Peace talks should be discussed by all

Alejo said that other than the FGDs, they will also be designing an internet-web based discussion on similar guide questions that they will be posting in every workshop.

“It is in fact touching to hear and see teary eyed farmers who’d say that this is the first time that they are being asked on matters relating to peace,” Alejo related.

“These little voices should be highlighted and should be heard, too, even if others might be unhappy to hear this,” he said.

He also said that their team has already visited Carmen in North Cotabato and Malaybalay, for the pilot-testing of the FGDs.

Alejo also stressed that their team is multi-sectoral and that together “we can share our feelings and insights. This, for me, is the most important.”

“You see, in our schools, we are taught on how to debate and organize a debate club. We highlight the strong points and hide the weak points. We did not create an organization for dialogues. We are made to believe that the truth has two sides of a coin and that one absolute truth would win,” he said.

“But you know, society has many sides of a coin and no one possesses the absolute truth for everybody to conform,” Alejo added.

He urged civil society to voluntarily submit monographs, books and documents that relate to peace process. “All of these will be read and taken by the research team and will be incorporated in our findings,” he said.

Alejo was joined by Guimid Mansayagan, a Lumad from Cotabato and part of the Konsult Mindanao team.

“I am focused on how Lumad will be able to participate in the peace process. We, Lumads have 23 ethnolinguistic groups and  a population reaching to 8.6 million in Mindanao. We, too must be heard,” he said.

“We want to express and we want to communicate our thoughts and feelings, too. in this peace consultations,” he said.

“Many do not know what Mindanao is. It’s unfortunate that they only know how to exploit our resources,” he added.

Alejo discussed Konsult Mindanaw!’s structure, dynamics, work plans, its sources of resources, including the regional centers that they created.

“Iligan city will be subsumed under the regional center created based in Mindanao State University-main campus,” Alejo said emphasizing that they are maximizing the untarnished and neutral nature of the academe in handling this consultation.

“There is a focus on qualitative research in gathering the sentiments of the people. We are not going to make a manipulable survey that will just reduce the discussion to ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” he said.

“There is no guarantee that our recommendations will be certainly taken by the government and the MILF peace panels. But you see, since this would seem a festival of peace dialogues in Mindanao, its output will not only be useful for peace talks. It can be made use as a peace agenda for grassroots organizations and also a peace agenda for the 2010 elections,” he said.

“The output can also be used to improve our peace education and peace communication,” he said.< /p>

“Imagine 300 communities discussing the same thing? This is a great. One bishop may be excited of this and they may also use our guide questions for reflections in the upcoming lent season. See? It’s really a festival of peace negotiations for everyone,” Alejo added.

In the meeting, Alejo also noted some queries and opinions about the peace talks between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front and how civil society could help in the “peace negotiations for all.” (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)