MANILA: After four decades of fighting, the pen proved to be mightier than the sword when a comprehensive peace treaty was inked for the restive southern Philippines.
Malaysia’s role as peacemaker is now etched in the annals of history when the Philippine Government and the once-rebellious Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formally agreed to implement a peace framework.
The treaty will also have a positive impact on Sabah as it borders the planned Bangsamoro region in southern Philippines.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, invited as a special guest to witness the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro (CAB) at the Malacanang Palace yesterday, said Malaysia was honoured to have done its part in seeking a politically-negotiated settlement to end one of the world’s longest running insurgencies, which had claimed over 100,000 lives.
Malaysia had hosted 43 rounds of talks since 2001 to help both sides come together.
“We wish for nothing more than peace and prosperity for our brothers and sisters in Bangsamoro, and in the Philippines,” the Prime Minister told a gathering of more than 1,000 guests who were gathered under marquees at the sprawling grounds of the presidential palace.
Philippine president Benigno Aquino paid tribute to Malaysia for its role. “We have set an example for the world on how trust can move humanity forward,” he said.
MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim reached out to all ethnic and religious groups in Mindanao, including those opposed to the CAB such as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The CAB, which spells out the terms to set up a fully autonomous Bangsamoro region, marks the formal end of negotiations and start of the implementation phase of the peace process.
“This agreement ends the armed hostilities between the two parties and provides for the negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro Question, thereby ending the armed conflict between the government of the Philippines and the MILF and promoting peace and stability in this part of the world,” the CAB document stated.
The next step after the signing will be to complete the drafting of a Basic Law or Constitution for the planned Bangsamoro region.
A Transitional Authority, led by the MILF, will take charge of the region upon the approval of the Basic Law by Congress and a referendum.
Elections are to be held by 2016 to vote in a regional government led by a Chief Minister.
In Manila, groups of Muslims celebrated in a unity walk while residents in Maguindanao held a kanduli (feast), hosted by the governor.
Former Philippine Human Rights Commissioner Nasser A. Marohomsalik expressed gratitude to Malaysia for facilitating the peace talks despite the process being derailed in 2008 following a Philippine Supreme Court rejection of an agreement on ancestral domain that both sides had agreed to.
Nasser, a lawyer who was involved in defending the ancestral domain agreement before the court, described the period ahead as being the “hardest yard” to complete.
“There is still the challenge of getting the Basic Law passed by our Congress,” he said. “However, we are determined because never before have we been this close to our hope of deciding our own destiny.”
Malaysia wants to play regional peacemaker