Pope: bringing peace to Mindanao “will result in just solutions”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 January) — President Aquino said nothing about the peace processes involving the Bangsamoro and the communist guerrillas in his speech to welcome Pope Francis in Malacanang but the Pope expressed trust that the progress made in bringing peace to Mindanao “will result in just solutions” in accordance with the nation’s founding principles “and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”

The Pope praised the country for its rich cultural and religious heritage but posed a challenge and “a word of prayerful encouragement” that the deepest spiritual values of the Filipino people continue to find expression “in your efforts to provide your fellow citizens with an integral human development. In this way, each person will be able to fulfill his or her potential, and thus contribute wisely and well to the future of this country.”

He also said he was confident that the “praiseworthy” efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation between the followers of different religious in the country, “will prove fruitful in the pursuit of this noble goal” (integral human development).

“In a particular way, I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities,” the Pope said.

The government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 last year and are awaiting action from Congress on their draft Bangsamoro Basic Law for the future Bangsamoro Government that both parties hope will be installed by June 30, 2016, the end of the six-year term of the Aquino administration.

Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, in a paper delivered at the 27th General Assembly of the Bishops-Business Conference in Taguig, Metro Manila on July 8, 2003, shortly after the 2003 Buliok war, cited injustice as the root of the conflict with the Moro: “Injustice to the Moro Identity; Injustice to Moro Political Sovereignty; and Injustice to Moro integral development.”

Quevedo was then President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Pope Francis named him as Mindanao’s first Cardinal in January last year.

“With the loss of political sovereignty came the loss of great chunks of Moro ancestral lands. Much of the loss resulted from a long series of legal enactments by the Philippine Commission, the Commonwealth government, and the post-independence government. Moro writers call this ‘legalized land grabbing.’” Quevedo wrote.

“The loss of land was compounded by government neglect of the Moro right to integral development during the Commonwealth and post-independence governments. In all dimensions of human development, political, economic, educational, and cultural, the Moro population continues to lag far behind its Christian Filipino counterparts. The latest national census bears this out in terms of educational improvement, political participation, and economic development. This is truly a tragic plight,” Quevedo said.

MILF reps in Malacanang

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews that hey had two representatives in Malacanang’s reception for Pope Francis: the MILF’s Mufti Abuhuraira Abdulrahman and Seikh Mohammad.

The GPH and MILF started peace negotiations in 1997, preceded by 22 years (1974-1996) of on-and-off peace negotiations between the GPH and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from which the MILF broke away in the late 1970s.

At the signing of the CAB last year, MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim announced that “no more cause worth pursuing by force is left for others to take.” Murad is now busy preparing for the establishment of the MILF’s political party, the United Bangsamoro Justice Party, which he will also lead.

In October last year, Murad wrote Pope Francis, through Cardinal Quevedo, explaining how the Bangsamoro people have been “struggling for peace” for centuries and that with the signing of the CAB and the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic law, “real peace is within reach.”

The National Democratic Front (NDF) which has its largest camps and largest number of guerrillas in Mindanao, is awaiting resumption of the peace talks with the government.

In a statement on January 15, Jorge Madlos, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson said they hope the Pope’s presence could, among others, encourage Filipinos to imbibe a “renewed interest in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the current armed conflict, particularly in pushing for the resumption of the peace talks” between GPH and the NDF. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)