End-of-Year Statement of the GPH Panel in Talks with the MILF

The year 2013 is the year we came to terms with what are possible and doable to get to the first, elected Bangsamoro government in 2016. In February, we signed the first annex that elaborated our road map. This was the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. Sajahatra Bangsamoro, the first socio-economic program of its kind providing basic social benefits to previously unreached members of conflict-affected areas, came next. For the first time, the incumbent President and his Cabinet entered the MILF camp, where the launching ceremony was festively held before leaders and members of the MILF and international dignitaries. A somewhat prolonged period, during which the May 2013 election was eventually held, may have doused hopes of a comprehensive, negotiated settlement. But come July, the Annex on Wealthsharing was signed and greeted by the public with general approval. Early this month, the third big hurdle since the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in October 2012 was finally overcome. We inked our signatures on the Annex on Powersharing. This Annex provides the foundation for the meaningful autonomy envisioned for the Bangsamoro political entity and its constituents. It defines the new structure of government and lists the various modes powers will be shared between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro. In all, our efforts at the negotiating table sought to find the good balance between what is just, practical and constitutional for this moment in our peoples’ history, and those other, higher aspirations that may find fruition and wider acceptability in some later future but not now. All the time, we based our work on the shared principles of mutual respect, devolution, inclusivity, harmony and good governance. These principles are the essence of the Annexes we have signed. We expectedly faced many challenges from those who chose to continue the path of violence, the skeptics who have seen earlier similar processes fall back on expectations, and the disgruntled who feel they would lose privileges they have long enjoyed. To all of them, we extend the hand of peace and open ourselves to dialogue and continuous engagement in the hope that we will find fair reconciliation. This year, we recorded scores of harassments initiated by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters against military outposts and personnel in Central Mindanao and Basilan. Big and small bombs were set off in different parts of Mindanao, among the most serious of which took place in Cagayan de Oro in July, and in Cotabato City in August. In September, Zamboanga reeled from the attacks by forces loyal to MNLF leader Nur Misuari. We grieved with all the

victims of these atrocities and condemned the senseless violence. And we will continue to do so until once and for all, we take the guns away from our political life. Catastrophes, whether self-inflicted or by force majeure, have thankfully not broken the Filipinos’ spirit. They have strengthened and united us towards the common purpose of rebuilding lives and reconstructing communities affected by such mix-match of tragedies. By early next year, we aim to finalize the remaining Annex on Normalization, as well as an addendum on the Bangsamoro waters. The Annex on Normalization will concretize our vision for a post-conflict Bangsamoro. For this purpose, we shall be putting in place the new infrastructure that would pull together all our efforts in the security, socio-economic and transitional justice aspects. In 2014, we will also be working closely with the Transition Commission and Congress to ensure the smooth passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. All of the accomplishments in the GPH-MILF peace process were made possible through the collective efforts, trust, and goodwill of both Parties, our respective principals, and the unwavering support of various sectors to push the process forward. We wish them all a blessed holiday. Christmas is indeed a season to be grateful for all the trials that were overcome. Truly, the new year is the harbinger of hope that infuses us with renewed vigor and optimism for the desired future that has yet to come. ###