Lavina: “support the peace process, say no to the spoilers and the cynics”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 May) – “Support the peace process, say no to the spoilers and the cynics. Without peace, our great island will never fulfill its promise,” Antonio La Viña,  Dean of the Ateneo School of Government said in his address at the commencement rites of the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law and Graduate School last Saturday.

La Viña, who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, was a member of the government peace panel that negotiated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the aftermath of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) whose formal signing was aborted when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order and later declared it unconstitutional in its present form.

“On the peace process, I have never been as hopeful as now, at least not since the Ramos administration, that peace is at hand. I believe that President Aquino really means business and wants to resolve our long-standing political conflicts once and for all,” La Viña said, adding the President “appointed the best possible peace adviser, Secretary Ging Deles and competent,
committed, credible and creative individuals as chief negotiators on the government side for the negotiations with the MILF and with the communists.”

He noted reports and statements issued during the second “formal exploratory talks” in Kuala Lumpur last week, indicating “the negotiations with the MILF has advanced forward
with the government having the opportunity to ask the MILF clarificatory questions on the MILF proposal for the peace agreement.”

“The government will now have to consult its stakeholders extensively and draft its counter proposal. What is striking is that the MILF itself has been consulting not only its own mass base but also non- Moro groups. Even better the MILF has released its proposal publicly which means that the government will, if it chooses, be able to do so as well for its own draft, something previous panels could not do because it would have violated confidentiality. I am very happy with this development. The secrecy that has characterized peace negotiations in this country has not been good and has not resulted in peace. For the peace process to succeed there must be transparency and inclusiveness. That is probably the clearest lesson from the MOA-AD
experience,” he said.

By a vote of 8-7, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the MOA-AD but noted that “surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral Domain aspect of the Tripoli Agreement of 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or significantly drastic provisions.”

The MILF submitted its revised draft peace agreement during the first “formal exploratory talks” under the Aquino administration in February, the 20th since peace talks resumed after the 2003 Buliok war.

The 2011 draft has not actually been made public.

In the MILF panel’s consultations with, among others, Catholic bishops and Mindanao business executives, in March and April, no copies of the MILF’s revised draft were given but organizers said photocopies of the January 2010 draft were earlier sent to them and copies were also distributed during the consultations.

“What has been distributed is our draft presented to the previous panel. We have withdrawn this and revised it. Somehow, 85% of the revised draft is like this. What was withdrawn was some 15% of the draft,” the MILF”s senior panel member Datu Michael Mastura, a lawyer and historian, said.

“I urge you to support the peace process, to say no to the spoilers and the cynics. Without peace, our great island will never fulfill its promise,” La Viña said.

He asked the graduates, “In Mindanao, today, what does it mean to be leaders, what does it
take to fulfill the promise of our great island?”

He said the first thing that should be done  is to “first ask why up to now we continue to be a broken promise, a potential unfulfilled.”

He cited four “major barriers to a prosperous, sustainable, just and happy Mindanao.” These are  violent conflict, social injustice and inequity especially in the allocation and use of land
and other natural resources; corruption in all levels of government; “and finally, and underpinning all these other barriers, poverty.”

He said some of these barriers are “rooted in the nature of the Philippine state as a unitary, centralized system of government, and thus require national reforms, even constitutional changes.”

“But by and large, these barriers to progress and authentic human development can be dealt with locally, in our island, by our local governments, and in our communities,” La Viña, who also e served as Environment Undersecretary, said.

“Bearing in mind these barriers, the solutions for each should be clear. From a conflict-ridden island, we want to work for a permanent peace among our peoples. To ensure a fairer allocation of land and natural resources, we need to enact and implement reforms in such  areas as land use and mining. To stamp out corruption and I would add to that incompetence in government (which is also a form of corruption), we have to improve governance. And finally, if poverty is
central to all of these, then we have to prioritize wealth-creation,” he said.

“The truth is that in Mindanao, as in the Philippines, we do not have a very large pie. Redistributing the current pie – the wealth which is in the hands of the few – will not really mean a lot and especially in the long term,” he added.  (MindaNews)