PEACETALK: An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost

(Opening statement of Presidential Peace Adviser, Sec. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. durin g tge  senate hearing on the BARMM extension, 14 May 2021)

Mr. Chair, highly-esteemed members of the Senate, to my colleagues in government, and also to the members of the Bangsamoro government, and to everyone attending and watching today’s hearing, a good day to all, Eid Al-Fitr Mubarak to our Muslim brothers, Hariraya.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) would like to reaffirm its position supporting the call for the extension of the term of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) interim government until 2025.

We are pleased to note that this is also the same position of the other members of President duterte’s cabinet who have thrown their full support behind the BARMM’s extension.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, I already presented this also to our Security and Justice and Peace Cluster Cabinet members pertaining the advantages and disadvantages, and they have thrown their full support for the extension.

As we know, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is still in its ‘infancy stage,’ as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) took over the reigns of governance only two years ago.

And then later COVID-19 struck us in 2020.

And while the BARMM interim government has done a remarkable job within such a short period of time, we believe that a three-year transition period is still not enough to accomplish what it had set out to do.

And also with the delimiting factors that have beset by the COVID-19, the three years was cut into only one.

Since its creation, the BARMM leadership has been faced with the formidable task of establishing a responsive and fully-functioning bureaucracy that reflects the ideals and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for moral governance.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and adversely affected the regional government’s timetable, and including our normalization program, particularly the crafting of its codes and other key pieces of legislation.

But through the GPH-MILF peace implementing panels, we were still able to carry out peacebuilding and socio-economic initiatives under the normalization track of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), albeit on a limited scale.

There is no one to blame for situation we are facing now. However, we must emphasize that the implementation of these interventions is a shared responsibility of the national and BARMM governments.

Dear members of the Senate, and also Congress, we must look at the bigger picture, and by doing so, we will realize that the BARMM’S extension will far outweigh whatever impact this may have later on.

Moreover, we believe that the BARMM’S extension will help diffuse tensions in the region, such as the recent spate of armed attacks in the province of Maguindanao particularly on Datu Paglas and Datu Piang.

Your honors, nakita po natin na pagkanagkaroon po ng election, napaka – nagkakaroon po tayo ng malaking division. At nakikita natin, if you look at the history of the Marawi crisis, ang nangyari po talaga po doon is basically, it affirms that the lessons learned that we have, the BIFF and the terrorist group might use the elections that can create a much division and rido in the midst in the Bangsamoro.

If the Bangsamoro people feel the presence of a committed, stable and reliable BARMM Government, there will be no reason for them to bear arms and carry out these attacks .

I believe, with a really good transition, we can entice the BIFF and other terrorist groups to return to the fold of the law as we have – we are now doing in Sulu province and also in Lanao and Basilan.

And finally, the BARMM Government’s extension will provide a greater sense of stability and security in the Bangsamoro, and enable us sustain the gains of peace in the region.

We therefore need to give the BARMM government more time to lay the foundations of an inclusive, people-centered and accountable bureaucracy,  and more importantly, deliver on its commitments to the Bangsamoro people.

And the only way we believe this is possible is for the honorable members of this body to favorably consider our proposal to extend the term of the regional government for another three years.

An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost. And i believe this is an opportunity that we have to give to the Bangsamoro people.

We have negotiated for more than 17 years, what we have there asking is only three years for the transition.

Our dear senators, let us not miss this opportunity to give our Moro brothers and sisters the future that they deserve, and to achieve our collective vision of bringing a just and long-lasting peace to all Filipinos.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay po tayong lahat.