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Manila Gov't, Muslim Rebel Group Sign Historic Peace Deal
CAB 'Crowning Glory' Of Bangsamoro
Struggle -- MILF's Al-Haji Murad Says
Peace Deal Embraces Muslims, Christians, IPs, MNLF
MANILA -- Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al-Haji Murad Ebrahim on Thursday described the just-signed comprehensive peace deal as the "crowning glory" of Philippine Muslims' struggle for the right to self-determination (RSD).
He said the CAB is not just a promise, but a guarantee on the mutual recognition, respect and restoration of the Bangsamoro people's legitimate rights.
"From the distant past to the present, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is the crowning glory of our struggle. The seventeen long and often times lonely years of negotiations are witnesses to the sincerity and sacrifices of our people to find the final answer to the Bangsamoro Question," he said.
The CAB's signing, he stressed, sealed the government's commitment to recognize and address the Bangsamoro's legitimate aspirations witnessed by the Filipino nation and the entire world.
For the second time in his life, Murad stepped on the grounds of Malacanang Palace on Thursday to witness the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF inked the agreement.
The first time was on Oct. 15, 2012 for the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the road map to peace in Mindanao.
"Now, we have come full circle as we are here again gathered today to witness the signing of the (CAB)," he said, saying the MILF and the GPH negotiators "pushed the ends of reason" to reach a negotiated settlement of the Bangsamoro Question.
Both accords were signed by GPH and MILF chief negotiators Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal, respectively, laying down the path to the establishment of a new political entity (NPE) called the Bangsamoro, with a ministerial form of government.
Iqbal said on the eve of the signing they are not calling the CAB as the final peace agreement between the two parties, but comprehensive, because there are still some agreements to be done.
Murad said in his four-page speech the CAB restores the Bangsamoro's identity, powers, and resources.
The MILF chieftain expressed the belief that after the forging of the CAB, no more Moro groups would have the reason to raise arms against the government.
"With sincerity in our hearts, we offer the (CAB) to the Filipino people as the grandest articulation of our aspirations, and by it our unyielding belief that no more cause worth pursuing by force is left for others to take," said Murad, who replaced MILF founding chairman Ustadhz Salamat Hashim after his death in July 2003.
Murad paid tribute as well to the peace agreements the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed with GPH, chief among them the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).
He said the CAB "built on the gains of previous agreements" achieved in the past by other Moro liberation movements.
It could be recalled that Hashim split from the MNLF chaired by founding leader Prof. Nur Misuari in the late 1970s and founded the MILF.
"After all, the (CAB) is not only for the MILF. It is for the MNLF as well, as much as it is for all the Muslim ethnic tribes, the Christian settlers and the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the prospective Bangsamoro government and territory," Murad said.
While the Misuari-led MNLF is opposed to the CAB, other MNLF groups and senior leaders are supportive of the GPH-MILF accord and Murad thanked them as well as other sectors of the Bangsamoro, including the settlers and the IPs for their support.
He assured that the MILF "will never claim sole ownership" of the CAB.
He said the MILF knows the "unalterable reality" of the contributions of other sectors of the Bangsamoro in attaining the peace deal.
"To be overly emphatic, it will not be a government of the MILF, but the government of the Bangsamoro," said Murad.
The MILF supremo said his group will serve as "gatekeeper" upon the creation of the Bangsamoro NPE for the transition period and hands over gate's keys in the name of the Bangamoro people's democratic will, apparently referring to an electoral exercise, perhaps in 2016, granting the road map shall have been followed.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Q. Deles said on Wednesday the road map includes submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law by end of March, legislative process, referendum, transition period, and election for the Bangsamoro government's leadership in 2016.
Murad did not forget his fellow leaders who were not able to savor the historic moment, and took time to honor the departed leaders of the MILF, led by Hashim.
He also paid tribute to the "mujahideen" (Moro fighters) and the Bangsamoro people. "We accept the (CAB) with gratitude and enthusiasm."
Murad appealed to the Filipino people to support the peace agreement, not just being tolerant, but with a massive support and give chance to what he called the "monumental agreement" to succeed and serve its reasons for being, which is restore the Bangsamoro people's identity and bequeath them the right to self-determination.
He thanked President Benigno S. Aquino III, Malaysia, its Prime Minister Najib Razak, who came to witness the signing amid his country's immense crisis over the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, former Malaysian Prime Ministe Mahathir Mohamad, and the international community for their help in the peace process.
Murad also remembered to thank Ferrer and the past GPH chief peace negotiators.
He also expressed condolences to the families of the passengers of the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 and expressed solidarity with Malaysia. #