MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar dies at 75

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2019 06:43 AM | Updated as of Mar 13 2019 12:49 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) -- Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar passed away in a hospital in Davao City early Wednesday, his family said. 

Jaafar died past 1 a.m. after weeks in a hospital, his son Johari Abo said. The leader of the country's erstwhile largest rebel group was 75.

Jaafar last year said he had an angioplasty, a procedure that improves blood flow to the heart. 

He suffered complications in the abdomen after, leading to frequent returns to the hospital for checkups and confinement, said MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim. 

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Jaafar earlier this week complained of abdominal pain and was confined to an intensive care unit, Murad told ANC. 

Murad said his comrade was diagnosed with a kidney problem and toxins had spread in his body early Wednesday. 

Jaafar's passing came less then 2 months after a January vote ratified the creation of a new southern region that gives the Muslim minority wider powers. 

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is the product of a decades-long negotiation between the government and MILF. 

Jaafar was the first chairman of the MILF negotiating panel when peace talks started in 1997 and was responsible for a ceasefire agreement with the government, said Murad. 

The MILF in 2014 signed a landmark pact with the Aquino administration to end separatist insurgency that has killed some 150,000 people since the 1970s. 

The deal was derailed after a 2015 anti-terror operation in Maguindanao province led to an encounter between state troops and Moro rebels, which killed 44 elite police officers. 

Jaafar said MILF fighters have no liability in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers in Mamasapano town as they were only acting in self-defense. 

President Rodrigo Duterte, the first Chief Executive from Mindanao, promised in 2016 to support the passage of the Bangsamoro law, a key requirement under the MILF's peace deal with the government. 

Jaafar was recently recommended as the first speaker of the BARMM parliament, said Murad. 

"He is one of the pillars of the leadership of the MILF in the Bangsamoro struggle," Murad told ANC. 

"We consider him as a big loss to the leadership of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," he added. 

PALACE TRIBUTE 

Jaafar was "a warrior of peace," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement. 

"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)," the official added. 

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, said Jaafar "went the extra mile" to campaign for the approval of the Bangsamoro region despite his health condition. 

"Jaafar selflessly dedicated and devoted his life for others. Truly, he is a man of peace," Galvez, a former military chief, said in a statement. 

The Moro leader missed the turnover ceremony of the ARMM to BARMM last February. 

His remains will be brought to his family's farm in Barangay Pigkalagan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, his son said. 

- With a report from Lore Mae Andong, ABS-CBN News