STILL hopeful that the next Congress would pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), President Benigno Aquino III vowed Thursday night to continue working for peace in Mindanao even long after his departure from Malacañang.
During the launch of Junctures, a book about the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the President promised that he will not back down from the gains of they have started.
“In 21 days, I will be stepping down from office, but to all of you in attendance today, and to each person of goodwill who wishes to fulfill the promise of Mindanao, I will remain your friend and ally,” he told an audience at the presidential palace composed of peace stakeholders from both sides. “Tell me how I can help this process, even as an ordinary citizen, and I will be by your side.”
Aquino narrated how he decided to meet MILF chairman Al Haj Murad in Tokyo years ago to jumpstart the peace process.
“There was an understandable lack of faith between the two sides,” he recalled. “It was in that context … that I decided to fly to Tokyo to meet with the leaders of the MILF under Chairman Murad, and—finally—we began to build the trust necessary for the peace process to move forward.”
His critics slammed that meeting as unpresidential, saying success was not guaranteed. “For me, however, such concerns were eclipsed by the potential benefit for our nation—by the possibility that we may finally end a conflict that has brought suffering to far too many Filipinos.”
That meeting, he said, resulted in the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Oct. 2012, and the CAB in March 2014.
“And now, we remain hopeful for the passage [of the BBL]in the incoming Congress,” the President said.
In his speech, Aquino also said the process undertaken by the government and MILF panels was the “right path” to achieving lasting peace in the once troubled region.
“There is a lot more to come if we continue along the road to a true and lasting peace,” he stressed. “This is the right path. It is a path that has benefited those in the margins of society; and it is a path that heals the fractures within the country we share.”
The book contains the various speeches and selected statements issued by both panels since day one of the peace talks, which culminated to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the precursor of BBL. JOEL M. SY EGCO