The women in the GPH-MILF peace talks

KUALA  LUMPUR (MindaNews/11 December) – First there was only one: Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, University of the Philippines professor of political science,  the lone woman in the Philippine Government (GPH)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace negotiations, representing GPH.

This week, there were three of them across the negotiating table at the Executive Boardroom of the Royale Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, with the introduction of two consultants – Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao for the GPH peace panel and lawyer Raissa Jajurie for the MILF peace panel.

It was the first time since the peace negotiations started in 1997 that the all-male MILF peace panel had a woman on their side across the negotiating table, albeit not as regular member as yet but as consultant.

Lao, a Maranao, founder of a Marawi City-based women’s group – Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation  - ran for senator under the Liberal Party in 2010.

At the opening rites held behind closed doors on December 5, Lao explained that she did  not hesitate to join the government panel as consultant because she believes the Aquino administration is sincere in forging a peace deal.

Lao  was a recipient of the Ninoy Aquino Public Service Award conferred by the US Embassy in Manila, for her work in uplifting the plight of the marginalized.

Jajurie, a Taosug, is a staunch human rights advocate. She is the Mindanao coordinator of the Sentrong Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan or Center for Alternative Legal Services), vice chair of the Nisaul-HaqBangsamoro (Bangsamoro Women’s Rights) and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bangsamoro Lawyers’ Network.

Jajurie told MindaNews she was “able to witness and experience important dynamics in the negotiations, which would certainly help me in situating the talks and the players. The experience is very useful in my role as a member of the Board of Consultants.”

Jajurie said her inclusion in the MILF peace panel delegation “signals the openness of the MILF to women’s participation in peace-making.”

“We should all be helping in this endeavor, men and women alike,” she said.

Jajurie was named to the MILF peace panel’s Board of Consultants in early July along with Bai Cabaybay Abubakar, a Maguindanaon and President of Shariff Kabunsuan College.

Abubakar is a frequently sought resource person on Mindanao History and Gender in Islam.

“Their appointment as consultants will definitely address the much needed representation of women in the GPH-MILF peace talks especially at this crucial stage of hammering a negotiated political settlement. This milestone is another significant success in women’s efforts for greater participation in all levels of the peace process. We appreciate this gesture of the MILF in appointing Atty. Raissa Jajurie and Bai Cabaybay Abubakar to their Board of Consultants,” the “Statement of Support for the Appointment of Two Moro Women to the MILF peace Panel Board of Consultants” signed by at least 50 organizations of women and peace advocates, said in July.

Their appointment, the statement noted, is “another breakthrough” in the women’s global effort to advance and operationalize the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

“UNSCR 1325 brings to the fore effects that armed conflicts have on women and children, and the importance of women’s participation in different levels of peace processes. It recognizes the crucial role of women in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding in the search for a just, and lasting peace by serving as a mechanism for the full and equal participation of women in all peace and security initiatives, with the inclusion of gender issue mainstreaming,” it said.

The resolution is one of the Security Council Resolutions that United Nations member states are mandated to implement.

The statement also noted the historic appointment of the two women consultants. “This is the first ever known appointment of  Bangsamoro women in the MILF peace negotiating structures and we salute the MILF peace panel for finally heeding the persistent demand and assertion of women.”

Ferrer is not the first woman member of the government peace panel. The government panel has been represented by at least one or two women members since 1998.

Dr. Emily Marohombsar, former president of the Mindanao State University, was a member of the GPH panel from August 28, 1998 to October 2003.

From 2001 to October 2003, Marohombsar was joined in the panel by another woman, Irene Santiago, Executive Director of the Mindanao Commission on Women.

From October 22, 2003 to Sept. 2, 2008, the government peace panel had Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya, representing indigenous peoples. Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Leah Armamento was elevated from technical committee member to panel member from July 9, 2007 to Sept. 2, 2008.

Dr. Grace Jimeno-Rebollos, president of the Western Mindanao State University, was named to the panel from December 2, 2008, to June 30, 2010. .

The government peace panel’s head of secretariat is also a woman, Iona Jalijali, but she is presently on maternity leave.

Of the 17-member government delegation to the three-day talks, eight are women.

Aside from Ferrer and Lao, the other women members in the government delegation are:  Johaira Wahab, a Maguindanaoan, head of the legal team;  Atty. Armi Beatriz Bayot and Anna Tarhata Basman of the Technical Committee; Polly Michelle Cunanan of the Communications Group and Bianca Mae Bacani and Hazel Bacabac of the secretariat.

The International Contact Group, the body composed of states and non-state organizations created in July 2009 to “accompany and mobilize international support for the peace process,” and which sits as observer in the panel-to-panel talks, has a woman member: Emma Leslie, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia, representing Conciliation Resources.

Leslie was among the ICG members instrumental in getting the two parties to talk to each other again after the unexpected on the second day of what was supposed to be a three-day meeting in August.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

URL: http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2011/12/12/the-women-in-the-gph-milf-peace-talks/


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