"Stand up for peace. Long live the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)!"
This is the theme of the 2nd anniversary celebration of the signing of the 2014 negotiated political settlement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that served as basis for the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and outlined socioeconomic interventions and transitional justice and reconciliation mechanisms to ensure a just and lasting peace not only in Mindanao but across the country.
The anniversary will be commemorated with an event that will be held at the Notre Dame University Gymnasium in the city on March 28, 2016. The actual signing of the CAB happened on March 27, 2014 but due to the observance of Easter Sunday, both the GPH and the MILF agreed to hold it on the following day.
“Even though the proposed BBL was not passed by the 16th Congress, the gains achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process throughout the decades have been tremendous. There is solid basis for the people of the Bangsamoro to remain hopeful and continue looking forward toward a better, peaceful future," said GPH chief negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.
"Most importantly, the CAB binds the government and the MILF to a road map that serves as the best deterrent to violent extremism and lays down the needed social and political reform that would see the full transformation of the Bangsamoro region into a center of peace and development,” she added.
The celebration of the CAB signing anniversary will be the last under the current administration. President Benigno S. Aquino III is scheduled to step down on June 30 to give way to the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
Ferrer and the rest of the GPH negotiating panels are co-terminous with the President.
Before the signing of the CAB, the GPH and the MILF launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program –- a concrete socioeconomic initiative aimed to uplift the health, education, and livelihood conditions of residents in MILF communities. Moreover, the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission held earlier this month a public launching of its report and recommendations on healing the wounds of war and addressing the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro.
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles announced that concrete actions are being undertaken with regard the report. She also mentioned that she would initiate an inter-agency committee to study the TJRC’s recommendations and how to put them into motion.
Also, since 2012, there has been zero skirmishes recorded between GPH and MILF forces except the Mamasapano incident which happened on Jan. 25, 2015. Despite the firefight that lasted hours and resulted in 67 casualties, ceasefire was quickly re-established.
The CAB anniversary celebration will feature several activities such as a photo exhibit on the Bangsamoro peace process and a public viewing of select films and documentaries on the struggles and hopes of the Bangsamoro which will be followed by an open forum. Gates will be opened at 10 a.m. while the actual film viewing will begin 30 minutes after.
The formal program will commence at 1 p.m. Bulk of the program will be dedicated to awarding plaques of recognition and appreciation to local and international actors who have been part of the Bangsamoro peace process throughout the years. Aside from the established peace and ceasefire mechanisms, past negotiating panel chairs have also been invited as honorees.
Aside from Ferrer and MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, other expected guests include: OPAPP Secretary Deles; representative/s of the MILF Central Committee; members and representatives of the ceasefire mechanisms; members and representatives of mechanisms under the program for Normalization; members and representatives of the Third-Parties in the GPH-MILF peace process; and members and representatives of the Diplomatic Corps.
There will be food booths within the venue that will provide local delicacies and refreshments beginning 11:30 a.m. Several groups have also been invited to render cultural performances.
Invitations have also been extended to: members of the National Peace Council as well as people from the academe, religious communities, security sector, civil society, indigenous people organizations, and Royal Houses. (PNA/OPAPP)