Statement of Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles
At the 6th Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao (COP6) in Hiroshima, Japan
[Released on June 23, 2014]
A peaceful morning to us all. Assalamu Aleikum. Ohayo gozaimasu.
First of all, I would like to congratulate and thank the organizers of this conference – namely, the Research and Education for Peace of the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – for the perseverance and vision that have made possible the holding of the 6th Consolidation for Peace Program (or COP6). Starting in 2006, the two partner organizations have managed to organize this gathering of multi-stakeholders almost every year-and-a-half to look into and accompany the peace processes in Aceh, Mindanao, and Southern Thailand, with three of the six conferences, including this current one, focused solely on Mindanao.
To have kept faith with the Mindanao peace process for the last eight years has certainly required patience and fidelity – maybe the better word is tenacity? – and I must surmise also a good dose of hope and imagination, as these past years have seen some of the darkest hours of a peace process that, truth to tell, hardly stayed on track, moving from good to bad sometimes in an instant, yet somehow recovering ground in ways no one could have foretold.
That we are able to come together on the 8th year for the 6th such gathering certainly speaks to us and to the world of the power of tenacity and hope in making peace. And I thank USM and JICA for not letting go and not giving up, together with the rest of us here and the many others who have been part of this process and the many more who are joining us and expanding our ranks everyday.
There are many veterans of the COP process who are with us this morning – may I ask those who have attended every COP from no. 1 to today’s no. 6 to stand up and be acknowledged? Let us give them a big round of applause for being among the faithful pilgrims for peace. On the other hand, there are some who are attending the COP for the first time. And the rest of us are COP veterans in varying degrees. The COP has truly grown to embrace a wide community – a large extended family – and this year is a very special reunion indeed.
On my part, this is only my second COP and, it turns out, also my second time to deliver one of the Keynote Addresses. I joined the COP family only in 2012, for COP5.
When COP1 was held, I had just left government and the peace process was beginning to move into shaky ground, with unsteady leadership in OPAPP and the survival of the Arroyo presidency increasingly under threat. In 2008, the striking down of the MOA-AD by the Supreme Court ushered in a period of darkest despair and terror. Fortunately, enough people of good will persevered to produce a ‘Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiations’ with which the past administration passed a battered peace torch to the Aquino government.
COP5 was held in January, 2012, in Penang, like all the earlier conferences. The Aquino presidency was midway into its second year and the resumption of formal peace negotiations was nearing the completion of its first year. And, oh, what a year 2011 was for the peace process! Formal talks had restarted in Kuala Lumpur in February, which renewed process, perhaps not so unexpectedly, encountered difficult re-birthing pains which caused the President to embark on a short trip that, however, gained gold mileage for the peace process and firmly lodged Japan in the annals of Philippine peace history, by hosting that first meeting between the President and Chairman Murad which startled the world and reenergized the struggling and straggling peace negotiations.
But it would still be far from easy. In September, with talks held during Ramadan, the MILF rejected the GPH 3-for-1 proposal, which rejection the GPH promptly rejected. Hardly had the parties recovered from the setback, with the decision to go back to a clean slate at the peace table, when the Al Barka crisis broke out in October. This tragic misencounter could have brought us back to vicious violence, except that President Aquino firmly said “no” to “all-out war” and instead sounded the true leader’s call for “all-out justice” which, once we heard it, we knew it was what the country needed to hear and to accomplish.
And, thus, the peace process crossed safely over to 2012.
Why do I recount the narrative of the peace process in 2011? Because it helps us to realize better and appreciate more what the peace community has been able to achieve between COP5 and COP6. When I reviewed the keynote address I delivered at COP5 in January, 2012, I could not but remark on what a difference two years have made. In January, 2012, peace talks were ongoing, the ceasefire was holding well, the peace architecture was in place and robust. Nevertheless, there was still so much uncertainty; across the negotiating table, crossed wires and mixed signals still needed untangling. While trust between the two parties had been planted, its roots had not yet grown deep into our souls.
Rereading my speech in 2012, I find that I was still very much engaged in trying to convince people, including some in government, about the seriousness of the Aqino administration in pursuing a genuine end of armed conflict. I still felt the need to sell the idea that, despite its many challenges, peace was possible and within our reach.
