PEACETALK: Courage. Lakas o tibay ng loob. Tapang. Conviction.

(Speech of Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair,  in accepting the Fr. Masterson Award of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City on March 26, 2015)

Ang aking pong pasasalamat sa inyo ay mag-uumpisa at magwawakas sa tema ng COURAGE. Lakas o tibay ng loob. Tapang. Conviction.

Lakas o tibay ng loob na tumahak sa landas tungo sa kapayapaan sa pamamagitan ng kapayapaan at katarungan.

Nitong huling dalawang buwan, nabulabog ang ating bayan sa matinding pagkakaiba ng pananaw at mapait na paghahanap ng sala sa naging kaganapan sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao nuong Enero 25, 2015.

Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin natatapos ang pag-alam sa puno’t dulo ng mga pangyayari, at kung papaano ba talaga makakamit ang katotohanan at hustisya upang magkaroon ng closure dito sa mga pangyayaring ito.

Samantala, ang naging malaking collateral damage sa pangyayari ay di lamang yung mga halos 70 na Pilipinong namatay, at iba pang mga nasugatan at natraumatize, laluna sa hanay ng mga sibilyan, kundi pati na ang ating peace process sa pagitan ng pamahalaan at ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In the midst of all of these, it needed courage to stand firm; to call for sobriety and reason.

In needed conviction to go against the hostility of the public discourse unleashed against the government and MILF panels and OPAPP, and uphold the gains of the peace process that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, one year ago, on March 27, 2014.

Saludo po ako sa inyo Fr Roberto Yap, Xavier University president and Dr Lina Kwong, academic vice-president. Sa Inyo rin po:

  • Engineer Elpidio Paras, chairman of the Board of Trustees
  • The other members of the Board: Dr Antonio Lavina, Dr. Dulce Dawang, Madam Ma Teresa Alegrio, Mr Manuel Engwa , Mr Eduardo Pelaez, Bienvenido Santos;
  • Our beloved Jesuit priests who sit on the Board,  Fathers Antonio Moreno, Joel Tabora, Mars Tan, Rene Tacastacas, Celerino Reyes, Eric Velandria, and Karel San Juan.
  • Gayun din kay Mayor Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro, at Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, guests of honor.

When the fog of Mamasapono hovered thickly over the political landscape – Fr Yap raised the question: “Should Xavier University still proceed in conferring the awards?”

This, he asked, in his moving piece published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on February 25, 2015.

And the answer was a statement of conviction: “We believe that the answer should be yes.”

That conviction moved me to tears. I had held these tears back, even as, in the televised hearings of the congressional hearings, we saw big men shed tears.

The tears that I shed were of gratitude. Gratitude to all of you who have taken the trouble to tell us that we are not alone.

The tears were also born out of admiration – for the courage to speak up against the prevailing sentiments, in the belief that, using Fr. Yap’s words: “The spirit of peace is the Holy Spirit of God. It can soar over ashes and shattered houses and give hope where seemingly there is none….”

Dear Xavier University leaders, your decision was and remains controversial. I thank you for your courage in upholding the November 29 decision of the Board of Trustees to confer the Masterson Award to Mr Mohager Iqbal and myself, and the doctor of humanities, honoris causa to Secretary Deles today, graduation day.

Kami pong tatlto – tulad ng kalakhan sa inyo – ay Pilipino, kapwa ninyo Pilipino. Sana’y di na kailangan pang ipakita ni G. Mohager Iqbal ang kanyang passport para patunayan sa inyo na siya ay isang Filipino citizen. Bagamat, kung ang iba sa atin ay ituturing ang sarili na Ilokano, Bisaya, Tagalog, ang turing po ni G Iqbal sa kanyang sarili ay Bangsamoro.

Ang tingin ko po kay Fr William Masterson, ay kindred spirit. Tulad niya, marami kaming pagsubok na dinaanan sa pagtulak ng aming misyon.

At marami pang nakaabang.

Like the advocates of the peace process, Fr. Masterson was misunderstood and became the subject of controversy when he made the bold move of transferring Ateneo de Manila to Quezon City.

Kung meroon na sigurong interactive sites, facebook accounts, twitters, SMS at social media nung time ni Fr Masterson, he would have been pilloried, cyber-bullied, even threatened bodily harm for his plan and vision.

Kung anu-ano na sigurong sumpa, tadyak at insulto ang nakuha niya sa mga nagpopost.

But he would have stayed the course.

We are honored to follow the footsteps, experience the pain, and draw courage from the great pioneer after whom this award is named, Fr. William Masterson, SJ.

We follow his footsteps and walk together with all past awardees and all of you who believe in this journey.


Everybody wants peace, ilan beses na natin narinig ito.

And yet peace seems hard to achieve. War has in fact figured prominently in the human history.

Tingnan na lang natin kung paano natin minamarkahan ang mga kalendaryo ng ating buhay at kasaysayan.

Older folks who experienced World War 2, refer to pre-war, wartime and post-war.

Our history books are splattered with all the great and fateful battles fought, lost or won.

Our images of the past are of battle cries and flag-waving with a bolo or a gun in hand.

More often, we commemorate revolutions, but not the end of wars, nor the forging of peace.

Hatred has always been a strong, motive force – the counterpoint to the other motive force, that thing called love. Kayong mga kabataan, alam niyo ‘yan, kasi nakakakilig ‘yan – this love that makes the world go round.

