Leaders are born not made, so it’s been said. This is, however, an incomplete rendition because leaders are molded by the circumstances of their time. One such leader was Ghazali Jaafar, first vice chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who passed away on March 13.
The political turbulence of the late 1960s influenced Jaafar to the point that he decided to abandon his studies and join the struggle of the Moro people for self-determination. That he remained steadfast to the cause despite the trials the movement had to go through – foremost of which was the split of the Moro National Liberation Front – betrayed the character of a man who had found his true calling, although it may not be to everybody’s liking.
Yet, while the fervor of revolution ran through his veins he, like the rest of the MILF leadership, entertained the possibility of arriving at a political solution to the conflict in Mindanao. In fact, he served as the first chair of the MILF peace panel and was instrumental in the drafting of what became the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It proved to be his swan song.
Before undergoing a heart surgery last year, Jaafar must have accepted the fact that the end was near. If he decided to go under the knife, it was not because he feared death but because he was hoping to live long enough to see the fruits of their struggle– justice and progress for his people. Or maybe he was deeply worried that just as the war between the Philippine State and the MILF had ended, so-called extremist groups have emerged to frustrate the dream for lasting peace in Mindanao.
With his passing, words of admiration will flow for Jaafar. But the greatest way to honor his legacy is for his successors to help advance the gains of the success of the GPH-MILF peace process.