COTABATO CITY (June 15, 2023) — “Kung walang abogado, wala tayong matatapos; pero kung puros abogado naman, wala din tayong matatapos”, this was the opening statement Education Minister Mohagher M. Iqbal during the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – Cotabato Chapter Welcome Toast and Testimonial Dinner on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 held at Hall 1 & 2, Mall of Alnor (Robinsons), Cotabato City.
Iqbal also a member of Bangsamoro Parliament narrated before the Bangsamoro lawyers that took their oath to Supreme Court of the Philippines, Senior Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor M. Leonen, on how critical the role of lawyers in the success of the peace process.
Iqbal being the Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel, emphasized the tremendous significance and profound contribution of lawyers in the peace negotiations, specifically, in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and other relevant agreements.
“I cannot overstate the significance of peace negotiations,” he said.
He said that lawyers allow the peace panels to move away from violence and embrace the power of words over weapons.
“It provided us an alternative to the cycle of bloodshed and destruction, offering a peaceful path to resolve differences and grievances. They (Lawyers) give hope to those affected by conflict, promising a better tomorrow,” he pointed out.
He said that through negotiations, they strived to create a space where their people can flourish, free from marginalization and oppression.
“But the journey of peace negotiations is not without complications. It requires patience, resilience, and a genuine commitment to understanding and addressing the concerns of all parties involved,” he continued.
Iqbal said that negotiations demand flexibility, compromise, and the ability to envision a future that transcends the confines of the present. Equally important or perhaps more important and compelling is that a negotiator has to manage his or her emotions, because failure to do so will bring disaster to his or her group and the peace process in general.
“But in these challenges, we appreciate the contribution of subject matter experts and professionals that play a pivotal role in the peace process,” Iqbal said.
“And at this juncture, we see lawyers as champions of justice, advocates for the rule of law, and guardians of fundamental rights. In the context of peace negotiations, their role becomes even more crucial. They serve as the pillars of legal expertise, providing guidance and ensuring the negotiations adhere to established legal frameworks,” he added.
Iqbal said he witnessed how legal minds contributed to the course of peace talks.
“They possess the unique ability to navigate complex legal landscapes and bridge the gaps between conflicting parties. Their dedication to finding common ground and fostering dialogue is a testament to their unwavering commitment to a just and lasting peace”, the MILF Peace Implementing chair said.
“I had the privilege of working with Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Marvic Leonen across the negotiating table. He is, undoubtedly, an exceptional legal professional himself. His tireless efforts, astute legal insight, and deep understanding of the issues have brought the Philippine government to sign the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro on October 15, 2012,” Iqbal narrated.
Iqbal thanked Leonen for collaborating with MILF to develop a framework that lays the foundation of the Bangsamoro peace process.
“To the good justice, you are the epitome of a worthy and honorable opponent. In this lifetime, not everyone will have the opportunity to argue with such a brilliant and noble man, and u have given me that honor,” Iqbal said.
The MILF chief negotiator had also emphasized his concerned over the setting-up of Shariah Justice System in the Bangsamoro.
“Now as the Bangsamoro continues to reap the fruits of the peace process, one of the areas that we are struggling with is to set up the Shariah Justice System. Insha Allah, with the wisdom of the members of the Supreme court, we can operationalize the Shariah High Court in order to help in dispensing justice in this part of the region,” he elaborated.
Before he ends his message, Iqbal urged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cotabato Chapter headed by its President Atty. Ysnaira Abas Ibrahim to go back to Bangsamoro community, reach out, the Bangsamoro people.
“Empower them about their rights, promote legal awareness, and foster a culture of respect for the rule of law. We, in the BARMM government will support whatever endeavor that will promote the welfare of our people, Iqbal said.
With the help of the lawyers, Iqbal said “together, we can build a future where conflicts are resolved peacefully, justice prevails, and the rule of law guides our collective journey towards a better Mindanao and the Philippines,” he ended.
On the said event, the IBP Cotabato Chapter and the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to render assistance on legal matters. (Tu Alid Alfonso, BMN/BangsamoroToday)