PASIG CITY – In a multi-stakeholders’ consultation held last July 15, members of civil society including those from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), gathered to discuss the prospects of the peace process under the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, expressing strong hopes for the attainment of security, justice, and development across Mindanao.
Titled Prospects on Journey to Peace under the Duterte Administration, the forum was organized and convened by Miriam College-Women and Gender Institute (MC-WAGI) in cooperation with the Unites States of America Embassy to the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), and the Center for Legislative Development (CLD).
“[President Duterte] has reopened and restarted the peace negotiations with the Left. He also offered vital cabinet positions to the Left and appointed persons for negotiations,” said MC-WAGI Executive Director Atty. Aurora De Dios during her opening remarks, referring to the renewed peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA).
“[President Duterte] is pushing for federalism and continuously talking with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front),” she added.
In many occasions, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza has put to rest reservations on whether the Duterte administration would honor the gains achieved in the peace process. “We build on every brick on the ground. There is so much that has been done already. The message is continuity, and this is for the Filipino people. Enabling peace is a work for a lifetime. It is a continuous work.”
Civil society organizations represented in the forum include Nooru Salam; United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute (GZOPI); Balay Rehabilitation; Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE Act 1325); Council for the Welfare of Children; GenPeace Youth Network; Kasibulan; and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID). Partners of the Women’s Peace Collective (WPC) from Basilan, Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga were also represented.
Previous peace adviser Teresita Quintos Deles, together with former Bangsamoro Transition Commissioner Atty. Raissa Jajurie, provided attendees with a situational analysis on what has been achieved in the peace process with the MILF, with Jajurie focusing on possible means of moving forward.
“Whether the current administration would pursue the legislative track of the peace process or subsume it under the call for federalism, what is important to note is that the MILF and MNLF have shown their commitment to arrive at a peace resolution to the conflict in Mindanao,” Jajurie explained. “Whatever road map is adopted, it should be able to lead to the resolution of the Bangsamoro Question.”
The MILF and the MNLF have recently released a joint statement vowing to “come together with a unified action to work at common goals and objectives to engage with the new Philippine administration.”
The two Moro fronts have also been recently tapped by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to assist the government’s campaign against illegal drugs in their respective communities and strongholds.
Change from within
PCID President Amina Rasul, who served as the forum’s resource person on emerging issues on women and peace in the ARMM, said that people in the ARMM should also be willing to change and improve themselves in order for President Duterte’s peace and development initiatives to bear fruits.
“Not just because President Digong said ‘Change is coming’ means that it will happen without doing anything ourselves. It says in the Quran that God will only change the condition of man if man makes changes for himself. This means we also need to have attitudinal change within ourselves,” said Rasul, highlighting socio-economic realities in the ARMM such as how majority of the people live below the poverty threshold and that incidences of illiteracy and joblessness remain high.
Recognizing the need for socio-economic interventions, Dureza has earlier commented on the need for peace dividends to accompany the peace process. “It is not enough that we have signed peace agreements, it will not be sustainable. We must couple it with development. In other words, when you sign agreements, you must always make the people feel that there are dividends for peace because it is development that will sustain all these gains.”