Peace panels urged to be more transparent

Rey Magno Teves, secretary general of Kusog Mindanaw (Mindanao Force), a forum for consensus-building among peace and development stakeholders in Mindanao said major Mindanao-wide formations for local government units, national legislators, civil society, church and academe, business, media and other sectors will gather here on November 30 and December 1 to ask for updates on the status of the GRP-MILF peace talks and related issues.

"We want to hear more from our (peace) panelists about the negotiations," Teves said stressing it would be more difficult for the commitments in the peace agreement to win in the plebiscite if the people are left out.

The forum’s theme is “The Shape of the Forthcoming Peace Agreement Between the GRP and MILF.”

Teves was at the Kapehan sa SM City, where he joined a panel of officials from the Bishops-Ulama Forum and the military and police promoting the Mindanao Week of Peace activities.

Government peace panel chair Rodolfo Garcia and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal have confirmed their attendance to the conference on December 1, Teves told MindaNews. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza will also be around.

To present their issues to the panel chairs are Vicente Lao of the Mindanao Business Council, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes and Abhoud Syed Lingga of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies.

"The discussion will take place amid general complaint that major stakeholders are not informed properly and are not being involved in discussing and working out possible solutions to critical negotiation issues such as ancestral domain, territory, self-determination and governance," Kusog Mindanaw said in a press statement.

Teves said it is “not a good situation to maintain where the stakeholders are not so much updated about the negotiation.” But he acknowledge the need to recognize that there are indeed details that still cannot be revealed in the course of the negotiations.

B/Gen. Antonio Amodia, deputy chief of the army's Davao-based 10th infantry division said the signing of the peace agreement is not even a guarantee peace would be achieved in Mindanao. He cited the possibility of another group to dissent.

Teves clarified that the peace agreement is a crucial step to lasting peace but should be backed with efforts in other aspects, including the economic, social, cultural and religious.

Aleem Mahmod Adilao echoed Amodia's opinion. He voiced out that one problem in the peace process on the Moro side, is that the peace process has involved mainly higher officials, and have left out stakeholders at the grassroots level such as the traditional leaders of the Moro people.

"Kung mapirmahan, wala naapil ang mga katawhan sa ubos," (If it (the final peace agreement)  would be signed, it does not involve people at the grassroots) Adilao said.

Catholic priest Pete Lamata of the Imams-Pastors-Priests Forum said one of the offshoots of inter-religious dialogue is to promote understanding at the grassroots level, at the village level.

The 13-month impasse on the issue of territory in the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended last month with a compromise on what areas would comprise the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity  (BJE) "immediately" and "later," MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews last month.

The two panels had earlier agreed that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) would constitute the core of the future BJE.  In addition, the government peace panel proposed the possible inclusion of 613 Moro-dominated villages in Mindanao subject to a plebiscite while the MILF proposed the inclusion of a much wider area.

The disparity between the proposals eventually led to an impasse in early September last year. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

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