And so it is a very good thing, indeed, to be where we are today in our peace process. It has taken the adoption of “Decision Points on Principles,” in April, 2012; which served as the foundation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October, 2012; thereafter fleshed out in four annexes and one addendum completed over a fifteen month period up to January, 2014; now all bound in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, together with earlier agreements signed by the two parties.
The past two years saw many more heart-stopping moments, with special days and seasons bringing us gifts of hard-earned consensus: particularly, the Annex on Power-Sharing during the Ramadan of 2013, the Wealth-Sharing Annex during Advent later that year, and the Annex on Normalization and Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters on President Cory’s birthday in January, this year. Thus, today and in the next two days, the Consolidation for Peace Program can and will focus on ‘Post-Agreement Implementation, specifically, on Building ‘Capacities for Peace.’” This is consolidation for peace on a whole new plane, with different challenges and unprecedented opportunities.
And it is truly appropriate that we embark on this next stage of the COP process here in Hiroshima, which is one place where we must shout at the top of our voices to condemn war. Here we pause to reflect among ourselves and gain strength, seeking to honor the unspeakable pain that has been wrought here by war and which continues to claim victims to this day. Here we affirm that, while war brings pain and destruction, it may also lead to new seasons of joy and rebirth. We see it here in Hiroshima and, gathering here, we reassert our claim on hope and new beginnings. Today, we start our gathering in a season of joy and rebirth because peace is at hand in the Bangsamoro.
In July, when Congress reopens, the President will submit the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law for priority enactment. In turn, our legislators, through the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, have committed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the year ends, bringing about much needed political and socio-economic reforms under a new regional government. This will be followed by a plebiscite early next year in the areas under the scope of the law, ensuing a brief transition period until regional elections are held in May, 2016.
As we move to achieve these political milestones, the parties have also begun to put in place a comprehensive and sustainable normalization process that will, through a multi-track approach, ensure that the weapons and the forces of the MILF are put beyond use and communities are transformed from conflict and despair to hope, productivity, and a chance to rebuild and renew.
We dare to say it is a democratic process striving to burst into full bloom.
From that rare and historic meeting between our President and Chairman Murad in Narita almost three years ago, we are now at the cusp of an enduring peace. The Aquino administration, with the help, support and encouragement of our CSOs, local governments, other stakeholders and the international community, shall continue to strengthen the politics of reconciliation and the ramparts of a permanent peace.
Through the Bangsamoro, we shall strive to build an economy of equal opportunity, where each will enjoy the benefits of good governance, social equity, and, most of all, the rule of law in a society of cultural and religious diversity. No one shall be left behind.
We have come to envision the Bangsamoro, with its favoured location sharing our common borders with our neighbors in the south, as the anchor and sanctuary of common prosperity and collective security – in the Philippines, in Asia, and across the globe. The partnership between the MILF and the government continues to blossom into a feast of possibilities that continues to excite our neighbors in Asia and beyond. The global community is furthermore in awe and admiration of the strong flank of Filipino women at the forefront of the Bangsamoro peace process.
Let us strive to identify and address potential problems and loopholes involving the socio-economic enablement of the newly minted region, the formal establishment of its governance structure, and the most crucial process of normalization. Through this forum, let us identify and strengthen our preparations in developing the means to build the required capacities that will, in turn, create legitimate and viable, all-inclusive, and lasting peace for Mindanao and the entire country.
Our work is never-ending but that is what great journeys are all about.
In the end, let me, on behalf of the Philippine government, thank each and everyone of you here, and the institutions and communities you represent, for accompanying us on this unique and historic quest for a just and lasting peace. As we have struggled to overcome every obstacle in the past, let us carry on and never falter, no matter what problems and challenges lie ahead.
In January, 2012, I ended my speech with these words: I know that, in our hearts, peace has won. I said then: I do believe, and I continue to believe that, on the peace table are miracles waiting to happen.
Today I say again: Whatever difficulties lie ahead, and we can be sure there will be many, let us not give up. Today I again say: I believe – I persist in believing – that miracles await to happen in the post-agreement implementation phase to usher in the Bangsamoro’s sustained peace and development’
Maraming salamat and good day. Arigato gozaimasu.