PEACETALK: Mr. President, with your bold leadership, “it’s time to fly!”

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(Speech of Irene Santiago, chair of the Government Implementing Panel for the Bangsamoro Peace Accords. Delivered at the signing of Executive Order of the Executive Order constituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, 7 November 2016, Malacañan Palace)

Who was it who said that the quality of a peace agreement rests on the quality of its implementation. Today, President Duterte will sign the executive order constituting the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Four days ago, the founding chair of the MNLF, Prof. Nur Misuari, offered his full support of the President’s efforts to bring peace to Mindanao at last. Thus, we are now geared up for the implementation of the agreement signed with the MILF in 2014 and of that signed with the MNLF in 1996.

But we know that the tables where these agreements were negotiated were small tables, although important ones.

There is a larger table outside. These are the People’s Peace Tables. These are the tables where people’s voices can and will be heard and taken seriously. People’s participation is key to help make peace, and more importantly, to make peace last. OPAPP is committed to putting up those tables.

Mr. President, the implementation phase will address the four fundamental human needs that are at the root of the protracted nature of the Bangsamoro struggle. These fundamental human needs are for security, development, fair access to decision-making, and acceptance of identities. Our work on normalisation including decommissioning, socio-economic development, and transitional justice and reconciliation, while focused on the communities and camps wracked by destructive conflict, will also be directed at what is called Positive Peace for our country.

For you see, the silencing of the guns of war brings only Negative Peace. We have to do Positive Peace to make peace, and make peace last.

There are eight pillars of Positive Peace. A well-functioning government. Low levels of corruption. Acceptance of the rights of others. Good relations with our neighbors. Sound business environment. High levels of human capital. Equitable distribution of resources. Free flow of information.

Mr. President: you have mentioned ALL those pillars at one time or another during the campaign as well as now. Couldn’t this be the over-all framework of the Duterte administration so that we finally address what is called the “strategic deficit”? That is the deficit brought about by the lack of connection between what we do on the macro level and what happens on the micro level, on the ground where people live their lives. As I pointed out to the newly-elected officials of the ARMM, it is not the proliferation of guns that is the root of the violence, it is the lack of all the pillars of Positive Peace.

Mr. President, in the Global Peace Index, the Philippines is currently 139th out of 163 states and territories. If we all work as a system – the MILF and the MNLF, all departments and agencies, women who are half the population, the youth who are the majority of our population, and all sectors – if we all work together to construct the eight pillars of Positive Peace, perhaps, Mr. President, the Philippines will be in the top 10 of the most peaceful countries in the world by 2022!

Permit me to borrow the powerful words of the editorial of the Times of India on the occasion of India’s independence. I find these words apt to where we are in the Philippines today. And I quote:

“History they say is a bad motorist. It rarely ever signals its intention when it’s taking a turn. THIS is that rarely ever moment. History is turning a page.”

Again, paraphrasing the Times of India editorial:
The Philippines today seems like it is actually two countries.
One Philippines is “looking down at the bottom of the ravine and hesitating.”

The other Philippines is “looking up at the sky” and saying, Mr. President, with your bold leadership, “it’s time to fly!” (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Irene Santiago, chair of the government’s peace implementing panel dealing with the MILF and the MNLF, was a member of the government peace panel under Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza that negotiated with the MILF from 2001 to 2003. She organized the Mindanao Commission on Women, Mothers for Peace and Women Seriously!)

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