3 books on Mindanao launched in Cotabato

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/07 August) – The books’ topics are inter-related — the consequences of the recurring armed conflicts in Mindanao on civilians and combatants,  and the seemingly intractable peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — so why not launch together?

Representatives from the academe, the government, non-government organizations and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel gathered at the Ching-La Café along Sinsuat Avenue Thursday morning, for the launching of  “The GRP-MILF Peace Drafts 2010: Analysis and Comments” by Patricio Diaz and Rudy Buhay Rodil;  “Bakwit: The Power of the Displaced” by Jowel Canuday; and Gail Tan Ilagan’s “War Wounded: Combat Stress Sequelae of 10 ID soldiers.”

L to R: Authors Ilagan, Diaz and Canuday. MindaNews photo

The authors are all MindaNews writers. Diaz writes the column “Comment,” Rodil writes “Angay-Angay lang” and Ilagan writes “Wayward and Fanciful” for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews.  Canuday, a member of the Board of Directors of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC) which runs the daily news service, MindaNews and www.mindanews.com, is presently doing his fieldwork for his doctoral degree on social anthropology at Oxford University.

The books are seminal works on particular concerns.

“Peace Drafts” by Diaz and Rodil  provides copies of the peace drafts exchanged by the government and MILF peace panels in January 2010 and analysis and recommendations not only on the draft peace agreements but also on the entire peace process itself.

“War Wounded” is “the first academic research on combat stress among active duty troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.” Ilagan said she wrote this “not only to fulfill the doctoral requirements for Clinical Psychology” (she got a Flat 1 for her dissertation) but coming from a family of soldiers, to “let the reader, especially those among us lucky enough to never know war, who will never know war, understand what it means for the soldier when we ask him to go to battle for the rest of us.”

“Bakwit,”  referring to internally displaced persons (IDPs) is a seminal scholarly analysis on the conditions of people repeatedly displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao.

“Peace Drafts” is a MindaNews publication with assistance from The Asia Foundation; “War Wounded” is a publication of the Ateneo de Davao Research and Publications Office and “Bakwit” is published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press.

In their remarks, the authors individually offered their recommendations to government, civil society, and the military on possible ways of addressing problems related to internal displacement, combat stress, and the frequently stalled peace negotiations.

Diaz , who has written several books on the peace process between the government and the Moro fronts, lamented that President Benigno Aquino III has not announced how he would re-start the peace talks with the MILF.

“If Aquino does not start the negotiations where the (past) peace panel left, he will (in effect) be starting his own peace negotiations. If that happens, it would mean that peace negotiations will just go on and on without end,” Diaz said.

Diaz also criticized what he called “selective” media reporting on the Supreme Court judgment on the unconstitutionality of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which in effect sowed  misinformation or confused the public.

The media, he said, focused on the Supreme Court’s declaration as “contrary to law and the Constitution.” But, Diaz argued,  it must be noted that the Supreme Court also said “ the MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001. Hence, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the original.”

The Supreme Court, he stressed, declared the “MOA” unconstitutional but not the “AD.”

Ilagan expressed concern over the absence of a program to address combat stress among the frontline soldiers. In the Davao City launch of her book in late June, then 10th ID chief Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza, acknowledged they don’t know how to deal with “war shock” and that they end up joking about giving the suffering soldier a pile of laundry to wash.

Canuday remarked during the launching that he has tracked four decades of recurring experience of displaced people in his field sites in the Maguindanao-North Cotabato area and concluded that it was not poverty that drove these areas into conflict but the policy of continuing armed campaigns drove these areas into impoverishment.

He noted the case of Barangay Buliok in Pagalungan town in Maguindanao, a former MILF base and the center of the massive military offensives in February 2003, as a prime example of how recurring armed conflicts rendered the area impoverished through the decades. He noted that before the war in the 1970s, Pagalungan was a flourishing and an important trading center for the people in the Liguasan Marsh.

“Had it not been for the recurring armed conflicts, Buliok, Pagalungan would not have been as impoverished and ravaged as it is today,” Canuday said as he called for a serious review of government’s assumption of the conflict as solely rooted on poverty.

Datu Michael Mastura, senior member of the recently deactivated MILF peace panel, who commented on the authors’ remarks, said it is not a question of whether or not President Aquino wants to continue to the talks. He said in armed conflict,  “no negotiation means war.”

He said the talks should resume “where is, as is.”

After the botched signing of the MOA-AD in August 2008, the panels met on July 29, 2009 to “reframe the consensus points of the MOA-AD to re-start the peace talks and move it toward the Comprehensive Compact.”

On December 9, 2009, the two panels agreed to cut short the negotiation by exchanging draft agreements drawn up following a seven-item guideline: identity and citizenship; government and structure; security arrangement; wealth-sharing, natural resources and property rights; restorative justice and reconciliation; implementation arrangement; and independent monitoring.

The drafts exchanged in late January 2010, however, were poles apart.

On May 5, the two panels met in Kuala Lumpur but reached no agreement on the bigger issues in the peace process, not even on the issuance of a Joint Statement. But they signed the Terms of Reference for the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team and the Guidelines for Detection and Clearance of Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance in Conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

The two panels last year hoped they could forge a comprehensive agreement before the end of the Arroyo administration on June 30, 2010.

On June 3, 2010, the two panels ended nine years of peace negotiations under the Arroyo administration with the signing of a “Declaration of Continutiy for Peace Negotiations”  and the “Guidelines on the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Component of  the International Monitoring Team.”

The  Declaration lists six points of consensus on an Interim Agreement ”with a view of moving towards the Comprehensive Compact to bring about a negotiated political settlement.”

The six points are

–          “new formulas that permanently respond to the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for just peace, freedom founded on parity of esteem, equal treatment for their identity, ethos, and rights and for the Bangsamoro as a whole to exercise self-governance on the basis of consent in accordance to an agreed framework which shall be negotiated and adopted by the Parties;

–          “in good faith, building on prior consensus points achieved, these negotiations and their results will proceed on the basis of consent and courses of action free of any imposition in order to provide the parties definitive commitment to their success for peace settlement;

–          “the ultimate goals of the talks is to consider new modalities to end the armed hostilities with responsibility to protect and for human security, in addition to resolve the legitimate grievances and claims for the people of Moro ancestry and origin;

–          “in reframing the consensus points on Ancestral Domain, respect the existing property and community rights, taking into account in particular the rights of indigenous peoples in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

–          “as a general principle, indigenous peoples who originally inhabit particular constituent units shall receive protection and enjoy equal rights similar to those enjoyed by the Moro’s taking into account in addition to economic and geographical criteria, their individual and communal property rights, cultural integrity, customary beliefs, historical and community traditions;

–          “Agreed upon texts and signed instruments on the cessation of hostilities and security agreements guidelines and development initiatives and rehabilitation guidelines to be subsequently incorporated in a comprehensive text of the compact agreement.” (MindaNews)