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PEACETALK: We remain committed to build a Bangsamoro worthy of its name

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 (Keynote address of BARMM Chief Minister and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The celebration was held in the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao del Norte on 27 March 2024). 

         Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim

Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.

Foremost, I extend our sincerest welcome to all the dignitaries who have come all the way from across the globe to be with us today. My warmest greetings also to our friends from the national government, colleagues from the Bangsamoro Government, our brothers and sisters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, guests, and everyone.

I praise the almighty Allah SWT for giving us the opportunity to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), paving the way for peace, development, and progress in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the entire country. Fittingly, this event falls in the middle of the holy month of Ramadhan, which is a time of coming together and a time of reflection. Insofar as the CAB is concerned, this commemoration now effectively brings us together and allows us to reflect on the agreement’s progress in terms of implementation.

The signing of the CAB marks a significant turning point in our collective history—a journey that underscores our steadfast commitment to correcting historical injustices and dismantling oppressive systems that have hindered the development of our people and our homeland. This political settlement acknowledges the legitimacy of the rights of the Bangsamoro to self-determination, empowering us to chart our socio-political destiny rooted in our faith, identity, and love for our homeland.

The CAB reaffirms the understanding between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Philippines on the core issues that had been fully negotiated and completely settled in instrumentalities such as the Framework Agreement and its annexes, as well as all other prior agreements entered in relation to this exercise. Both the MILF and the Government of the Philippines, therefore, have an over-arching commitment to faithfully implement the provisions of the CAB, and to ensure that doing so will bring the Bangsamoro to a path of economic security, stability, and success. Let me stress on this partnership and collaboration to ensure that that the implementation of the agreement, leading up to the signing of the exit agreement, progresses in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.

Comparing the strides we have made with respect to the legal track of securing, ratifying, and implementing the Bangsamoro Organic Law in 2018 to that of the normalization track, we can draw stark contrasts with one having progressed faster than the other.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2019 truly paved the way for good governance and resulted in a stronger, better-resourced autonomous region, suited to the way of life of the Bangsamoro. We speak the language of “autonomy” as we continue to push for greater support for the Bangsamoro at the local and national levels. 

The MILF-led BARMM has enormously changed the landscape of governance, by exemplifying the virtues of moral governance in the region. We have put in place a BARMM that gives due regard to individual and collective rights; a government that is democratic, and representative of the diversities we embrace in the territory. When we offered ourselves as an alternative to governance, we made sure that we did so with openness, inclusivity, and compassion. This resulted in the decline of poverty rates in the region, increase in investments, availability of employment opportunities, opening of economic activities, and generally, uplifting the lives of the Bangsamoro people. However, the normalization track paints a different picture. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it may need reminding that normalization is not only about decommissioning. 

There are eight (8) interrelated components of normalization, namely: (1) creation of the transitional components of normalization: (a) Joint Normalization Committee (JNC); (b) Joint Peace and Security Committee (JPSC); and (c) Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST); (2) Socio-Economic Development Program; (3) confidence-building measures, such as pardon and amnesty, as well as special programs for the six acknowledged camps of the MILF; (4) decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants; (5) redeployment of Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Bangsamoro; (6) policing in the Bangsamoro; (7) disbanding of private armed groups; and (8) Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Program.

To those who have been closely following the GPH-MILF peace process, you would note that while there had been remarkable progress in the decommissioning of MILF combatants and their weapons, the other components of normalization move at a slower pace, if there is any movement at all. Respectfully, we must carefully implement the normalization provisions with the end in view of achieving a smooth transition for MILF combatants to productive civilian life, and more importantly, attaining peace, justice, and development in the region. If we “normalize” substantially, we attain relative peace, but more importantly, we will be able to embrace development.

As chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and a veteran of this decades-old peace journey, I face you once again, to solicit your continuing support for the peace process.

Over the years, our people have invested their blood, sweat, tears and lives in the quest for real and lasting peace in Mindanao. We will never forget their sacrifices and contributions in pursuit of peace and development for our homeland. Their courage and perseverance helped bring us to where we are today, laying the foundation for a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. I believe that the return on these sacrifices have been one of our best: that we have reached this point, hand in hand with our partner, the Government of the Philippines, so that we may be able to put an end to injustices and secure for ourselves and our posterity the much desired peace and development by jointly implementing the provisions of the cab.

Acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead, it is incumbent upon us to honor our commitment to the principles enshrined in the CAB and its annexes and rededicate ourselves to work tirelessly to transform this vision into reality. These are the crossroads we face, and we have to make sure that the implementation of the provisions of the CAB, with emphasis on the Annex on Normalization, is consistent with the agreements we have signed, from the agreement on the general cessation of hostilities to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes. 

At this point, allow me to thank the Government of the Philippines, under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., for his administration’s trust and dedication in sustaining the dividends of the peace process. I would also like to thank our international peace partners, our development partners, and all stakeholders. Your unwavering commitment to our cause is indeed noteworthy, and we deeply appreciate it. And above all, I thank the Bangsamoro people for their steadfastness and resilience in our long quest for self-determination. 

The CAB, alongside other peace initiatives, presents an unprecedented opportunity and a well-defined roadmap for a peaceful transition out of decades of war to a bright future of enduring peace. Let us use this fundamental document to realize the potential of an empowered, cohesive, and progressive Bangsamoro for years to come. Guided by moral governance and in pursuit of genuine and meaningful autonomy, we remain committed to continuing to build a Bangsamoro worthy of its name. 

Shukran. Wabillahi Taufiq Walhidayah Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

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