Consensus-builder Jaafar leaves void in Bangsamoro legislature: analyst

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2019 02:18 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2019 05:54 PM

Consensus-builder Jaafar leaves void in Bangsamoro legislature: analyst 1
Ghazali Jaafar during interviews at Camp Darapanan, North of Cotabato City, Sunday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group lost its top “consensus builder” in Ghazali Jaafar, a policy analyst said Wednesday, as its moves to the crucial phase of governing a new autonomous region in the southern island of Mindanao.

Jaafar was supposed to serve as speaker of the Bangsamoro parliament, a critical role requiring “good political sense” to build coalitions within the chamber, said lawyer Benedicto Bacani of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance.

Jaafar died of an illness early Wednesday morning, a week before the new parliament was scheduled to be inaugurated.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s political party controlled the majority in the parliament, but still needed to reach out to other members and groups, Bacani said.

“Kailangan mo 'yung ganung klaseng leader that can do that, and that was the role played by (MILF) vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar,” he told ABS-CBN News.

”Now, they would have to find a replacement for him and that person should be one with good political sense and who is able to rally different groups behind the cause of the Bangsamoro.”

PILLAR 

The MILF now heads a 3-year transition government in Muslim Mindanao after forging a landmark peace deal with the government.

Bacani said building consensus had always been Jaafar’s strength as the MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs.

“I remember him as one who would really go out of his way and build support around the cause of the MILF,” he said of the late combatant, who joined the movement in the late 60s.

“He reached out to different sectors, including the political clans.”

MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim described Jaafar as one of the group’s “pillars in the Bangsamoro struggle” when the late leader joined in the late 60s.

The group eventually talked peace with the government in 1997, sending Jaafar as its chief negotiator.

BIG LOSS

Under Jaafar, the MILF peace panel forged a ceasefire agreement with the government, Murad recalled.

“We consider him as a big loss,” Murad told ANC’s Early Edition.

He said the MILF central committee would decide on who would replace Jaafar as speaker.

Lawyer Suharto Ambolodto recalled how Jaafar pushed for the MILF’s “one negotiating line,” which was to solve the Bangsamoro problem, throughout the peace negotiations.

“He knew the terrain. He understood the people that he was talking with. He understood how he could navigate and shepherd the advocacy,” said Ambolodto, a member of the interim Bangsamoro government.

Jaafar also headed the second Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which produced the initial draft of the new autonomy law “that was acceptable” to Congress and was ratified in a Jan. 25 plebiscite.