PEACETALK: The good news

(Delivered at the “Conversations on Hurdling Roadblocks in the Bangasmoro Roadmap to Peace” at EM Manor Hotle, Cotabato City on October 5, 2015)

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/08 October)May bago na tayong magandang sinihan sa Cotabato City at nagpapaligsahan din ang pagpapatayo ng mga malls.

Ito ay nangyayari dahil sa ang Cotabato city ay naging investment friendly city.
At naging investment friendly ang Cotabato City dahil stable ang political environment sa Maguindanao province. Kaya nga sabi ni Cardinal ay “safe kayo dito.”

At naging stable and peace and security sa Mindanao province dahil sa Peace process ng GPH (Philippine government) at MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front).

Sa mga bagong sinehan na ito ay may ipapalabas na pilikula na hango sa usaping pangkapayapaan na ginawa sa loob ng 17 taon sa pagitan ng GPH at MILF;

Ang pelikula ay gawa sa ilalim ng RUFUBONG production at sa direksyon ni GatLobre.

Ito ay may pamagat na “TINIMBANG KA NGUNIT KULANG, KULANG NA BINAWASAN PA, BINAWASAN NA AY DI PA IPAPASA.”

The English version is : Eclipsing Power and a disempowering autonomy

Ano po ang ating alam at ano ang ating mga naririnig: Mga Tinig mula sa taas at mula sa baba

Ang sabi nila at alam natin na ang ang ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) ay failed experiment dahil ay kulang at di sapat ang kanyang kapangyarihan at resources upang magampanan ang kanyang hangarin na baguhin ang pamumuhay ng mga nasasakupan nito. At kaya po papalitan ay gusto natin maging sapat ang kanyang kakayahan para ang sambayanang Moro at ang mga taong nasa loob ng autonomiya ay makakahabol sa kaunlaran.

Sabi nga ni Atty. (Christian) Monsod, the law must provide the autonomy powers and resources that are necessary to make a success of this unprecedented and untried political experiment. Tiniyak din ng BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) na ang ipapalit na batas ay hindi labag sa national sovereignty at territorial integrity ng estado ng Pilipinas. At ito ay naipaliwanag mismo ng mga taong gumawa ng ating Constitution.

Marami ang naniniwala na ang pagpasa sa draft BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) ay isa sa mga susi sa pagtugon sa social injustices laban sa Bangsamoro na naging dahilan ng kanilang pag-aaklas para sa sariling pagpapasya. Marami rin ang nagsasabi na ang batas ay tutugon sa mga legitimate grievances ng sambayanag Moro without prejudice to the rights of others.

Subalit sa halip na palakaksin ang kapangyarihan ng autonomiya upang matugunan ang panganagilan ng nasasakupan nito, mukhang kung hindi magbabago ang ihip ng hangin ay kabaligtaran ang magaganap –Kulang na ay binawasan pa-. At nabibilang na lang ang mga araw na tayo ay aasa na magbabago pa ang ihip ng hangin. Ayon sa mga pag-aaral ng mga political analysts, the substitute bills reduce the Malacanang- endorsed draft BBL into an ordinary LGU (local government unit) whose powers are even less than what it supposed to enhance. This is anti-thesis to what the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) aims to achieve- a meaningful autonomy less than independence-.

Hoping against Hope

Ngunit, samantalang ang ibang stakeholders ay nawawalan na nang pag-asa, their hopes running out, ang pamahalaan at ilang CSO (Civil Society Organization) groups kabilang na ang CBCS (Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society) ay patuloy pa rin ang pag-la-lobby sa congress at umaasa pa ng isang makabuluhang BBL. Umaasa pa rin kami sa himala sapagkat naniniwala kami na ang himala ay tao rin ang gumagawa. Ang kongreso kung gugustuhin nila ay makakagawa rin ng himala. Ito ay sa kabila ng mga lumalabas na statement mula sa kanilang mga leaders na ang BBL ay malabo nang maipasa ngayon dahil sa kakulangan ng panahon.

Sa kabila ng lahat, iginigiit pa rin ng pamahalaan na maipasa ang BBL dahil tinitiyak sa kanila ng kongreso. Sabi naman ng isang umaasang NGO network, “We shall not be immobilized by the lack of concern, sympathy and interest of the congress to pass a CAB-based law. We will give it the best (effort to lobby) till the very end”. Another CSO network said, “we continue the lobby even if it seems hopeless that the congress will listen to us, because we do not want history to condemn us for not having done the utmost effort that we could (jihad) to save peace”

Kahit papaano ay umaasa pa rin ang ating mga kapatid sa MILF. Referring to the possibility of congress adopting the Malacanang- endorsed BBL, ang sabi ng isang MILF leader, “we are still optimistic but not very hopeful. In his address to the Bangsamoro Ummah during the occasion of Eid’ul adha, the chair of the MILF CC said, “ the chances are gradually diminishing” and lately, the chair of the BTC and the MILF panel was quoted as saying, “there is almost zero possibility”.

Notwithstanding this scenario, the MILF contingent is not giving up their lobby work. At the end, an MILF leader says, “If, despite all our assertion and all our efforts and nothing will happen, we cannot blame ourselves because we have done everything”

Still some NGOs are doing the last ditch effort to have an acceptable BBL passed. They are still sending letters of appeal to congress. A case in point is the latest statement from Ateneo De Davao University- University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (AdDU-UCEA) whose 10-point agenda was also endorsed by other NGO networks.

