CONVERSATIONS with Col. Taharudin Ampatuan: “This is a peacebulding and a peacemaking activity”

(Conversations with Col. Taharudin Ampatuan of the Peace and Development Office, Armed Forces of the Philippines, an Insider Mediator at the Panorama Summit Hotel in Davao City on November 8, 2018 where the Insider Mediators met to discuss the Bangsamoro Vision)

Col. Taharudin Ampatuan, Peace and Development Office, Armed Forces of the Philippines. Insider Mediator. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Q. I’ve noticed you’ve been in all Insider Mediators meeting, I don’t think that you’ve been absent? Have you been absent once?
A. No. since the invitation was given to me I was always present

Q. Why do you come to these meetings considering that you’re from the military and some of your views may be different from their views?
A. Basically, one is because the agenda for discussion is very critical to the Bangsamoro and being one of the members of the Bangsamoro, I believe that there is a need for different divergent ideas to come into discussion. So coming from a different discipline, I would say from the security sector, my academic background, also national security — my experience is also with the national security administration of the country … I believe that being part of the …. crafting of the public opinion on Bangsamoro especially on the Bangsamoro constituents, I should become part of, not only as my duty as government worker but also as a Bangsamoro and Muslim in southern Philippines. My advocacy really is to finally attain a consensus peace in Philippines especially on the problem in the south

Q. Have you ever experienced attending a meeting na .. people were raising their voices here in the Insider Mediators?
A. We find the consensus. In the end there are no pretenses from among the participants coming from different backgrounds. So in fact there are even those coming from the academe, always to prescribe sometimes the framework because they’re used to practice a very structured discussion and some others would like to allow the discussion to come in

Q. Are you referring here to the visioning?
A. Yeah the visioning process.

Q. So … some members of the academe
A. Members of the academe … sometimes they are surprised to know that the discussion is unstructured. It is an open-ended discussion for everybody. The idea really is to allow people coming in from different sectors to articulate their … representation because some are coming from cooperatives, some are coming from fisherfolk, farmers, so basically peoples organizations also have their own vision of what is possibly right for the Bangsamoro and therefore that should be allowed, be expressed in the platform provided by the Insider Mediators

Q. You feel that this platform can really allow Moro people from various disciplines to be able to express themselves?
A. Of course yes because it’s open… Unlike other groups wherein you have do’s and don’ts, it allows … participants, actually it’s a very democratic process wherein articulation of your issues, no matter how controversial it might be, it might just be allowed to be expressed and that will make it very relevant and responsive in the current exercise especially in the Bangsamoro with the coming BOL plebiscite…

Q. There are so many Moro groupings, di ba? What makes Insider Mediators different from all the rest and what are, for you, its strengths and weaknesses?
A. I’ve been to many groups, also most of the groups that have … come up with this kind of activity, also been part of that but the difference with the Insider Mediators, for instance, there is strength, we come from various disciplines. There are lawyers, there are, for instance, military, there are ploice law enforcers, there are also from the armed group MILF and others from civil society organizations, academe, national government agencies and so forth. These people coming from various backgrounds also in one way or the other, members of the private organizations, their capacities in their individual persons, they come in with those inputs. Aside from the fact that there are also engineers, there is discipline, expertise, so this convergence of ideas allows for a democratic exchange of opinions that eventually would turn into a most concrete form.

For instance, the first process of insider mediation is really to allow you to have a skill mediation process … participate in the affairs of the Bangsamoro and then we have this visioning process (that) eventually allows for a more democratic selection of methodologies and processes .. The IM in selecting the methodologies of the visioning process … you will be surprised that it doesn’t follow the structured methodology … so this is part of the consensus that fills in new form of dialogue (that is) more acceptable to the community

Q. To the community
A. Yeah, more acceptable to the community. Another strength is it allows the participation of the core sectors. Third is, well of course you get in from various disciplines in different areas. We have Tausug, Meranaw, Maguindanao, Iranon and all others. And then since most of the participants I think are properly selected, it’s not just in a corner, they came in from various backgrounds and doing good in their discipline, (their) field. So they came in well prepared in crafting and shaping the opinion of the Bangsamoro. I think (IM has) evolved itself to be an alternative intellectual support to the Bangsamoro which is an organization or an institution that needs really technical and intellectual capacities that require good governance in the future.

Q. Yung weakness meron ba
A. Well the weakness of IM really, since we come from various backgrounds and most of us are also recognized experts, so you get to be involved with other organizations also and sometimes you have to squeeze your time, special time, to be part of IM. Sometimes you have primary functions. For me, I should have been in the office as a very busy person (but) I believe that this is most critical that I’m helping the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the country as a whole because this is a peacebulding and a peacemaking activity … we do not want an alternative way to similar peace making activity.

… In my field as a national security person, I wouldn’t want to have other alternatives than peace. Opposite of peace is not really for everybody to dwell into. We do not want to experience Mamasapano. We do not want to experience Marawi and all other violence that took place. So this has to be, this is the opportunity for everybody…

Q. Do you foresee a need for Insider Mediators once the Bangsamoro government is set up? Should there still be Insider Mediators?
A. Of course. That is most important component. I would refer you a case in point with East Timor. I was in East Timor during the transition. I was part of the UN Transistion Authority on East Timor so what happened there, you have a new government of East Timor, a government that is indebted to its people. So what the UN did was to … allow every structure of government to have a representative. For instance, the President is partnered with UN, used to be UN Secretary General’s representative De Mello, the one who was killed in Iraq but he was there. He was the representative of UN. He was with the President and there was a Cabinet. In fact the field administrators of the United Nations was also partner of the mayor of towns in East Timor, initially trying to establish its government. So what happened is, there was a good transition.

For instance, the President could not just allow people he was indebted to to be directly part of the government. You have to pass by … technical people and therefore the people do not necessarily blame the President from not allowing or accommodating a lot of people because the process is in place. So I think the IM should come in as a both as technical people, policy advisors on security, capable governance and possibly in trying to establish a political and administrative arrangement that is responsive to the Bangsamoro, so these are the kinds of intervention and support that the IM should … we should involve more expert groups, possible maybe some may form part of the think tank, some would provide strategic framework

Q. Definitely it has a role to play
A. Yup of course. Yes.

Q. Sir itong sa mediation, you were trained for a couple of days di ba?
A. Yes.

Q. What was your take away from that training… considering that you’re an expert already, but did it help you
A. Well of course. I think the first thing that you get from IM is that you get to form a group so the IM provided the platform to contribute your expertise. That’s one. Second of course there are trainings on negotiations technique. Although we’ve been trained … several trainings very much related to that but the point is, you get to be trained with different people and … you organize and therefore it allows you more of relationships. You bring in your expertise to organizations, to IM and then they bring in their expertise and of course their experience …