MILF Praises Duterte Presidency: ‘One of Most Sincere, Facilitative Administrations’ for Mindanao Peace Process

“We consider (President Duterte’s Presidency) to be one of the most sincere and facilitative administrations, and friend to the peace process.”

— MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher M. Iqbal

BARMM News

By EDD K. USMAN

@edd1819 | @bluestar0910 | SDN — Science and Digital News

Short link: https://wp.me/paaccn-jCb

(SDN) From 1976 to 2022 the Mindanao peace process spans over 40 years.

Malacañang photo.

In referring to the “Mindanao peace process,” the three-word phrase covers the peace talks between the Philippine Government (GRP before, later GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Of course, the MNLF is led by Founding Chairman Nur P. Misuari; the MILF headed by Al-Azhar University-educated Ustadhz Salamat Hashim, who founded and chaired his group after breaking away from Misuari.

From then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., the peace process to end the war in Southern Philippines (Mindanao) passed through seven Presidents through to President Rodrigo R. Duterte. So far.

But for the remaining 13 days it’s still in the Duterte regime’s hands.

MILF and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) officials met and hobnobbed with the outgoing Chief Executive during the Submission of the 2nd Progress Report to the President by the GPH-MILF Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB). The IGRB panels last convened for their final and 11th meeting on June 1 at the DOF Building in Manila, Metro Manila.

Iqbal, head of the BARMM’s Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), co-chairs the IGRB with Department of Finance (DOF) head Secretary Carlos G. “Sonny” Dominguez III. The IGRB was tasked on building “on points of cooperation between the national and Bangsamoro governments. It had conducted a series of meetings “to find ways of further fast-tracking the processes leading to a functional autonomy in the new Muslim Mindanao region.”

With a half dozen Presidents at the helm of the negotiations, who do you think may have stood out. If you ask the MILF to grade every President whose administration handled the negotiations with the two Moro revolutionary groups, a particular answer will come up.

In fact, this is what the MILF through Mohagher M. Iqbal, the chairman of the group’s peace panel in the peace talks with GPH, communicated in Malacañan Palace during the submission of the IGRB report on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

“… I am thankful for the warm reception of our beloved President Duterte to the delegation of the Bangsamoro Government and the IGR Body, in these last few days of his Presidency, which we consider to be one of the most sincere and facilitative administration, and friend to the peace process,” says Iqbal, who wore many hats in the 17 years of negotiations with GPH.

On January 7, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos broke the ice with the MILF, his administration kicking off the negotiations through informal talks in Cagayan de Oro City, Mindanao. Negotiations culminated at the time of President Benigno S. Aquino III with the signing of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) by Iqbal and his counterpart, University of the Philippines (UP) Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer, GPH peace panel chair. Malaysia as the third-party facilitator had Tengku Dató Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed signed as witness.

The MILF’s expression of gratitude to the President is particularly notable, having had the peace process lacking the elements of sincerity from, apparently, some past administrations.

“In my years of experience as a peace negotiator, I have proven that sincerity is not only wanting but it is a magic key that renders easy even the most difficult challenges that stalled the peace process on many occasions. As a practicing Muslim, I believe that only Almighty Allah and the person concerned know what is in his or her mind.

“However, there is one opt-repeated saying which states that action reflects ideas. What one does or how one acts reflects what is in their mind. In the case of President Duterte, I can truly and proudly say that he has shown his sincerity in more ways than one with his actions as he fulfilled his promises of supporting the Bangsamoro peace process during his term of office,” recalls the chief negotiator of the MILF, founded in 1977 by Hashim, Misuari’s vice chairman in the then undivided MNLF. It was said that the Al-Azhar University graduate got disgruntled with the Tripoli Agreement signed on December 3, 1976.

The MILF and BARMM official recalled further Duterte’s words during the campaign period for the May 9, 2016 presidential elections, particularly in the presidential debates.

“In the April 2016 Presidential debates, President Duterte publicly declared that nothing will appease the Bangsamoro until the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed. By then, we recognized the potential strong ally in President Duterte, who knows what it is like to live in a place of conflict, as he himself comes from Mindanao and has ties to the Moro communities.

GPH Chief Negotiator UP Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer and MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher M. Iqbal in a Rappler interview via Youtube. (Credit: Rappler.com)

President Duterte fully grasps the root of the injustices against us and the wounds of our past as a Bangsamoro people. He has a deep understanding of the Bangsamoro Question. Ladies and gentlemen, this is important to us and to our struggle. By the year 2017, President Duterte revived the Bangsamoro Transition Commission with expanded composition. This body was tasked to draft the second Bangsamoro Basic Law after the first proposed law did not pass during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III,” says Iqbal.

He said the President’s strong political will augmented by the leadership of the 17th Congress combined to push the passage of Republic Act No. 11054 (the Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL) in 2018. The Bangsamoro people later ratified the BARMM’s Charter in a plebiscite on January 21 and February 6, 2019.

The President then assembled the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)  just days after, as he named the BTA members of Parliament (MPs), led by MILF Chairman Ahod Balawag “Al-Hajj Murad” Ebrahim as interim BARMM Chief Minister.

After the plebiscite 63 barangays or villages in North Cotabato saw voters chose to be under the jurisdiction of the nascent Bangsamoro government and became known collectively as the Special Geographic Area (SGA). The people of Cotabato City also voted in. BARMM then is now comprised of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan, and Marawi, as well as the SGA. North Cotabato itself is not part of the region.

