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MISSION: PEACE --- A CONTINUING JOURNEY

There are symmetries in history that would sometimes appear to have been written by a disciplined, imaginative fictionist following a prefigured plot and a subtle, yet solid, narrative structure. Yet, we know of no one individual, or even one in concert with his cabal of plotters, that can ever predetermine the course the arrows and arcs and end-of-acts of a peoples storyline.

SOURCE: thefilipinoservant.wordpress.com

The EDSA People Power Revolution was one such historical symmetry in the Filipino peoples collective experience. It has become a moving piece of history with a powerfully mythic resonance. There is another one.

In 1968, Senator Benigno Ninoy Aquino Jr. had exposed the infamous Jabidah massacre, and demanded justice for the mass murder in Corregidor of scores of hapless Muslim military trainees.

Senator Benigno Ninoy S. Aquino, Jr. on September 13, 1972 delivers at the Senate session hall his privilege speech on Oplan Sagittarius, a top-secret military plan to place Metro Manila and outlying areas under the control of the Philippine Constabulary as a prelude to Martial Law. Earlier in 1968 in the same hall, Sen. Aquino exposed the Jabidah massacre which triggered a renewed armed separatist movement in Mindanao. (Photo source: Presidential Museum and Library)

The incident sparked outrage not just among members of the Muslim community but also among all decent members of Philippine society. It is known to have triggered the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front led by University of the Philippines Professor Nurullaji Nur Misuari, who became its Chairman. Thus began an organized and sustained Moro insurgency. In February 1986, three years after another violent event that was the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino, his widow emerged as the first woman president of the country. President Corazon C. Aquino led a People Power revolt that ousted the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Barely seven months into her presidency, she took the bold initiative of meeting with Nur Misuari to talk peace. In the journal of Malacaangs Presidential Management Staff (PMS), the following incident is recounted thus: THE AIR WAS thick with tension. Maimbung, Sulu was full of fierce-looking men armed to the teeth. Government soldiers filled one half of the town, while Muslim secessionists controlled the other. It was September 1986, and the battle-weary town was expecting an unusual guest. For

the first time in the history of the nation, its President was about to land in the heart of conflict. She was either insane or very fearless, indeed. President Aquino broke protocol and personally met Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on that day. The unprecedented move manifested the President's resolve to exhaust all peaceful means to achieve the peace which eluded Mindanao for so many years. It was a significant breakthrough, marking the first step in the peace process. In his eyeball-to-eyeball meeting with the President, Misuari agreed to cease hostilities and sit down with the government on how to arrive at a political solution. And as a further proof of government's sincerity, Misuari was allowed to hold consultations in Mindanao.

SOURCE: Presidential Museum and Library

On September 5, 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino flew to Sulu to personally meet with Nur Misuari, Chairman of the MNLF. With the President were then Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile, then AFP Chief of Staff General Fidel V. Ramos, Maj. Gen. Jose Magno, and Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Mamintal Tamano. In the above photo, President Aquino is flanked by Nur Misuari and by his wife Desdemona.

In August, 2009, President Corazon C. Aquino succumbed to colon cancer. The nation grieved on the loss of a beloved leader. Her passing inspired a clamor for her senator son, Benigno Noynoy S. Aquino III, to run for the presidency. With a clear reform agenda embodied in his Social Contract with the Filipino People, Noynoy Aquino was elected President in the first automated national elections of 10 May 2010.

On August 4, 2011 he would also break protocol, just like his mother did 26 years earlier, to reinvigorate the peace dialogue between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Reports MindaNews in its August 5, 2011 issue: [GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 August) President Benigno Simeon Aquino III did what his mother did 25 years ago in pursuit of peace: meet with rebel leaders.Twenty five years later, her son, now also a President, traveled to Japan and met Thursday night with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to fast-track the peace negotiations and ensure that implementation of whatever peace agreement may be forged, can be done within the remaining five years of his administration.

SOURCE: Malacaang Photo Bureau/Jay Morales

The President traveled with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who was the Presidential Security Group chief when his mother met with Nur Misuari; National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Government Peace Panel Chair Marvic Leonen. The historic meeting with MILF Chairman Murad drew generally positive reactions from various sectors in Mindanao.

Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortioum of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) said the meeting is the highest form of confidence-building in the peace process that can fast-track the talks to its final conclusion. Former Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the meeting reminded him of what President Cory Aquino did in 1986: For her son, President Noynoy to take a similar bold step for peace is also historic. From where I sit, I consider this meeting as an effort to fast track the peace process. We congratulate both the government and the MILF in taking the unconventional route just so an early settlement can be mutually forged, he said.] There is a bequeathing of the legacy of peace from his revered parents to President Benigno Noynoy S.Aquino III. In father, mother, and son the same light sparked their quest for peace. Today, a momentous public commitment to pursue a sustainable and enduring regime of peace based on common experience, common ground, shared humanity, and shared history takes place. The signing of the document, Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, serves as a virtual bridge that would deliver the Filipinos toward the full fruition of their aspirations for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao. This framework agreement is our bridge and bequest of peace to present and future generations of Filipinos. Yet, as President Aquino said in his speech announcing the finalization of the agreement on October 7, 2012, challenges remain and the government is determined to forge ahead to fulfill its mission of attaining longterm peace and stability in Mindanao:

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The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge.

PEACE to one and all!

Timeline of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF


Prepared by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
ven before the armed conflict in Mindanao, some Moro

Peace Negotiations

1924: Zambuangga Declaration - Letter of some Moro leaders to US Congress: proposed plebiscite be held 50 years after Philippine independence, for Moros to decide whether to be part of Philippines or be an independent state. 1935: Dansalan Declaration - Letter of some Moro leaders to US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: we do not want to be included in the Philippine independence. 1961: Bill filed by Sulu Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa seeking to grant and recognize the independence of the province of Sulu.

leaders in the past have already asserted their aspiration of not wanting to be part of the Philippines:

Following is a chronology of the armed conflict in Mindanao and peace negotiations that were conducted that sought to end the conflict:

1968

March: The Jabidah Massacre- Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino made an expose about the massacre of at least 28 Muslim army recruits (called the Jabidah commandos) who were secretly undergoing commando training at Corregidor Island. According to accounts, the training was part of a plot by President Marcos to infiltrate Sabah, agitate the people there to turn against their government, and demand annexation to the Philippines. When the trainees refused, they were summarily shot.

1969

May 1: The MIndanao Independence Movement (MIM) - Amidst the backdrop of crystallizing Muslim discontent due to the Jabidah massacre, former governor of the empire province of (undivided) Cotabato, Datu Udtog Matalam spearheaded the issuance of a manifesto under the MIM banner declaring independence from the Republic of the Philippines. The Ilaga movement - In response to the threatening declarations of the MIM, as well as its rumored secret military camps, and to protect their election bids in 1971, certain diehard anti-Muslim politicians (known as the Magic 7) in the Central Mindanao area came together in September to formally organize the Ilaga movement.

1971

1972

The Mindanao Crisis - Violent conflicts erupted among Muslim and Christian civilians, and among politicians. This was highlighted by several massacres such as the Manili massacre in Carmen, Cotabato and the Tacub massacre in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. Establishment of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founded by then U.P. Professor Nur Misuari, seeking to establish an independent "Bangsamoro Republik."

1976

1984 1987

The 1976 Tripoli Agreement - provided the framework for the creation of an autonomous region in Southern Philippines; identified 13 provinces and 9 cities as areas of autonomy in Southern Philippines, subject to Philippine Constitutional processes.

Formal establishment of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founded by Ustadz Salamat Hashim (a former MNLF leader). The 1987 Constitution during the time of President Corazon Aquino provided for the establishment of autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Mindanao.

1996 1997

Signing of the 1996 Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) - MNLF Final Peace Agreement. Peace negotiations started between the GRP and the MILF.

2000 2001

Declaration of all-out war by former President Joseph Estrada against the MILF. Passage of Republic Act (R.A.) 9054 to strengthen and expand the Organic Act for the ARMM. Peace talks with the MILF resumed under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The "Buliok Incident" - breakout of hostilities between Government and MILF forces in Central Mindanao following large scale AFP operations in Pikit and Pagalungan municipalities against the "Pentagon" kidnap-for-ransom group; ceasefire was re-imposed in July of the same year. Arrival of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) tasked to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire. Substantive discussions on the "ancestral domain" issue commenced at the peace negotiations.

2003

2004

2008

2009

The GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; hostilities resumed in Central Mindanao.

