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Speech of Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chair Mohagher Iqbal at the Ceremonial Opening of the Transition Commission April 5, 2013

Posted by HERBERT CURIA in OPPAP, PEACE TALK UPDATES.
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Speech of Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chair Mohagher Iqbal at the Ceremonial Opening of the Transition Commission

Wed, 04/03/2013

Let me welcome you to this modest yet symbolic gathering to formally open the work of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. This is indeed a historic and defining moment for all of us especially Moros of Mindanao who have never known real peace since Spain came in the 16th century. Again, welcome!

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For the MILF this journey to peace is a giant leap of faith, immeasurable and beyond the confines of time and space. Like the symbolism of today’s occasion, we are taking a giant leap from the familiar grounds of the Pulangi into the unfamiliar plains of Pasig; from the comfort zone of our homeland to the home base of our opponent-and now our partners in search of real peace; from the traditional means of our struggle through the barrel of the guns into the stokes of the mighty pen.

To be candid, today I am probably as nervous as I was when I first entered school, uncertain and anxious of the unknown. As we plunge into unfamiliar grounds, and especially so, when one commits not only himself to a new direction but an organization and a nation, the fear and anxiety is compounded. I take comfort only in two things, one, trust in the guidance of Allah and second an almost instinctive ability of guerillas to adapt to its changing environment, perhaps brought about almost a lifetime struggle.

Today also, I take comfort in the knowledge that Pasig is derived from a Sanskrit word “Passi” which means a “river flowing from one body of water into another,” perhaps from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. I do not wish to draw familiar parallelism in Mao Tse Tong’s notion of a guerilla moving amongst the people as the fish swims in the river. But here today, I take a wish, nay a prayer, that the steps we take today is but a transition from one body of water (and I love to imagine it is our familiar Pulangi) full of dreams and aspiration, into another body of water (and like a good negotiator, I shall concede it to be Pasig for our counterparts) with the promise of dawn and of dreams fulfilled.

But let me momentarily disturb our dream or free boat ride from Pulangi to Pasig and quickly address the imperatives of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and outline the MILF view of the Transition Commission thus:

First and foremost, the MILF views the Commission as its first initial partnership with the GPH. As such, it shall endeavor to reach consensus with representatives of the government on major decisions in the course of its work. We shall not work against each other but instead work with each other, to address the Moro Problem or more correctly, the Moro Question.

Second, the work of the Commission shall be devoted principally into transforming the Agreements of Parties, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and its Annexes as well as other Agreements of the Parties, into a legislation envisioned to establish a new Bangsamoro Political Entity that embodies the political, economic, social and cultural aspirations of the Bangsamoro.

Third, the TC shall be open, transparent and participative in its approach. While the MILF acknowledges the fact that the major principles have been agreed by the parties in the negotiation, the specific translation of these into mechanisms, institutions shall be open to public participation. After all what we envision to build are institutions for our people and never solely for the MILF. Beyond this, as an organization, we are open to adopting new and innovative practices born out of principles that we all share, such as cutting edge and innovative ways in government service delivery that uses the latest information technology.

Fourth, the institutions we envision to create under the Basic Law shall feature mechanisms for inclusivity and public participation to ensure a dynamic and robust government able to engage with all stakeholders and address the concerns of its constituency. It shall further entrench appropriate measures of transparency and accountability to its people.

Fifth, the Basic Law shall entrench the new relations between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine government founded on the principles of parity of esteem, mutual respect, self-sufficiency and cooperation and continuing dialogue to further enhance this unique and special relations that both respects and recognizes our unique history but brave enough to face all possibilities in the future.

Sixth The TC, as the first formal engagement of the MILF with the government shall mirror some of the features we envision for the new Bangsamoro government such as:

1.    A lean but competent bureaucracy;
2.    Features of transparency such as an interactive website where people can send their suggestions and recommendations;
3.    Constant public consultations to build consensus and embrace divergent views to build a common and shared vision;
4.    Consciousness of the need to apply resources where it is most needed; and
5.    And more importantly, ability to partner with other institutions to move forward.

Seventh, the TC shall envision a government guided by the Quranic principles on religious freedom. Allah says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy, handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 256]

Eight, the TC shall be open for partnership both with local and international actors/organizations. As we commence several transitions, from rebels to governance, from organization to government, from combatants to community builders, we recognize the imperative to see best practices, universal standards, other peoples’ experiences so that we need not continuously reinvent the wheels. However, we shall always keep in mind the principle that “context is king”.

Ninth, The Basic Law must entrench the Bangsamoro not because it is supreme over others but because it is an essential and indispensable heritage of this country, nay even of the world. The uniqueness of the Bangsamoro is the only meaningful contribution that we can contribute to the richness of this country or even of the world, for if we are just all the same, like factory made apparels of the same size, fit and color, then we add no further value to our national heritage. If we are to truly contribute anything significant to the global village, let it be our uniqueness as a Bangsamoro nation. Let this not be a source of conflict but an important piece in our quest for harmony. As the Quran rightly said “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” Surah al-Hujarat (49:13)

Tenth, the Transition Commission can only begin its substantial work when the Annexes are completed. The acts of completion must be undertaken immediately. It is therefore urgent that we complete the Annexes by taking the hard political decisions. The issues remaining in the negotiations have been simplified and the positions of the parties clarified. We must seize the moment now.

Let me call on therefore our partners from the government to work hand in hand with us in crafting an instrument that shall embody the Bangsamoro ideals and aspirations and create new relations founded on the principles of parity of esteem and mutual respect. Indeed, what we shall do today shall shape our tomorrow.

I call on the honorable members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to help us hurdle the remaining stages of this arduous process that we so bravely face despite our foreknowledge of the challenges, dangers and pitfalls that it hides. To pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law is to affirm the possibility of political assertion and settlement and relegate the armed struggle into the domain of history.

I urge the international community to help us shepherd this peace process, so that we can demonstrate to the world that there is a peaceful path to every political aspiration and that the lessons that we may learn can hopefully help others make it through the difficult passage from war to peace.

Let me express the MILF’s profoundest gratitude to His Excellency Benigno Aquino III for his continuing commitment to see through the completion of this process within his term after 16 years of negotiation. In return, we pledge the unwavering commitment of the MILF to be an effective partner of his government in this quest for peace in the south of the Philippines. Likewise, let me also express the MILF’s sincerest appreciation and thanks to His Excellency Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Mohammad Bin Razak and the Malaysian government for continuing to facilitate the GPH-MILF peace negotiation since 2001. It is our earnest hope and prayer that Malaysia shall continue to journey with us in these peace efforts in troubled Mindanao through the end.

I seek no personal gain nor glory in this process. I have been through the most difficult and painful years of our struggle for the right to self-determination. I, like thousands of our comrades in arms, years ago, have taken up arms to fight injustice and assert our inalienable right to determine our future. This has been the honorable way to respond to the call of those days. Today, I, like many of us in the armed revolutionary movement, am taking a giant leap of faith in trusting that the peaceful path is possible for us. We had put one foot in the path of peace, while we struggle to pull the other from the comfort of our mountain lairs. We are embarking on a gradual and calculated shift in our struggle from the barrels of the Kalashnikov into the mighty strokes of the pen.

Your response, the government response, indeed the Filipino peoples’ response, shall finally determine which step we shall ultimately take—the pen or the gun. Help us make our choice easy.

Thank you very much and good day!


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