Aquino: ‘The devil is in the details’

President Benigno Aquino III

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'Much work remains to be done in order to fully reap the fruits of this Framework Agreement,' says the President

MANILA, Philippines – Today, we sign a Framework Agreement that can finally seal genuine, lasting peace in Mindanao. In full view of the Filipino people, and witnessed even by our friends from different parts of the world, we commit to peace: A peace that will be sustained through democratic ideals; a peace that heals and empowers; a peace that recognizes the many narratives of the Filipino people, and weaves them into a single, national aspiration for equitable progress.

We understand all too well the cycle of suffering that our people have had to go through for the past two generations. We have seen children torn from their homes, and communities driven from the land they have tilled. We have seen lives lost and justice sought, but because of the system’s failure to provide avenues for understanding and effective redress of grievances, many resorted to the path of vengeance and violence.

I understand the temptations that can be borne of anger. I myself lost my father to an oppressive system; I myself thirsted for justice, and was deprived of it then by the dictatorship. I empathize with our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, and can only vow to work as hard as I can to see that the culture of impunity is dismantled, and that the foundations of righteousness and cooperation are laid. We will give our people what is truly due them: a chance to direct their lives towards advancement in a democratic, peaceful, and safe society.

This agreement not only marks a new chapter in our history; it now defines the very path we take as a people — one where opinions are heard and hope is shared; where understanding and consensus breed meaningful solutions for all stakeholders; one where every child is offered the opportunity to shape his own destiny.

Again, on behalf of the entire Filipino nation, I thank Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Muhammad Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak and his people, whose commitment to our peace process shone as a beacon of peace to the international community. I also thank Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator whose wisdom and experience served as a bridge towards mutual understanding. They approached this process devoid of personal aggrandizement, and acted with the honesty, earnestness, and resolve that brought both panels closer and closer to each other until consensus was reached.

I reiterate my gratitude to Secretary Ging Deles and Dean Marvic Leonen, who not only had to work tirelessly with their counterparts from the MILF, but also had to exercise great patience in the face of probing inquiry– from me especially. Aside from their work at the negotiating table, Secretary Ging and Dean Marvic produced voluminous memos that thoroughly threshed out all the issues– and which I then had to wade through. I am truly grateful for the dedication, commitment, and sacrifice of these true exemplars of public service.

I thank MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who approached the process cognizant of our shared aspirations for peace. Mohagher Iqbal kept an open mind, which enabled compromise without sacrificing the interests of the Bangsamoro people.

Praises for Murad

Of course, I must also express my gratitude to Chairman Murad Al Haj Ibrahim of the MILF, whose very able and genuine leadership provided us with a partner who, even while striving for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, remained an astute statesman who realized that progress lay in building consensus among the many stakeholders in the region.    

He led not with dogmatism or hardened ideology, but with a flexibility and open-mindedness borne of trust. We all owe him our collective thanks.

I first had the opportunity to interact with Chairman Murad in Japan, in August of 2011. Back then, some commentators expressed concern; I was criticized for supposedly demeaning the Presidency by meeting with a rebel group. But I approached the meeting with Chairman Murad as a fellow Filipino; not as combatants with opposing views, but as fellow victims of a non-responsive system which has so often driven our people towards bloodshed and suffering. We looked at each other as brothers, responsible and committed to the attainment of the aspirations of our people. This mindset, I am certain, percolated throughout the negotiating process and our respective panels. We now all share in the triumph of this Framework Agreement.

I also thank the governors of the ARMM provinces for their support of this agreement, and thank them in advance for the hard work they will certainly exert so that today’s signing leads to positive change in their provinces. To ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, and Governors Jum Akbar of Basilan, Mamintal Adiong, Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Toto Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Abdusakur Tan of Sulu, and Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-tawi: with your support, it is now only a matter of time before your region truly fulfills its promise.

Work ahead

Let me now echo both panels’ challenge to the people: Much work remains to be done in order to fully reap the fruits of this Framework Agreement. We have commitments to fulfill, people to lead, and dreams to achieve. The details to be laid out in the annexes, in particular, provide us with a solid opportunity to expand the common ground whose principles we have already articulated through the agreement.    

I am confident that our faith in each other, and in the Filipino people, will not waver, and in fact will only grow even stronger in the years to come.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. We are now at the beginning of a comprehensive agreement that will map out the detailed steps, detailed commitments, and detailed programs that will lead to the fulfillment of our long-term goals. We are committed to enabling our partners to transform tehmselves to a genuine political party that can help facilitate the region’s transition towards a truly peaceful and progressive place. This year the government has committed 8.59 billion pesos for the Transition Investment Support Plan, on top of the 12.93 billion pesos already allocated through our budget. We are committed to giving the region its rightful share, confident that it will redound to the benefit of all citizens, and will not just line the pockets of a very select few.

And to all the partners who have long sought this peace, and who have committed to its fruition in the coming years– our friends from the international community, the academe, and civil society– thank you. The Filipino people share this victory with you.

I ask the entire nation, and the entire world, to join me in imagining: A Mindanao finally free from strife, where people achieve their fullest potential. A child in Lamitan will be offered the same education as a child in Quezon City; the sick of Patikul will gain access to the same healthcare as those in Pasig; tourists visiting Boracay will also have Sulu in their itineraries; a businessman will earn profit whether he sets up shop in Marikina or Marawi. People will be empowered; they will gain knowledge and marketable skills that will thrust the economy forward. From constant displacement, there will now be stable employment. Children who have had to witness immeasurable suffering will now get to witness a harvest; sons and daughters who have had to sweep bullet casings from their yards will now get to pick fruit; families who once cowered in fear of gunshots will now emerge from their homes to a bright new dawn of equity, justice, and peace.    

Together, we move forward with a conviction to lift each other, so that in turn, our nation may grow and reach greater heights. We implore God, or Allah, to continue guiding all of us, so that our dreams may turn into concrete, tangible realities. –

(President Aquino delivered this speech during the signing of the Framework of Agreement between the government and the MILF on Monday, Oct 15, 2012, in Malacañang.)

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