Government is on the same page in peace track

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 August) –  Peace is “a major policy platform” for President Aquino and his Cabinet is on the same page in the peace track, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said.

“I stand witness to the fact that even within the Cabinet, it is clear what the dominant direction is. Una (First), peace. Give it every chance we can get,” Leonen, also Dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law said in response to a query raised at the Philippine Economic Society’s “Regional Conference on the Development Agenda for Mindanao Under P-Noy” at the Ateneo de Davao University Saturday.

Government negotiators in the Arroyo administration had complained it was “easier to negotiate with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) than within the government” as points of consensus reached at the negotiating table would be overturned by the Cabinet cluster dealing with security.

Leonen assured that the Aquino government is on the same page where the peace track is concerned.

He said the panel will be “working, formally through the reconstitution of an advisory panel, and informally through various conversations in many media, with all stakeholders” including members of the legislature, local government leaders and civil society – especially the peace advocates.”

Leonen added that the panel is “studying closely” the results of many consultations done  in the past, “mindful not to duplicate efforts but at the same time always desirous to clarify some more given changed circumstances.”

In his speech, Leonen said “those who signed on to work on the peace process from the government’s standpoint do not have the appetite for palliatives.”

“A comprehensive understanding of the root causes of the conflict frames a viable solution. For our panel, thus, it is necessary that we understand the various histories of the many peoples of Mindanao. We should be able to see the political dynamics at various levels: locally, regionally and nationally. We are advised by public sentiment – and yes, even listening to the most vociferous criticisms of words which we may not have said to understand the standpoints of all the actors,” Leonen said, adding they are “aware that peace can only be the result of the dynamics of a politically negotiated settlement, its social and cultural support, its viability to assure sustainable economic development and its ability to assure a convincing tendency to maintain good governance.”

Leonen explained the President’s policy statement on peace in four statements: “First the peace process should happen on the basis of a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of the conflict;  Second, that it should be conducted under clear policies that pave the way ahead, and driven by a genuine desire to attain a just and lasting peace; Third, that there should a restoration of confidence in the peace process that is transparent and participative; and Fourth, that we envision a peaceful, secure and prosperous future under one sovereign flag.”

He repeated earlier statements that he does not see the Constitution as a problem. He said the Constitution “provides space to find a political settlement.”

“I view it as a normative reality that we should deal with and should also be considered in finding the solution,” Leonen said.

He acknowledged there are “many who remain critical of our collective ability to facilitate peace in Mindanao. Understandably, they should: if all they are looking to as their hope is government and all they do is wait for someone else to work on a solution.”

“If we are true to achieving a just, comprehensive and durable peace in the Republic of the Philippines, we have to understand that all of us have a part to play.”

He urged everyone to “imbibe a culture of tolerance.”

“There is no state in the world today that is not multi-ethnic, colored by poly vocal standpoints, inspired by many religions. There is no state in the world that does not continually assess their histories in the light of expressions of felt marginalization – even outright oppression – of minorities,” he said.

“Neither is there any peace process that can succeed unless those in the majority expand their awareness and understanding. It is only with an attitude of tolerance can we stop to listen, reconsider and find constructive solutions together.’”

Leonen said they hope “to be able to find implementation of a politically negotiated settlement within that (six-years in office).”

“It may be difficult to expect perfect peace; some naysayers have said that it is impossible. To them I say, that not trying sincerely would be the greatest tragedy. For those who have kept on trying we all know that peace is indeed possible,” Leonen said.

Leonen’s panel members are former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, UP Political Science professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Upi vice mayor Ramon Piang Sr., a Teduray, and and the new chair of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, whose appointment will be announced soon.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)