THE SEARCH FOR PEACE IN MINDANAO

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BY ROGER M. BALANZA

headline widget - Copy (2)To us the biggest story today and for the days and months to come is the historic event that happened in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, January 25, 2014: The Philippine government and the Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reached agreement on the fourth and last annex in a peace deal after more than a decade of negotiations aimed to put an end to the bloody Muslim insurgency in Mindanao that has killed tens of thousands of people.

President Benigno Aquino may have his faults but Mindanaoans owe him for this dawning of peace in their island.

clickEDITORIAL: Monkeys on the back of the journey to peace

Hoping to find final peace in troubled Mindanao before his term ends in 2016, Aquino planted the foundation for the historic deal in Malaysia by signing in October last year, a deal on the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB) with the MILF in Sultan Kudarat, the heartland of the Muslim insurgency. The four annexes subject of negotiations of the Philippine government and MILF panels were the spirit and soul of the FAB and the final peace agreement.

       The final peace deal reached in Malaysia has yet to be formally signed but today Mindanaoans —Muslims, Christians and lumads— are in jubilant celebration of the historic miracle for peace.

      Investors are now training their eyes on investment plans aborted by unstable peace in the resource-rich island.

      Even the world jubilated with the Mindanaoans over their new-found fortune of final peace and progress looming ahead.

It could have been the wish and prayers of the Mindanaoans for peace to reign in the island that armed the Philippine government and MILF negotiators to surmount the challenges with determination that finally led to the light at the end of the tunnel of death and violence and mayhem that wracked Mindanao for nearly four decades.

On January 25, in a fresh round of continuing talks in Malaysia, the negotiators agreed on a deal on  “normalisation” that detailed  how the MILF  will hand over the weapons of its 12,000 fighters and the creation of a security force to police what would be a self-ruled Muslim area.

The deal is the last of four accords —transitional mechanism, wealth-sharing, power-sharing, normalization–under the Framework of Agreement of the Bangsamoro that must be agreed between the government and the MILF, before a final peace deal can be signed.

At this point even as the final peace agreement has yet to be signed, the negotiations already achieved its aim to establish a strong base for peace and development in Mindanao.

The bigger challenge left now would be to put into reality the agreements reached before the end of 2016, as Aquino hoped.

 

After formal signing of the final peace deal, the next move is the crafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law now being done by the Transition Commission that will be submitted to Congress.

This early Malacanang has expressed the hope that Congress will immediately pass the proposed basic law once it is forwarded by the Transition Commission.

After its approval by Congress a plebiscite should follow.

But the crowning glory of all these efforts for final and lasting peace in Mindanao is the election of officials of the Bangsamoro political entity, that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), by 2016.

The tens of thousands of lives lost in the four decades of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao, the suffering of the Mindanaoans and the unstable peace that retarded the island’s progress and development are hellish realities not unknown to the world.

It is no wonder that reports of the Philippine government and the MILF reaching a peace deal in Malaysia on January 25 reverberated in a message of jubilation and relief throughout the world, with governments sending congratulations for the historic event.    

“This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao,” said US Secretary of State John

“The successful conclusion of negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a comprehensive peace agreement is a significant step towards lasting peace and development for Mindanao. Ending the long-running conflict will not just benefit the region, including Muslims, Christians and Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, but is vital for the security and economic development of the Philippines as a whole, said British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The most heart-warming and encouraging message we read comes from the Philippines-based Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).

”Let us leave all thought of future work aside and bask in the moment… Let us applaud the work of these men and women who, guided by the Almighty, persevered in their tasks, no matter how bleak and thankless at times, to now present us with these needed building blocks to peace. Let us all draw inspiration from their example and do our part in hastening the advent of peace in Mindanao.

Assalamu alaikum! God Bless Us All!

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