Among the thinking electorate, the presidentiable or political party that has given serious thought on a “win-win” strategy for achieving peace in Mindanao would have an edge as it is finding a solution to this age-old conflict that would ensure sustainable development.
Last week, “Voices of Dissent: A Postscript to the MoA-AD Decision” was launched by the Magbasa Kita Foundation and the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy. It is a companion piece to “Pieces for Peace,” a collection of articles explaining the memorandum and why it should have been signed.
It will be remembered that the Supreme Court issued a TRO against the signing of the MoA-AD between the government and the MILF on August 4, 2008. A national debate showed that the public was ignorant of the memorandum provisions, according to project leader Amina Rasul, who further noted that that there was a general lack of understanding of the fundamental issues in Muslim Mindanao.
“Pieces for Peace” attempts to present the MoA within the larger context of the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. Two motions for reconsideration were submitted by three groups but these were denied with finality in November, 2008.
“Voices of Dissent” presents views not only of aggrieved Muslims but of non-Muslims as well – Atty. Soliman Santos, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, and Fr. Eliseo Mercando. Amina Rasul notes that the political ideas and aspirations contained in the MoA did not die with the decision of the SC, as the country will have to face them if we have to attain lasting peace. She notes several dissenting views from legislators such as apprehension that once granted (following amendments in the present charter), there is nothing that would prevent withdrawal of territory to which they are given full autonomy and federate with Malaysia. The issue of what would happen to the Sabah claim was also raised, as this is perceived to become “a fait accompli” with the MoA-AD.”
Today, a year after the botched agreement, we are witnessing a humanitarian crisis in the Region. Hundreds are forced to live in camps or makeshift shelters and over 200,000 are still vulnerable to attacks and abuses from both the MILF and the military. Following the recent bloody encounter in Basilan, the Senate passed Resolution 1281 which was to suspend resumption of peace talks. This was brought to Mindanao by Senator Rodolfo Biazon with the idea of eliciting suggestions from the LGU leaders that he consulted. .
At this stage, the task is to find areas of consensus between Bangsamoro groups with national and local government officials, and be able to harmonize the “voices of dissent” with the views and aspirations expressed by the voices from the LGUs as expressed to Senator Biazon, and those articulated in previous forums.
In the recent consultation made by Sen. Biazon, the general sentiment among LGU officials was that they favor a resumption of peace talks but with Indonesia rather than Malaysia as mediator. The latter is perceived as one which cannot be independent because of its interest in Sabah. Some felt that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which was the original representative recognized by the Organization of Islamic Conference, should be involved in the peace negotiations. Too, in their desire for a more localized and devolved approach, they hope that the national government will regularly consult with them, that renewed talks must not devolve around the MoA-AD which was already declared unconstitutional, and that as they support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR), it should include bringing to justice MILF leaders found guilty of criminal acts.
The search for a reasonable compromise that is acceptable to both parties is a primary concern. How this can be arrived at would require a high degree of objectivity, empathy, tolerant reasoning, patience, tenacity, and the will to succeed. It will require continuing dialogue characterized by trust and openness with credible negotiators and advisers, and a supportive environment. Perhaps we can learn from the lessons of the 1996 peace talks between the GRP and the MNLF. My email is email@example.com.