The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday, Oct. 18, mourned the death of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Yusop Jikiri who died due to a lingering illness.
“The AFP joins every peace-loving Filipino in mourning the passing away of Yusop Jikiri, the beloved chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF),” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.
Jikiri reportedly succumbed to cancer in his spinal column at the age of 66. He died around 10:30 p.m. inside his house in Barangay Pasil, Indanan, Sulu.
The MNLF Central Committee confirmed Jikiri’s death in a statement.
“The vacuum of leadership which he left behind is hard to fill. Somehow as revolutionaries, we have been used to the ups and downs of our Bangsamoro Revolutionary struggle. Thousands of our martyrs had already [shed] their blood for the Sacred Cause of our Bangsamoro Revolution and Jihad Fe Sabilillah, and the martyrdom of Brother Yusop will not degrade the moral of our MNLF members and state leadership,” it said.
Arevalo said that Jikiri’s work with the MNLF and in Sulu as a former governor and congressman “were instrumental in the forging of a strong partnership between the AFP and the MNLF in the quest for peace.”
“He is one of the strong pillars who advocated trust and respect as key to achieving lasting peace and development not only in the province of Sulu but of the Bangsamoro,” Arevalo said.
“Ako, sampu ng bawat miyembro ng Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas, ay nagpupugay sa kanyang napakalaking ambag sa kapayapaan at pagkakaunawaan sa katimugang bahagi ng ating bansa. Nawa’y magsilbing halimbawa at inspirasyon ang kanyang mga simulain at mga nagawa sa pagsusulong ng kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa bansa,” he added.
(I, on behalf of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, honor his great contribution to peace and understanding in the southern part of our country. We hope that his works, what he started, will serve as examples and inspiration for others to further pursue peace and development in the country.)
Jikiri slowly rose to the ranks of the MNLF leadership until he became a trusted man of MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari.
In 1996, a peace agreement between the national government and the MNLF was signed while Jikiri was the group’s chief of staff.
The signing of the peace deal reportedly led to the re-integration of about 7,000 MNLF fighters to the military.
However, in 2000, Jikiri led a breakaway faction called “MNLF Executive Council of 15,” composed of the most senior officers of the Moro insurgent group, due to conflict within the organization.
Jikiri also served Sulu province in different capacities as a politician. He became a Sulu governor and congressman in 2001 and 2007, respectively.