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Deles’ Speech During the Signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Speech of Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles:
During the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

[Delivered at Malacañan Palace, Manila, on October 15, 2012]

His Excellency, our President Benigno Simeon Aquino III; to our esteemed guests, His Excellency, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak of Malaysia; His Excellency Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF; the Chairs and members of the peace negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; the Honorable Tengku Dato’ AbGhafar Tengku Mohamed, our Malaysian Facilitator in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations; members of the Diplomatic Corps; fellow members of the Cabinet; Senate President Enrile, and Speaker  Belmonte, and members of Congress; our partners and friends in peacemaking and peace-building from the civil society organizations; the private sector; the local government units; our grassroots communities; the international community; to everyone in this jam-packed room:

Good afternoon. Magandang hapon po. Assalamu Aleikum.

Thank you for being with us today and welcome to the Signing Ceremony of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

I am deeply honored, and overjoyed to be in this place, at this time, in this moment.

And somewhere in Mindanao, a girl named Salama also shares our joy today. She was in grade school in the town of Kabuntulan, Maguindanao, when, one day in August, 2008, the first sounds of gunfire broke out as military and rebel forces engaged in battle. Salama tells the story of that afternoon:

“I was so scared that I cried. Our teacher yelled at us, telling us to take cover, but we wanted to go home because we were worried about our parents and sibling. I was a grade three pupil then. I had to stop my schooling because of the war.”

Another story: When 13-year old Reina Marie Doria of Koronadal City learned about our Framework Agreement, she said:

“I received this news with joy, especially for us who may be the ones to experience the fruits of the peace process.”

One of our peace ambassadors, famous Filipino-American singer of the Black Eyed Peas, when told about the framework agreement, said, “This is great news. I want to be involved. I want to build a school in Basilan and donate books to the children.”

These stories tell us how abeautiful morning has dawned after Salama’s nightmare, and I am in awe of how many more mornings like this we can all can wake up to.

One person in this room never gave up hope. From day one of his leadership, he seized the peace, forged and hammered it and polished it to its sterling radiance. His mother, our beloved President Corazon C. Aquino, was known throughout the world as an icon of democracy. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, from this day forward, shall be known as the president who made the Bangsamoro possible. [Appalause]

Thank you, Mr. President, for being the moral compass of the Mindanao peace process, for guiding us through the negotiations, and for keeping our minds firm and our hearts, buoyant.

Today, a child will grow up in our generation embracing the identity of the Bangsamoro and grow up with pride in a political, cultural, and geographic identity respected in the four corners of the world.

We see the beginnings of a once-rended family that has finally come together as one—diverse in beliefs, passionate always, and perhaps, arguing all the time, but still a family resolved to face the future and all its challenges, together.

We pay homage to the women in communities ravaged by conflict, women who valiantly clutched their babies to their chests to hush them in the din of gunfire and the scream of falling bombs; who stayed and tended to the children, the sick, and the aging through days and weeks of seemingly endless nights.

We extol the men forced to gather their families in refugee tents and reassuring them in whispers that it will be better tomorrow.  It will better tomorrow. It will be better tomorrow… even in the darkest days of despair. And to those who have died without seeing the sunlight of peace—those felled by bullets, and those cut down by hunger because of the ravages of war—we bow our heads in offering you this day.

I have been an advocate of peace almost my entire life but this is the first time that I have seen such broad and overwhelming support as we are now seeing for the agreement that we are about to sign today. My gratitude goes to the courageous work of our civil society partners who coaxed and prodded and pushed us forward.

The same is true for our partners in the international community, who brought enduring aid and camaraderie from their respective organizations, nations, and peoples—direct to the arena of conflict.

We extol the media, including the social media, for sowing the messages of peace that kept our people’s hopes up all over the world.

Please join me in applauding and honoring the work of the GPH and MILF peace negotiating panels and our esteemed Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ AbGhafar Tengku Mohamed. [Applause]

Dato Tengku Ghafar once said that both panels were on the same page but looking at different paragraphs. He was editor in chief who aligned the paragraphs on the page.

So many challenges await us, but the bridge of trust that spans this room is strong enough to withstand the trials ahead, however difficult they may be. Never again shall we allow that bridge to be undermined, weakened, or destroyed by the forces of greed, avarice, and envy.

We shall hold up that bridge with the force of our dreams and ideals, enabling it to bring our entire society together and enrich the democratic institutions we all hold dear until we all breach the firmament of hope and arrive together, finally, in the bright realm of greatness as one people, under one Republic, sharing one destiny.

May God bless us all.

Maraming salamat po. Shukran.