SPEECH: President Aquino at the anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Photo Credit: @OPAPP_peace

Below is the official English translation of the speech given by President Benigno S. Aquino III during the anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2015.

English translation of the speech courtesy of the Official Gazette:

One year has passed since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. On March 27, 2014, we invited all those who worked hard to craft this agreement to Malacañang: the members of different government agencies, together with our uniformed services; peace advocates who had long awaited this agreement; the representatives of different countries who joined in our success; all the stakeholders of the Bangsamoro, they who are sick and tired of conflict and violence; and of course, our brothers and sisters in the MILF who, out of a desire to put an end to this decades-old conflict, wholeheartedly showed, and continue to show, that they are trustworthy, and that they, like us, aspire to peace. At the signing, we looked back on the long process of crafting an agreement that is just and fair to all. In drafting this, we laid out the transformation we wanted to bring to a system that had long been abused by many, and we put to record our dreams for the Bangsamoro. What I said then:

“If we sustain the momentum for peace, by 2016, the MILF will have shed its identity as a military force, and transformed itself into a political entity, casting its stake in democracy by vying for seats in the Bangsamoro elections. The Bangsamoro shall form a perimeter of vigilance against the spread of extremism… From this shared security, we shall enhance the era of prosperity that is dawning upon our region, and harness its energies towards creating a regime of opportunity and inclusivity where no one is left behind.”

Was it not a great honor to have achieved this agreement, and was it not gratifying to proudly tell the whole world that we Filipinos—though scattered among many islands, though possessing different beliefs—have a shared aspiration for peace? That we can put aside our differences, and focus on what binds us as a nation? It saddens me to see that, after only one year, we have seemingly forgotten the hope that we felt back then. Instead, we have replaced it with distrust, unwarranted suspicion, and anger.

The path to peace is not easy. The first thing we did: We identified the real problem, so that we would be able to implement the correct solution. Let us remember: The conflict in Mindanao began during the dictatorship because of land-grabbing. The law was used to exploit the uneducated, and deny them of their land. It is unfortunate that no one thought that if abusing the law was the root of the problem, then it would be reasonable, just, and acceptable that law also solve it. Until now, we feel the effects of neglecting this problem. But it is also clear that, today, your government adheres to a different point of view. We already have initiatives in place, for example, that protect indigenous rights and care for ancestral domains.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is one of the most important proposed bills of our administration. It answers the two most pressing problems of our countrymen: poverty and violence. This bill is the product of 17 years of extensive study and negotiations.

Even then, there are those who oppose its enactment. Unfortunately, their criticism solely stems from a lack of understanding of the BBL; take, for example, their statements that there will be a separate police force for the Bangsamoro once it is enacted into law. Should we trust those who say that the peace talks should be ceased, yet offer no other solutions? If we believe these people, where will they take us?

For my part: If the proposed bill is lacking, it can be addressed by pushing through with the debates on it. With the continuation of hearings about the BBL in Congress, each one is given an opportunity to understand the proposed bill. We believe: An initiative that arose out of good intentions can be fixed by those who likewise have good intentions towards their fellowmen.

I am fully aware that the events in Mindanao, together with the incident in Mamasapano, have sowed doubt in the minds of our countrymen. The result: it has pushed aside the objective evaluation of the BBL.

To address this, I am inviting citizen leaders known for their wisdom and integrity to stand as independent convenors. These include Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Howard Dee, and Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman. They will gather other responsible and respected leaders to spearhead a National Peace Summit to deliberate on and discuss the BBL. They will dissect the proposed law in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness. This way, the BBL can be improved. They will write a report that will be made public, so that everyone may be informed, and so that more of our countrymen may understand the matter. In this manner, we will be able to advance a reasonable decision as regards the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Expect that, as we move closer and closer to attaining our long-held dream for peace, the cacophony that aims to dismantle our trust in each other will also grow louder. It is only right and prudent for us to prepare, for them not to succeed. Thus, we must also carefully examine their motivations. If they truly desire to serve their constituencies, shouldn’t they be on the side of peace? I get to wonder now: Are the ones calling to put a stop to the BBL those who will be the most affected by the transformation that we seek to make permanent for the Bangsamoro? Perhaps, their sole intention is to lord it over our countrymen once more, the moment that the old system is restored.

