Aquino to ARMM: Support Bangsamoro agreement
MANILA, Philippines – Less than a month after the conclusion of peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), President Benigno Aquino III personally asked the people living in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to support a deal that will eventually cause the regional government's abolition.
On Wednesday, February 12, at the 2nd ARMM Local Government Units Summit on Governance Development in Davao City, Aquino emphasized the government's efforts to build just and lasting peace in Mindanao and appealed to the region for its support.
Ironically, the impending peace agreement between the government and the MILF seeks to abolish ARMM and replace it with a new political entity that will have more powers over resources in the region and be less dependent on Manila.
"There is only one obstacle that can stop us from attaining our goal: the fear and doubt of some that what happened before will happen again. That is why I call on the Filipino people, especially to our brothers and sisters who are here: give way to this step. You can be assured that for every agreement we reach, our honor and name are on the line," he said.
He encouraged the people of Mindanao to join the government in believing that it could achieve change in the region, and asked for help in ensuring "we will not return to the darkness of the past."
The President said lasting change depends on them. "Two years, 4 months and 18 days from now, I will step down from office to become a private individual who will join you in benefitting from the collective victory we've achieved. But you will remain. You and the leaders you will choose, you will build Bangsamaro. You will be the key to its triumph," he said.
He concluded his speech with what he said was the best advice he has ever received, “We win when we think of how the other can win instead of how we can win."
On January 25, the government and the MILF agreed on a historic firearms deal that would require the rebel group to gradually decommission their firearms in phases.
The 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission is crafting a basic law that will provide the legal framework for the creation of the new political entity. The proposed law will then be submitted to Congress and certified urgent by the President.
In his speech, Aquino also praised the way ARMM conducted its elections in May 2013, which coincided with the local and senatorial races nationwide.
In 2007, Aquino said 17 municipalities declared failure of election, a number that dropped to 6 in 2010. By 2013, Aquino said only one precinct in Mindanao had the same problem. He also said from 33 incidents of politically-motivated violence in 2010, it has dropped to only 6 in 2013.
"In the following years, I vow to continue historic triumphs such as this, until we reach the day that every precinct will be successful and can have worry-free elections," he said.
The region's first synchronized elections saw Mujiv Hataman win as governor of the region.
Appointed by Aquino as caretaker for ARMM in 2011, the President pushed hard for Hataman's candidacy in the recently-concluded polls. In his speech, Aquino praised Hataman for much of the progress in the region, calling him ARMM's "ghost buster" and "poster boy" for good governance.
Aquino also subtly endorsed Hataman for the 2016 elections. By that time, based on the government's own timetable, a new political entity would have been established in the region, that allows members of the MILF to run for elections.
Aquino also lauded developments in healthcare, saying that in 2013, the ARMM's Department of Health (DOH) said 45, 659 women have undergone prenatal consultations, 36,876 have undergone post pregnancy visits, 14,179 babies went through newborn screening.
Aquino said the government's primary anti-poverty initiative Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or conditional cash transfer, now has 389,656 ARMM household as members.
While Mindanao had previously been left behind in development, he said this is slowly changing.
"Our goal: Whatever the level of hospital care that a patient in Quezon City needs, that is the same level of care a patient in a hospital in Lamitan City, Basilan should receive. If you study in a Cebu public school, the quality of your education must be the same as one in a municipality in Tuburan, Lanao del Sur. And if you're walking on a road in Mandaluying, you should enjoy the same security in roaming a municipality in Pandag, Maguindanao," he said. - Rappler.com