Community consultations on peace process start next week

Alejo said they hope to finish at least 300 focus group discussions (FGD) in eight regional groupings in Mindanao by end of May and hope to release regional results by mid-July. 

Fr. Alejo, Konsult Mindanaw team leader. Photo by Rene B. Lumawag/Pixels & Cutlines

“We hope the formal peace talks won’t reach an agreement yet by then,” Alejo said.

“We hope we’re not too late,” he added.

The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have yet to resume talks since the aborted formal signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5 last year.

The Supreme Court late August 4 granted the petition filed by North Cotabato, Zamboanga and Iligan cities, for a temporary restraining order, preventing the government peace panel from formally signing the MOA-AD that was initialed on July 27.

The MOA-AD was supposed to be the last agreement on the three-agenda items, prior to the formal negotiations on the political settlement. 

Alejo said he and Archbishop Capalla met with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other officials at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on March 2.

Alejo said Ebrahim suggested that the consultations also “clarify to people the issues.”

He said Ebrahim has agreed, along with BUC co-convenor and Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla to  be filmed explaining issues.

At least 300 focus group discussions (FGDs)  in various parts of Mindanao and southern Palawan “in the service of the GRP-MILF peace talks as well as the broader peace process in Mindanao,” will be conducted  under “Konsult Mindanaw!”  the team from the academe in Mindanao that was commissioned by the BUC to undertake the dialogues.

The FGDs will be conducted in eight regional groupings – Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Caraga, Central Mindanao, Socsargen, Northeast Mindanao, Lanao del Norte and Outside Mindanao.

The FGDs will involve the following: from the “Christian sector,” the youth, grassroots/farmers/fisherfolk, professionals, business sector, women, religious, academe; from the “Muslim sector,” youth, grassroots/farmers/fisherfolk, professionals, businessmen, organized women, religious, madrasah, traditional leaders, Internally Displaced Persons/Bakwits, urban poor and academe; and from the “Lumad sector,”  farmers/fisherfolk, organized women, youth, tribal leaders and the urban poor.

FGDs will also be conducted in Cebu and Manila to represent Muslims residing outside Mindanao, and among other groups such as “Mindanao-wide artists’ groups, media group, other key informants.”

Alejo said participants to the FGDs will be asked four questions: What is your vision of peace? What are your recommendations on the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF? What can you recommend on the broader peace process? What can you personally contribute – or even sacrifice – for peace in Mindanao?

The questions will be translated to the local languages in the eight regional divisions that the research team proposed.

He said the questions will be translated to at least 10 languages.

Capalla repeated what he had earlier said about the the Mindanao-wide community consultations: “unprecedented.”

He said the project appears to be “very ambitious” but he is looking forward to the FGDs, which he considers as “an even where people will be talking together and in the process, they get to know each other.”

“This is not only the issue of Dabawenyos but the concern of  the whole country. We should get involved in this process,” he said.

Alejo said there will also be a  research on other ways of conducting community consultations or dialogues, from other countries, so that we can “allow the voices of the marginalized groups into the formal peace processes.”

The eighth “region” will be “outside Mindanao” to allow for Mindanawons abroad to also participate in the dialogues, through the website.

Special FGDs will also be held among the Moro in Cebu, Baguio and in Manila’s Quiapo and Taguig and other groups, such as artists, the New Peoples’ Army, Moro National Liberation Front and Regional Legislative Assembly.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)