CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, March 26 –- One way to push for, and attain peace is recognizing the people that are key to its realization. This could be one reason why the Jesuit-run Xavier University here will confer an award during a “convocation ceremony” today at the university gym to Mohagher Iqbal, the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the “Fr. William Masterson Award.”
Iqbal’s presence in Cagayan de Oro caused jitters to residents but the negotiator in a press conference said, “We come in peace, we will depart in peace.” Asked on the Mamasapano massacre by the MILF and BIFF of the PNP Special Action Force commando elements last January 25 in Maguindanao, Iqbal almost dismissed it as an isolated incident where his units responded to an “armed offensive”.
Local residents and university alumni are up in disagreement in handing an award to Iqbal but which the Jesuit run university is pushing through during the 76th commencement exercises.
Meanwhile, the GRP panel from Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles nor Professor Miriam Ferrer, who chairs the side of government peace panel, were never considered by the University for an equal award. A striking deliberate omission even as a spokesman of the university justified the decision since Iqbal comes from Autnomous Region of Muslim Mindanao while they were neither from Mindanao or Malaysia and only one award is available for those “lawyering” for MILF.
The Masterson award is named after Fr. William Masterson, a pioneer in multinational education and an inspiration to rural leaders prompting their return to and love of the land in the Philippines. He was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1974.