Big fuss over ‘raised hands’

When presidential aspirant Mayor Rodrigo Duterte came to Darapanan last February 27, he was described as the “next president of the Philippines” by MILF 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar. When another presidential candidate, Secretary Mar Roxas, met with the MILF in the same place on March 31, hands (of Murad, Roxas, Gov. Toto Mangudadatu, Cong. Bai Sandra Sema, and others) were raised. On both gestures, the MILF was criticized bitterly for them. We do not know why. Why are people making a mountain out of a molehill -- and why a big fuss over such friendly gestures?

Former President Fidel Ramos used to raise the hands of every candidate visiting him, in particular Congressman Leni Robredo and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who are both running for the vice presidency. Critics interpreted this as an endorsement, which was never affirmed by the former president.  

When asked about it, Chair Murad merely said, “I can raise the hands of Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe if ever they come to Darapanan, and also of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte if he considers coming again to the MILF administrative base.   

In short, raising of hands is not necessarily an endorsement; it is more of an expression of friendship. Why fault the MILF for such friendliness and civility?

The official policy of the MILF is not only not to endorse any candidate, but more seriously, not to participate in Philippine elections. This will only cease as soon as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), will pass into law, ratified, and implemented. 

Of course, there are critics who merely want to criticize. They are spreading them through the internet. There are others who have valid concerns about the need to preserve and maintain the pristine integrity of the MILF, as a legitimate revolutionary organization. There are still others who are politically motivated, in consideration of the nearing presidential elections.

The fact of the matter is that the MILF is not an amateur revolutionary organization. It has not grown yesterday. The leadership is experienced, matured, and knows the ABC’s of politics. Even for practical reasons, it is not a sound decision to endorse any presidential aspirant or any candidate for that matter. That would in effect alienate or more gravely offend the others --- and we do not know who will win the presidency and vice presidency. For us, what is most important is not the person but the policy he or she would pursue on the armed conflict in Mindanao and the BBL if any of them wins the presidency.  It is good to build bridges now than later. Surely, one of the five candidates will be the next president of this country.

The five presidential aspirants: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Secretary Mar Roxas, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, and Senator Miriam Santiago are treated “friends” of the MILF. We make no distinctions between them.