Mindanao Peace Forum: More Open, Serious Talks

PARTICIPANTS in the recent Mindanao Peace Forum were all in one in saying that the only way for the southern peace process to move forward is for both parties – particularly the government and the Moro rebels – to resume their negotiation.

Fr. Angel C. Calvo, the lead convener of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP), who organized the event, told the gathering that it is also crucial for all stakeholders to contribute to the whole peace process. The forum was attended by representatives of civil society, government, academe and religious congratations.

Negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have been suspended following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that was scheduled in Malaysian last August. Serious fighting between the military and MILF forces have since been erupting.

“All of us peace advocates can put together our aspirations…that the process will be more than a process,” Fr. Calvo said during the three-hour forum that was held at Ateneo de Zamboanga University in line with the observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace.

In prepared speech, Atty. Marvic Leonen, dean of University of the Philippines College of Law in Davao City, said the government peace panel, but especially the President, should take the full, just and comprehensive solution to these problems seriously.

“It should take extra effort to educate the public about the histories of our State and the various peoples that presently belong to it. It should examine very closely how its natural resources and wealth are distributed and find solutions that will truly bring development to those who are not in our metropolitan centers. It should engage all constituents, not only the politicians, in serious conversation to define the problem and provide long lasting solutions,” said Atty. Leonen in his speech which was read by Atty. Eduardo Sanson, Dean of the College of Law of Western Mindanao State University. (See full text in this issue.)

He said it is very important that the “government needs to be transparent about its real agenda.”

“For so long, the peoples of our country, not only of Mindanao, have been victims to the narrow and parochial scripts of the political elite playing for their own interests at the national level. The only antidote to the narrow points of view of our leaders is true fealty to a policy of full disclosure. Solutions chosen by true leaders will be borne by all of us, not only by them. It is therefore better to err on the side of more information, more discussion rather than more secrecy,” he said.

According to him, “war is an act of desperation but it solves nothing.”

“Political power, both government and insurgent, should come from somewhere else,” he said. In the meantime, we—those affected by the war, whether from or outside of Mindanao—should engage in honest dialogue of who we are, what we should do and how we should achieve peace founded on justice and human rights,” he said.

“Let us prevent the escalation of fighting with or without the Memorandum of Agreement.” Atty. Mamaug said, the Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights. Atty. Mamauag was the second resource person in the forum.

Mamauag said citizens also have a role to prevent the escalation of the conflict in Mindanao.

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