February 2, 2024
COTABATO CITY – “We cannot afford to go back to square one.”
This is the reaction of Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. on recent calls by former president Rodrigo Duterte for Mindanao to secede from the country, an idea born out of his political tirades against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Galvez said a return to such an era of the region’s history could reset its development.
“Mindanao has already shed its image as a land of volatility, violence and armed struggle. It has now become a symbol of hope, mutual understanding and solidarity, and most of all, a shining example that good things come to those who choose the path of peace,” Galvez said in a statement on Friday.
“When we, as Filipinos, are united, there is peace, development and prosperity. But when we, as a people, are divided, there is instability, underdevelopment and disorder. Let us therefore turn away from any call or movement that aims to destabilize our beloved nation, especially to separate Mindanao from the rest of the country,” he added.
Galvez cited the abandonment by the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of their separatist aims in exchange for enhanced autonomy of the Bangsamoro region.
Such concession, contained in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, effectively ended more than four decades of rebellion in Mindanao that killed about 120,000 people.
“The members of these former revolutionary groups are now playing an active part in nation-building. They are helping the national government promote genuine peace and sustainable development in the Bangsamoro through inclusive, people-centered moral governance,” Galvez noted.
Galvez branded the calls for secession as “anathema to the letter and spirit of the Philippine Constitution, which is the bulwark of our nation’s identity as a people.”
Secessionism, he added, “goes against the principles of a country which is already benefiting and enjoying the dividends of the comprehensive peace process that has put an end to decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.”
“As Filipinos, let us therefore continue supporting the Marcos administration’s peace, reconciliation and unity agenda. The dividends of peace are upon us and are now being felt by everyone,” Galvez appealed.
“Let us always choose peace and remain united, as it is the only way to move forward as one people and one nation,” added Galvez, a former rebel soldier who was amnestied by then President Fidel Ramos, hence reinstated into the military service.
Before being presidential peace adviser, Galvez was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.