Message of Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commision, During the Social Call to Members of Congress on February 26, 2014


It is a great honor and a personal privilege for the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to make this social call to the Honorable members of the House of Representatives.  


As Chair of the Commission, I would like to thank the House leadership led by the Honorable Speaker Feliciano Belmonte for the kind invitation and the warm welcome your Honors have extended to us. 


I am gratified that we are meeting today in a casual and less formal setting.  I sigh in relief that we are not in Congress because we are summoned by any of its committees to appear under pain of contempt. 


Instead, we are being welcomed as your partners as we journey together towards achieving the long sought peace and prosperity in Mindanao.    


The BTC is the product of the partnership between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  It is the same olive branch of peace and partnership that BTC is extending to Congress today.


Please allow me to imagine our partnership from the lens of the BTC.


Our partnership is founded on our common aspiration that sustainable peace and development will reign in Mindanao and the whole country.  In legislating the soon-to-be-signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Congress will most likely be besieged by many interest groups and individuals who will raise a myriad of issues ranging from the constitutionality and legality of the agreement, to political considerations and practicality and viability in implementing the agreement.  


These may be valid concerns.  Yet, we should not to lose sight that there is one supreme consideration that stands above the rest and that is addressing the root causes of the long-drawn Moro rebellion.  


What is the use of a measure that passes all constitutional and legal tests but fails to address the root causes of the Mindanao conflict and worse, becomes a source of new and more virulent fissures? What is the use of measures that may be politically expedient but will only further entrench the very system that fuels the armed conflict? What is the use of sleek, practical and viable measures when they cannot be implemented in an environment of instability and insecurity?  


The root causes of the Moro rebellion were aptly articulated among others by someone who is not a Moro but a Christian leader whose family are settlers not indigenous to Mindanao.  I am referring to the newly installed cardinal of the Catholic Church, his Eminence Orlando B. Quevedo.  


The good Cardinal summarizes the roots causes of the Moro rebellion into three: First, Injustice to the Moro identity. Second, injustice to the Moro political sovereignty.  Third, injustice to Moro integral development.


The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the annexes and the CAB recognize the long history of injustice to the Moro people and have laid down the principles, modalities and infrastructure for redressing their grievances.  I urge Congress to exercise its plenary legislative powers to translate the peace agreement into a law that is faithful to the spirit and intent of the peace pact.  


As Chair of the Commission, I respectfully submit that the FAB and its annexes assert that justice for all is the basis for sustainable peace and prosperity in the Bangsamoro.  On the other hand, law, in the words of Martin Luther King, “exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress”. 


As the attainment of social justice is the ultimate aim of law, Congress is urged to pass a Basic Law that is no less than a “legislated peace agreement”---a Basic Law that is faithful in letter and spirit to the CAB.


I apologize for touching on a serious subject on this light and casual occasion.  It is precisely your generosity in welcoming us as friends and partners that I can speak out from the heart.  


Amidst the different discourses on the role of the Congress in legislating the peace agreement, I feel that I have to speak out and urge the Honorable members of Congress to be the “enablers” that will make the agreement of the parties for sustainable peace and development in Mindanao come to fruition.


Let us be partners, the BTC and Congress with the whole of the Philippine government in addressing the historical grievances of the Moro people. Some quarters are saying that the MILF is taking a big risk and a leap of faith in partnering with the executive branch and now with Congress.  Let me say that there is no risk taken or leap of faith made greater than the cry of our suffering people for justice and self-determination. 


Let us continue not only to open but to widen even more the lines of communications we have started to put in place today.  Your BTC will continue to engage Congress and its committees so that we can build mutual understanding of the peace agreement, the context by which it has been forged and the real intention of the parties. 


Thank you and good day.