From InterAksyon (Mar 27): FINALLY, PEACE FOR PH | After 40-year strife, gov't, MILF ink pact
MILF's Mohaqher Iqbal and GPH's Miriam Coronel-Ferrer show the newly signed CAB on Thursday, March 27, 2014. With them are MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Malaysian PM Najib Razak, President Benigno Aquino III, OPAPP secretary Teresita Deles and Malaysian facilitator Datu Ghafar Tengku (Bernard Testa/InterAksyon.com)
After 40 years of conflict that brought poverty, fear, and violence to thousands of homes in Mindanao, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the biggest Muslim rebel group in the country, finally signed a peace deal at 5:32 p.m., Thursday, March 27.
Government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer and her counterpart from the MILF, Mohagher Iqbal, signed the five-page Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Malaysian facilitator Ghafar Tengku signed as witness.
The ceremony was witnessed by President Benigno Aquino III, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The CAB brings together the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro; the four annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements; the addendum on Bangsamoro waters; and the 1997 ceasefire agreement.
[READ RELATED STORY: Key points of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro]
“Today, we have set an example to the world…The people themselves would turn the era of strife to an era of peace,” said Aquino.
“I will not let peace be snatched from my people again,” the President added.
“At times it seems as if the selfish few can fatally hamper the future of so many. There are, however, days like this: Days when our collective philosophy of sincere consensus-building yields the most enduring of results; days when we can stand witness to the hard work of our people; days when we can be filled with hope despite all the challenges that remain,” said Aquino.
“There are days when we can find time to reflect on what we have achieved in less than four years: In this case, the end to decades of conflict, and the beginning of development and prosperity for the Bangsamoro. Today, we have proven that not only can our people dream again; but in fact, we are now beginning to achieve our dreams,” he added.
[READ PRESIDENT AQUINO’S SPEECH DURING THE CAB SIGNING HERE]
Murad said the CAB, the culmination of 17 years of peace negotiations between his group and the Philippine government "is the crowning glory” of the Moro people’s struggle.
“The CAB finally brings with it the restoration of identity, powers and resources of Bangsamoro. These three things are now returned to us," Murad said. "The CAB is the crowning glory of our struggle."
Murad gave assurances that the MILF would not seek a monopoly of power over the Bangsamoro, the new political entity to be created as a result of the CAB.
"The MILF will only be the gatekeeper during the transition period, after which the keys to the gate will be turned over to democratic will of the Bangsamoro people," Murad said.
"To be more emphatic, it will not be a government of the MILF but a government of the Bangsamoro," he said.
New political entity
The agreement will pave the way for the creation of a new political entity called the Bangsamoro that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
[SEE COPY OF THE AGREEMENT AND ITS ANNEXES HERE]
The ARMM will form part of the core Bangsamoro territory. It will include the cities of Isabela and Cotabato, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and 39 barangays in six municipalities of Cotabato province.
The Bangsamoro will enjoy 100 percent of resources from non-metallic minerals such as sand, gravel and quarry and 75 percent of income from the exploration, development and utilization of metallic minerals within the region.
Only income derived from fossil fuels and uranium shall be shared equally by the Bangsamoro with the central government.
Under the annex on power-sharing, the Bangsamoro assembly shall have at least 50 members representing district, party-list, sectoral and reserved seats.
The assembly shall be headed by a chief minister, who shall be elected by majority votes from among the members of the assembly.
Not only for MILF
Murad stressed the inclusive nature of the CAB.
"The CAB is not only for the MILF. It is for the Moro National Liberation Front as well, as much as it is for all Muslim ethnic tribes, Christian settlers, and indigenous peoples in the prospective Bangsamoro territory," Murad added. "MILF does not and will never claim sole ownership of the Bangsamoro."
The agreement, he said, would leave no more reason for anyone to take up arms.
"There is no more cause left pursuing by force for others to take," he said, as he prayed for "an accepting and not just a tolerant public" to ensure the CAB's success.
For her part, Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the CAB signing would mean that in the future, there would be "no more children scampering for safety, no more evacuees, no more lost schooldays, no more injustice."
"No more poverty...no more fear. Tama na [Enough of those], we are all tired of it," Deles said.
"A new dawn has come, the dawn for books, not bullets; for paintbrushes, not knives; for whole communities, not evacuation centers," she said.
Malaysia's Najib committed his country's continued support to the peace process with Muslim rebels, in particular in the implementation of the CAB, calling the peace deal a “momentous act of courage.”
Najib said the Philippine government and the MILF were able to finalize the CAB because "the two sides looked not to the problems of the past but to the promise of the future."
He said that that by engaging in the peace process, the MILF "had repaid the trust placed in them by the people," while the Philippine government by engaging with the MILF in the negotiations had "affirmed the rights of the Bangsamoro to determine their own destiny."
"Both sides have scarificed so that people of Southern Philippines will live, free free from violence... free from suffering... free from fear," said Najib.
He said that in the pages of the CAB, "we will see the promise of a better future" where "classrooms ring with laughter, not gunshots."