CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/8 April) — The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) deserves a celebration, like a reunion or homecoming does. After all, it’s the coming together of a rebellious group and the government, a time for reconciliation.
Relationships ruptured by war need to be reestablished and made good. Peace needs to return. There are wounds and hurts that need tending. Sundered neighbors need to reconnect. Devastated neighborhoods need rebuilding, traumatized citizens healing.
All these need to start now—in anticipation of the birth of the new polity called Bangsamoro.
It is for us to do what will ensure that peace will come indeed, lasting peace. We all need relief from the state of high stress and anxiety that had many hanging in suspense, twisting in the wind like laundry, through decades of war and uncertainty.
How do we ensure that there will be no reversion to violence and strife?
A paper agreement, plus a mere signing, does not guarantee success. The principal negotiators themselves acknowledge that there’s more spadework to do. And of course, they’re right. Lots of work still to do.
Some stocktaking is needed too, to validate the CAB’s premises as well as to enhance its chances of success. Needed also is every community’s backing or, at least, cooperation for the sake of peace.
It would help also to review conditions in the 3,000 or so barangays of the proposed Bangsamoro area and environs. What was it that left the people in them at the tail end of development, making insurgency attractive?
Adjust to New Relations
Faced with a new paradigm in the way we are asked to deal with one another, it will help to go through a process similar to a corporate planning exercise when turning over a new leaf.
How about a government-initiated societal process to enable every community to look inward and outward with a fresh outlook?
Such an in-gathering of the community, every community, in all its diversity will enable its members to get really acquainted, bond, or be refreshed at interpersonal and other levels.
Surely there are social science experts who can provide the guidelines for such a societal process—not only for the proposed Bangsamoro area but for the entire Mindanao community too if not the entire nation.
FVR tried it
The only time a similar initiative was attempted in our communities was during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. At the time, the Barangay Assembly convened nationwide so the members could undertake to identify, enumerate, and prioritize current and potential problems together.
They did so, not in hotels but in barangay halls next door. And every gathering was all-inclusive, cheap, nationwide.
The grassroots were actually drawn in for their inputs on possible approaches or solutions to perceived problems. It was an innovative engagement for People Power, an activity appropriate for its role in the community.
It was also the first time the Barangay Assembly, with its all-inclusive membership in every community, drew universal attention and response to its agenda. Unfortunately, it is unclear what they did with the results of that activity.
But it can done readily again, even if only at regional level. It can convene like what happened just last week (Saturday, March 29) and do a SWOT workshop or at least a Force-Field Analysis of the community’s driving and restraining forces.
The law encourages such activity and provides the venue and the means for it to take place; but no administration even attempts to do it. As a result, we are missing out on what a people-based problem-solving approach can do for our society and democracy in general.
It is doubtful whether any barangay or community today can claim to have consensus on any issue. It needs an in-gathering of the neighborhoods and open exchange of ideas to reach consensus. But it doesn’t take place, not even at the behest of mandated authorities like DILG or the Local Government Academy.
Absence of consensus prevents a community from forming a common stand or political will. It also militates against the formation of a sense of community.
Sense of community underpins one’s pride of place or lack of it. Its absence undermines a citizen’s loyalty and devotion, weakening commitment to democracy, rule of law, or the social order.
It is lack of loyalty to community (patriotic zeal) that drives unhappy citizens to run to the hills, take up
arms, and try to bring down a duly-constituted order that makes him unhappy. More on this later on.
Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace and Development Panel, and PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist awardee. [email protected]