Grandpas and granduncles dialogue for peace in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/01 April) — International Alert’s country director Francisco Lara set the tone for the participants gathered for a dialogue for the first time last Thursday: “One thing we should do ….is to look at ourselves as having families and grandchildren  and not to look at our panel only as combatants or rival armed groups to the state’s armed groups,”  he said as he gave a separate introduction of the member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel,  as grandfathers.

The three-hour dialogue (see related story) between the panel and Mindanao’s business executives, most of them grandparents, too, was frank but friendly, and apparently overwhelmed by the warm reception, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, who at the opening confessed that addressing the business sector was “the most challenging if not the most difficult” for him,   tried to control his tears as he delivered his closing statement. “We are in the twilight of our years,” he said, but continue to work for peace “for our children and our children’s children.”

His voice quivering, Iqbal said: “I would like to see, we would like to see the fruits of the struggle …within our lifetime.”

None of the panel members present at the dialogue was a combatant. Panel chair Iqbal,  62, is information chief of the MILF, and simply “ama lukes” (grandfather) to a granddaughter; senior panel member Datu Michael Mastura, 70, is a lawyer and historian, and is grandfather to six. The other panel members, Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, 61, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, and B’laan Datu Antonio Kinoc, 62, are not yet grandpas. Lingga has five children, Kinoc has three.

Many of the presidents, vice presidents and chief executive officers in the business sector who were present during the dialogue Thursday were also grandfathers. Like Iqbal, Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente Lao, 59,  is grandpa to one.

A day earlier, the MILF peace panel met with Catholic bishops, granduncles in their 60s and 70s.

Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla is 76; Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, 72;  Tagum Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz is 70;  Kidapawan Bishop Romulo dela Cruz is 63; and Davao Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando is 58. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)