(Speech delivered by Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic LIberatin Front, at the launch of the new BTC MILF Chairman on the occasion of the launch of the new BTC, Waterfront Hotel, Davao City on February 24, 2017)
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the first Mindanaoan President of the Republic,Secretary Jesus “Jess” Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Members of the Cabinet and other officials of Government, Local Governments, Excellences of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the MILF Central Committee and fellow mujahedeen, Brothers from the MNLF, Traditional Leaders, Sectoral Leaders, CSO’s, Media, Distinguished Guests; Brothers, sisters, friends, ladies and gentlemen, Let me extend to you our fraternal greetings of peace,
Assalamo Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, Very Good Afternoon:
Once again, We are gathered on this historic day for the launch, or more accurately, the re-launch of an expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). The creation of the BTC as the joint mechanism to write a proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will translate the provisions of the peace agreement into law was agreed by the parties more than two years ago when we signed the historic Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
The CAB is a comprehensive attempt to resolve the Bangsamoro Question, or as the President puts it more succinctly, an attempt to redress the historical injustice committed against the Moro People. As such it builds on the gains of previous peace agreements and preserves them while consciously addressing the gaps of the previous agreements. This is the reason why we readily accepted the offer of the President to convergence the peace agreements. It is our unyielding belief that we can work with our brothers and sisters from the MNLF.
As we re-launch the BTC today, we rekindle the hope of thousands of our people for a peaceful and progressive Bangsamoro even if we are occasionally gripped by sadness at the failure earlier to pass the BBL. We must look back at those experiences, not with bitterness, but with an examining eye so that we may dissect the problems and address them. We must come out better prepared this time to respond to the challenges of legislation. The Filipino people must equally stand prepared to accept us as partners in achieving peace and progress, not only for this region but for the entire country.
Perhaps, this second chance is the best second chance anyone could possibly have. We stand today at a historic moment in our journey as a country where for the first time in over a hundred year of existence of this republic, we have today the first President from Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte. We also have the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bebot Alvarez who is also from Mindanao. The Senate President, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel II is also from Mindanao.
But far more substantial than this, we feel more confident in achieving a lasting solution today to the Moro Question than at any other time in our struggle, because we have a President who understands the history and the root cause of the Moro Question. We note with great appreciation his speeches and commitment during the campaign of addressing the historical injustices committed against the Moro People. We watch with awe his bold pronouncements at rallies where majority are Filipinos with deep-seated prejudices against the Moros, that he will respect and implement the peace agreements. These pronouncements, I am sure, have endeared him to our people and so it is no surprise that the Moro people came in droves to vote for him.
And so, it is my firm belief that the launch today of the BTC is an important initial step in the many steps that we will have to take to address the historical injustice committed against our people. Along the way, I expect the BTC to encounter challenges. We must approach this challenges conscious not only of the sacredness of the peace agreement we forged but also of the opportunity as well to demonstrate that the three branches of our government can all work together to contribute in the epoch-making task of bring peace finally to our country. This unique opportunity is provided by the Constitution for the Executive to negotiate peace; for the Legislative to enact peace legislation; and for the Supreme Court to rule on constitutional issues for peace.
I am sure our challenges do not begin, nor end with the above, but for as long as we remain committed to implementing the peace agreement we signed, I am confident that we can surmount these challenges.
In closing, let me reiterate our message then of unity:
To our fellow brothers from the MNLF, let us close ranks and find strength in the convergence of our peace agreements.
To our fellow Mindanaons, let us assert self-rule while committing to shared rule.
To the three branches of government, let us demonstrate not just independence but interdependence as well so that we may all contribute to peace in our land.
To the Supreme Court, let us interpret the law, so that the ends of justice and peace is achieved.
To the Filipino people, let us embrace not only democracy but justice and equity as well.
May peace reign in the Bangsamoro. May peace reign in Mindanao. May peace reign in the country. May peace be unto you all. Thank you.