Noynoy Aquino remembers his legacy of peace in Mindanao
On September 3, 2009, Benigno âNoynoyâ Aquino III met with a handful of civil society leaders and peace advocates in the city of Davao. Then senator, he was still thinking about a possible candidacy for the presidency.
Patricia Sarenas of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks remembers how they conveyed to Aquino the concerns for peace and development in Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro regions. They asked him to promise them that he would be a “President of Mindanao”.
“That day, I think, was when he first realized how important Mindanao is because until then he didn’t seem to care. [in the issue] and I didn’t feel it, âSarenas says.
Aquino’s Reflection Tour took him to Cagayan de Oro City on October 29, 2009, with the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center as the host. He wrote on a recollection of the visit: âAs long as we hold onto our hopes and continue to fight for the interests of others, achieving the goal of peace is a certainty.
Aquino took those words to heart when he was president. His administration struck a historic peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), ending four decades of separatist rebellion that had left some 120,000 dead and maintained much of Mindanao, particularly the Moro region, mired in underdevelopment.
“We wouldn’t have the Bangsamoro we have today without him,” former presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos Deles told ABS-CBN News Channel in an interview about Aquino’s legacy.
As part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed on March 27, 2014, the MILF agreed to let go of the weapons in exchange, among other things, to remake Moro’s autonomy system by giving him more powers of governance, granting it a fixed share in national revenues that it would decide on its own how to spend, and providing financial support for the rehabilitation of war-torn communities and the downgrading of some 40,000 armed combatants.
Other key provisions of the peace agreement were the recognition of the Moro identity and the recognition of historical injustices through the succession of government actions and policies that disadvantaged and discriminated against the Moro people.
Birth of BARMM
The CAB served as the basis for the promulgation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), the charter of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) which became reality on January 25, 2019, when the law was ratified during of a plebiscite.
With the creation of BARMM, 12,000 MILF fighters were downgraded.
In paying tribute to Aquino, acting chief minister of BARMM, Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, who is also president of the MILF, cited “the efforts of his administration to revitalize the peace talks” and “to throw the foundations for lasting peace in Mindanao â.
Aquino inherited a peace process with the ‘crumbling’ MILF, according to Deles, citing the botched signing of the historic but controversial MoU on the ancestral domain that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to defend in 2008 .
There was a “very great distrust and disappointment” and also “an escalation of violence” even though the process had already lasted 13 years in 2010, remembers Deles.
âHe took positions, he took risks. He understood what the problems were. He understood that this [peacemaking] was a historic obligation, âshe says.
But by the time Aquino took power, Deles said he already had a broad plan in hand from a guidance note on the peace process and security sector reform he was given. asked to prepare.
He understood that the Moro insurgency was “a problem that covered and held back the progress of the Philippines,” says Deles, but his administration ensured that the process built on the achievements of the 1996 peace pact between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front.
Meeting in Japan
Talks with the MILF under Aquino began in February 2011, and he was aware of every meeting of the peace groups. But when the negotiators “couldn’t find a way out,” Deles says Aquino thought he “should talk to them then. [they] can understand where everyone is coming from.
This led to the August 4, 2011 meeting between the president and Ebrahim in Narita, Japan. It was a watershed event for the peace talks which, according to the MILF leader, underscored the Aquino administration’s sincerity in forging peace with its group.
In another tribute to the former president, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, a professor at the University of the Philippines who served as the government’s chief negotiator with the MILF, wrote on social media that Aquino “understands what needs to be done to bring peace to Mindanao. “
âHe led the whole government to achieve this goal. He demanded due diligence from all of us, the same rigor that he took to any political decision he had to make, âFerrer said.
âHe knew the need for global support, telling us to address all the unknowns that are creating all kinds of fear around the Bangsamoro issue. He wanted a fair and honest deal. Its injunctions: to commit to what we can implement, to implement what we commit; learn from the past, âshe said.
On Thursday, Bangsamoro’s interim parliament passed a resolution honoring Aquino, praising his legacy of empowering the Moro people.
âThe Bangsamoro peace process has seen a major breakthrough due to its commitment to finding a solution to the war in Mindanao. The peace deal with the MILF was signed while he was president, and all of the gains that came with it were due to his hard work to get there, âthe resolution says.
One of Aquino’s most enduring images of peace is when he announced the conclusion of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement (FAB) on October 7, 2012, with his entire cabinet in tow.
The FAB, which Deputy Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen negotiated for the government, served as the architecture for the eventual peace agreement.
When the document was signed on October 15, 2012, Aquino said, âI understand the temptations that can arise from anger. I myself lost my father because of an oppressive system; I myself thirsted for justice and was deprived of it by the dictatorship. I sympathize with our brothers and sisters in Bangsamoro and can only swear to work as hard as possible to see that the culture of impunity is dismantled and the foundations of righteousness and cooperation are laid. We will give our people what they are truly due: a chance to direct their lives towards advancement in a democratic, peaceful and secure society. “
To date, Sarenas considers the Davao 2009 meeting to be âauspiciousâ.
âThat day we thought he would be president of (my granddaughter) Kyra and all the children born in Mindanao who claim Mindanao is their homeland!
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