MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Ghazali Jaafar, a longtime stalwart of the struggle for the Moro cause which culminated with the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), died dawn of Wednesday, March 13. He was 75.
Naguib Sinarimbo, Bangsamoro Minister for Interior and Local Government confirmed to Rappler the passing of Jaafar.
Jaafar was first vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
Last month, he was among the 76 members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) who took their oath of office in Malacañang. The BTA will serve as the government of the BARMM from 2019 to the 2022 elections.
“It’s a sad news... He died around 1 am today at a hospital in Davao,” Sinarimbo told Rappler. He was in the hospital when Jaafar died.
Raby Angkal, Jaafar's aide, told Rappler over the phone that Jaafar died after 3 days of confinement in Metro Davao Medical and Research Center in Davao City due to heart problems.
Sinarimbo said Jaafar’s remains will be brought to his farm house in Sultan Kudarat where he will be buried Wednesday.
“He will be remembered as among the few who carried the torch, together with Haji Murad (Ebrahim) and a few commanders who stayed, after the surrender of many of their comrades during the most challenging times of the revolution in the Marcos years,” said Sinarimbo.
Sinarimbo added: “He has also provided the MILF the ability to touch base with the Moro political clans thereby shielding it from an internal conflict while fighting the government.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo also conveyed Malacañang's condolences on Jaafar's demise. He described Jaafar as a "warrior of peace" who "has fought many battles for peace."
Angkal said “signs of his deteriorating health were first spotted right after the bicameral committee report on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was approved.”
“He was then taken to St Luke's Medical Center for a doctor's opinion and then to the Philippine Heart Center where he had a heart bypass operation,” said Angkal.
Angkal added that Jaafar “recovered for a while and was able to return to Cotabato City. But after the BOL plebiscite in early February, his health problems returned.”
Carlito Galvez, secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, paid tribute to Jaafar. “Despite his deteriorating health condition, Vice Chair Jaafar still proceeded and joined the massive campaign for the passage and eventual ratification of BOL.”
Samira Gutoc, a former member of the BTC, recalled Jaafar's leadership of the commission which was a precursor of the governing BTA.
"I knew him as the head of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission that crafted the BOL. But the Bangsamoro people will remember him as a fighter for peace and security. He fought hard so the Bangsamoro people could have independence," recalled Gutoc, who is now the lone female and Muslim candidate of the senatorial slate Otso Diretso.
She said Jaafar was a great influence to her. "I made the decision to run for senator upon his advice. I consulted him on my decision."
Most of the nominees are from MILF since the Bangsamoro Organic Law states that the MILF will lead the BTA or will have a majority of its seats. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com