The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to congratulate the Filipino people, notably the people of Mindanao, for the landmark signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) today. The MILF is the biggest rebel group in Mindanao.
After 17 years of protracted negotiations, the MILF and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) have finally agreed to end the conflict in Mindanao in lieu of the creation of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), a Bangsamoro region with greater structure and form of autonomy. This would-be Bangsamoro region will absorb the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The establishment of the BJE is anchored “on the recognition of the right of the Bangsamoro to have their own government.”[i] The BJE will be governed by a Basic Law, containing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, their fundamental freedoms and rights to self determination, under the Philippines Constitution.
The island of Mindanao and the people living in it, who, not only suffer but have witnessed decades of wars—by the loss of their fathers, mothers, siblings, children and neighbours—due to war, will now have a chance to enjoy peace. The people and the island have shown to us that despite fear, distrust and deep divisions in the past, by way of dialogue and negotiations, political, social and cultural differences will always have a place for a political solution.
Today is not only a historical moment for the Bangsamoro, whereby their long struggle, their aspirations for self determination, have now become a reality; but also for the Filipino people—inside and outside the country—who continue to dream for the end of the conflict in Mindanao.
As the AHRC welcomes this political settlement, ending four decades of insurgencies in Mindanao, it urges both parties to ensure that the institutions of justice, to which the aspirations of the Bangsamoro’s would be realize, are developed, function and work. The signing of agreement is only the beginning. The tedious and hard work to ensure the people’s aspirations are transformed into a reality lies ahead.
For now, the entire Filipino people, notably the people in Mindanao, should enjoy and be congratulated on achieving this historical moment for peace.
[i] GMA Network, “Bangsamoro Juridical Entity,” August 25, 2008, at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/115922/opinion/blogs/bangsamoro-juridical-entity; see also Rappler, “TIMELINE: The long road to the Bangsamoro region” January 25, 2014, at: http://www.rappler.com/nation/48841-timeline-bangsamoro