Thursday, September 04, 2008

A General Roadmap towards Lasting Peace in Mindanao

In the light of the impasse, lack of clarity, and confusion that have resulted from the MOA-AD fiasco, may I respectfully submit the following suggestion for the peace process to move forward.

As essential talking points representing a roadmap towards lasting peace in Mindanao, I believe that the following issues should be agreed upon by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF):

Any peace process in Mindanao must accept two basic principles: the Moro fundamental aspiration for self-determination and the Philippine government’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The beginning of a solution to balance Moro aspiration for self-determination and Philippine national sovereignty and territorial integrity as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution is already partly expressed in the concept of ARMM. Despite its many inadequacies the ARMM is an exercise of self-determination in the form of autonomy within the framework of the Philippine Constitution. A more developed balancing elaborating constitutes the road to lasting peace.

The road to lasting peace involves a wholistic solution, political, economic, cultural, and religious.

A political solution, much less a military solution, will not suffice nor will a simply economic one, without the political and cultural/religious. The ill-fated Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is an attempt to provide a wholistic solution.

The road to lasting peace must resolve the following issues:

(a) the issue of representation in the peace agreement – does the GRP panel really represent the Philippine government; does the MILF really represent the Bangsamoro and the Lumad;
(b) the issue of prior and informed consultation with their respective constituencies;
(c) the issue of the territorial coverage of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE);
(d) the issue of the powers (e.g., judicial, executive, legislative, economic, diplomatic, military, territorial) of the BJE;
(e) the issue of the relationship between the BJE and the Republic of the Philippines (e.g. is the BJE clearly understood as part and parcel of the Republic of the Philippines);
(f) the issue of disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation / reintegration (while the actual implementation could wait for the endgame of the peace process, its discussion should be introduced much earlier as in the experience of successful peace processes).

Given the above roadmap, the road ahead consists of the following elements:

(a) continuing the peace process within the parameters presented in number one above;
(b) resolving the questions enumerated in number three above;
(c) forging a unity of opinion – consensus – on the basis of all the above points through widespread consultations by both sides;
(d) building constituencies in order to support the peace process;
(e) stopping all armed conflicts during any peace negotiation.

Any military or violent reaction to respond to the striking down of the MOA-AD would merely reinforce the mindsets of bias, prejudice, anger, and resentment. Even now the volatile situation is threatening to explode through further acts of terrorism and the arming of civilians on both sides of the cultural divide.

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
September 4, 2005

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