Photo from Chief Minister Communications Team
COTABATO CITY—Nine (9) years ago, the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a landmark peace deal—the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)—after more than 17 years of peace negotiations and decades of armed conflict in the land of Bangsamoro.
In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Monday, March 27, 2023, was declared a Special Non-Working Holiday in its entire areas, pursuant to Proclamation Number 0001, Series of 2023. This is to commemorate the historical signing of the peace pact, which would later served as the blueprint of the what would eventually become the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and BARMM.
Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said that the signing of the CAB paved the way for correcting historical injustice, systematic oppression, and discrimination committed against the proud people of the southern Philippines.
“Let us all reflect on the progress we have made since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014 and the difficulties that lie ahead in achieving lasting peace in the Bangsamoro region,” Ebrahim said.
He added that this is an opportunity to engage in constructive dialogue and exchanges of ideas toward the goal of promoting inclusive growth, participation, and human development in the region.
“Let us seize this opportunity to learn from one another and work towards a better future for the Bangsamoro people. With the ninth anniversary of the signing of the CAB, may we all be reminded that this political settlement is not the end of the Bangsamoro narrative but rather a continuation of our lifelong quest for justice, peace, and progress,” Ebrahim added.
Meanwhile, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., in his televised message, expressed that the CAB signing is another milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process and a testament to the firm commitment of the government and the people to sustain and fulfill the gains of peace in the Bangsamoro.
“For 9 years, the peace pact has stood firm and the Bangsamoro people have thrived and flourished we shall ensure that they continue to do so,” President Marcos said.
“Under this administration, the political and normalization tracks of the peace agreement continue to gain momentum. Our partners in the BARMM continue to deliver on their commitments in both tracts with the recent passing of the critical Bangsamoro Electoral Code. We in the national government will do our part to fulfill our commitments under the peace agreement and see its full implementation,” Marcos added.
He also stressed that the path to lasting peace is always under construction, however, he urged the people to work together for prosperity a lasting peace.
“Ang kapayapaang ito na ating itinataguyod ay hindi lang para sa Bangsamoro. Ito ay para sa bagong Pilipinas – Mapayapa, Masagana, Nagkakaisa. Mabuhay ang Bangsamoro, Mabuhay ang Pilipinas,” he further said.
During the “Forum on the Progress of Peace: Challenges and Prospects for the Bangsamoro” spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), former Presidential Peace Adviser and now Senior Undersecretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., the OIC of the Department of National Defense, vowed that the entire DND and AFP will protect the Bangsamoro peace process.
“The DND and the AFP shall be the vanguards of peace and security in the Bangsamoro. we shall not allow the spoilers of peace to negate the gains we have achieved,” he said.
A new era of peace in the Philippines
The signing was considered the Philippines’ new era of peace as former President Benigno Aquino III witnessed the signing of the historic CAB between the Philippine government and the MILF after years of grueling negotiations.
Before a crowd of more than 1000 people at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacañang, the signing of the peace deal marked the start of a harmonious relationship between the government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, MILF Chairman Ebrahim, and then-Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles were also present at the event.
The signatories for the peace deal were Government Peace Panel Chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) Chair Mohagher Iqbal, and Malaysian Facilitator Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohammed.
During that signing, Aquino reiterated that if the goals of the nation are fulfilled, the Filipino people can expect peace, not only in Mindanao but in the whole country as well, saying, “Today, let us commit to being more energetic advocates of this rightful path; in the coming months and years, let us exert even greater effort into making the path of peace more inclusive, inviting more to join this advocacy, and to contribute to the peaceful and progressive future that we are envisioning.”
The former President also added: “This was the agreement that could “finally seal genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao.”
With the facilitation of the Government of Malaysia and the support of the International Contact Group – of which Conciliation Resources and the UK Government are members – over the past year the parties signed the annexes on power sharing, transitional arrangements, and wealth sharing.
In a majority Christian and highly centralized country, the Bangsamoro Muslims in the southern island of Mindanao have been waging an armed struggle for self-determination since 1968. In its early years, the conflict caused more than 120,000 deaths and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
The negotiations started in 1997 with an agreement on a general cessation of hostilities. In the Tripoli Agreement (2001) the parties defined a negotiation agenda with three main elements: security (which had already been agreed on in 2001); humanitarian response, rehabilitation, and development (agreed in 2002); and ancestral territories (2008). In October 2012 the parties finally adopted the Framework Agreement, establishing a roadmap for the transition. In the following 15 months, the parties concluded the annexes on transitional modalities (February 2013), revenue generation and wealth sharing (July 2013), power sharing (December 2013), and normalization (January 2014). Finally, in March 2014 the Comprehensive Agreement was signed in the Presidential Palace.
According to Government Peace Panel Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the CAB recognized “the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people, their aspiration for meaningful autonomy through a democratic process; the aim of finding a solution to the Bangsamoro question with honor, justice, and dignity; the aim to end the fighting between the government and the MILF and promote peace and stability; the recognition of the responsibilities of the parties to protect and enhance the rights of the Bangsamoro people and all other inhabitants, correct historical injustice, and equitably diffuse wealth and political power.” (Kasan Usop, Jr./BIO with details from national dailies)