Saving the peace process
- Susan V. Ople
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The struggle for peace is more difficult than going to war, a former Muslim rebel told this writer as he stressed the need for the Philippine government to stay true to its word in passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.
This sentiment was echoed by one of the woman leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who visited Manila recently. She said that they felt the peace process is being jeopardized by politicians who know very little of their life in Mindanao. Referring to one senator in particular, she asked, “Does he even know how it feels to see someone you love dying in front of you because of war?”
Meanwhile, there is a chasm between sentiment and reason based on the provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) between some legislators and opinion writers, as well as influential media personalities. While they favor peace, they perceive that passing the Malacanang-backed Bangsamoro Basic Law as currently drafted is not the answer. Those that oppose the draft law point to several factors: 1) Opposition to a block grant where the Bangsamoro government would not have to defend its budget before Congress since the funds will be automatically appropriated; 2) Too little or barely any time for transition between the current Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and the soon-to-be elected Bangsamoro regional government; 3) Creation of mirror-agencies in the Bangsamoro to include constitutional bodies such as the Commission on Elections and Office of the Ombudsman that may contravene the Constitution; and, among others, 4) Distrust in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) arising from the Mamasapano massacre.
It has come to a point where positions have hardened requiring President Aquino to turn to religious, business and civil society leaders known for their independence and probity to turn the tide in favor of the BBL. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., former ambassador Howard Dee and CSO leader Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman. The five leaders are tasked to convene a peace summit to dissect the proposed law “in a calm and reasonable manner that will not incite anger and hopelessness.”
In convening the summit, Aquino hopes that public sentiment will change, and that legislators will see the light. The peace process in Mindanao is indeed at a very dangerous crossroads: Betrayal of the process through the non-passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law will not be treated lightly by Muslim communities in Mindanao.
Will there be an outbreak of hostilities once again? Old warriors never die, their war drums echo in the hearts of the younger people who grew up on their stories of grief and courage. Legislators are caught in the bind: Pass a draft law that they perceive as not compliant with the Constitution or help instigate the outbreak of war. For everyone’s sake, there has to be a middle ground. The task to find it has been assigned to the conveners of the peace summit.
Let us not pussyfoot around. This is where we are — not at the crossroads of peace, but a few steps from the jaws of war. The task to save the peace process must be shared and done simultaneously — through backdoor meetings and at the peace table to thresh out what can be amended and what should remain, in media to restore optimism that peace is indeed possible, and in political enclaves of the rich and poor through town hall meetings for peace.
It must be clear that the peace process must endure, come what may.