Konsult Mindanaw presents findings to MILF; MILF says “we want agreement acceptable to all”

SIMUAY, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao — A team from Konsult Mindanaw presented Sunday afternoon to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front the results of its year-long community consultations on peace in Mindanao.

Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, project director of Konsult Mindanaw, presented the findings to MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar, inside the pink room of a nearly finished building inside Jaafar’s compound, from 1:35 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. Even before Alejo could finish his presentation, Jaafar said, “hindi kami opposed na alamin kung ano ang gusto nila. Baka makatulong pa yun sa pagkaroon ng mapayapaang solusyon. Kami, gusto rin naming solusyon na mapagkasunduan, gusto naming hindi lamang acceptable ng majority of Bangsamoro people kundi acceptable din ito sa mga migrants” (we are not opposed to find out what they want. That may just help us find a peaceful solution. We also want the agreement reached to be acceptable not only to the majority but also to the migrants).

Jesuit priest Albert Alejo (left) explains a point to MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar Sunday afternoon. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Jaafar acknowledged that an acceptable agreement provides an assurance of a smooth implementation.

Vision of Peace

Alejo represents a team from the academe in Mindanao which was commissioned by the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC) to conduct community consultations. The BUC was earlier tapped by President Arroyo to take a more active role in the peace process following the controversy over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August last year and the shift at that time, in government’s strategy from negotiating with armed rebels to “authentic community dialogues” and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.”

The results of the study were first presented to President Arroyo in Davao City on October 29.

The results of the consultations show that between war and peace talks, Mindanawons go for the latter.

“One of the important results of the region-wide consultations and dialogues is that the process, which involved more than 5,000 respondents in eight regional centers, has caused the emergence of a collective consciousness on the part of the large number of Mindanawons,” Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla said in a statement.
In his Powerpoint presentation, Alejo said a total of 4,916 participants from the Catholic, Muslim, Protestant and Lumad sectors in 311 focus group discussions (FGDs) were asked four questions: “What is your vision of peace? What are your recommendations on the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF? What can you recommend on the broader peace process? What can you personally contribute – or even sacrifice – for peace in Mindanao?”

Findings on GRP-MILF

The findings pertaining specifically to the GRP-MILF peace process, are:

Although many participants express their lack of sufficient information on the MOA-AD, the peace talks between the government and the armed groups are very much alive in the mind of the people.
People want the peace talks to continue and to be in Mindanao.
Peace panels should be seen as really concerned with the plight of those affected by the conflict.
People are confused on the diverging views and actions of offices of the government in dealing with conflict and rebellion. Peace panels take an approach, military has another track, and only to be junked by the higher authority.
On the same note, people get confused on the position of the different Moro groups and their supporters. People are not clear on the positions of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), MILF, and other groups and personalities.
People are searching for sincerity as expressed in consistency and coherence of actions from all parties.
The government-MILF peace talks used to be based in Mindanao but then President Joseph Estrada waged an “all-out war” in March 2000, leading eventually to the collapse of the talks. When the talks resumed the following year under the Aquino administration, the panels sought a third party facilitator, Malaysia, and talks had been done there since 2001.

Internal problem

On the confusion over the different Moro groups MNLF and MILF, Jaafar said, “There is an internal problem between and among us leaders of the Bangsamoro – Moro National Liberation front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, including Bangsamoro leaders working with the government.”

Now, with respect to the MNLF-MILF, we are addressing this. We have been conducting continuous dialogue since 2000.”

“Very minimal ang trouble between and against sa ground; noon konting bagay lang problema sa ground (“the trouble between and against us on the ground is very minimal. Before a tiny spark could cause a problem on the ground.”

On the issue of sincerity, Jaafar said, sincerity is a “very important ingredient of the acceptability of the agreement… hindi katulad nung nangyari sa MOA-AD na atras-abante ang gobyerno (unlike what happened to the MOA-AD where government was moving backward-forward).

Alejo explained how his team designed the study. Jaafar asked if the team had asked retired General Fortunato Abat. “Maganda yung mga idea niya sa peace” (He has good ideas on peace), said Jaafar.

Abat was chief of the government peace panel when Jaafar was chief of the MILF peace panel, in the 1990s.

Consultations

Jaafar related that both peace panels had earlier agreed to conduct consultations with their constituents and that the MILF did its part.

“We realized we had shortcomings. We relied too much on government to reach out to the non-Moro. We had to rectify our shortcomings and commissioned several groups to reach out to brothers and sisters among the Tedurays, Manobo, Arumanen, B’laaan. We’re reaching now as far as Agusan and Davao del Sur,” he said.

He said they now have a Department of Mindanao Migrants to focus on the non-Moro issues.

Jaafar also acknowledged the existing term of office of people in government in the Moro areas, and cited the need for a transition period.
In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindano (ARMM) which is supposed to be the core of the future Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), elective officials have a three-year term of office. Incumbents elected last year have until September 30, 2011.

Loose firearms

Jaafar spoke about rampant kidnapping and other criminal activities and blamed this on the “more than one million loose firearms in the entire country.”

More than one million loose firearms in the entire country. He said a million may be “very modest” a number given that there are some areas in Maguindanao where you will not find a family without an armalite.

But he also cited the firearms of non-Moro politicians in neighboring areas.

Jaafar also said the MILF is “not opposed to development on condition that development must not be the cause of conflict or displacement of native inhabitants.”

Jaafar reiterated that an “early resolution of the conflict in Mindanao is for the betterment of Mindanao and the entire country.”
He found the findings “good,” such as the finding that people do not understand much the conflict. “Let us double the information campaign.”

He said the findings will serve as “guide sa peace process.”

“Kund hindi tanggapin ng GRP, kami sa side ng MILF (tatanggapin)” [If GRP does not accept, on the side of the MILF we will (accept)] (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

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