Below is the full text of the speech of Iqbal at the event in Malacanang, minus the salutations:

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be delivering this message today on the occasion of the Submission of the 2nd Progress Report of the Intergovernmental Relations Body to His Excellency, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. These historic halls of Malacanang Palace have, indeed, seen many victories and hosted memorable experiences on the Bangsamoro peace process.

“More so, I am thankful for the warm reception of our beloved President Duterte to the delegation of the Bangsamoro Government and the IGR Body, in these last few days of his Presidency, which we consider to be one of the most sincere and facilitative administrations, and a friend to the peace process.

“In my years of experience as a peace negotiator, I have proven that sincerity is not only wanting but it is a magic key that renders easy even the most difficult challenges that stalled the peace process on many occasions. As a practicing Muslim, I believe that only Almighty Allah and the person concerned know what is in his or her mind. However, there is one opt-repeated saying which states that action reflects ideas. What one does or how one acts reflects what is in their mind. In the case of President Duterte, I can truly and proudly say that he has shown his sincerity in more ways than one with his actions as he fulfilled his promises of supporting the Bangsamoro peace process during his term of office.

“In the April 2016 Presidential debates, President Duterte publicly declared that nothing will appease the Bangsamoro until the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed. By then, we recognized the potential strong ally in President Duterte, who knows what it is like to live in a place of conflict, as he himself comes from Mindanao and has ties to the Moro communities. President Duterte fully grasps the root of the injustices against us and the wounds of our past as a Bangsamoro people. He has a deep understanding of the Bangsamoro Question. Ladies and gentlemen, this is important to us and to our struggle. By the year 2017, President Duterte revived the Bangsamoro Transition Commission with expanded composition. This body was tasked to draft the second Bangsamoro Basic Law after the first proposed law did not pass during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino 111.

“Through President Duterte’s strong political will and the leadership of the 17th Congress of the Philippines, Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law was passed in 2018, which was later on ratified in a plebiscite by the Bangsamoro people on January 21, 2019 and February 6, 2019.

“In only a matter of days, the good President assembled the Bangsamoro Transition Authority and appointed the Members of the Parliament, including the interim Chief Minister, Honorable Ahod Ebrahim.

“Recognizing that the original 3-year transition period would not be enough to effectively put in place reforms especially the foundation of moral governance in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and considering the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, President Duterte also heeded the call for the extension of the transition period for another 3 years or until 2025. This generous act of extending the transition period gives us more elbow room as an IGR Body because most of what we do, our obligations and deliverables, come from the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Credit: Pixabay

“In essence, President Duterte never failed to acknowledge the peace agreements and used them as a guide in steering his directives when it came to the affairs of the Bangsamoro. President Duterte honors the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and we are happy that in his 6 years as President of the Republic of the Philippines, he stayed true to his promise of placing the peace process among the top of his administration’s agenda to pave the way for longer-term political and economic reforms for the country. For all of these, His Excellency President Duterte, you have our profound respect and gratitude. Congratulations on a wonderful 6 years of Presidency and we wish you only the best in the years to come.

“I could also say the same thing in regard our National Government counterparts, headed by my supportive co-Chair, Sec. Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez. Looking back since our First Consultative Meeting on December 16, 2019 in Davao City, we have covered so much ground as an IGR Body. Some issues were easy to resolve and some took time, but we respect the process and trust in each other’s good faith in our dealings.

“One concrete example was the successful Turnover of Supervision over Cotabato City to the BARMM which happened more than a year and a half from when the BARMM was established. Alhamdulillah! It is with pride to say that the steadfast decision of the IGR Body to complete the turnover by December 2020 was instrumental in cementing the deal and was influential in convincing our beloved President to stand by the agreement that it will happen by end of that year.

“I could not have wished for a better partner as co-Chair in the IGR Body than Sec. Sonny Dominguez. The level of professionalism and hard work of this group is beyond compare. It has been an honor to have worked by your side, and you may rest assured that I will take inspiration from this friendship and good working relationship as we move forward with the IGR Body in the next administration.

“Perhaps a common theme among all of us here is SACRIFICE. By definition, Sacrifice is an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. At some point in all of our lives, especially in public service, we’ve had to make sacrifices, may it be Time or Money or Comfort or Gratification or Ego, or Pride. In fact, it may be all of these at the same time. In the end, it is the result of the sacrifices that make it all worth it. So, thank you everyone in the Duterte administration, in the Bangsamoro Government, and in the IGR Body, for the sacrifices you have made, known or unknown, for the sake of public service.

“FINALLY, please allow me to reiterate that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) remains committed in its continued pursuit to long-lasting peace and development and will exhaust all means to establish a peaceful Mindanao, especially in the BARMM. The MILF pledges to exert efforts in undertaking its obligations to fully implement the commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), building upon all the gains and achievements secured in the Bangsamoro peace process through years of negotiations. It is important to sustain the traction that we have managed to develop toward the success of this political settlement.

“With the coming of a new administration on June 30, 2022, we are confident that the Bangsamoro peace process will not be relegated in status, as it has proven to potentially be the most viable solution to address conflict arising from historical injustices committed against our people. We hope that the incoming administration shows a similar commitment and enthusiasm to complete the process that other past administrations have started and nurtured.

“Muli, maraming salamat sa inyong lahat at wassalam.” (Again, thank you so much to all of you, peace.) — (/)

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