BARIRA, MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE (29 April 2024) — President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. urged the residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Monday to vote in the forthcoming BARMM regional elections in May 2025, the first to be held in the BARMM.
During a program held here in this former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), President Marcos Jr. emphasized among the Bangsamoro people the importance of exercising their right to suffrage.

“This is the fulfilment of your democratic right to realize and achieve meaningful autonomy, as is enshrined in the CAB. I urge you, safeguard those rights, empower yourselves, take part in our shared task of nation-building,” he said.

“As your President, I reassure that you will have an honest, orderly, and credible conduct of the electoral process,” President Marcos Jr. stressed.

The Chief executive reaffirmed his administration’s steadfast commitment to preserving the gains achieved under the peace process and ensuring the security and prosperity of the region’s people during the political exercise.

“In this election, not only am I hoping for a clean and peaceful election, but more importantly, every candidate should uphold the principle of Bangsamoro First Before Themselves,” he declared.

President Marcos Jr. issued a stern warning to those who plan to disrupt the conduct of the elections, which is among the key provisions in the CAB that envisions to create a government whose representatives were elected by the people themselves.

“As we defend the gains we have achieved, we will be vigilant against the enemies of peace. We will bear the full force of the state against terrorist elements,” he declared.

Collective vision for peace and progress

President Marcos Jr. led the nation in celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the CAB, highlighting the major gains achieved in the Bangsamoro peace process and the impact the peace agreement has made on the lives of the Bangsamoro people.

He emphasized that the CAB symbolizes the Filipino people’s determination to bring sustainable development progress and solidarity not only within the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao but throughout the country.

“Ten years ago, our nation took a decisive step, and that step reflected the indomitable desire of the Filipino people to achieve peace, inclusivity, and prosperity,” President Marcos Jr. said.

He expressed pride and joy in the remarkable transformation that is taking place in communities that were once in the midst of conflict but have now become concrete symbols of peace and development.

“Kung dati, ito ay lugar ng labanan, ngayon lugar na ito ng kapayapaan. Kung dati, dugo ang dumadanak dito, ngayon kaunlaran ang dumadaloy,” President Marcos Jr added.

(“If in the past, this was a battleground, now it is a place of peace. If in the past, blood was shed here, now development flows.”)

He attributed the successful implementation of the CAB to the decision of former combatants to turn away from a life of violence, lay down their arms, and walk the path of peace.

“Niyakap ang kasunduang walang natalo, pero tao ang panalo. Dahil iginalang natin at ipinatupad ang CAB,” President Marcos Jr explained.

(“We embraced an agreement where no one lost, but the people won. Because we respected and implemented the CAB.”)

Genuine peace, not in documents but in implementation

He underscored that the true measure of the success of the peace process is not merely found in the documents signed but in their real-life implementation.

“Ang kapayapaan ay hindi lamang nakikita sa mga titik na talata ng mga kasunduan. Wala sa mga talinhaga o mababangong salita kundi sa pagpapatupad sa totoong buhay,” President Marcos Jr. emphasized.

(“Peace is not only seen in the paragraphs of agreements. It is not in the metaphors or flowery words but in real-life implementation.”)

The Chief Executive expressed his gratitude to all peace partners, especially to the MILF, security sector, various government agencies, local government units, civil society groups, and the international community, for their steadfast commitment to helping the national government achieve genuine peace and sustainable development in the Bangsamoro region.

President Marcos Jr also reiterated his administration’s commitment to fast track the normalization of Bangsamoro communities, especially in MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) areas.

He acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to achieve lasting peace and development in the region, but his administration is determined to realize this goal.

“This is at the core of our policies towards transformative action that brings genuine change to the grassroots and this is the soul of the creation of the CAB,” President Marcos Jr. concluded.

CAB: Symbol of Bangsamoro’s legitimate right to self-determination

For his part, Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim highlighted the significance of the CAB, particularly in acknowledging the legitimate rights of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination.

He described the signing of the agreement as a historic moment that marked the beginning of a new era for the Bangsamoro.

“Our people have suffered so much and have sacrificed their livelihood, their blood, and their future in the quest for genuine and lasting peace in the Southern Philippines,” Ebrahim stated, expressing gratitude to all those who contributed to pushing forward the peace process.

Citing the transformation that has taken place in Camp Abubakar – its transformation from a stronghold of conflict to a symbol of peace – Ebrahim paid tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for the Bangsamoro cause.

He emphasized the vision of a united, enlightened, self-governing, peaceful, just, morally upright, and progressive Bangsamoro region.

According to Ebrahim, the signs of progress can be seen across the region, as evidenced by declining poverty rates, increased investments, creation of more jobs, and the launching of economic activities.

“We continuously work for the Bangsamoro and defy the odds. Many were skeptical and remain so, but these are the realities we face,” Ebrahim pointed out.

He expressed confidence that peace in the Bangsamoro would be a lasting legacy. He called for greater unity, faith, and the steadfast commitment of everyone in the implementation of the CAB.

Ending decades of armed conflict

In the meantime, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. underscored the significance of the CAB in ending decades of armed conflict in the region.

Galvez commended the support and sacrifices of all those involved in the peace process, acknowledging their crucial role in bringing about peace and development in the region.

“Camp Abubakar is a shining example of what can be achieved if individuals turn away from armed struggle and walk the path of peace,” Galvez stated, highlighting the transformation of the camp from a battleground to a symbol of peace.

“This camp, which used to be a battleground and epicenter of conflict, has now become a symbol of the amazing transformation that is taking place in the bangsamoro. it is a testament that the transition from ‘all-out war’ to ‘all-out peace’ is possible,” he added.

The peace adviser expressed confidence in the collective effort of all stakeholders in strengthening the foundations of peace and transforming the Bangsamoro into a model of peace and development not only in Mindanao but across the country and beyond.

Galvez also echoed the words of President Marcos Jr., emphasizing that peace is reflected in tangible improvements in the lives of the people, such as job creation, education, healthcare, infrastructure development, and economic opportunities.

He extended his heartfelt gratitude to the President for his unwavering support for the peace process in the Bangsamoro, as well as the MILF leadership for their sincerity and dedication to advancing the dividends of peace in the region.

Galvez also thanked the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the governors and local government units for their assistance in implementing the Localized Normalization Program.

Not an easy task

The President emphasised that the work for peace is a “lifetime” endeavor.

“This is not an easy job. It is not the work of a day, it is not the work of a month, it is a work of a lifetime,” he said.

“Ang mahalaga ay patuloy ang pag-uusap at pag-hahanap ng solusyon sa lahat ng hinaharap natin,” he said, adding: “Because that is how peace is forged, through the honest exchange of ideas.”

“That is also how peace is made durable, by allowing all parties to speak with candor and openness,” the President emphasized. ###