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The Bangsamoro Peace Accord
I hear many good things about Mindanao.
I hear many good things about Mindanao.
That it is a vast land with soil rich and fertile. Claims of Its hills and mountains being abundant with natural resources border on wondrous, mythic proportions. And its myriad rainforests are supposedly lush, enchanting and awe-inspiring.
I was also told that one can indulge in local fruits in season; that they are plentiful and easily affordable. And that organic and all-natural livestock and vegetable farms are also emerging; assuring the local populace of bountiful chemical-free foodstuffs.
So, why haven’t I gone there, yet? That’s because like many local folks and foreign tourists, the on-going violent conflict between the rebels and the armed forces—including wanton lawlessness in some parts of that naturally-magnificent island—paint a bleak cerebral landscape for potential trekking
But all that bloody unrest and political turmoil may soon be things of the past. Today at 1:30 pm in Malacañang Palace, there will be a signing of an historic peace accord between the Aquino Administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. It is a framework agreement creating Bangsamoro.
Murad Ebrahim, the MILF chief calls this agreement a “milestone victory of peace and justice over war and continuous conflict.” However, he claims it is not the end of the Moro struggle, though it will herald “a new and more challenging stage” for peaceful endeavors.
Thus, the 40-year Moro rebellion in Mindanao officially comes to an end as the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sign the agreement this afternoon.
The fervor for Moro revolution arose after the Jabidah Massacre on Corregidor Island on March 17, 1968, it was not until Nov. 14, 1972, that “the guns of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) started to speak,” Salah Jubair wrote in the book Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny.
The first assault was in Jolo, Sulu, a month after then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. The rebels torched the town in much the same way the American troops did in rural areas whose villagers refused subservience during the Filipino-American War.
Regrettably, overall, the Moro rebellion is estimated to have claimed some 120,000 lives and kept Mindanao severely impoverished.
The Administration is optimistic that the accord will create lasting peace in the South and that it will become a bridge towards a new autonomous Bangsamoro region by 2016. The Aquino Administration will hold steadfast to ensure it will not become a failed experiment similar to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Under this peace agreement, the Bangsamoro territory would have the same core territory—five provinces currently under the ARMM, six municipalities of Lanao del Norte and several barangays (villages) in North Cotabato—all adjacent and voted to be part of the ARMM in 2001.
Neither President Aquino nor MILF chairman Murad will sign the 13-page document, they will only witness it. The signatories will be chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen and his MILF counterpart Mohagher Iqbal.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will also be a witness. After all, Malaysia facilitated the talks, hosting the two parties in Kuala Lumpur until the deal was reached after 32 rounds of negotiations.
Prime Minister Razak joins other foreign dignitaries—including the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, whose presence will signify the Islamic world’s recognition of the legitimacy of the accord.
Also in attendance will be representatives from the MILF, foreign dignitaries and civil society groups, as well as officials from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who have been supportive of the proposed creation of the Bangsamoro region.
Malacañang officials do not expect Nur Misuari, head of the MNLF to show up at the presidential palace for the 1:30 p.m. signing, although an invitation has been sent to him. The Aquino Administration had been reaching out to Mr. Misuari, but the MNLF chief had rejected even an offer to sit on the 15-person Transition Commission that would draft the basic law creating Bangsamoro.
Mr. Misuari has been attacking the accord that will supersede the peace agreement signed in 1996 between the Ramos administration and his MNLF.
Mr. Misuari “does not want to accept the Bangsamoro peace accord, even though other MNLF leaders had already expressed support. Thus, the MNLF officials will be led by Muslimin Sema, chairman of the Council of 15 that split from Mr. Misuari’s faction in 2001. The Palace expects some 450 guests to attend the ceremony.
Be that as it may, with the historic signing of this peace agreement, my dream—as well as those by many other Filipino and foreign tourists to visit Mindanao for an extended period—may soon be actualized.
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