Agreements are binding

No matter what happens the MILF will abide by and stick to agreements signed with government – and we will consistently invoke them. This is not only to protect and preserve the gains of the peace process but also to ensure that we are standing on solid moral grounds. By this, we will surely not regret later. As one high MILF leader once said: “It is better to secure a centavo already in the pocket than to hunt for a peso still in the wilderness.”

In particular, the MILF will always hold on to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). And we continue to respect and abide by them. These agreements, which were signed with third party facilitation, clearly defined our relations with the government and how the various provisions thereof are going to be implemented by the parties.

Similarly, we urge the government to do the same, because failure to do so is a breach of contract. The first casualty would be the loss of trust and confidence on the government. Increase frustrations among the Bangsamoro people will also ensue.

Building trust is very difficult to develop and achieve. It is a long process. Words, or more precisely rhetoric, are not enough to secure it. Honest actions or programs, or more accurately, compliance, must back it up. But losing it is not as difficult.  One clear act of deceit or doubletalk is enough to loosen or shatter it.

The delivery of the BBL is a unilateral responsibility of government. It is a commitment contained in the FAB, CAB, two executive orders signed by then President Benigno Aquino III, and later by Executive Order No. 08 signed by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. The Peace and Development Roadmap adopted by the GPH and MILF peace panels in Kuala Lumpur on March 21, this year, also indicated the pathways the BBL has to move through. Its enactment has also been the promises of President Duterte, the last of which was made during the meeting between MILF leaders led by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and President Duterte and several high ranking cabinet members in Malacañang Palace last September 4.

But recent development of the BBL is not encouraging. The government is not pushing it in Congress. It might even be side-lined to give way to shift of system of government from unitary to federal. Or it may not come at all during the term of President Duterte because constitutional change, which will surely face fierce resistance from those who are enjoying and benefitting from the highly centralized status quo, is hard to realize.  It is not for easy picking.

 However, to this day, we still look forward to President Duterte making true his promise that he will make the BBL as a template for federalism in this country. We are sure these are not empty promises but are meant to be fulfilled.

 Even more stunning, however, was his statement during the presentation of the BBL in Malacañang Palace last July 17. He loudly proclaimed that “within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country.” And everybody cheered for it.

 However, the use of the term “country” is very hard to fathom. If one has to exaggerate, the meaning would be more than the grant of autonomy. But whatever it is, it is still in the safe side. The controlling mechanism is the premise, “within the context of the Republic of the Philippines.”