His Excellency, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III;
His Excellency, Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najeeb Tun Abdul Razak;
Her Excellency Datin Sri Rosmah Mansor
His Excellency Ekmeledin Ekhsanoglu – OIC Secretary General
Excellencies of the Foreign Diplomatic Corp;
Honorable Members of the President’s Cabinet;
Honorable Members og the Government Peace Panel;
Members of the MILF Delegation;
Honored Guests, Friends and Brothers and Sisters in Islam
Good afternoon and assalamo ‘alaykom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuho.
I must confess that this is the first time in my life to step on the grounds of Malacanang. Never in my wildest dream since I was a child or when I joined the Bangsamoro struggle more than 40 years ago that one day, I will see the interior of this building that once housed the Spanish and American Governors-General and now the presidents of the Philippines.
Today, I’m here not as a tourist, nor as a politician who seeks personal political favors from the President of the Philippines, but as the humble Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) mandated by our brothers and sisters on the ground and by the Bangsamoro people to witness a historic agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III would, Insha’Allah, usher in a just and enduring peace in the Bangsamoro Homeland.
It is in this context that I come in peace and to forge a partnership of peace on the basis of the Framework Agreement between the MILF and the Philippine Government.
Almost five centuries of foreign invasions and domination had given birth to what we now call the Bangsamoro Question. In the course of these centuries of conflict, we have seen the loss of our traditional Moro sultanates; the extirpation of our sovereignty as a free Moro nation; and consequently, our relegation into a state of captivity that eradicated our Bangsamoro identity and reduced our ancestral homeland into small parcels of gerrymandered territories called provinces, all of which led to the marginalization of our people within a larger dominant Philippine society that barely took cognizance, if at all, of our forebears’ unbroken struggle for freedom even before the Philippine Republic saw the light of day in 1898 and in 1946.
These unjust conditions that sustained this conflict in our generation made it inevitable for the Moro liberation movement to emerge. And from the womb of this Moro liberation movement would be born the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and, consequently, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The peace negotiations that took place, first in 1976 in Tripoli, Libya, and onto 1996 in Jakarta, Indonesia, between our brethren in the MNLF and the Philippine government were all geared towards addressing the historical and current grievances of the Bangsamoro people. But unfortunately, the negotiations came short of going further deep into the root cause of the Moro Question. Thus, the appropriate political formula to correct the historical and current injustices committed on the Bangsamoro people remained elusive. Political palliatives and economic cosmetics under the rubric of counter-insurgency which were successively put in place to resolve the Moro Question proved to be failed experiments in political autonomy, the latest of which is the ARMM, and so the conflict remained that has invariably taken a heavy toll on the lives, properties and livelihoods of our people – Moro, indigenous community and settler -- in Mindanao and Sulu.
Under such dire circumstances, peace negotiations were unable to alter, let alone normalize, the adversarial relationship between the Bangsamoro people and the Philippine State. And it was this adversarial relationship that continued to fan the armed sovereignty-based conflict in our homeland and thus obstruct the attainment of a just and enduring peace as requisite to normalization.
It was for this reason that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front under the leadership of the late Chairman and Amirul Mujahideen, Sheikh Salamat Hashim, may Allah swt accept his sacrifices, decided to engage in peaceful negotiations with the Philippine government in 1997. The basic principle underlying this most important decision by the MILF leadership is that ‘negotiated political settlement is the most civilized and practical way to solve the Moro Problem’.
This principle laid down by Sheikh Salamat became a consistent policy. We, in the MILF Central Committee, did not waver and vacillate in pursuing it to the end despite the devastating three all-out wars in 2000, 2003 and 2008 waged by previous Philippine regimes on the MILF.
This was the legacy of Sheikh Salamat’s leadership which I, when I took over the chairmanship of the MILF after he passed away in 2003, inherited and continued to pursue with unflinching determination and with great personal sacrifice despite tremendous pressures from some restive quarters of our Moro populace on one hand, and provocations by forces hostile to the Bangsamoro cause on the other, to abandon peaceful negotiation and relentlessly take the path of war.
Today, it humbles me to say before you that we have stayed the course. Our perseverance has prevailed over those whose obsession is to perpetuate war and conflict in Mindanao and Sulu for self-aggrandizement.
Today, after almost 16 years of hard negotiations interspersed with armed confrontations on the ground, we have inked the most important document in this chapter of our history; a landmark document that restores to our people their Bangsamoro identity and their homeland; their right to govern themselves; and the power to forge their destiny and future with their very own hands.
Today, we are here to celebrate a victory for the Bangsamoro people and the Filipino nation that is shared by the international community and the Muslim World: a victory earned not by war but by that collective desire tempered by the inner nobility of human nature to restore justice and peace to a troubled land.
Today, we are here to put an end to that adversarial relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine nation. And what makes this more significant and quite touching on our part is that this is happening under the administration of President Noynoy Aquino, whose martyred father, Senator Ninoy Aquino, and mother, the late President Cory Aquino, fought on the same side of the fence with us against the dictatorship that devastated our homeland and snuffed the lives of thousands of our people.
Today, we extend the hands of friendship and partnership to the President and the Filipino people as we jointly embark on the historic journey to rebuild our homeland, institute justice, end occupation and the reign of violence, and restore normalcy to the lives of the masses of our people in Mindanao and Sulu. With this Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, we pray never to see again refugee camps cramped with old folks, women and children wallowing in squalor and misery, as well as never again witness the recurring wholesale violation of human rights that comes with oppression -- all of which deface the landscape of our Bangsamoro homeland and denigrate the lofty human values long held by a civilized and just society.
Today, I would also like to announce to all that we dedicate this Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to our departed leaders, the late MILF Chairman Sheikh Salamat Hashim, the late MILF Vice-Chairman Aleem Abdulaziz Mimbantas, Ustadz Abukhalil Yahya, Ustadz Zainon Zaman, among others, and to all our mujahideen martyrs, whether MILF or MNLF, who sacrificed their lives for the Cause of Allah swt and for the Bangsamoro. To them, and to all the peace-loving people in this country, this Agreement shall stand as our greatest tribute.
Let me also have this opportunity to call on, and appeal to, our MNLF brethren to support the Framework Agreement, and take this historic journey with us to rebuild our Bangsamoro Homeland on the gains given to us by this Agreement. This is not the time for recriminations. This is the time for unity, the time for all of us to think, act and speak as one Bangsamoro as we summon all our strengths to face the daunting task of home rule.
Finally, on behalf of the Bangsamoro people and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, may I extend our heartfelt thanks to His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III; His Excellency Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak; His Excellency Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister, in whose term of office peace negotiations were done in Malaysia; to His Excellency, Ekmeluddin Ihsanoglou, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC); and to the Malaysian Facilitators and Secretariat.
Likewise, to all the state and non-state actors that compose the International Contact Group (ICG): the Governments of the United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and its international NGO components – Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiyyah, The Asia Foundation, and Center for Humanitarian Dialogue; and to the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and its Civilian Protection Component: Malaysia, Brunei, Libya, Japan, Norway, Indonesia and the European Union, Non-Violent Peace Force, Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) and Muslim Organization of Government Officials and Professionals (MOGOP); and to all those world organizations and countries that sent their messages of support to the Framework Agreement such as the United Nations, the European Union, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; as well to those individuals and groups in and out of our homeland who believed in the justness of our cause and who were with us through thick and thin in our long struggle for justice and peace, we convey our sincerest gratitude.
Thank you and May Allah swt be with all of us.
Wa billahi tawfiq wa’l hidaya.
Wassalamo ‘alaykom wa Rahmatullahi wa barakatuho.