There is another motive force. It’s called compassion. That which makes the world a shared habitat, even if it becomes unbearable and unjust so many times. That, which makes us human to other humans.

Love and compassion, two strong motive forces, kontrapunto sa isa pang matinding pwersa: hate.

It is so much easier to hate. So much easier to destroy things and relationships built painstakingly over the years.

To seek peace and be a peacemaker demands so much more of us.

To seek peace means foregoing revenge, in favor of compassionate justice.

It asks us to put aside pride, and to respect the feelings of the other person – a friend, a neighbor, even a complete stranger.

Hinihingi ng landas na mapayapa ang kabutihan sa lahat ng tao. Abraham Lincoln in his inaugural called this “the better angels of our nature.”

Ang anghel sa atin pagkatao – eto daw ang kailangan mangibabaw. Maski na mas madaling maging demonyo (baka masasabi pang mas masaya) kaysa maging anghel.

To seek peace is to nurture trust. The scriptures said, “Love your enemies…For if you love those who love you, what recompense would you have? .. And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that?”

Of course you must also love and greet your sisters, and all the others who are different from you.

Peace indeed is tough love. “Do be perfect” the verse goes on, “just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Wow! We all know how hard it is to be perfect! How often do you get perfect scores on your test! Maybe only Paolo here, your class valedictorian and summa cum laude, who get the perfect scores in Math.

Peace can only mean constant striving.

Peace requires new templates. It is so much easier to do the same things the same way,

So much easier to stay within one’s or the institution’s comfort zones.

But to seek peace means taking extraordinary steps to change the patterns of our human existence, of politics and society.

That is why to seek peace, is to be bold, to take risks.

Kailangan ang tibay ng loob. Kailangan ang conviction.

Who would question the wisdom and foresight now of a green and sprawling Ateneo de Manila campus along Katipunan Avenue?


We knew that the signing of the CAB on March 27, 2014 was just the beginning. Like in a graduation ceremony, it marked what one has achieved after years of hard work. But it also signalled the beginning of the next phase in a graduate’s life: survival, success in the real world.

From the beginning we faced the challenge of implementing the CAB within a short period of time. There are so many things to do and so little time to put everything in place.

  • passage of the basic law
  • preparation for the plebiscite
  • preparation for the transition from ARMM to the Bangsamoro
  • making the peace felt on the ground through quick impact socio-economic projects
  • putting in place the foundation for a more sustained development including the transformation of the MILF camps into productive, civilian communities
  • decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants
  • overall demilitarization (through the disbandment of private armed groups, the redeployment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the situation improves, the creation of a civilian, professional police force for the Bangsamoro)
  • transitional justice and reconciliation programs.

All of these we must accomplish by 2016. It is most unfortunate that with the setback brought about by the fog of Mamasapano, we have lost two months that could have been put to better use.

My good counterpart, Mr Mohager Iqbal, once said that there is no perfect agreement. I hasten to add: there are no perfect parties to an agreement.

Mindanao, the Bangsamoro are not monolithic entities. There are multiple narratives, multiple identities, multiple claimants, and stakeholders. There must be a just share of the benefits for everyone. There must be a just recognition of the rights and legitimacy of the different stakeholders. Peace dividends are not spoils of war. There must be an equitable distribution of the dividends of peace.

We are proud to say that the ceasefire between the government and the MILF has remained steadfast, with no direct hostilities taking place between the two parties since November 2011 – until Mamasapano, on 25 January 2015.

Even so, that ceasefire has been restored. Mahirap isipin kung ano ang sitwasyon ngayon kung sumabog muli ang gera, di lamang sa BIFF kundi pati na sa MILF.

Right now, the biggest challenge is how to recover and sustain public trust and support for this peace process. Andyan pa naman yan tiwala, pero di pa sapat.

We know we need to continue to engage the Members of Congress and the general public on the many items that would need to get into the law in order to put in place a more democratic, accountable and representative autonomous government in the Bangsamoro.

We call on the this Congress of the Philippines to give this to the Bangsamoro as their legacy. The House of Representatives under the leadership of Cagayan de Oro rep Rufus Rodriguez and speaker Feliciano Belmonte have gone out of their way to shepherd this process. It already held 36 consultations nationwide and spent millions of peoples’ money to get all the input and inform the public.

This opportunity that will end the fighting between the government and the MILF is too good to pass on the next Congress.

Dear friends and mentors, in the next months,  there will be ups and downs, even more eruptions of some kind of violence that cast doubts on the viability of the process, although I pray that Mamasapano is already the worst thing that could happen.

Certainly, we cannot lose heart. We’re on our toes.

We have taken the leap of faith but our eyes are wide open.

There are many what ifs and many people do not give their full support unless they have all the guarantees. We tell them that only God can give all the guarantees. But God will help those who help themselves.

Courage is supposedly a quality of the mind and spirit.

But the root word in Latin from which it is drawn means heart. So it must be all of these – mind, spirit, heart. A certain mastery of the totality of one’s being, a center of gravity that touches the ground.

Lapat sa lupa habang inaabot ang alapaap.

Courage. Lakas o tibay ng loob. Tapang. Conviction.

Eto ang ating armas sa ating paglalakbay.

Maraming salamat po.