated and devoted his life for others. Truly, he is a man of peace,” Mr. Galvez said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador L. Panelo said in a statement, “Mr. Jaafar was a warrior of peace…. The Palace takes this opportunity to send our heartfelt condolences to the family members and friends of Mr. Jaafar. He has fought many battles for peace and may Allah grant him a place in Jannah (Paradise).”

Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard A. Arevalo said Mr. Jaafar “has been instrumental to the quest for peace in Mindanao as AFP’s dependable partner in that elusive aspiration. His insights and dedication as a person and as a peace advocate will be his enduring legacy— not only to the Bangsamoro people but to the entire nation as well.”

Lt. Gen. Arnel B. Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said Mr. Jaafar’s “legacy as a peace stalwart and devoted leader shall live on. His contribution to the peace efforts of the government and the security forces shall forever be remembered.”

In its statement, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy said in part, “His passing is a big loss to the MILF and the newly created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BARMM). Jaafar has served as the first chairman of MILF panel when peace negotiations started in 1997 which resulted (in) a cease-fire agreement with the government.”

“While, he might not have lived to see the inaugural session of the BARMM his contributions will long be remembered and treasured.” — Tajallih S. Basman and Vince Angelo C. Ferreras