MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he was overjoyed about the creation of the new Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
In a speech in Cotabato City, Duterte expressed his "extreme happiness" for the success of the Bangsamoro plebiscite.
"It gives me the high that we were able to realize at least a part, maybe not all, but a part of what the entire country would have wished for the Moro people of Mindanao," the President said before reading his prepared speech at the inaugural ceremony of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
"I cannot express my sense of gratitude to you for understanding, giving us the time to craft the law, to make it legal and promise a new dawn for the Bangsamoro area or territory. Talagang totoo ang kaligayahan ko (My happiness is real)."
The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified following a plebiscite in January and February, and the transition committee, which includes Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders as members, was constituted last month.
The BOL is part of the 2014 peace agreement between government and the formerly secessionist MILF to finally end a protracted war in southern Philippines that has left around 120,000 dead.
Duterte said he hopes to reach an agreement with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari.
"Maybe in due time, with the prayers of Allah we’d be able to fix also the western part and I hope to talk to our brother Nur Misuari on the western side," he said.
Last week, the President met with Misuari in Malacañang, and said the latter warned of war should the government fail to pursue a shift to federalism.
In his prepared speech, Duterte thanked the MILF, MNLF, teachers, voters, the military, and police for the success of the plebiscite.
"It is my sincere hope that the new Bangsamoro regional government will not just live up to its aspirations and principles embodied in the past agreements but also promote good governance, transparency, accountability and inclusive political empowerment," he said.
"Before I end, let me repeat and reiterate my solemn promise to you, a sacred one which I promised also to Allah, that in my term and for the next 3 years we will all work and truly work for the benefit of the Bangsamoro people. Salamat po (Thank you)."
Bangsamoro chief minister and MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, meanwhile, vowed that moral governance will be the foundation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA.)
"Today marks a history for us, we are starting a new kind of jihad, a jihad against poverty, against want, and against neglect. When we started the revolution we took an oath to the Quran. Today, as we start our governance, we will also do the same," he said.
"We have been guided in our arm struggle by the tenets of Islam. We will also be guided by the teachings of Islam in delivering the trust that has been given to us to run the Bangsamoro government through the brand of leadership Islam advocates--that is moral governance."
Ebrahim then led the members of the transition committee, composed of 41 representatives from the MILF and 39 others from the government, in taking the oath of moral governance.
Prior to the ceremonies, members of the interim Bangsamoro Parliament formally held their first session where they elected a new set of officials.
Khalipa Usman Nando was elected WALI or the ceremonial head of the BARMM. The BTA also elected former Lanao Del Sur representative Pangalian Balindong as Interim Parliament Speaker, a position that was supposed to be held by the late Ghazali Jaafar.
Also elected were the following officials: ARMM speaker Hatimil Hassan as deputy speaker, Atty Lanang Ali as Majority leader and Laisa Alamia as Minority leader. --With reports from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News