CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 3 March) – I have likened the imminent signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as a “shotgun wedding,” doing so somewhat facetiously.
But in fact I was deadly serious.
Knowing how its background involved a brokered “courtship” that took the better part of two generations, the abrogation of an earlier “shotgun wedding” (with MNLF in 1996), and the writing off of the costly “dowry” that is the ARMM, how can I be anything but deadly serious?
Not only that, the memory of over 100,000 lives lost (maybe even more than double that!) and knowing about the shattered dreams of millions more—including those who despaired and found survival by working abroad—one can’t possibly treat this matter lightly.
Ask Secretary Ging Deles and the peace panels on both sides, Peacemaking is very costly, very delicate, and very exacting. You can’t be cavalier about it.
The Real Challenge
Anyone who has labored in the minefields of peacemaking knows that the negotiation process is the easy part, being only preliminary to the point where each side signs pieces of paper… or walks away!
The real work is Peace Building, which is even more costly, plus it never ends. Knowing this should make one even more determined to ask hard questions until everyone gets really serious about building the peace, starting with removing/eradicating barriers to understanding and harmony and fraternal co-existence.
For raising the issue one notch higher, I thank my colleague, Mr. Patricio Diaz, for his kind and copious rejoinder.
If there are ruffled feelings about my mention of an undercurrent of distrust, or indeed about my using the term “shotgun wedding,” no need to worry… shotgun weddings have been known to endure and bear good fruit. Lots of real-life proofs of this in the Middle East.
Why I Speak Out
Just to establish my bona-fides on the issue, let me state once more that I am a local-born son of Mindanaons with ancestry straddling Lumad, Moro, and Christian traditions. I grew up with all three and got to be influenced by all three in fairly equal parts, especially during the years when World War II raged and we were on the run finding shelter in each other’s community.
Second, I’m based in Northern Mindanao, where attitudes and sensibilities differ markedly from the mindset of central, western, and island-based Mindanaons, given their differing degrees of experience or exposure to peace-related occurrences.
Third, although Christian in upbringing, I grew up aware of cultural differences in a non-judgmental way. It’s what growing up in a multicultural environment does: you know you have differences (in attitudes, habits, or values); but different doesn’t mean better or worse—just not the same, because no two people are the same.
It’s an outlook borne of having lived close to each other, then apart to study and work, then abroad in various cultural and religious environments other than Christian, Muslim, or Southeast Asian. I’ve lived in Paris, Israel, and Pakistan and routinely visited other parts of Europe, America, the Middle East, and the Pacific.
So I can say that I’m relatively open-minded or free from the biases in less exposed or less-traveled individuals. And because I derive my basic identity from being Mindanaon, I pay attention to what’s happening around Mindanao and to influences on its society, geography, or environment. Then I share my thoughts and outlook in hopes of contributing to the need for mutual understanding and comity.
In this spirit, I invite others who feel the same to light up our lives or buoy up our hopes with a thought, an opinion, an idea, or a suggestion.
Is there what you can call a “Mindanao View” of peacemaking, as distinguished from the MILF’s and the Central Government’s? How about the BIFF’s and the MNLF’s view; or for that matter, the Abu Sayyaf’s? And has anyone worked out the Lumad’s view?
Come forward and let’s have a conversation among Mindanaons, especially if you feel as I do that we are not being particularly or adequately consulted.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at Development Academy of the Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]]