Speech of Pres. Aquino at the turnover ceremony of the Bangsamoro Basic Law
[This is the English translation of the speech delivered at Malacañan Palace on September 10, 2014]
At the beginning of our term, we told our countrymen that it was possible, once again, to hope. Today, we have proven that not only did we hope, we fulfilled our collective aspirations. We have taken yet another step towards a more peaceful and more progressive Mindanao. Through this proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, we are giving shape to the enactment of the principles behind our Framework Agreement.
In my most recent State of the Nation Address, I asked Congress for their understanding. We needed enough time to study every provision in our proposed bill. This was a long and thorough process, because we went through every detail involved in fulfilling our shared desires for the Bangsamoro region. I assure you: The Bangsamoro Basic Law was crafted to be fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians.
I extend my gratitude to the leaders and the members of the MILF, under the leadership of Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Mohagher Iqbal, for their solidarity, and to the hardworking and persistent members of our peace panel, led by Secretary Ging Deles and Chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer. I also thank the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the stakeholders, the members of the Cabinet, and our partners abroad, who have helped us write a new chapter of peace and unity in our country's history.
Trust brought us here. Throughout the negotiations, I saw that each side genuinely wished to reach an agreement. We have proven that, in a situation where one does not consider who has the upper hand, one can truly give rise to a situation where everyone wins.
Now that we have a proposed bill, I fully believe that it is in accordance with our Constitution and with the principles of our Framework Agreement, and that it reflects our shared efforts towards growth that leaves no one behind.
To the honorable members of Congress: We understand the need to thoroughly review the proposed bill. We ask Congress, however, to pass this bill in the soonest possible time. If we are able to legislate this, we can give our Moro brothers enough time to prepare, thus enabling them to nurture the seeds of meaningful governance which were planted for the Bangsamoro.
To my Bosses: now that we have turned over the bill to Congress, let us not think that the advancement of this important legislation depends on our Representatives alone. In truth, each one of us has an important role to play in ensuring the genuine transformation of society.
We call our countrymen in Muslim Mindanao "brothers", don't we? In a typical Filipino family, has there been an instance that we have heard a parent say, "It's alright to take advantage of your brother?" As the father of our nation, it is my task to be the first to take care of the welfare of our people, and to herald a society that is truly just and equitable. Now, this I ask of you: Let us help our Filipino brethren. Indeed ARMM has been left behind. This is why we seek to promote fairness, especially as regards our countrymen in the margins, so that they themselves, as empowered individuals, may have the wherewithal to contribute to our collective growth. As I have said in the past: We must boost them up, to allow them to catch up.
To our countrymen in Luzon and Visayas, may it be clear: Change will only come about if we trulybear it in our minds and our hearts. Let us now open our arms for our Muslim countrymen. Let us respect the beliefs and rights of the indigenous peoples of our land. Instead of choosing to spread negative news and unfounded assumptions about our southernmost region, let us harness our knowledge and time to fully understand the history, culture, and narratives of our fellow countrymen. By so doing, we will further discover that we are really the same: like us, they aspire to see their children graduate one day, they dream of a life without fear at worry, and they desire to succeed as individuals. Clearly: Now, more than ever, trust reigns among brothers. We need to strengthen that trust, by supporting the immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Let us not let go of the opportunity to bequeath a new future to the Land of Promise, and thus I urge you to walk with us as we march towards this realization.
Once Congress passes the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the next step will be a plebiscite for the people of the Bangsamoro. The only appeal I make to our brothers and sisters who will vote in this plebiscite: Study well the provisions of the Law. Your understanding and your participation will be the best defense against those who seek to sow doubt in our agenda of a just and lasting peace. These will give you an even greater ability to take part in the transition to a strong Bangsamoro government in 2016.
To those who still have concerns about the success of this initiative, I can only say: Now when so many more Filipinos are standing and working arm-in-arm, from Moros, to Lumads, to Christians-is this the time for us to doubt ourselves? Is this the time to fear change? While we have no control over the future, I am confident, and I know that others present here today will join me in guaranteeing: it is through our full trust and our refusal to let go of hope that we will be able to realize our dreams.
This Saturday evening, I will be traveling to Europe. The Bangsamoro Basic Law and the rest of our achievements in the area of peace are among the achievements that I will proudly share with the leaders and our countrymen in Spain, Belgium, France, and Germany. I will tell them the story of how, through trusting and working with each other, we have reached this point in our history. I will tell them that, while our success is not complete yet, we are all confident that our collective efforts towards a more progressive and more peaceful Philippines will continue.
It is clear: We have been given a rare chance to prove, not only to ourselves, but to the entire world, that we can achieve what was once thought to be impossible. When we arrived at a fork in the road, we chose to do what was right and what was just, and today, lasting peace and inclusive growth are within our sights. Let us continue to work together, so that we may bequeath to the next generations a Philippines that is free from conflict, that bears the mark of lasting progress, and that enjoys the admiration of all corners of the world.
Thank you, and good day.