Updates Per Peace Table

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Welcome Remarks of Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles during the Book Launch of "Junctures"

[Delivered in Malacañan Palace, Manila, on June 9, 2016]

A peaceful afternoon to everyone.  Assalamu aleikum.

We are gathered here bound by the dream of a nation  without war, without poverty, without fear, without injustice.

This is a dream we all share with Hadji Usman Akmad, fondly known as Bapa, who is among the oldest of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants who were decommissioned last year.

Bapa is now almost eighty years old. A battle-hardened warrior from Maguindanao, he has spent more than half of his life in war.  But, today, his battle weary hands freely run over the myriad colors of threads and fabrics to make clothes – a trade he learned in our livelihood programs for decommissioned combatants.  Happily, he now helps his daughter in her small tailoring shop.

Bapa stands with us as we continue to knit and sew together a peaceful and prosperous future for Filipino families and communities all over the country.  He says: “Gusto rin namin ng kapayapaan. Gusto rin ng mga sundalo ng kapayapaan. Kaya sana tuloy-tuloy na ito.”

This yearning for peace is captured in the book that we are launching here today, entitled Junctures.  

This book is dedicated to the Filipino people in the love for peace.  To the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for the great courage in holding back arms to give way for peace.  To Malaysia for being our host and counselor in the true spirit of solidarity.  To the world for its abiding faith in our efforts.  And to PNoy for his indomitable leadership in the face of great odds.

Through this book, we say thank you.  We thank the various mechanisms and components of the peace process that helped us weather its toughest challenges and reach its greatest achievements; the international community, for its invaluable support for the Aquino Administration’s peace agenda in Mindanao; and civil society organizations, religious groups, the academe, the business sector, and all our partners in peace.

Mr. President, you are the star of this book.  We thank you for showing Bapa, the Bangsamoro, the country, and the rest of the world that with the principled commitment of a genuine leader and public servant, peace is possible within our lifetime.  We will never forget how you shepherded the peace process even in the face of the most daunting challenges.  Your Excellency, maraming salamat po.

Today we  take stock of the breadth of what we have achieved in the peace process.

We have truly gone so far in that brave journey.

Four years ago, on October 15, 2012, we made history in this very hall when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Government of the Philippines finally signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Two years after, on March 27, 2014, within these same grounds, the whole world watched as we achieved another milestone in the peace process: the culmination of seventeen years of negotiations with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Six months later, on September 10, 2014, these very walls were witness to the transmittal by the President himself to Congress of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The submission of the BBL was already an achievement in itself, especially as it jumpstarted the implementation of various aspects of the CAB, such as the Ceremonial Turnover and Decommissioning of MILF arms and combatants in June last year.

Through the decommissioning process, like the broader normalization process and the Comprehensive Agreement of which it is part, we work to ensure that our Bangsamoro sisters and brothers get to experience how it is to live a a life free from fear of guns and bullets; of life in safe, prosperous communities; of life in a country that embraces all its children, whether Muslim, Christian, or Lumad.

This vision is slowly but surely turning into reality today – which is why, despite the difficulties we faced, we have forged ahead in the path to peace.  This is why we buckled down and kept working for the passage of the BBL.

We took heart in knowing that we were not alone in this path.  The  journey and the struggle continues.  And while much work remains to be done, we are not leaving the fight for peace.  Tuloy ang kapayapaan.  

The work for peace continues because we know how important it is, especially for the scared child taking cover from a rain of bullets, for parents forced to send away their children to take refuge from firefights, for communities torn apart by war.

It continues, because Bapa’s story tells us that despite the setbacks, we can see the fruits of peace even as early as now.  That, despite the difficulties, we can look back and say it has all been worth it, that we stood on the right side of history, that our faith in peace and dialogue was not misplaced.  

We fought the good fight – and we will continue to do so, even as we are set to step down from office in a few weeks.  I hope and pray that the next administration will carry the torch forward for the greater good of our people and the world.  I hope and pray that that we will no longer let yet another generation of Filipinos wait until they are eighty, worn and hardened and withered by war, before they reap the fruits of peace; that we will not take a step back into the darkness of violence and conflict, especially now when the light of peace is just within our reach.

Peace cannot be forged in a matter of months or even six years.  A peace agreement marks not the end but the beginning of work that must carry on over many years, perhaps even over decades.  Any peace agreement must be upheld over and beyond administrations, which will make it not only intact, but indelible.

And so it is my hope that Junctures will serve to remind the Filipino people – especially those who still keep the faith and pin their hopes and dreams on this peace process – not only of what we have achieved over the past six years, but also of the greater and greater heights we can still reach if we stand together in harmony.                                                   

Tuloy ang kapayapaan.  And with Bapa, the Bangsamoro, and the rest of the Filipino people, let us keep the faith, let us remain steadfast, let us stay on this path and continue knitting and sewing together, hand in hand, a future filled with the bright and joyful colors of peace.

Thank you and welcome.  Shukran.                

[Photo Credit: Malacañang Photo Bureau]