Just before I began this piece, I got word that the son of a friend passed away today. He was fourteen years old. This is the kind of news that breaks one’s heart. I think of his mother, my high school batchmate, with deep compassion and concern. I cannot imagine the sorrow she bears now. I can only pray for her comfort and recovery from this crisis. I trust our good God will uphold her.
Mothers shouldn’t have to bury their children; this is what we believe. Yet throughout the Philippines for over four decades, mothers have said eternal goodbyes to their offspring lost for the cause of peace and justice in Mindanao.
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want an end to this. I’m convinced that even those who call for “all-out war” do so because they long for lasting peace. Thankfully, not everyone is grasping that desperate option. I and many others reject carnage because there are avenues to peace besides the faulty Bangsamoro Basic Law or total war.
But why are we even pressured with this either-or proposition? We needn’t be threatened with walls of body bags if only our negotiators would uphold the Constitution, widen their perspective, and properly represent us. (By “us” I mean Filipinos who will staunchly state their real name and profess allegiance to the Philippines.) I am weary of being terrorized by the visions of blood and war conjured by the government if we don’t rubber-stamp the BBL. What I want is objective and resolute leadership, especially when many of us poor boss Juans are trying our darndest to find a way out of this mire.
This morning, radio station DZBB ran an on-air survey on the topic, “Maari pa bang pagkatiwalaan ang MILF?” (Can the MILF still be trusted?), in reference to the peace process and the BBL. Of 11 callers, 10 vehemently said “no” and even recommended waging “all-out war” to solve the Mindanao problem with finality. The one who said he would give the MILF and the BBL a chance, given constitutional safeguards, was a native of Sultan Kudarat, a Christian, and had a son in the armed forces. Of the eleven, I’d wager only this lone dissenter had an intimate appreciation of the risks and actual cost of war.
What struck me was the stark polarization of opinions on this issue. Several DZBB listeners tweeted their views (though not counted in the survey) echoing the angry stance of the 10 callers. They were exasperated and frustrated; most stated feeling betrayed by the government and, particularly, the peace panel. Those who chose to identify themselves were mostly from Luzon. On the other hand, there were a few tweeters from Mindanao who responded resentfully to these reactions. One even said that the survey was a “waste of time” since it was “common knowledge” that people from Luzon are “anti-Muslim anyway.”
This is a gloomy vignette of public opinion: the views are strong and it appears they will continue to be archly defended; but, unfortunately, they are not all correct. People need to be properly informed of the facts to dispel prejudice and usher in true understanding…but who will moderate this discussion?
It is as clear as day to me that this broiling social restiveness is a peace issue, and the task of mediating national consensus falls to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
The OPAPP’s vision and mission are:
VISION: A just and lasting peace for the nation and for all Filipinos.
MISSION: To oversee, coordinate, and integrate the implementation of the comprehensive peace process.
Stated as part of its mandate is “consensus-building and empowerment for peace.”
If I understand it right, the “peace process” is a means to an end and should be both malleable and responsive to the volatile demands of this massive goal. Lately, though, I’ve heard both peace panels well-nigh personify “the peace process” and describe it as an innocent victim of crossfire as if it were the very end in itself – the product rather than the “means of production.” This is confusing.
I suspect it is because both sides have worked long and hard to get this far that they are loth to give up any of their gains. I suspect any number of unpublished agendas besides – your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, the OPAPP should not be so defensive of its baby that it fails to fulfill its consensus-building mandate at this crucial time.
The “peace process” includes this very phase we are in right now and involves every Filipino, not just those from Mindanao. The negative reactions are part of it; this process did not end – should not end – with the drafting of the BBL and the current inflexible campaign for its acceptance. Does the OPAPP truly ask us to buy peace in the Bangsamoro at the price of discord in the rest of the country? Can it in conscience dismiss the fulminating tensions brought about by the BBL as mere “anti-peace” sentiments? This dangerously reduces the issue and pits Filipino against Filipino in a morass of mindless, impassioned name-calling: “anti-Muslim,” “terrorist,” “warmonger,” “enemy of peace.” This is hardly consensus-building.
Instead of recruiting supporters and casting aspersions on critics of the BBL, President BS Aquino, Secretary Ging Deles and Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer would better spend their time listening to the concerns voiced by Juan dela Cruz in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Indeed, they should calm Juan’s fears instead of exacerbate them with bloody images of extremist carnage. After all, it is these apprehensions that fuel the war-talk, nurture misunderstanding, and might eventually ignite conflict.
If the OPAPP’s task is to secure peace, then its officers should hasten to do their job nationwide, especially when their very own “peace process” is the source of unrest. The OPAPP’s mandate covers the entire Phiippines and not just the Bangsamoro region. Boss Juan is asking many heated questions because he is perturbed and, frankly, alarmed.
Is the OPAPP willing to momentarily set aside the BBL and the MILF to pay attention to the rest of its constituency? OPAPP, where is your allegiance?