Senator calls on Moro rebels to join peace process

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SENATOR Aquilino Pimentel III urged warring factions in Mindanao to end the bloody violence and create conditions for unity, saying it is the determination, selflessness and courage of all parties concerned that will bring lasting peace and development in the southern island.

Pimentel, chairperson of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, sought for a ceasefire and asked the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to support the peace pact brokered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

"The conditions now are different from 17 years ago. The Bangsamoro agenda has huge potentials for enduring peace and economic development of Muslim Mindanao," said Pimentel in obvious reference to the 1996 peace accord.


He was quick to add, however, that there is a need to revisit the previous agreement with the MNLF that led to the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) so that all sectors are given a chance to air their side.

Pimentel said that Congress will scrutinize the draft organic act based on the six documents and the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, while he assured the public that the new law will be crafted under the terms of the Constitution.

He said the struggle of Muslim-Filipinos for legitimacy to develop their homeland has reached a defining moment with the historic signing in Malaysia of the comprehensive peace agreement on transition, power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization.

"Now is the time for all peace-loving Muslim-Filipinos to be activists for growth and not as fighters to risk lives and limbs. Now is also the time for every Filipino to give his share for the attainment of this long cherished national goal," the senator from Mindanao said.

He asked the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the organic law, to fully embrace the hopes and aspirations of the Muslim-Filipinos in their desire to live in peace and harmony and build a better life for everybody.

Pimentel said that the BTC should take initiatives to reach out to the different groups in Muslim Mindanao to get their views in crafting the proposed political entity in order to be transparent in its work, adding that the basic law should recapture the essence of the seven documents.

He said that bringing together various factions in the unification table looks formidable, but stressed that Muslim-Filipinos never lacked courage in the past to fight for their rights, and "this is the same courage that you need now to secure your bright future."

Pimentel lamented the fact that even as the Peace Agreement was being signed in Kuala Lumpur, shooting had erupted between factions of the Muslim secessionist groups and the government forces.

The senator said that the best alternative to insure the success of the newly-signed peace agreement is for the early break in the fighting to stop the bloodshed, and for the BIFF and the MILF to join the peace process to establish unity.

He noted that thousands of civilians were displaced by the weeklong war and several fighters from both sides were killed in the skirmishes, giving another black eye to the country, only days after the country drew praises from the international community due to the peace deal.

Pimentel said that the tide of support for change is undeniable, coming from both the local business sectors and foreign donor countries, but the catalyst for much of this change rests on the sincerity and openness of all sectors to finally achieve elusive peace. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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