'Lack of opportunity' still hounds Moros almost a decade since peace pact

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2023 07:52 PM

Children enjoy playing by a river near the Grand Mosque in Cotabato City, January 24, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File
Children enjoy playing by a river near the Grand Mosque in Cotabato City, January 24, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- The Philippine government and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Monday commemorated the 9th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), the landmark peace pact that sought to address the decades-long armed conflict in southern region of Mindanao.

"This agreement paved the way for correcting historical injustice, systematic oppression and discrimination committed against the brown people of the southern Philippines," BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said during a forum organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU).

In a video message, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. also commemorated the CAB signing anniversary as he vowed that his administration will "see its full implementation."

"For 9 years the peace pact has stood firm and the Bangsamoro people have thrived and flourished. We shall ensure that they continue to do so... We in the national government will do our part to fulfill our commitments under the peace agreements and see its full implementation. We shall not waver from this," he said.

The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 between the Philippine government under the leadership of then-President Benigno Aquino III and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), concluding 17 years of negotiations between the 2 parties.

During the OPAPU forum, Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez said former MILF combatants are "being provided socioeconomic interventions" in exchange for giving up their arms under the "normalization" program, one of the key components of the peace process.

"Through the normalization program under CAB, our MILF brothers and sisters are being provided with socioeconomic interventions... and giving them hopes for a brighter future... The Bangsamoro that we see today is far different from what it was years ago because of the determination and commitment of those who worked together for the sake of peace and reconciliation," said Galvez, former Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

"We shall not allow the spoilers of peace to negate the gains we have achieved," he added.

Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, AFP Western Mindanao Command commander, also reported the improvement in BARMM in terms of criminality. 

"When I came in ARMM then 2010, there were 3 kidnappings in 1 month... But now in the past 3 years especially, starting 2016, zero kidnapping in Bangsamoro," he said during the OPAPU forum.

The military official acknowledged that most of the conflicts now can be traced back to the "lack of opportunity" in the region, citing testimonies from combatants who surrendered.


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