(Welcome address of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front at the Bangsamoro Assembly on November 27, 2017 at the old Capitol building, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao)
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; Government Officials; Distinguished Guests; Fellow Mujahideens; Representatives from various sectors; Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. Good Afternoon.
Foremost, allow me to thank all of you who came all the way from the different parts of the homeland. I am fully aware of the difficulties you endured in your effort in traversing complex routes from as far as the island provinces and the remote areas of mainland Mindanao to honor this gathering with your presence.
We are here once more to heed the command of Allah Subhanahu Wataala enshrined in the Glorious Qur’an putting premium on consultation or Shura as we reach another critical juncture in our search for peace and justice.
Perhaps, many of you can still recall that we also gathered here to consult with you when we embarked on the path of negotiation two decades ago. On this hallowed ground, you conveyed to us your assent for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to engage in negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. That negotiation has led us to many milestones. From the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement, to the forging of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, we have indeed gone a long way in our journey to peace and our search for justice.
It is our distinct privilege to have with us today a proud Mindanaoan, in whose veins run the blood of a Moro and whose election into the highest office of the land a year and a half ago, mirrors the struggle between our forebears here in the south and the privileged colonialists of the north. Today, we are witnesses to how all the four highest ranking officials of the country, who are from Mindanao – the President of the Republic, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court — are given the unique privilege to preside over the fate of their compatriots in Mindanao and for that matter, the fate of the whole country.
We also express our warmest welcome to our friends and partners from the international community, non-governmental organizations, the civil society organizations, schools, universities and colleges, religious groups, media, peace advocates and supporters, who have relentlessly journeyed with us in the path to peace and justice.
Across the world and now in our homeland, new enemies are emerging. A perverted ideology devoid of a national agenda that concerns itself only with the destruction of its perceived enemies, without regard to the rules of war and the welfare of the people, has been sowing fear and leaving a trail of destruction and death across the Middle East. Here at home, it has reached our shores and had shown its ugly head in Marawi that has left what was once a thriving Muslim City into ruins and its people in diaspora. I ask that we pause for a moment of silence to honor and respect the victims of this tragedy.
As we lay the foundation for the new era in the Bangsmoro through the implementation of our Peace Agreements with the Philippine Government, we call on our people to summon their strength and courage to stand together as one people aspiring for one goal, that of peace and justice for all. We must forge a new partnership with government as one people if we are to confront the new challenges we face such as poverty, poor education, lack of development and insecurity.
The MILF must transition into a social movement, with service delivery at its core. From fortification of camps with arms, we venture into the development of our communities with new sets of learned skills and prepare the leadership from a revolutionary mindset into transformative leaders and managers. Through the times, we have learned that there is nothing impossible if we carry on the struggle in the pursuit of the common good.
The strides we have taken from the Ceasefire Agreement of 1997, the FAB and the CAB, and the submission of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission are our shared victories as one people. While we await the action of Congress to enact the Basic Law, any feeling of uncertainty is surely dwarfed by our trust and confidence in the promise and commitment of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the leaders of Congress to enact into law the BBL without delay. We hold on to those promises and commitment.
If majority in the Bangsamoro approves of the enacted Basic Law in a plebiscite to be conducted for such purpose, then the Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be inaugurated.
Thus, we doubly urge our partners in government to act with dispatch both in the enactment of the BBL and in the setting up of the fund mechanism that will give a push to the socio-economic component of the normalization process.
As your leaders in the field, we carry the burden, far heavier than the burden of many of us – the burden of leadership. We do not only concern ourselves with our personal destinies, but also the destiny and the future of the people. So, we must take the more difficult path – the path of personal sacrifice and the burden of ensuring the future of our people.
We cannot help but remember the vivid memories of the past – youthful memories spent not in the cafes of the metropolis but in the ever-changing rugged fields, mountains and marshlands from Camp Darapanan all the way to the vastness of the great Ligawasan Marsh and the mountains of Abubakar, not to mention dangerous trenches or fox holes that served as appurtenant of our homes. I am sure my fellow mujahideens who have spent a lifetime of struggle share this personal battle.
We are proud heirs to a history of freedom and of the zealous struggle of our forebears for liberty, justice and peace for centuries amidst the onslaught of colonialism and conquest. We have produced some of the great-hearted fighters in this part of the world and the great revolutionaries of our century, the most recent of them, the late Sheikh Salamat Hashim, Alim Abduladzis Mimbantas and many others.
However, we also stand as a people facing a future – some say, an uncertain future. I say, let us work and contribute in determining our future with security and succor, a future of peace and plenty that harnesses the potentials of our people whose new skills and talents will be needed for a new age and era in the Bangsamoro. While we shall remain faithful and grateful to our brothers and sisters in struggle, let us tap into the vital energy of our youth and women, whose skills and enthusiasm in pursuing the Bangsamoro dream have kept my confidence in a more secure and certain future for our people.
I say with confidence, that the future will be determined by the actions we take today. If we are to chart a better future for the Bangsamoro and the Philippine Republic, we must build the foundation today on the steady soil of peace and justice and not on the shifting sands of politics and of convenience.
We push for the enactment of the Basic Law because we firmly believe, it is the right thing to do. It sprung from a negotiated political settlement that is bound to be delivered. We feel the obligation to assert for the enactment of the Basic Law, not because it will win us votes, but because it presents us the rare opportunity to be part of the noble endeavor of peace making. We urge the enactment of the Basic Law, not because the Constitution allocated that power to Congress but because we are afforded by history to be co-authors of peace and prosperity in the Bangsamoro and the country as a whole.
Like many of you here today, we took the path of revolutionary struggle more than four decades ago because we were convinced of the justness and legitimacy of the Bangsamoro Cause. We may have strides that appear to be inconsistent with the laws, but, we trust that justice, more than plain legalism, shall be the measure by which we judge our actions of the revolutionaries.
I therefore look more hopefully to a just and peaceful future not only in the Bangsamoro but for the whole republic as well.
In conclusion, I ask you to recall with me that great verse in the Glorious Qur’an:
“So verily, with every difficulty, there is relief;
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
Therefore, when you are free (from your immediate task) still labor hard.
And Your Lord turn (all) your attention.”
Lastly, with hope in our hearts, resolve in our spirit, we must forge ahead; we shall overcome and victory shall be achieved.
Brothers and sisters, let me once again welcome all of you to the Bangsamoro Assembly.THANK YOU AND WASSALAM.