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Speech of President Aquino on the Framework Agreement with the MILF


President Benigno Aquino III, left, shakes hands with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles after his announcement on national television at the Malacanang on Sunday. Aquino said Sunday that his government has reached a preliminary peace agreement with the nation’s largest Muslim rebel group in a major breakthrough toward ending a decades-long insurgency in the country’s south. AP PHOTO

[This is a full English translation of the speech delivered at Malacañan Palace on October 7, 2012]

We have counted two generations since conflict began in Mindanao, a cycle of violence that has claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand Filipinos– soldiers, warriors, and innocent civilians who all needlessly shed their blood.

Many solutions have been proposed and tried. We have had peace agreements in the past, but still our hopes for the region remained unfulfilled. Some gained power, but instead of raising the quality of life in the region, this begot a structure that tightened the shackles of poverty. The command vote phenomenon arose and strengthened a feudal structure; ghost roads, ghost bridges, ghost schools, ghost teachers, ghost students became prevalent as the powerful few fattened their purses. A culture of impunity and injustice set in; the people lost their trust in the system, with some attempting to secede.

The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform.

This is the context that informed our negotiations throughout the peace process. And now, we have forged an agreement that seeks to correct these problems. It defines our parameters and our objectives, while upholding the integrity and sovereignty of our nation.

This agreement creates a new political entity, and it deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao, and celebrates the history and character of that part of our nation. That name will be Bangsamoro.

We are doing everything to ensure that other Bangsamoro stakeholders are brought in to this process so that this peace can be claimed and sustained by all. Sovereignty resides in the people, and consistent with the constitution, a basic law will be drafted by a transition commission and will go through the full process of legislation in Congress. My administration has pledged to supporting a law that will truly embody the values and aspirations of the people of Bangsamoro. Any proposed law resulting from this framework will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite. Once approved, there will be elections.

This Framework Agreement paves the way for a final, enduring peace in Mindanao. It brings all former secessionist groups into the fold; no longer does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front aspire for a separate state. This means that hands that once held rifles will be put to use tilling land, selling produce, manning work stations, and opening doorways of opportunity for other citizens.

National government will continue to exercise exclusive powers of defense and security, foreign policy, monetary policy and coinage, citizenship, and naturalization. The Constitution and lawful processes shall govern the transition to the Bangsamoro, and this agreement will ensure that the Philippines remains one nation and one people, with all of our diverse cultures and narratives seeking the common goal. The Filipinos of Bangsamoro, on the other hand, will be assured a fair and equitable share of taxation, revenues, and the fruits of national patrimony. They will enjoy equal protection of laws and access to impartial justice.

We have gotten this far because of the trust extended to us by Al Haj Murad and his Central Committee, and the members of the MILF negotiating panel led by Mohagher Iqbal. They recognized our administration’s sincerity, and our shared principles and aspirations. Together, we traversed the distance between us until we finally met in a handshake and an embrace as fellow citizens of the Philippines.

We would like to thank the government of Malaysia, who stood as facilitators as we realized our aspirations for peace; We thank in particular Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, whose commitment remained firm despite considerable political and personal risk. We would also like to thank the members of the International Contact Group: the governments of the United Kingdom, Japan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and international NGOs—Conciliation Resources, the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, the Asia Foundation, and Muhamadiyah. Our people are also grateful for the help of the International Monitoring Team composed of the governments of Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Norway, Indonesia, the European Union and Japan. The United States, Australia, and the World Bank, among several other countries and institutions, have also provided invaluable support during the course of this process.

None of this would have been possible without the tireless efforts of Secretary Ging Deles, Dean Marvic Leonen, his negotiating panel, and their dedicated staff at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. There can be no better example of true peace advocates.

This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved. It is about acknowledging that trust has to be earned– it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, good will, and hard work.

The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge.

In the next few days, the basic principles and outline of the Agreement will be published in various periodicals; the Official Gazette of our government will post the Agreement in full. I urge everyone to participate in free and public discourse before the final signing. Everything will be disclosed; we have no desire to keep secrets. To the best of our ability, we have examined these agreements; we believe we have reached balance and common ground. As a result, we have rectified the errors of the past, and installed mechanisms to make sure they do not recur.

As we read the Agreement, let us not think in terms of “them” and “us”, but rather as a “we” united under a single flag. The time for misunderstandings has passed, and if we truly care for one another, then it is only a matter of time: a matter of time before we put an end to violence; a matter of time before normalcy is restored to the Filipinos of Bangsamoro.

We have come to where we now stand, because trust has replaced doubt. There are challenges yet to face, and I entreat all Filipinos who thirst for peace with this mission: continue to sow trust, let us widen in and make it more pronounced in the days and weeks to come. Other triumphs will be sure to follow. Onward we will march toward stability; prosperity will illumine our entire country as a result of progress in one region; our dreams will become a reality.

I am not a young man; I think I am only slightly younger than Al Haj Murad. The time will come when we will both have to relinquish our positions. We are united by hope: hope that we may bequeath to the next generation a better situation in the parts of Mindanao long torn by conflict. This Agreement allows us to dream: The time is near when any foreigner visiting the Philippines will surely have the provinces of Bangsamoro in his itinerary. The time is near when a tourist wanting to go to Pagudpud can opt to go to Sulu. Children going to school whether in Quezon City or Lamitan will have the same quality education; hospitals whether in Pasig or Patikul can offer the same quality health care; businesses will flourish, whether one chooses to invest in Marikina or Marawi.

For so long, it was impossible to even aspire for these things. But we have proven: Nothing is impossible to those who are willing to unite, to work for solutions, and to act towards consensus. Finally, we have achieved peace, a peace that will serve as the foundation of our dreams for Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the entire Filipino nation.


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Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Government , Malaysia , MILF , Peace Talks




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