(Keynote Speech Interim Chief Minister Hon. Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Bangsamoro Transition Authority, delivered by Assistant Regional Cabinet Secretary Atty. Ayla Herazade E. Salendabb, at the Kaakbay Kapayapaan: Civil Society Peace and Solidarity Assembly on 25 November 2019)
Bismillahir Rahmahnir Raheem Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Taala Wa Barakatuh.
It has been two decades from when we began our peace negotiations with the Philippine Government. While a lot has changed over the years, much has remained the same, including the faces we see here today. Most of our CSO brethren with us today are the same ones who have been there when the first bricks were piled to build what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM.
Indeed, the BARMM and its promise of lasting peace and development in the region arose from the labor not only of our brothers-in-struggle-and-arms but also of other stakeholders of peace, principally, you, the CSOs. You helped build an environment conducive to the peace process. You were the player that assumed the most diverse roles – from peace education, to civilian protection, to rehabilitation of displaced communities, to engaging international support, to sometimes forging diplomacy amongst the key parties, and to linking these players to the grassroots, among others. You were the glue that bound all the complex and, not seldom, conflicting players, issues and interests.
Now, as the struggle have moved from the battlefield to the government offices, we are confronted with another, perhaps, a more difficult, challenge – the challenge of moral governance. The challenge is not so much in assuming key positions of power in government. That part is fairly easy and, unfortunately, have too often been used by officials to pursue self-interest.
The challenge, rather, is in advancing a government that is ethical and moral. A government whose vision is lasting peace, stability, democracy and progress but all in the context of, and is limited by, ethical and moral values. This means that the acts of this government must be legal and legitimate; its policy-making rational and deliberative; it is responsible to its people and ensures checks, balances and accountability to them. In other words, a government composed of public servants – in its real sense. Servants who are prepared to sacrifice their well-being for the well-being of the people whom they serve.
This is why in these challenging times, we need the strength and resilience of the CSOs more than ever. CSOs work to counterbalance the government and influence people using mechanisms outside the government. You are our watchdogs, our critics, our friends, sometimes our foes, our partners, our movers and our challengers. You create an environment where people possess and pursue their right to debate issues and be heard in policy-making; An environment where people and government alike welcome voices which share, or challenge, their own. In other words, you foster inclusiveness, transparency, equity and participation in governance – key foundations of the moral governance presently steering the Bangsamoro government.
As we traverse this difficult track of moral governance, we need you to keep us grounded. We need you to constantly remind us of why we are here and who we serve – the people. We need you so that we hear, and be guided by, the voice of our people. We need you to nudge us if our frailties as humans causes us to digress from our sworn path. We need you to engage us in debates and challenge our decisions so that we may see things differently and recalibrate our methods. We need you to connect us to our people and to the rest of the world.
With that, we thank you for carrying out these challenging tasks and for the support you have shown us these past decades. We pray for an even stronger partnership now that we take on a different, perhaps, a bigger role in shaping the fate of our people, with the mechanisms and resources of the government now available at our disposal.
In behalf of the honorable Chief Minister, thank you and may we all achieve our common dreams of lasting peace and progress in the region.