As private citizen, Aquino vows support for peace
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday pledged his continued support for the Mindanao peace process, saying he would be its “friend and ally” even as a private citizen.
Mr. Aquino, who made the peace in Mindanao a cornerstone of his six-year administration, made this promise at the launch of “Junctures,” a compilation of selected speeches and statements made throughout the peace process between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“In 21 days, I will be stepping down from office, but to all of you in attendance today, and to each person of goodwill who wishes to fulfill the promise of Mindanao, I will remain your friend and ally. Tell me how I can help this process, even as an ordinary citizen, and I will be by your side,” the President said at the Malacañang event.
The President also expressed hope that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which the 15th Congress shelved, will be passed by the next Congress.
“The book we launch today tells of the journey we have taken these past six years. We launch it fully aware that the journey is still ongoing—that there are more challenges we must overcome and triumphs that await all of us. It instills in us the awareness that we are, once more, at a juncture, where we must choose between reverting to the status quo of the past or continuing our progress far into the future,” Mr. Aquino said.
In a statement, MILF chieftain Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the book is a “common pursuit” of the government and the MILF “to educate and spread the word of peace in the context of the Bangsamoro.”
Murad was unable to attend the book launch as he was still recovering from an eye surgery. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal read Murad’s statement and extended the MILF head’s apology to President Aquino and the audience for his absence.
Murad emphasized the power of words in his statement, giving as an example President Aquino’s “affirmation and acceptance of the Bangsamoro” in his speech at the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012.
“Words, indeed, are the most powerful weapon. They can ignite a fire within the minds of those who hear them. They can move people to action. They can dictate the trajectory of events that follow. Words can fool or rule,” Murad said.
President Aquino recalled that when he met with Murad in Tokyo in 2011 to break the impasse in the peace negotiations, many called his move to meet with the rebels “un-presidential.”
“For me, however, such concerns were eclipsed by the potential benefit for our nation—by the possibility that we may finally end a conflict that has brought suffering to far too many Filipinos,” he said.
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