At ito pa, ayon sa aking bubuwit, kahit na naghihingalo na ang BBL ay may mga grupo pa rin na nagla-lobby sa kongreso upang mapasaok ang interest ng kanilang sector.

Tanong tuloy ng aking bubuwit, hindi kaya overloaded ang BBL kaya hindi makakalarga? Hindi pa rn tayo nawawalan ng pag-asa. Sabi nga ng isang madre, “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. Sab ni Gus Miclat ng IID (Initiatives for International Dialouge),“ never say never to peace”.

Reading between lines and listening to these voices from above, what scenarios are we entertaining? A CAB-based BBL? A mangled-BBL? Or no BBL at all?

The initial peace dividend: Ano ba ang dapat natin panghihinayangan o ikalulungkot?

We are witnesses that since the MILF-GPH talks started 18 years ago, war-driven, the incidence of violence has dramatically reduced. Investment has increased and a promise of more investment is on the pipeline. Delivery of social services had not been hampered by violence and many IDPs (internally displaced persons) had been able to return home and work in their farms. The relationship between the security sector of the government and the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Foces) has also improved.

Many of the communities have started to imagine good life. Some of the MILF combatants have started to imagine a civilian life and thinking of being combatants for peace, rather than combatants for war. The MILF has started to decommission their combatants and put to no use some of their hard-earned firearms.

Ito ay mga halimbawa lamang ng dividiend of peace na dulot ng peace talks.

Ang susunod na mga katanungan ay:

Will there be life after a No BBL scenario? Can we sustain the initial peace dividends without the BBL? Can we still imagine what are the best ways forward? Can we still hurdle the roadblocks to peace?

Ito po ang mga katanungan na ating pagtulung-tulungan na sasagutin sa forum na ito.

Another good news: Malinaw po na wala tayong naririnig mula sa MILF na umpisahan nila ang giyera kung walang BBL. Ang sinanasabi nila ay hindi nila tatanggapin ang watered down BBL. Ang ating nababasa sa mga report ay posibling pagpapatuloy sa peace process sa sususnod na administrasyon.

Let me quote the chair of the MILF: “Whatever happens to the BBL, we shall accept it as a will of Allah”. “What is of prime importance is the preservation and sustenance of the achievements of the struggle and the Bangsamoro people in the peace process. The BBL while it is a key…is not everything in the process” – Al Haj Ebrahim Murad

These are the voices from above. What about the voices on the ground? What are the communities saying?

Signals reaching the communities are mixed about the status of the BBL. People are in “suspended animation”. While some stakeholders are still embracing guarded optimism, others are already feeling hopeless. On one hand, the government is still sending the messages of hope. On the other hand, the MILF leadership said they will only make the final judgment in the right time (tamang panahon).

Managing Frustration

Will there be frustration with a mangled or without a BBL from the ground? Can we manage them?

The MOA-AD (August 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) experience is worth remembering. Some events triggered the Armed Forces of the Philippines and (the BIAF) to engage in violence. This led to the Kato uprising. Will the MILF leadership and government be able to manage frustration in case no acceptable BBL happens?

Will not the failure of the peace process to achieve timely the much desired political autonomy be used by extremist groups to lobby for their cause and win over some forces to their side?

Minsan ay may narinig tayo na sabi ng BIFF na hindi na nga sila gumagalaw pero wala pa rin autonomy. I was told by my bubuwit on what a de-commissioned combatant had to say after learning that the congress has mangled the draft and that a BBL may not pass…” Nagpa- decommission ako at ang aking baril dahil akala ko ay sinsero ang gobyerno, pero kung sakali man at kailangan, ako’y babalik at gagamit lang ako ng ibang baril…”

Ways Forward: Many questions

Assuming that the next administration will continue the peace negotiation and the MILF accepts it, what would be the best ways forward? What lessons to learn from the past talks? How can we strengthen confidence-building measures to further enhance cooperation between the government and the MILF? Where will the talks start? Will the normalization program continue? Will the international communities continue their support? Will the congress change their minds? Will the opposition to the BBL change their minds too? Will it help if the MNLF and MILF present common political agenda?

Concluding remarks and quotes

Structural injustice is the denial of the right of peoples to exercise their legitimate collective Right to Self-Determination, a right guaranteed by the convention on Human Rights. It disallows people by law their right to self-governance with adequate resources and power to chart their own destiny.

By denying them such rights, a structural violence is committed against them. Structural violence is worse than physical violence. Structural violence gradually leads people to poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, slavery and the eventual loss of their identity and relevance. It is a silent act of genocide. This state of affairs is strategically fatal to the BM whose existence even preceded that of the Filipinos.

The draft BBL could have been an instrument to address social and structural injustices against the BM that can foster national unity and reconciliation.

“The congress is free to choose either to adopt the BTC-draft- Malacanang-endorsed BBL or their substitute bills, after all, it is their prerogative, but they are not free to run away from the consequences of whatever choice they make.”

“If we are not yet ready for peace, at least we must be ready to share equitably the burden of unpeacefulness”

Salamat. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Guiamel Alim is executive director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation in Cotabato City and a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society).