2010

Ceasefire between Government and MILF forces was re-imposed and peace talks resumed; both sides also agreed to form the International Contact Group (ICG) and the IMT's Civilian Protection Component (IMT-CPC). President Benigno S. Aquino III becomes the 15th President of the Philippines and committed his administration, among others, to "a comprehensive, just and peaceful solution to the situation in Mindanao."

Ms. Teresita Quintos-Deles was appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Atty. Marvic Leonen was appointed as Government's chief negotiator for talks with the MILF.

2011

January - Informal talks were held in Malaysia, marking the first faceto-face meeting between both sides under the Aquino administration.

February - Formal resumption of peace negotiations (or the 20th round of Exploratory Talks), where both sides renewed the mandate of the IMT and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG); the MILF also submitted its revised draft Comprehensive Compact. June - Passage of R.A. 10153 synchronizing the ARMM elections with the conduct of national and local elections. August - Historic meeting between President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan, marking the first time that a President meets with the Chair of the MILF since the negotiations started.

September - MILF Central Committee declared that Ameril Umra Kato and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement / Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFM/BIFF) were no longer part of the MILF organization.

2012

October - Armed encounter between Government and MILF forces took place in Al-Barka municipality in Basilan; despite calls by some sectors for all-out-war against the MILF at that time, the President instead vowed to pursue the track of all-out-justice based on a truthful determination of the actual events that led to the armed encounter.

Number of armed encounters between Government and MILF forces drops to zero.

April - Signing of the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012 during the conclusion of the 27th round of Exploratory Talks. This document guides the discussions on the substantive agenda of the negotiations. October - At the end of the 32nd round of Exploratory Talks, the Panels announced the forging of the "Agreement on the Bangsamoro" which will serve as the "overarching architecture for the Mindanao peace process and provides the foundation for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao."

Historic meeting between President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in
Tokyo, Japan, marking the first time that a President meets with the Chair of the MILF since the negotiations started.

SOURCE: Malacaang Photo Bureau/Jay Morales

As he announced the completion of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the President said:

I am not a young man; I think I am only slightly younger than Al Haj Murad. The time will come when we will both have to relinquish our positions. We are united by hope: hope that we may bequeath to the next generation a better situation in the parts of Mindanao long torn by conflict.

Key Excerpts from the Speech of President Benigno S. Aquino III on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro October 7, 2012; Malacanang Palace
This framework agreement is about rising above our prejudices. It is about casting aside the distrust and myopia that has plagued the efforts of the past; it is about learning hard lessons and building on the gains we have achieved. It is about acknowledging that trust has to be earned it is about forging a partnership that rests on the bedrock of sincerity, good will, and hard work. We have come to where we now stand, because trust has replaced doubt. There are challenges yet to face, and I entreat all Filipinos who thirst for peace with this mission: continue to sow trust, let us widen it and make it more pronounced in the days and weeks to come. Other triumphs will be sure to follow. Onward we will march toward stability; prosperity will illumine our entire country as a result of progress in one region; our dreams will become a reality. For so long, it was impossible to even aspire for these things. But we have proven: Nothing is impossible to those who are willing to unite, to work for solutions, and to act towards consensus. Finally, we have achieved peace, a peace that will serve as the foundation of our dreams for Bangsamoro, for Mindanao, and for the entire Filipino nation. As we read the Agreement, let us not think in terms of them and us, but rather as a we united under a single flag. The time for misunderstandings has passed, and if we truly care for one another, then it is only a matter of time: a matter of time before we put an end to violence; a matter of time before normalcy is restored to the Filipinos of Bangsamoro. This Agreement allows us to dream: The time is near when any foreigner visiting the Philippines will surely have the provinces of Bangsamoro in his itinerary. The time is near when a tourist wanting to go to Pagudpud can opt to go to Sulu. Children going to school whether in Quezon City or Lamitan will have the same quality education; hospitals whether in Pasig or Patikul can offer the same quality health care; businesses will flourish, whether one chooses to invest in Marikina or Marawi. The work does not end here. There are still details that both sides must hammer out. Promises must be kept, institutions must be fixed, and new capacities must be built nationally and regionally in order to effectively administer the Bangsamoro. The citizenry, especially the youth, must be empowered so that new leaders may emerge.