Speech of BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal at the Awarding Ceremony of the EU Peace Journalism Awards


Speech by Mohagher Iqbal, Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chair,
At the Awarding Ceremony of the EU Peace Journalism Awards
8 July 2015

To the European Union Ambassador to the Philippines, Ambassador Guy Ledoux, our partners in the Government of the Philippines, members of the European Union, Jury Members, to our remarkable Finalists, distinguished Guests, Friends of the Peace Process, Ladies and Gentlemen..

– Assalamu Alaikum WWB and Good afternoon.

Indeed, time flies so fast. And these are crucial times.

I vividly remember some nine months ago when we all gathered in Cotabato City for the launching of the First Peace Journalism Awards, and called on all talented, wise and dedicated peace lovers to join and take on journalism as a tool for social change and transformation. 

The amount of entries we received for these Awards is the best indicator of how much support the Filipino has for peace and confidence-building in this country. 

Peace advocacy is not an easy theme. You cannot just simply fake it. You cannot claim to be for peace if you are selective of its application. As a peace advocate, one has to be personally fully committed to peace and wholeheartedly believe that everybody should give peace a chance. Writing about peace is a whole other arena as I myself, having written books on the struggles of the Bangsamoro, found it to be rather challenging to faithfully convey the ideas in a way that is understandable, informative and conflict-sensitive with a call for action. 

Although nine months have passed since we launched this Peace Journalism Awards, so little or so much, depending on which side of the glass you are looking from, has become of the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Lower and Upper Houses of Philippine Congress. 

Along these lines, I have come to a revelatory realization that contrary to popular beliefs, the opposite of peace is not war; it is fear – and to be very particular in the case of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, it is the fear of the unknown. Many appear to fear the changes that the Basic Law will bring about not only in Mindanao but to the whole country. Whatever kind of fear one has of the BBL enormously overpowers their desire to give peace a chance. But we must not be defeated by fear. Peace over fear, like good over bad, must always prevail. Although what becomes of the BBL is still unknown, we will not let this rob us of the opportunity to speak of peace, to spread goodness, and to foster unity and harmony among the Filipino people in whatever form and manner.
What keeps us going are stories of hope and dreams -- of positivity and grace -- of love and support – and of brotherhood and togetherness. Never have we felt that we are left alone in this endeavour because we chose to pay more attention to the words and gestures of support from the local, national and international communities who share our dreams to achieve genuine and long-lasting peace in Mindanao.

Today, as much as you, the winners, are celebrated for your achievement, you deserve more recognition for making peace win as well. In the strongest terms, through your words, imagination, pursuit of truth, persistence, hard work, and love of mankind, you made it possible for peace to prevail. Congratulations for a job well done and may you continue to be great shapers in the field of peace-building in this country.

To those who joined but did not have the good fortune of taking home the prize, please know that we are equally proud of you and your contributions. Take comfort in the idea that what matters most is your purest intention of being instruments of peace through your work. The mere acts of joining and submitting your entries advocating peace already speak so much of your characters as journalists. Let me convey my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your entries.

All in all, I am pleased that we have succeeded in getting the message of the Mindanao Peace Process across to our audience with this year’s contest. With this remains the ever illuminating hope that the message of passing a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is faithful to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will also succeed in the end. 

We all have our parts to play during these tough and trying times. Let me reiterate that it is very comforting to know that we have you, dear journalists, to capture, write, and talk about peace and its over-arching benefits to the Philippine nation. You are visionaries in your own rights, and we are proud of how far we have matured and grown as a country in terms of peace journalism. 

Allow me to also extend my Congratulations to Ambassador Guy Ledoux and the European Union for the successful run of the First Peace Journalism Awards in the Philippines. Your valuable assistance to the peace process is always cherished and appreciated, and we hope that you will not tire of lending support to our activities. 

In ending, I would like to believe, with all humility, that in my own small ways, I have contributed in molding the story of peace in Mindanao in my lifetime. Whether the story ends with a period or a comma, I ultimately may never know with certainty. But it would be good to retire knowing that people will continue writing beautiful stories about other people in the context of peace-building for the next generations to learn from.

Thank you, and once again Congratulations to the Winners and other Finalists. Enjoy the rest of the day, and Wassalam.