“Peaced Off”

Mercifully, the OIC’s diplomacies immediately descalated the war in Mindanao, paved the way for experiments in Moro self-governance, and slowly yet inevitably led to the major peace breakthrough that is the 1996 Jakarta accord with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). That “Mindanao Peace II”, if it may be called thus, further internationalized the Bangsamoro question when it opened the whole of southern Philippines – and not just the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – to peace-building development assistance by several countries and multilateral organizations like the United Nations.

Sec. Dureza’s peace process story has since continued to unravel with an even thicker plot and greater suspense in the ongoing attempt to forge “Mindanao Peace III”, with the MILF this time. The OIC is still in the act, but Jakarta is no longer in it. Instead, Kuala Lumpur is mediating, and Kuala Lumpur is. . . well, Kuala Lumpur. In this dragging sequel, there are other actors making “papel”, too, like the Jemaah Islamiya, Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaida, United States military, and those eager-beaver donor countries. The present scenario makes the Jakarta negotiations look like a walk in the park.

But only in hindsight, because Jakarta was not a walk in the park. The tough negotiators in both the Philippine and MNLF panels made it look that way because real success always looks effortless. In truth, they worked relentlessly and hard day and night, month after tiresome month, to reach difficult and seemingly impossible agreements, while Jakarta held a stopwatch over their heads. The final accord astounded even the negotiators themselves.

In comparison, it is the current Kuala Lumpur talk that is turning out to be a very, very leisurely walk in the park, and how. It thus takes long, reckless chances with our aspiration for a more comprehensive and durable peace. A crisis and threat like the current Basilan flare-up could set us back by a few chapters, or decades, from sooner happily living ever after.

So why not take a few cues now from the good, old Jakarta negotiation experience to speed up Sec. Dureza’s willy-nilly peace process? For as long as the government is talking only to the MILF and not the al-Qaida hiding behind it, there can be nothing that is not negotiable. As they say, real men talk about logistics. Amateurs instead talk about strategies – endlessly, and that’s how peace becomes elusive. (“Our Peace” is an occasional editorial of Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

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