MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 June) – President Benigno S. Aquino III made mention of Mindanao in but one paragraph of his inaugural address delivered right after he was sworn into office noontime today by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
“My government will be sincere in dealing with all the peoples of Mindanao. We are committed to a peaceful and just settlement of conflicts, inclusive of the interests of all – may they be Lumads, Bangsamoro or Christian,” he said in the speech delivered mainly in Tagalog before a mammoth crowd of supporters.
Apparently referring to rebel groups, Aquino declared: “We shall defeat the enemy by wielding the tools of justice, social reform, and equitable governance leading to a better life.”
The Philippines continues to battle the decades-old armed struggles waged by the Maoist-oriented New People’s Army as well as Moro rebels in Mindanao.
Peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hit a snag on several occasions.
Hostilities even erupted anew in some areas after the Supreme Court ruled against the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which was scheduled for signing in August 2008, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The agreement would have given the Moro people wider autonomy and additional territories to govern subject to the results of plebiscites that would be conducted within a prescribed period.
Former senator Manuel Roxas II, Aquino’s defeated running mate, was among the government officials who openly rejected the MOA-AD. He lost badly in the Moro-dominated areas of Mindanao.
In his roughly 20-minute speech, Aquino outlined his would-be priorities, including education, support to the agriculture sector, fiscal austerity, and fight against graft and corruption.
But the new president hinted he would conduct no-nonsense probes into the questionable deals and unresolved controversies under the Arroyo administration.
He announced former Chief Justice Hilario Davide has accepted his offer to him to head the Truth Commission, a body inspired by South Africa’s commission which investigated the crimes of the apartheid regime.
Interestingly, Davide is known to be close to Arroyo.
Arroyo, catapulted to power in January 2001 by the Edsa 2 uprising, stepped down after spending 9 years, 5 months and 10 days in Malacanang.
Her presidency was marred by several controversies, including allegations she cheated in the 2004 election as suggested by the “Hello, Garci” scandal. (MindaNews)