President Benigno Aquino III yesterday (July 26) delivered his inaugural State-of-the-Nation (SONA) address before the joint session of Congress and millions of Filipinos, including 8 million Muslim citizens.
The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) lauds the straightforward manner by which our new President exposed anomalies newly discovered by his team. It sends a clear message: this new administration does not tolerate corruption.
Along with our Muslim brethren, we awaited President Aquino's exposition of his plan for peace in Mindanao.
We strongly agree with, and support, the position of the President that the end to the conflict can only be achieved through peaceful political negotiations that is inclusive. We at the PCID have always maintained that military strategy will not bring peace but only misery and poverty to our people. Peace is the only way to peace.
We greatly appreciate the pronouncement from the President that the peace talks would start after Ramadan, the Muslims' holiest month. In addition, we hope the President would order the military to stand down during the holy month of Ramadan to allow our Muslim sisters and brothers to observe Ramadan in peace.
We had hoped that the President would at least make mention of some concrete action like a budget to support a catch up plan for ARMM, the strengthening of governance and autonomy in Muslim Mindanao, the least served region in the country with the poorest development indicators.
We realize of course that SONAs are not expected to be very detailed and specific. We also realize that many other concerns take up much of his speech. But this could have been an opportunity for the President to send the message that his Muslim constituents matter not just because they are viewed as part of a threat to the state but that they are citizens and owed the rights of a citizen to public service, same as the Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Ilonggos and other Philippine tribes.
We will have faith, however, that President Aquino, who is also the President of the Bangsamoro, fully aware of the mistakes committed by past regimes, will rectify these injustices and finally provide the Muslims in the Philippines the decent life they deserve.
We await his program to address the "legacies" of the previous administration: the situation of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, the victims of trafficking, and the oppressive situation of poverty, lack of opportunities, lowest employment rate, least served but with the worst human development indicators, poor governance and systemic corruption.