DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) – Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo urged participants to a peace symposium here to “be positive, be pro-active and be aware of the gains of the peace process” between the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the midst of this political transition “from a government that negotiated the fundamental bases for a just and lasting peace to a new government whose peace interests are still to be known.”
In his keynote address Thursday before at least 120 participants of “Titayan: Bridging for Peace (Inclusive Political Transitions in the Bangsamoro), convened by the Friends of Peace and the Ateneo de Davao University, Quevedo spoke of “learning from the past, looking at the present in terms of attitudes, and looking at the future with hope.”
Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, delivers the keynote address at the Titayan: Briding for Peace symposium held at the Ateneo de Davao University on 21 April 2016. MIndaNews photo by KEITH BACONCGO
He said “Titayan” which means bridge in Maguindanao, was convened because of the “deep concern” about the future by all sectors of Mindanao society brought about by the “apparent demise” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as well as “questions about the possibility of any definitive and lasting peace based on justice and reconciliation.”
“Will this peace symposium provide doable answers that will allay fears, insecurities rooted in the failure of Congress to pass a BBL? It is our hope that it will,” he said.
The Arcbhishop of Cotabato, also Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, pointed to the logo of the symposium, the iconic wooden bridge in Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao as the summation of “the past, the present, and the future.”
“The iconic Titayan of Mamasapano is symbolic of grave disaster in the past, insecurity and uncertainty in the present. But for the future it is a bridge of hope. May we contribute to the fulfillment of that hope,” Quevedo said.
The peace process between government and the MILF is on its implementation phase. A major part of the implementation process, however, was derailed when Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before it adjourned on February 3.
The BBL would have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
With the non-passage of the BBL, elections in the ARMM for 2016 to 2019 will be held during the synchronized elections on May 9.
Passage of the Bangsamoro law is needed within the next two years under the new administration to allow for the transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro and to ensure that the decommissioning of the MILF’s weapons and troops, which is tied up with the passage of the law, will continue, as part of the normalization process.
Another aspect of the Bangsamoro peace process that needs to be attended to are the recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) on dealing with the past.
Looking at the past and present
In looking at the past, the Cardinal listed nine points which, based on his personal perspective, led to the “failure of negotiated peace.” These are the perceived lack of general consultation with Mindanawons; divisions of opinion among Mindanawons; lack of a united Bangsamoro stand – failure to see the BBL as the Bangsamoro stand; lack of peace constituency; misunderstanding and misinformation about the output of the negotiation that led to the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the BBL; the Mamasapano tragedy of January 25, 2015 and its aftermath, the politicization of the BBL in view of election; media misinformation and disinformation, and radical changes in the MILF-Government version of the BBL.
He spoke of the “explosion of bias and prejudices” because of the Mamasapano tragedy and how these biases were articulated during the investigations by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
He said the line of questioning focused on the lack of trust, the legislators asking if they can trust the Moro people after Mamasapano, if they can trust them with more power, with more money “and naturally the answer would be no, therefore dilute the BBL.”
He also noted the “politicization of the BBL in Congress in view of the elections” with some opposing the BBL “as a political statement in order to gain sympathies of the Christian majority.”
“It was not surprising that three of the most vocal opponents of the BBL are vice presidential candidates. That’s not surprising to me,” he said.
In looking at the present, Quevedo talked about various attitudes that followed the non-passage of the BBL: exultation that the BBL was not passed; dismay and demoralization, as well as indifference from those who believe the BBL does not concern those “who are far away,” and “confusion as to future action for peace.”
Looking at the future
In looking at the future, Quevedo told the audience: “we cannot look at the past with dismay and see the future with confusion. We need as peacemakers to follow the future with hope.”
He said at this stage, the country is still preparing to elect a new administration “whose peace interest has yet to be known” but urged everyone to “be positive.”
Moro students attend Titayan:Bridging for Peace, symposium on inclusive political transitions in the Bangsamoro at Ateneo de Davao University, Davao City on April 21, 2016. The symposium intends to “rebuild and expand” the constituency to protect the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and to energize implementation via existing and emerging peace-building infrastructure.”MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
“Let us be positive. Let us be proactive. Let us not look at the future in the abstact but look at the future in the concrete and see the possibilities of peace in the new government as the transition takes place,” he said.
He listed nine gains of the peace process, the first of which is the beginning of better knowledge of Bangsamoro history, knowledge and recognition of a distinct Moro cultural identity as well as of Lumad cultural identity.”
Quevedo explained there is “the beginning of better knowledge of Bangsamoro history even though majority Christians still hesitate to look at Moro history beyond the time of migration to the time of Moro sovereignty in Mindanao.”
The other gains of the peace process, he said, are the acceptability, even if ambiguous to many, of the concept of self-determination; the recognition of the need for greater autonomy, the acceptability of the concept of “ancestral domain,” the establishment of a fundamental basis for a just and lasting peace through the FAB, CAB and BBL, the internationality of the peace process and the support of the international community; knowing the causes of decades, even hundreds of years, of intermittent rebellion and armed conflict as well as the dimensions of transitional justice as reported by the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission; and the development of peace networks and their collaboration in support of a just and lasting peace.
Shadia Marhaban co-founder of the Aceh Women’s League shares her experience on transitions to peace in Aceh after the 2005 signing of the peace agreement during a symposium Titayan: Bridging for Peace at Ateneo de Davao University on April 21, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
He said the Titayan symposium, which is followed by workshops on April 22 and 23, intends to enhance learning from good practices in a period of complex political transitions, enhance broad-based process for a wider and more sustained participation in the peace process, agree on a framework that integrates various post-election scenarios, and strengthe and restore trust among the parties and critical stakeholders. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)