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Thank heavens, peace is at hand!

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The FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT ON THE BANGSAMORO, which was signed in Malacañang the other Monday afternoon, October 15th, is the turning point in our Government’s search for a lasting peace in Mindanao. Shown and properly identified on TV were the personages – national as well as international – who we should thank for such a vitally pivotal document. For their momentous feat:  Thank Heavens, peace in Mindanao is at hand!
The phrase “peace is at hand” was first used by Dr. Henry Kissinger, the chief American foreign policy strategist of the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s. To end the Vietnam War (November 1955-April 1975), Kissinger held several years of secret negotiations in Paris,  France, with the North Vietnamese negotiators headed by Le Duc Tho. On October 26, 1972, Kissinger proudly and confidently announced:  “We believe that peace is at hand. What remains to be done can be settled in one more negotiating session with the North Vietnamese negotiators, lasting, I would think, no more than three or four days.” (Ian C. Friedman, WORDS MATTER, www.iancfriedman.com)

Contrary to expectations, however, the peace talks broke down two months later and hostilities were resumed. And although the Paris Peace Accords were soon signed by the parties concerned on January 27, 1973, fighting continued. But the US government decided to end its military involvement in the Vietnam War on August 15, 1973, perhaps confident that the South Vietnamese army could repel the impending advance of the Vietnamese communists. But to the chagrin of the US government, the democratic South Vietnamese capital of Saigon was overrun by communist forces in April 1975.

Thus, the war ended and North Vietnam annexed the South to form the present day Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV). But, to use a cliché, that is another story.

Nonetheless, the contextual reference of my use of Kissinger’s then proven-to-be overly optimistic phrase is the positive and hopeful attitude, subdued joy, general optimism, quiet confidence, and mutual goodwill  that characterized the atmosphere under which the Framework Agreement was signed.  This is quite palpable in the statements, speeches, and comments issued by the personages concerned before, during, and after the signing ceremony. Following are some such samplings:

1. President Benigno S. Aquino III, before the actual signing of the Framework Agreement, emphatically said:  “In full view of the Filipino people . . . we commit to peace.  A peace that will be sustained to democratic ideals.” He further said that the “residents of Mindanao will be given an equal opportunity as those being enjoyed by residents of the capital region [and that] they will be empowered [to] gain knowledge and marketable skills [as well as] to direct their lives towards advancement in a democratic, peaceful and safe society.” (John Unson and Dennis Carcamo, “Gov’t, MILF sign Bangsamoro framework agreement,” Phil.STAR.com, October 15, 2012)  

2. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak congratulated President Aquino “for his unwavering commitment to forging the Framework Agreement.” Moreover, he assured President P-Noy and the Filipino people “that Malaysia will continue to support the continuing peace negotiations and the implementation of the peace pact.”  (Genalyn D. Kabiling and Edd K. Usman, “Historic Accord Signed,” The Manilla Bulletin Newspaper Online, October 15, 2012)

3. MILF Chairman Al-Hajji Murad Ebrahim hailed the agreement as “a victory for the                Bangsamoro people and the Filipino nation which the international community and the                Muslim world shared.” Extending his hands of amity, he appealed for Bangsamoro                unity, stressing that it is a “victory not by war but by that collective desire tempered by                the inner nobility of human nature to restore justice and peace to a troubled land.”

Chairman Ebrahim also said that he went to Malacañang for the first time in his life as the humble Chairman of the MILF “to forge a partnership of peace between the MILF and the Philippine Government.” He hoped that such partnership would enable                 the two sides to “jointly embark on the historic journey to rebuild [the Bangsamoro]                homeland, institute justice, end occupation and the reign of violence, and restore                normalcy to the lives of the masses of our people in Mindanao and Sulu.” (Kabiling and Usman)

4. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), “congratulated the GPH and the MILF peace panels for reaching an agreement to end the long standing conflict in Mindanao.” More significantly, he said that the “OIC received the news with both hope and cautious optimism, hoping that it will constitute a solid foundation for an overall agreement that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people [and] usher in a new phase of consolidating peace and start the long awaited development process in the region.” (Kabiling and Usman)

5. Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who attended the 2012 European Development Days               (EDD) in Brussels, Belgium, from October 16-17 as President P-Noy’s proxy, hoped                that “we could solicit more support in our aim to bring lasting peace which is vital in our drive for economic progress and our dream of improving the lives of our brothers                [and sisters] in Mindanao.” He intended to present the Framework Agreement during                the EDD. (Kabiling and Usman)

Among the other personages who witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement were members of the Congress of the Philippines. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile headed the Senators, and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte headed the Representatives. Also on hand were the Provincial Governors of the ARMM and nearby provinces. Several ambassadors, members of the International Contact Group (ICG) which have been serving as consultants of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations, and the International Monitoring Team (IMT) were likewise present during that momentous occasion in Malacanang.
In all, more than a hundred people “including MILF, MNLF officials and members,  diplomats, Cabinet members, government officials and civil society representatives attended the landmark signing” of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. (Kabiling and Usman)

Understandably, “hundreds of MILF guerillas . . . watched the signing [ceremony] on television [and] repeatedly chanted Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) while [Mohagher] Iqbal [MILF chief negotiator] and [Marvic] Leonen [GPH peace panel head] signed the document.  (Unson and Carcamo)  Similarly, “hundreds of Muslim women, members of religious groups and peace advocates joined [a run for peace] from the People Power Monument in EDSA to the AFP Grandstand in Camp Aguinaldo [the morning before].  (Regina Bengco, “Peace roadmap signed today,” Malaya Business News Online, October 15, 2012)

Also, a “vigil for peace and concert started at the Peace Arch in Mendiola bridge near  Malacanang at 7 p.m. Sunday [October 14th] by a separate group of peace advocates composed of grassroots leaders, civil society groups, and indigenous communities . . . [who] held a peace caravan or ‘Lakbay Kalinaw’ . . . from Mindanao to Samar, Bicol, Quezon and Manila [the week  before signing day].”  (Bengco)

On the part of the military, Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, Jr., AFP Spokesman, commented that “the agreement is a significant milestone that will lay the foundations for a final and enduring peace in Mindanao [and] puts into concrete example the principles embodied in [the AFP’s]

Internal Peace Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” that concerted efforts and cooperation among stakeholders is a key to achieve the common goal of a just and lasting peace for our country.” (Kabiling and Usman)

Clearly, our Government as a whole and the MILF are committed to uphold the Framework Agreement and are determined to take the next steps toward the formulation and eventual signing of the final peace accord. The Malaysian Government, facilitator of the peace talks, staunchly supports such agreement and all the succeeding processes toward its ultimate goal.

The international community, especially the OIC and the ICG (composed of Japan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Turkey, the United Kingdom, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Conciliation Resources, Muhammadiya, and the Asia Foundation) have also expressed their full support to the peace process. Their positive and encouraging reactions are shared by Australia, the European Union (EU), Indonesia, and the United States. (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

The foregoing factual reports considered, including the positive and supportive comments of the common Filipinos in various internet media sites and local TV interviews, the Framework Agreement has a solid universal acceptance and support. Therefore, despite certain opposing views, it cannot – and will not – fail! It will surely lead to the enactment of the Basic Law upon which the establishment of the new autonomous Bangsamoro region would be based!

Inevitably, then, it would result in the fruition of the ultimate goal of  regional – ultimately national – comprehensive peace for which it was duly crafted and signed. Thank Heavens, peace in Mindanao is at hand!




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