For PNoy and Murad, empathy a strong emotion behind peace deal
They faced a common foe, and both knew injustice firsthand. When the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made peace in Malacañang on Monday, its leaders made it clear that empathy was a strong emotion behind the momentum for peace.
Muslims celebrate historic peace deal. A delegation of Muslims from Mindanao led by ARMM Gov. Mujib Hataman walk toward Mendiola Bridge to meet with other supporters after witnessing the historic signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement in Malacañang on Monday. Danny Pata
“I understand the temptations that can be borne of anger,” President Aquino told a standing-room-only crowd just before the signing of the historic peace agreement. “I myself lost my father to an oppressive system; I myself thirsted for justice and was deprived of it then by the dictatorship. I empathize with our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters.”
On the same stage as Aquino in Malacañang, MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim paid tribute to Aquino's parents in terms that fellow Muslims could easily understand.
"What is significant and touching on our part is all this is happening under the administration of President Aquino whose martyred father Senator Ninoy Aquino and mother, former President Cory Aquino, fought on the same side of the fence as us against the Marcos dictatorship that devastated our homeland," said Murad, a man in his 60s who has known little in his adulthood but war.
The peace deal their chief negotiators signed on Monday serves as a road map to forming a new autonomous region in the south, a step towards ending more than 40 years of conflict.
Aquino and Murad held one-on-one talks before the signing ceremony. Murad, a first-time visitor to the presidential palace in Manila, handed Aquino a miniature gong, which he ritually sounded.
"This is the sound of peace," Murad told Aquino.
It was Murad and Aquino's second meeting since early August 2011 when they held secret talks in Tokyo, a major turning point in the peace negotiations that have lasted nearly 15 years, frequently interrupted by violent clashes between the two sides.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose government has facilitated the start-stop negotiations since March 2001, was present at the signing along with foreign dignitaries and international aid agencies that helped in the peace process.
The last leg of the negotiations was held in Kuala Lumpur last week.
"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," Aquino said before the signing ceremony at the Malacañang.
The road to a lasting peace is long, but the President said he is personally committed to see just and lasting peace in Mindanao.
“… [I] 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.
“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.” Aquino added..
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak praised those who forged the agreement, hailing the “quiet bravery of negotiation” that prevailed over violence and war. Najib noted that while the Philippine government and the MILF gave up some, it was the Filipino people – the Bangsamoro – who gained everything.
He spoke of the role of Malaysia on the long road that led to the framework agreement, saying that through the years of conflict, Malaysia was home to those who escaped the fighting.
His fervent hope is that the agreement will put an end to “the lost generation” of the Bangsamoro, and that the children in Mindanao will now be able to grow up in an atmosphere of peace.
During the joint briefing of chief negotiators Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF and Dean Marvic Leonen of the Philippine government, Iqbal said the agreement is a “seed sown in the ground” that, when nurtured, will “grow and grow for mutual peace.”
However, Iqbal also cautioned those involved in the peace process against resting on their laurels.
“With all the emotional attachment, and substantive content of this agreement, it is still a piece of paper. It will not implement itself,” Iqbal said.
The road ahead may still be bumpy, but the MILF leader allowed himself to express some awe at what had previously seemed an unlikely scenario.
“I must confess this is the first time in my life to step in the grounds of Malacanang,” Murad told his audience. “Never in my wildest dreams since I was a child or when I joined the Bangsamoro struggle 40 years ago that one day I will see the interior of this building that once housed the Spanish and American Governor Generals and now the Presidents of the Philippines.”
— With reports from Howie Severino/VS, GMA News, Reuters
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