Speech of Mr. Murad Ebrahim during the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of the MILF combatants

Speech of Mr. Murad Ebrahim
Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
At the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of the MILF combatants
June 16, 2015

His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines, members of the cabinet, members of the diplomatic core, local government officials, governors, representatives, other government officers in this event, members of the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), members of the IMT, NGOs, other international NGOs, CSOs, UN agencies, excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Assalamualaikum and Good Morning.

For some people, the event today is about statistics – 145 MILF fighters and 75 firearms. But this is not about statistics. This is something deeply personal to us.

As I look at the faces of each of our 145 brothers here this morning, I see 145 stories of struggle, of pain, of hopelessness, and even of death. Yet I also see 145 stories of hope and faith that indeed peace is near and that all the sacrifices have been worth it. I see not only their stories but my story as well and the stories of all the mujahedeen that have given their lives, their intelligence, and their talents to the struggle to protect the Bangsamoro people. What we have today, then, are not the stories of only 145 fighters.

What we have today are the stories of the whole Bangsamoro – oppression, tyranny, and yes, liberation.

The road to this symbolic decommissioning has not been an easy one. Frankly, within the MILF, our conversations on these matters still continue. This is expected because the struggle is an integral part of our identity. This decision, however, is rooted in our firm commitment to comply with the principled agreements we have signed with the Philippine Government. This decision was helped in part by the fact that we know that the President understands and feels what we have been going through – how it is to be under an oppressive regime, to thirst for justice and to have a firm resolve that it should never happen again.

We cannot thank President Aquino enough for his unwavering commitment in our partnership to build a truly democratic, peaceful, and safe society in the Bangsamoro.

Today, we begin the long walk towards transformation, not surrender, to a higher struggle – the start of the transformation of the MILF from an armed revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people. We are talking about the transformation of the Bangsamoro from a state of conflict and underdevelopment to a state of peace and prosperity. But there is more. This is also about the transformation of the Philippines to become more just, more inclusive, and to granting space to the Bangsamoro people to direct our lives, as we want it in accordance with our deepest spiritual values. This symbolic decommissioning signals the start of the transformation of an old arrangement of control towards partnership and authority. This symbolic decommissioning symbolizes the return to normal lives of the simple Bangsamoro.

While today is not yet the completion and culmination of our hopes and dreams, it is a significant event because today, we proclaim our commitment to peace, not through words, but through actions. We are a ready and steady partner in building a new order of peace, security, and development not just for the Bangsamoro but for all.

Some people think that allowing the start of decommissioning despite the fact that the BBL is yet to be passed is a sign of weakness. It is not. It is a sign of strength. For our strength lie not in firearms but in the love and affection of the Bangsamoro people. Without the support of the Bangsamoro people, we may have all the arms in the world and yet there will be no victory. But with the affection and esteem of the Bangsamoro people intact and the platform to pursue their best interests without undue interference, nothing would be impossible.

To allay the mistaken notion of some members of our society and the gross misreading of information that some elements of the media seem to be invariably predisposed to, this event today is not a process of “surrender.”

The weapons that are gathered here are to be submitted to the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), headed by the representative of Turkey with members from Norway, Brunei, and two each from the GPH and MILF; and are to be stored in a designated place agreed on by the Parties. This is an important point in the decommissioning process that we have to be very clear about, lest misinformation is again disseminated that would create confusion and engender rumors adversarial to the peace process.

Briefly, allow me to rehearse to you what is in the FAB that rationalizes the event that we are holding today.

Normalization is an Annex to the FAB. An integral process under this annex is the phased decommissioning of MILF weaponry with the matching program of returning our fighting forces to civilian life. But also corresponding thereto are the reciprocal obligations of the GPH under the same Annex on Normalization, including the disposition of the six MILF major Camps, to be supervised by the Joint MILF-GPH Task Forces, to allow it to be transformed into productive communities. Likewise, a process on general amnesty and other related confidence-building measures that will enhance the return of normalcy in the area.

I am aware of the question that bugs everyone’s mind that casts undue suspicion on the timing of the symbolic decommissioning given that the BBL, which is the product of the FAB and the CAB, is still facing uncertainty in Congress. I understand this feeling for I, too, was initially bothered by this question of timing. However, as Muslims, we have to trust Allah (SWT) and affirm our duty and obligation in the peace agreement.

Nevertheless, let me reiterate our publicly pronounced position on the BBL. We will only accept a BBL that is in compliance with the letter and spirit of the FAB and CAB and its annexes. This is the official position of the Central Committee of the MILF.

At any rate, it is our wish and hope that Congress will give full weight to the peace agreements from where the BBL comes. Allow me to speak in our own tongue for our people.

[Speech in local dialect]

On this note, we thank again the President for his continued manifestation of commitment and support to the peace process, the Malaysian Facilitator, the Independent Decommissioning Body, representatives of the ICG, IMT, the different structures and institutions of the GPH-MILF peace process, representatives of UN Agencies, INGOs, NGOs, CSOs, and all those who in one-way or the other contributed to the advancement of the peace process.

Likewise, to all those who came to grace this historic event, thank you. Assalamualaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.