There are also those who call for an end to the peace process. They say that all-out war is the way to go. And I ask them: What gain do you see from waging war? Now that we are moving forward as a nation and are on the cusp of success, do they really think that we should advance violence, only to bring us back to the path of hardship?

Previous administration have tried an all-out war approach. All-out war has been the response since the 70s. How did that turn out for them and for us? The only result: hundreds of thousands of casualties, ruined livelihoods, and a status quo of suffering in Mindanao. Is it not clear that their approach was wrong? What were the results? Did the conflict end? Didn’t such an approach lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos? There were reports that, during the time of Mr. Marcos, blackouts were purposefully done to conceal the arrival of body bags, so that no one could see the large number of casualties.

Consider this: if the peace process is derailed once more, we will lose ground for sincere dialogue with leaders, and with all the Moros who are ready to listen to reason and who genuinely seek peace. Isn’t it possible that they too might be pushed to join those who want violence? If the troubling situation in Mindanao worsens, the wounds would grow deeper, and more persons would resent their condition. Those who were previously neglected and abused by the system and by institutions will further feel mistreated. Those who have never been reached by the assistance of government will suffer all the more. Do you think that, should all this happen, they will be sincere partners in peace talks after being hurt, after shedding blood, and after being persecuted?

We all know the reasons behind the spreading influence of bandits such as the Abu Sayyaf. Some communities have long been denied service and care from the government. Given this lack of support from the government, the Abu Sayyaf compensated for the neglect. While the government only showed itself to these communities during elections or military operations, the Abu Sayyaf was there and, despite causing trouble, it saw to the needs of these communities. Because of this, the Abu Sayyaf earned their sympathies. There were even those who coddled the Abu Sayyaf, because they benefitted from their presence.

This is the crossroads we face: We take pains to forge peace today, or we count body bags tomorrow. To those who have called for all-out war as the solution, do you think we’ll be able to talk peace after the shooting has started, when the wounds, and the failure of the talks, would be raw?

Perhaps it is easy for you to push for all-out war because Luzon and Visayas are far from the conflict. But if the conflict grows, the number of Filipinos shooting at other Filipinos will grow, and it would not be out of the question that a friend or loved one be one of the people who will end up inside a body bag. If this is where it will end up, the sacrifices of those who have given their lives for our much-desired peace would have been wasted. If you ask the soldiers, police, and other uniformed ranks, they would be the first to oppose war, because they would bear the brunt of it.

Let me make it clear: This decision is not just for the remainder of my term, but for the benefit of the next generations. To you young people, will you suffer a society in which you would be required to march into war instead of fulfilling your dreams? To the parents: Would you want the next generation to inherit a future marked by conflict? We will not allow for this to happen. We will continue on the path that will bring us closer to peace.

When before they stood on opposing sides, today, the MILF and our government are engaged in dialogue. But our partners in the MILF, Al Haj Murad and Mohagher Iqbal, are not getting any younger. There is no guarantee that those who will follow them will show the same trust and the same desire to lay down arms. Should we fail to pass the BBL, how can we urge their men to continue the search for peace? Should that happen, would it not be easier for the violent elements in their ranks to say, “See, negotiations and dialogue lead to nothing, our guns are still more powerful.” Let us remember: The potential of two generations has been wasted because of conflict. Now that we are all here, are we going to allow the succeeding generations to meet the same fate?

Allow me to emphasize, once again: Violence cannot resolve violence; anger can never come to an end, if it is also met with anger. Only compassion can put an end to violence; only love can extinguish anger. Is it too much to ask that Filipinos show compassion and love to their fellow Filipinos? No one can deny that, if we attain peace, the standard of living in the Bangsamoro will rise. And when one region rises, so too does the entire country. Indeed: peace is the only path to our aspirations of inclusive growth.

On this day, God willing, may we be reminded that we have a golden opportunity at present to attain peace, and ensure that the positive fruits of laying down arms will enlighten those who wish to sow chaos. God willing, may we remember that a brighter future waits; we need only to strengthen and continue what we have already started. Let us reinforce our trust; let us reinforce our hope; these will be our contributions to an orderly and prosperous society, one that we can be proud of, and one that we can bequeath to the next generations. I do not pursue peace just to add to my legacy. What we are pursuing is a genuine peace that truly addresses the roots of the problems that led to violence. At this point in our history, I say to all of you: The BBL will make this a reality.

Good afternoon and thank you to everyone. - [SOURCE]


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