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The Philippines-Bangsamoro Agreement
The Bangsamoro Agreement: A Step towards Re-imagining and Rebuilding the Philippine Nation
Akbayan Party extends its warmest congratulations to the Bangsamoro people, particularly to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as it signs today a historic, landmark peace agreement with the Philippine government.
We are extremely happy that after four decades of struggle and 17 years of arduous negotiations, the Bangsamoro people, which include the Christian settlers and Lumad, now possess a wide-ranging agreement, which fully recognizes their historic, political, and socio-cultural identity and restores their fundamental right to govern and shape their own destiny. Dubbed as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the agreement is perhaps the most important document in the history and struggle of the Moro people. It is also one of a kind as no other peace agreement in the country’s political history has achieved so much on the negotiation table. We earnestly hope that the agreement will give birth to a new beginning for the people of Mindanao.
In the same breath, we laud President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for exercising the political will to see the just conclusion of the negotiation. We also thank the Malaysian government for acting as a third party facilitator in the peace process. Likewise, we acknowledge the efforts of the negotiating panels, the social movements and civil society groups in Mindanao as well as the international community in helping realize the agreement. Even as the forging of the agreement proved to be challenging, and the temptation to revert to old acrimonious relationships very strong, the passion and goodwill devoted by all to the process is truly deserving of praise. Exceptional were the women leaders from the side of the government who gave birth to this agreement together with their Bangsamoro counterparts who, on the other hand, have demonstrated their firm and patient resolve even during the most difficult part of the negotiations.
Bangsamoro Basic Law
The next challenge faced by the Moro people is to draft and pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would lay down the legal basis for the creation of the Bangsamoro Region. President Aquino has already declared it a priority legislative measure. However, the enemies of peace and of the Bangsamoro people have also declared that they will oppose the proposed law. Akbayan reiterates its commitment to the Moro people to push and pass the measure. We pledge to protect the proposed law from all those who seek to sabotage or water it down with the end goal of hoodwinking the Filipino people into believing that the Bangsamoro Agreement is contrary to their interest. Together with other reform-oriented lawmakers in Congress, we promise to ensure that all stakeholders will be heard in the law's deliberations and, later, in the plebiscite that will be called to ratify it. The forces of peace and reforms have not come this far only to be derailed by those few who stand to lose the most from a modern, peaceful and self-governing Mindanao. We will not give them that satisfaction.
Unite under the banner of peace
Thus, we call on the Filipino people to unite under the banner of peace and give the Bangsamoro Agreement a chance to succeed. We have no illusion that fundamental change will happen overnight. However, while we recognize that the root causes of the war in Mindanao are deep and multi-dimensional, we see the agreement as a first big step in understanding and rectifying historical mistakes done against the Bangsamoro people. We look forward that the new Bangsamoro government, in partnership with the national government, will resolutely and comprehensively address poverty, illiteracy, marginalization, and disempowerment of the people in the region; problems which have been gravely compounded by the armed conflict.
Consequently, we call on the present leadership of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARRM) to prepare to make the smoothest possible transition by having a transparent and accountable turnover of all assets to the new political entity. Local government units that will fall under the Bangsamoro entity have nothing to fear as their powers, authority, resources and responsibilities will not be diminished; rather, these will be enhanced and further democratized.
We also call on other groups such as the MNLF to open themselves to peaceful negotiations in settling the causes of the armed conflict. We join them in their just demand that all peace pacts agreed upon in the past, including the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, must be fully implemented provided that it is the Bangsamoro people who will fully benefit from them and not just a few personalities. Furthermore, we call on the MILF, the national government and all stakeholders to make peace an inclusive process. Even as we celebrate this historic achievement, we remind them that the struggle for genuine and lasting peace must eschew sectarianism and exclusivity.
We also caution our Moro sisters and brothers against foreign interests lurking in the periphery. The region's oil and natural gas resources as well as its strategic military importance have caught the attention of different foreign powers, particularly the United States, which is currently pushing for an increased rotational basing/presence of its military in the country. Under the guise of working for peace, these foreign interests are obviously concocting ways to advance their political, economic and military interests in the region. We hope that as the Moro people forge international partnerships, it will exercise extreme vigilance and prudence.
Re-imagining and rebuilding the Philippine nation
The Moro people’s quest for self-determination is close to the heart of Akbayan. As a progressive political party, we reiterate that if we are to realize a positive transformation of Philippine society and a modern reinvention of our concept of national community, the Moro people’s full political inclusion through a genuine exercise of autonomy and ample representation in our democratic institutions, a complete acknowledgement of their claims to their ancestral lands, and full respect for their cultural and religious freedoms must be equally realized.
The Bangsamoro Agreement is geared towards that vision. It is a necessary and vital step in our aspiration to re-imagine and rebuild the Philippine nation and state.