PAGDARO SA KALINAW: Mindanao Confessions: A Peace Process Drop-out

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NEW ZEALAND (MindaNews / 17 Aug) — “I can no longer in good conscience support the government’s formal peace efforts that not only builds peace on a foundation of gross injustice and deception, but uses ‘peace and development’ as an excuse legitimizing the state-facilitated killing of nearly 5,000 people.  The current state of impunity perpetuates the violent methods that have entrenched corruption, dynasties, and underdevelopment at the expense of the masses over the decades. To paint Marcos as a hero is a lie re-victimizing those who died in the struggle for national liberation. For those reasons and for the thousands of Filipinos who have been killed at the hands of state security forces and whose families suffer without recourse to justice or compensation for their losses, I ask for your collective wisdom gained from years of active non-violent resistance – how to express this journey and conversation, to join and walk together if you feel so inspired, and to no longer allow ‘peace and development’ to be used as pawns of injustice and violence.
I understand that this choice means closing some doors for a ‘popular’ peace, but I believe this will open new opportunities for a deeper transformation of our land, our people, our nation. If you also have dreams for what that new potential looks like, please get in touch with me. This principled disengagement is with the government process only that will free up energy for informal, civil society, spiritual, indigenous, revolutionary and other peacebuilding process and activities.”

This was a text I sent to some friends in November of last year, as Ferdinand Marcos was being buried in the national cemetery, and the peace processes seemed on “fast track.” Events since then have simply confirmed my decision. The reality of limited time and resources dictates that we put our energies towards what is true and lasting in the movement for peace and justice.

Today we hear news that 32 people were killed in Bulacan drug raids; 5 were killed in North Cotabato in mysterious assassinations (according to Mindanews); the Commission on Appointments rejected the appointment of a revolutionary social worker at the helm of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (no surprise after rejecting a true environmentalist at the helm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources); the President of the Philippines ordered his police to kill Human Rights advocates (again); the peace process with the National Democratic Front remains in tatters; the justice element of the Bangsamoro peace process (embodied in the creation of a National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission on the Bangsamoro) is nowhere to be found; Federalism faces a Congress that can’t even confirm people-friendly cabinet heads; Marawi is in ruins and violent extremists have a now larger pool of recruits; drugs keep flowing from it’s “ally” north of the South China Sea; Martial Law has been declared with a congressional and judicial rubber stamp; the Bangsamoro Law sponsored in congress betrays the work of the Commission that created it; the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process itself is embroiled in corruption (just ask Jess about those travel services contracts and payments) and a fundamental betrayal of its mandate in mishandling the Marawi crisis, and the list goes on….

One of the bedrock principals of conflict transformation and active non-violence is non-cooperation with the organs and instruments of oppression and violence. A second fundamental is to “do no harm,” that is, ensuring that well-intentioned interventions do not lead to unintended negative consequences. A third core value is not to sacrifice long term goals in the eradication of root causes of injustice with short-term violence. It should be clear to all people who dream and desire genuine peace with justice, many of who are my friends and colleagues, that the efforts of the current Philippine government are at a dead-end. The current actions of the Philippine government are simply antithetical to these fundamental and emancipatory peacebuilding principles, and the results are now obvious.

Samira Gutoc-Tomawis was right when she resigned from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in May, and I know of many others who have left, or even refused lucrative assignments in the current government, out of their principles and values. It is time for these people, and those who listen to the voice of conscience, to stand together, and declare that we will not allow our efforts, our time, blood, sweat, and tears in the struggle for genuine peace, simply be used as an excuse for the perpetuation of historical oppression, the violation of human dignity, and the destruction of communities. There is so much to do, so little time in one persons’ life – let us make the most of what God has given us.

May Salaam/Kalinaw/Peace be upon us all. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jeremy Simons worked in Davao as a peace and restorative justice advocate from 2008 to 2017. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in New Zealand).

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