Peaceniks say ancestral domain issue needs wider consultations

Consistent with this stand, the conference participants veered away from tradition by deciding not to draw out consensus points in order not to preempt the holding of wider consultations around Mindanao.

Rey Magno Teves, conference convener, said they need more time to tackle a serious issue that has stalled the peace negotiation starting two months ago.

Teves said a group from among the participants will meet to discuss means to deepen the issues.

MILF peace panel member Datu Michael Mastura and GRP peace panel vice chair Prof. Rudy Rodil gave updates on the peace process on Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, respectively.

Mastura said the ball is with the government, who has asked to be given until Nov. 15 to submit its proposal on the issue of ancestral domain.

He gave a "frank" presentation entitled "Framing Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain with Right to Self-Determination" where he underscored that territorial remedy represents a just solution. He said the real issue is territory and not preferences of people.

He said central to the MILF's stand on ancestral domain is correcting historical "wrongs" on territory, adding it can be done with justice for the Bangsamoro people who he said are the victims.

Rodil spent time presenting the history of the ancestral domain issue in Mindanao.

Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, chair of Panagtagbo– Mindanao, presented his view and perspective on the ancestral domain issue. He also asked negotiators to consider traditional peace agreements in drafting an agreement on ancestral domain.

Teves cited the need to facilitate similar discussions with five major Mindanao-wide formations such as the Mindanao Business Council, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs, the Bishops-Ulama Conference, Mindanao Legislators' Association, and the Confederation of Provincial Governors, City Mayors & Municipal Mayors League Presidents of Mindanao.

Teves said they expect a deepening of the issues in those groups to help them draft consensus points.

Archbishop Fernando Capalla announced a meeting between the BUC and the MILF panel as an offshoot of BUC's action plan after the All-Mindanao Leaders' Peace Consultation last month.

Some groups in Mindanao are seeking a more consultative and participative peace process.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, chairperson of a group of local government leaders, said the peace panels should enlighten local government units in order for them not to help complicate the problems.

Forum organizers cited the clamor for a resumption of talks, more transparency in the peace process and greater participation of Mindanao stakeholders.

Teves claimed they succeeded in facilitating more understanding of the full range of the ancestral domain issue and its implications to Mindanao and the country.

The forum was organized as part of the runup to the Mindanao Week of Peace later this month.