President Benigno Aquino III, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles witness as Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel chairman Marvic Leonen and MILF Peace Panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal affix their signature to the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in a ceremony at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang on Oct. 15.  (Photo by Rey Baniquet/Malacañang Photo Bureau/PCOO/PNA)

MANILA — The government signed on Oct. 15 a landmark framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a development that President Benigno Aquino III said has opened a “new chapter” in the nation’s history and declared to the world that “we commit to peace.”

“This agreement not only marks a new chapter in our history; it now defines the very path we take as a people — one where opinions are heard and hope is shared; where understanding and consensus breed meaningful solutions for all stakeholders; one where every child is offered the opportunity to shape his own destiny,” Mr. Aquino said before witnessing the signing of the preliminary accord together with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and MILF chief Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

“A peace that will be sustained through democratic ideals; a peace that heals and empowers; a peace that recognizes the many narratives of the Filipino people, and weaves them into a single, national aspiration for equitable progress,” Mr. Aquino said.

“Today is a great day of hope. A day which sees the dawn of a new beginning for the people of Mindanao,” Najib said.

“We are here to put an end to the adversarial relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine nation and we pray never to see again the refugee camps...the camps with old folks, women and children wallowing in squalor and misery, and never witness again the wholesale violations of human rights,” Murad said.

The President praised the members of the negotiating panels from the government led by presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles and chief negotiator Marvic Leonen, and MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, as well as Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed, the Malaysian facilitator.

Leonen and Iqbal signed the agreement in the presence of Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and his delegation, members of the diplomatic corps, MILF members, government officials and other guests in the jampacked Rizal Hall of Malacañang. 

The OIC has been helping the Philippines reach an accord with Muslim rebel groups since the time of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chief Nur Misuari, who established the MNLF in 1972.

“We understand all too well the cycle of suffering that our people have had to go through for the past two generations. We have seen children torn from their homes, and communities, driven away from the land they have tilled. We have seen lives lost and justice sought, but because of the system’s failure to provide avenues for understanding and effective redress of grievances, many resorted to the path of vengeance and violence,” Mr. Aquino said.

Mr. Aquino said he could understand the rage that had reigned in the hearts of former enemies, citing his own thirst for revenge after the assassination of his father and namesake in August 1983.

“I myself thirsted for justice, and was deprived of it then by the dictatorship. I empathize with our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, and can only vow to work as hard as I can to see that the culture of impunity is dismantled, and that the foundations of righteousness and cooperation are laid,” he said.

“We will give our people what is truly due them: a chance to direct their lives towards advancement in a democratic, peaceful and safe society,” he added.

The President thanked Najib and his countrymen for their “commitment to our peace process (that) shone as a beacon of peace to the international community,” as well as Murad “whose very able and genuine leadership provided us with a partner who, even while striving for the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people, remained an astute statesman who realized that progress lay in building consensus among the many stakeholders in the region.”

“He led not with dogmatism or hardened ideology, but with a flexibility and open-mindedness borne of trust. We all owe him our collective thanks,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President and Murad met in Japan in August 2011 in a secret meeting that was criticized by some sectors, who accused Mr. Aquino of supposedly “demeaning the presidency” by meeting with a rebel leader.

“But I approached the meeting with chairman Murad as a fellow Filipino; not as combatants with opposing views, but as fellow victims of a non-responsive system which has so often driven our people towards bloodshed and suffering,” Mr. Aquino said.

“We looked at each other as brothers, responsible and committed to the attainment of the aspirations of our people. This mindset, I am certain, percolated throughout the negotiating process and our respective panels. We now all share in the triumph of this framework agreement,” he said.

“Let me now echo both panels’ challenge to the people: Much work remains to be done in order to fully reap the fruits of this framework agreement. We have commitments to fulfill, people to lead, and dreams to achieve. The details to be laid out in the annexes, in particular, provide us with a solid opportunity to expand the common ground whose principles we have already articulated through the agreement,” he pointed out.

“But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. We are now at the beginning of a comprehensive agreement that will map out the detailed steps, detailed commitments, and detailed programs that will lead to the fulfillment of our long-term goals,” he said.

“We are committed to enabling our partners to transform themselves to a genuine political party that can help facilitate the region’s transition towards a truly peaceful and progressive place."


This year, Mr. Aquino said the government committed P8.59 billion for the Transition Investment Support Plan, on top of the P12.93 billion already allocated in the budget.

“We are committed to giving the region its rightful share, not just now but each and every time, confident that it will redound to the benefit of all citizens, and will not just line the pockets of a very select few,” Mr. Aquino said.

“And to all the partners who have long sought this peace, and who have committed to its fruition in the coming years — our friends from the international community, academe and civil society — thank you from the bottom of our hearts. The Filipino people share this victory with you,” he said.

“A child in Lamitan will be offered the same education as a child in Quezon City; the sick of Patikul will gain access to the same healthcare as those in Pasig; tourists visiting Boracay will also have Sulu in their itineraries; a businessman will earn a profit whether he sets up shop in Marikina or Marawi,” he said.

“Together, we move forward with a conviction to lift each other, so that in turn, our nation may grow and reach greater heights. We implore God, or Allah, to continue guiding all of us, so that our dreams may turn into concrete, tangible realities,” he said.

‘Assalamu Alaikum’

Murad began his speech with “Assalamu Alaikum” or “Peace be upon you” and said, “I must confess that this is the first time in my life to step in the grounds of Malacañang.”

“I come in peace,” he said.

“Today it humbles me to say before you that we have stayed the course, our perseverance has prevailed over those whose obsession is to perpetuate war,” Murad said.

“We have inked the most important document in the chapter of our history,” he added.

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