KISSA AND DAWAT: (Dis)parity of esteem in our midst

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 June) — Quite fortunate to be part of a weekend planning of insider mediators looking into and cracking their heads scrutinizing the Senate and House versions, what will potentially come out of the bicameral committee (Bicam) and what the final version will be.

Importantly, they can help assess its potential risks and explore how the Bicam results can be communicated so that we can direct the outcome along the road of peaceful resolution and geared away from violent redress of grievances.

As Filipinos, we all need to be concerned. This is not just a Moro issue, this is a national issue. We have had protracted conflict considered in a World Bank study as the second longest running conflict in the world. More than anything else, our children and our children’s children deserve to grow in an environment of peace, justice and prosperity. This is the moral imperative of pushing for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

One of the principles reflected in the BBL is that of “parity of esteem.” Its recent usage is associated with the Northern Ireland peace process. The question at hand vis-à-vis the BBL is reflective of the turbulent history of our country which was fueled by Western imperialism and saw diverse peoples across our archipelago fitted against each other to promote and protect colonial rule. Even after the Spanish, American and Japanese colonial rules, and after having Filipino rule for a century, instead of national healing and cohesion, we are potentially squandering opportunities with bias towards legislating suspicion, stereotype and prejudice against peoples who have suffered violence, exclusion and minoritization right in their own ancestral homeland.

There are two lenses about “Parity of Esteem,” as a political philosophy and as a health advocacy. [1] As a political philosophy, parity of esteem came to fore in order to overcome inter-communal conflict. Parity of esteem is a language to promote an inclusive and just post-conflict journey towards peaceful coexistence. Rather than viewing post-conflict negotiation as a zero-sum game or through a win-loss mentality; it becomes a language to bridge the divide underpinned by historical and cultural injustices. [2] As a health advocacy, this is viewed in terms of a call for equal value between mental and physical health.

The inclusion of this political philosophy in the BBL, I reckon, is an attempt to institutionalize social healing and start anew positive relationship and political engagement between the national government and the proposed Bangsamoro entity. Sir Patrick Mayhew, Northern Ireland Secretary, once said, “each of the main components of the community will need to be given recognition by the other, and in any settlement, each must be accorded parity of esteem, the validity of its tradition receiving unqualified recognition”.

The Northern Ireland community is both Irish and British and in turn, they realized that existence and security can only be pursued through shared space and respect. Unfortunately, the removal of the “parity of esteem” provision in the Senate somehow puts into question the depth of appreciation and commitment of our statespeople in the august body towards national unity. The removal of this provision points us to the level of literacy among our concerned public officials, particularly on history, social and cultural diversity. How well do they appreciate this diversity as a national asset? Will they respect this diversity to keep the nation whole? I am truly puzzled at the Senate position.

I would like to make an appeal as I also encourage fellows to do so within their sphere of influence and capacity. It is time to make our voices heard on legislation affecting our lives and futures. So I wrote this piece believing in shared futures and what can be better than parity of esteem? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an insider-mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue).