SONGCO, Lantapan, Bukidnon (MindaNews/27 July) – President Benigno Aquino III must fulfill his commitment in his first State of the Nation Address to include the lumads in the Mindanao peace process by allowing a third panel representing the lumads, said Datu Migketay Victorino Saway of Panagtagbo Mindanao.
Saway welcomed Aquino’s commitment to the peace process as well as the resolve of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to peace. He stressed, however, that the government or the MILF panel could not represent the lumads.
Saway admitted that he has never heard it done before but it should be factored in.
Lumad leaders gathered at the Hall of Peace here for the five-day State of the Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) organized by the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan. The first SIPA was held in 2008.
“It is important for the lumads to sit in the peace talks as a third party because (we) are caught in the conflict,” Saway said.
“The talks should not keep us left out. We should be in the talks with equal footing so our voice will be considered,” Saway added.
As vice chair for Mindanao of the Koalisyon ng mga Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas, Saway said Aquino should show sincerity, and not just statements, in his Lumad agenda.
Aquino vowed to pursue a consultative peace process.
“Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian,” Aquino said in his first SONA last Monday, aired by television stations and viewed live by the Lumad leaders.
“We will learn from the mistakes of the past administration that suddenly announced an agreement reached without consultations from all concerned. We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people,” the President added.
Saway has mulled reviving the traditional peace pacts as a factor to be considered in the peace talks.
“The oral rituals of the peace pact are still alive in our oral traditions at present,” Saway said.
He said both panels must respect the traditional peace pacts between the lumads and the Moro people forged even before Spain conquered the Philippines.
He said they have full trust in government panel chair Marvic Leonen’s capability to talk peace. He said they will give Leonen the opportunity to do what he can do, and they will cooperate with him.
“He should show up for a dialogue with us someday so we can talk about our position and consider our proposals,” Saway said.
“He should look at the traditional peace pacts so the lumads will not be left out,” he added.
Saway said the MILF, in their earlier meetings, has already committed to regard the lumads as brothers. “They have affirmed our brotherhood, but it has to be documented,” he added.
He said the government, too, must go out of the box as they talk with the MILF again.
“They should not disregard the possibilities beyond the constitutional requirement. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain must still be considered an option,” he added. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)