PEACETALK: The BOL may not be a perfect law for us but at least we can have something to start with

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(Statement of Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace Implementing Panel Chair, during the Presentation on Republic Act No. 11054 or the “Organic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” on 08 August 2018 at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, ARMM ORG Compound in Cotabato City)

Asalaamu alaikum warakmatulahi taala wa barakatuh.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Please allow me to recognize our good friends and esteemed personalities present here today….

The recent event in Malacañang on August 6, 2018 and now the presentation of the BOL to the public and multi-stakeholders in Cotabato City and elsewhere in Mindanao are significant and historic. These are part of our continuing and collective efforts to make sure that the BOL will be fully understood and appreciated by our people, so that on plebiscite day, most probably either in November or December, the yes votes will prevail and the proposed law gets ratified.

However, let me be very candid. I have mixed emotions, despite the celebratory mood all around us. Of course, I am in high spirits because with the passage of the BOL, another crucial milestone has been reached in our journey for peace, justice and development in the Bangsamoro and the rest of Mindanao. Nevertheless, I also mourn for the martyrs who have selflessly offered their lives and blood for the realization of our right to self-determination. Let us therefore honor them, foremost of whom was the late MILF Chairman Sheikh Salamat Hashim, and countless others who were not able to witness this momentous event. Were they alive today, they would be with us – and certainly, the scripts would change.

I also take this opportunity to mention and offer prayers to my colleagues in the MILF peace negotiating panel who died in the course of our long and hard negotiation from January 1997 namely, MILF Vice Chairman Abdulazis Mimbantas, Atty. Lanang Ali, Atty. Musib Buat, Datu Antonio Kinoc, Omar Hassan of Davao, and Napis Bidin of Tawi Tawi. Likewise, I pay homage to our counterparts from government who also passed away in the line of duty in the search for the elusive peace in Mindanao. I can name only two now: Lt. Gen. Fortunato Abat and Maj. Gen. Orlando Soriano, who both served as chairs of the government peace panel.

Indeed, without their sacrifices our historic struggle and peace process would have not reached this far. We build on their achievements and successes – and learned from their failures — to reach this point. May their souls rest in peace and May Allah grants them His Paradise!

While we remember the memory of those who made sacrifices for the struggle, we also celebrate those who have worked tirelessly to keep the peace process on track. I again humbly acknowledged these men and women, known and unknown, who either advocated publicly for peace or quietly worked behind the scenes.  Of course we have our peace partners who continue to assist both GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and MILF; civil society groups and various non-governmental organizations, the members of the diplomatic corps and international organizations, our international peace mechanism partners, such as the International Monitoring Team and the International Contact Group. I also expressed my highest appreciation and sincerest gratitude to the Government of Malaysia for facilitating the GPH-MILF peace negotiations since 2001, for without their able facilitation, I don’t think we would ever be here this morning. In particular, I am thanking Datu Kamaruddin bin Mustapha, the current Malaysian facilitator and/or special advisor, who is with us this morning.

To our young generations: We have not (been) remiss in our responsibility. Truth is that we have secured for you and our people the Framework (on) the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). These are not ordinary agreements; they were virtually cast in stone, as far as we are concerned. Therefore, we urge you to value these agreements and keep on asserting that all the remaining unimplemented provisions shall be given to us, sooner or later. It is government obligation to deliver them.

Moving forward, I call on the Bangsamoro people regardless of tribe and political affiliations to be united in this quest for sustainable peace and development. I understand there are many questions, especially now (as) we enter the transition phase. Allow me to allay your fears and assure you that while we intend to address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and implement the obligationsstipulated in the signed peace agreements, we will not create new conflicts in the process.

As we have said time and again, this peace process is for everyone. The MILF may have been in the proverbial “driver’s seat” especially during the negotiation phase, but we carry with us the concerns, hopes, and dreams of the Bangsamoro, as well all other inhabitants of the region. And we value friendships and partnerships with other peoplesof this diverse region and we intend to respect the rights of our brothers and sisters from various non-Moro indigenous groups and our Christian neighbors. For this next phase, we will wholeheartedly work with the current ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) government to chart the next course.

When the MILF embarked on this journey towards peace, which we knew could be perilous, our intention was for all of us including the next generation to have a comfortable and peace loving environment. The BOL may not be a perfect law for us but at least we can have something to start with. Without our unity and our collective support, we cannot reach our final aspiration of charting our political future.

Finally, the passage of the BOL would not been made possible without the men and women who pushed it vigorously through turbulent waters of legislation. Without saying, the role of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in making this possible occupies the premier spot; without his support and appeal to members of Congress to pass the BOL, I don’t think we would have it today. Moreover, the roles of champions in the House and Senate are hereby acknowledged. In the House, we have former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas, Deputy Speaker Bai Sandra Sema, Congresswoman Ruby Sahali, Congressman Pedro Acharon Jr., Congressman Wilter “Sharky” Palma, Congresswoman Anihilda Sancopan, and several others. I also acknowledged the role of the new Speaker, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, no matter how momentary it had been. She caused the ratification of BOL immediately upon her assumption as the new speaker. In the Senate, I acknowledged the indispensable contributions of all the senators; they all worked together to have it passed in the Senate. But special mention must go to former Senate President Koko Pimentel, current Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto, Senators Risa Hontiveros, Sonny Angara, Win Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, and Joel Villanueva. But the most passionate and consistent of all was my friend, Senate Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri. My wholehearted salute to you, sir!

Again, thank you and a pleasant morning to all!

 

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