PEACETALK: I choose peace.

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato (MindaNews /08 January) — For those of us who have seen the many faces of war and its effects on the lives of the people, we now find ourselves in the crossroads of choices. A vote between yes and no that is perhaps founded in many ways by apprehensions or the supposed promise of peace in Mindanao.

While I believe that respecting the perspectives of others and their opinions towards the Bangsamoro Organic Law is a key ingredient in the achievement of peace in general, I believe that an informed and sound decision can help make or break the promise of peace that could end the decades of war in the Land of Promise.

Promise over apprehension 

I choose peace. I will vote Yes for BOL! More than the apprehension and doubts cast, I see the chance for self-rule in the Bangsamoro homeland as our last and most important ticket to peace and ultimately the growth of development in our land that has long been plunged in  poverty and insurgencies. Promise over apprehension. Fulfilling the promise is something I can bargain for when time comes, apprehension is just what it is.

I choose yes because I believe it is about time that a genuine autonomy be given to the Bangsamoro people who have long fought and struggled for true recognition and a fair share in determining their future.

I vote yes because I, just like many others, dream of a Mindanao where the norm should not be violence or children escaping from war but a harmonious co-existence among peoples regardless of their beliefs, religions, and choices. And this can only happen if it’s founded on justice, where everyone is taking his/her share in decision- making, especially those matters that affect their lives no matter how small they are in the landscape.

I vote yes in the belief that the ratification of the BOL would not be construed as a one-shot magic pill that will cure all the problems of Mindanao. BOL is the first step but the achievement of peace is a long way to go and must be taken as a responsibility not only of the Moros in Mindanao but all stakeholders, and religions. Peace must not be a sole responsibility of one group or a certain religion but must be a collective effort of those who desired for peace as a lived reality.

I vote yes in the hope that the leadership of the MILF and those who worked hard for the achievement of the BOL and have reached this far, will not put their lifetime’s efforts to waste in proving the spoilers and the doubters right. This is a chance to reshape history and prove that an armed struggle that has cost many lives will one day bear fruits of development and peace for the benefit of its people.

I vote yes and with the hope and strong encouragement to my fellow young people especially those young educated Moros, to do the best that they can and engage creatively to sustain and achieve the promise of the BOL.

No matter how small we think our voices are, our power as young people is always strong and dynamic and given our number, we can always take part in meaningful engagements to ensure that there is accountability and responsibility especially to those who make critical decisions. Our community needs us and we must maximize the use of technology, and social media not only for selfish advancements but for actions that create lasting impacts in our communities and direct circles of influence.

I vote yes not because a clear delineation between “us” and “them” must be made but because I want to aid in the realization of a group’s desire for peace, autonomy, self-governance, and respect to differences and diversity.

We must realize that our definition of peace is in many ways the same with theirs and when violence affects them, even if we do not leave our homes to evacuate or run for our lives in times of armed provocations, we will always be affected.

Violent insurgencies have been recently redefined by the trend of violent extremism but its lethal effects do not delineate between Christians or Muslims. All of us are just what we can become: victims. No class. No religion. No difference. So why combat it individually when as one strong Mindanao, we can choose to quell it by choosing peace and by sending a strong message that amidst differences, we are bound to be united.

The language of Republic Act11054 is clear and the success of its implementation remains a work that must be painstakingly made, molded, and carefully crafted not only by those who consider themselves as Bangsamoro but all of us affected by it.

Should it fail?

But when we choose to miss the promise and imagine if the BOL should fail? Which among the paths in the crossroads will take us to peace? Which among our current choices can assure a leap from the unacceptable status quo to the imagined ideal? We really do not have many choices after all right? We will be back to square one. By missing this legitimate and acceptable way to peace, we are opening the gates where our fears can possibly become a reality.

Our vote is a precise contribution as we yearn for our common goal that is peace. Our vote translates which path we want to take in this crossroad. All the routes are uncertain but surely all these roads will always be difficult paths to tread.

One path, however, promises a relief from the others. Many have cast their apprehensions on the promise that one path could bring but when all the other paths are uncertain, I choose that one with the promise that one day I can bank on.

Mabuhay ang Mindanao! Kalinaw para sa Mindanao! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Twenty-eight year old Karl Ballentes is a peace advocate and Local Legislative Officer III of the Sangguniang Bayan of Midsayap in North Cotabato)