Asalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh and Good Morning to one and all.

It is indeed an honor to be standing here before the Honorable Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and my fellow Commissioners and be part of this momentous event: the signing of the new Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. More than three years ago – April 20, 2014 to be exact – the BTC then also produced a BBL that embodied the spirit of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Despite our best efforts, the BBL did not pass the 16th Congress of the Philippines. The reasons for which are varied. But the ultimate reason is that Allah did not decree that it would pass. Nevertheless, four (4) years of hard work including engaging members of Congress were not in vain as every lesson learned, every problem solved and every relationship gained will help us move the peace process forward.

While today’s event is part of the greater journey towards the fulfillment of the Bangsamoro people’s aspiration for self-determination and lasting peace in Mindanao, it is also a personal and emotional one, especially for those like me who has been in struggle for more than 40 years and who had the insurmountable task of negotiating with government for a good eleven (11) years until the CAB was signed. And I am still glued to this task even to this day, literally four years thereafter. The journey for me is literally blood, sweat and tears; and mind you my dear colleagues, the hardest part of this negotiation and perhaps in all other negotiations for that matter is when you are negotiating with your own peers or comrades in the organization. To say no to an offer of the other party in a negotiation, say enemy (in open and close quotations) is very easy but to reject an idea from a comrade is much more difficult. But if these difficulties and tribulations germane to negotiations would bring peace, harmony and progress in Mindanao, then it is a journey worth taking.

As we submit the BBL to the Office of the President, I would like to call upon everybody – whether Muslims, Christians, and the indigenous peoples – to work together so that the elusive peace in Mindanao is achieved through the BBL.

Let us also be reminded that our hard engagement is not over after this submission. Experience tells us that the real hard work still lies ahead. It is only the strength of our prayers to the Almighty and our trust to the commitment of the President to deliver the BBL that energize us and soothe our spirit to surge ahead without fear and doubt that we are doing the right thing for everybody in this country.

At this juncture, allow me to emphasize that passing of the BBL into law is not only for the benefit of the Bangsamoro, but for the whole Philippine nation as well. It surely is a national interest of this country; not to overstress that it is also a menu for unity and solidarity. More importantly, this will greatly help arrest the growing radicalization especially of the youths in Mindanao.

In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the BTC Chairman, to my esteemed colleagues in the Commission, and our hardworking and dependable Executive Director and Secretariat. Let us continue this journey together with one spirit, one purpose, and as a legacy for all of us. Likewise, if I have hurt the feeling of anyone of us in the course of our grueling sessions, please forgive me.

Thank you very much and good morning again.