Bakwits, grassroots peace advocates go to Manila for “peace lobby”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 August) – A delegation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or bakwits, and grassroots peace advocates are going to Manila this week to meet with the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Social Welfare Secretary and the Defense Secretary.

The 17-person delegation, organized by the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC),  is embarking on a “peace lobby” mission dubbed “Conversation with Mindanao  Grassroots.”

The lobby includes a two-day National Solidarity Conference on Mindanao which will be held on August 13 and 14 at the University Hotel in UP Diliman and will have as speakers government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen and Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the deactivated MILF peace panel.

“This conference will be an opportune time for peace advocates, civil society, the diplomatic community, donors and policymakers to come together and share information and updates on the strategic direction of the GRP-MILF peace talks given the promising pronouncement of President Aquino, who announced his commitment to bring about a peaceful negotiated settlement to the armed conflict in Mindanao.  It is also encouraging to hear in the SONA that the peace talks will formally resume after the Holy Month of Ramadhan, which is just a few weeks from now,” the MPC invitation states.

The invitation noted that while MPC is inspired by the new developments, it is “also aware of the fact that there are several stumbling blocks in the peace talks that we cannot simply ignore as we celebrate the euphoric popularity and promises of this new administration.”

“The MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain) episode gives us several lessons that have to be addressed and rectified if we do not want a repeat of such painful and violent experience in August 2008. Thus, the need for all stakeholders to develop an effective plan that will address known loopholes in the negotiations,” it said.

“This may include mechanisms for consultations and information dissemination, participation of the local government units and politicians, social marketing of the peace process and educating our people about the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people,” it added.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo had earlier written an unsolicited advice to President Aquino “to be open to the principles of self-determination and probe how such a guiding principle could be implemented in fidelity to the spirit of the constitution while transcending or amending its letter.”

The MPC invitation, signed by Pastor Reu Montecillo, MPC chair and Ernesto Anasarias, Co-Convenor of the Mindanao Solidarity Network, said that “while the peace panels are hammering the content and ramifications of a peace agreement, peace advocates should already be steps ahead of the negotiations itself to ensure that we will not be struck by another TRO again!”

The delegation, which includes IDPs, will have a meeting with the Defense Department morning of  August 9,  with the Office of the Ombudsman morning of August 10 and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima afternoon of August 10.

The delegation will also visit the Department of Interior and Local Government nmorning of August 11, followed by a meeting with the Norwegian Embassy and in the afternoon, a roundtable discussion with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The group will also go to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) morning of August 12, followed by a diplomatic briefing until noon and a media forum with IDPs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The delegation will also meet with Anak Mindanaw party list representative Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman and from there meet with PAPP Teresita Quintos-Deles and hopefully with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Iqbal has been assigned the topic “Bangsamoro Perspective of a Political Negotiated Settlement,” while Leonen will discuss “Framework and Challenges of a Political Negotiated Settlement under the Aquino Administration.”

Timuay Melanio Ulama of the Teduray tribe, Pastor Reu Montecillo, representing the settlers and Prof. Rabe, representing the Bangsmoro, will discuss “Political Negotiated Settlement: A Grassroots’ Perspective.” (MindaNews)