Symbolic turnover opens new chapter for Bangsamoro region
The seat of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government in Cotabato City.
Philstar.com/John Unson, File photo

Symbolic turnover opens new chapter for Bangsamoro region

(Philstar.com) - February 26, 2019 - 12:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — The flag of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao flew over the region for the last time on Tuesday as the government officially turned over transition documents to a new region created from a peace deal signed in 2014, created by law in 2018 and ratified in a plebiscite earlier this year.

Speaking for the last time as ARMM regional governor, Mujiv Hataman said that the new government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the region itself is just a continuation of the work of the ARMM, itself a creation of a separate peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front.

"This is the Bangsamoro of our ancestors, the Bangsamoro that we inherited from the first Moros who tilled the soil and fished the rivers and seas... the Bangsamoro that we will pass on to the next generation," he said in Filipino.

He said the ARMM is also a continuation of the Bangsamoro, which he said has existed even before colonial times.

"There was a Bangsamoro before the foreigners arrived and there will be a Bangsamoro in the time of our grandchildren. The Bangamoro will live on because the Bangsamoro is not contained in documents or contracts or papers, the Bangsamoro is the people, the culture... the blood spilled on this land," he also said.  

"The story of the Bangsamoro will continue. As the chapter of the ARMM closes, the new chapter of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao starts," he said in Filipino.

Hataman also called for unity after the heated debates that preceded the January 21 and February 6 plebiscites and despite rivalries and competition among the region's indigenous peoples.

"We are one as Bangsamoro, we are different threads in the same weave," he said. "Let us leave behind old disputes and disagreements."

RELATED: ARMM gov promises smooth transition after BOL plebiscite

Murad: A higher level of struggle ahead

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, who is interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, said in his remarks that when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front entered into peace talks with the government 22 years ago, they had only one agenda: "That was to solve the Bangsamoro problem."

"Today, it is still our agenda and will remain as such until the so-called Bangsamoro problem is fully and satisfactorily answered."

He noted that the negotiations took 17 years, which were followed by the wait for the Bangsamoro Basic Law—later called the Bangsamoro Organic Law—to be enacted and ratified.

"Now, the government that we have long dreamed of, fought and struggled for, is finally established in our homeland. Alhamdulillah. Allahu Akbar."

He said that the incoming government of the BARMM will focus on education, health, economic development, strategic infrastructure and moral leadership.

Murad said that aside from taking their oaths at a ceremony in Manila last week, members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority "will also take oath to Allah over the Quran, this is to ensure to you that we will work for a government that will really be free of all the ills of governance."

He added that the next phase for the Bangsamoro is a higher level of jihad or struggle.

"Our jihad will be more intense and more challenging. Our jihad will be firstly against our own selves. Our enemy is graft and corruption. Our enemy is nepotism, our enemy is all those ills of the government. This is the next struggle we are ready to wage. This is the next jihad that we are ready to wage," he said.

"Our success will be seeing that good governance will really be... will prevail in our system." 

Emphasizing the need for unity and collaboration for peace, presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. told attendees that "like a rainbow, we must stick together and weather the storm to reach the pot of gold of peace at the end."

This is a developing story

— Jonathan de Santos

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