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The Peace of Mamasapano

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In a published article this week, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan de Oro president Fr. Roberto Yap, S.J. announced that despite the antagonisms that the January 25 Mamasapano incident has elicited from many Filipinos, his school will proceed to confer honors on Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, government peace panel chairman Prof. Miriam Ferrer, and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal  during his school’s forthcoming commencement exercises. The awards decision of Xavier’s trustees was made two months before the Maguindanao bloodbath “to honor these three leaders who have courageously walked the arduous way of peace and to salute them for their conscientious and patient efforts to engage in democratic dialogue and negotiations for peace in Mindanao. Their diligent efforts, with countless others, along the path of peace have moved the nation closer to realizing the aspirations of our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters for meaningful self-determination to live their religious convictions and shared culture in peace and prosperity”, said Fr. Yap.

Deles will be conferred a doctor of humanities-honoris causa degree and will be the commencement speaker, while Prof. Ferrer and Iqbal will receive the Fr. William F. Masterson SJ Award for contributions to social development.

Because of emotions aroused or awakened by Mamasapano, the likes of Senator Alan Cayetano surely take exception to such laudatory perceptions or gestures. In the course of the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano tragedy, Sen. Alan Cayetano sounded the tinkling cymbal of patriotism by baiting resource persons Deles and Ferrer with the question: “What side are you representing in the peace panel? Are you representing the Republic of the Philippines or are you representing the MILF?”” This came as the two women gave their reply to his question about a picture purportedly showing how the MILF is training new recruits in violation of its ceasefire agreement with the government.

Muntinlupa congressman Rodolfo Biazon also urged the President to replace Deles and Ferrer for “their purported failure to pursue the best interest of the government in the peace agreement with the MILF. . . Ferrer and Deles are acting as lawyers for the MILF. They have lost their objectivity.”

Against such calls, Malacanang has announced that the President continues to trust Deles and Ferrer to do their job well. In his speech on the occasion of the 29th People Power anniversary, which he totally devoted to the Mindanao peace process, he warned that “If we allow ourselves to be defeated by those who oppose peace, it would be tantamount to allowing the chaos in Mindanao to worsen. If we were to surrender the pursuit of the Bangsamoro, it would be tantamount to allowing them to bequeath arms to the next generations of our fellow Filipinos.”

Deles and Ferrer have been called courageous for maintaining a solid stand for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) draft bill, which is undergoing deliberation by Congress for enactment into law, and the Mindanao peace process as a whole, in the face of very stormy opposition. Last week, Ferrer said, “Definitely, it is the aim of the BBL to . . . address the human development of the Bangsamoro people, which will in turn redound to shared prosperity and shared security for the entire country. In this regard, we look up to our legislators for wisdom and guidance, in crafting a good legislation ýfor the Bangsamoro peoples,” she said. ý But sadly the majority of Filipinos including politicians who do not live in Mindanao and do not experience the agony and suffering caused by the 40-plus years war cannot deeply enough appreciate the urgency and importance of this peace project.

Nevertheless, the “pain” as the President called the Mamasapano tragedy and the many and complicated issues it surfaced is not without saving graces, testing successfully so far the strength of the peace process and its various agreements and mechanisms crafted by government and MILF architects, mostly during the present watch of President Aquino. Without an iron-clad ceasefire protocol, the uncoordinated ingress by the PNP Special Action Force commandos in the hinterlands of Mamasapano would not only have resulted in the unfortunate death of 44 of them and 18 on the side of the MILF. It could have easily ignited a resumption of wider hostilities like the 2008 MILF rampage, and possibly a total abrogation of the peace agreement.

It also revealed how seriously the Armed Forces supports the Mindanao peace agenda by how it responded to the then ongoing Mamasapano clashes with concern for the lives of civilians and care to observe the ceasefire protocol. Not only the military though, but the civil society communities in Mindanao and the rest of the nation also bared their power to make a difference when they promptly appealed for sobriety and wisdom and support, too, for the peace quest. “We call on all our citizens to learn more about the challenges faced by our fellow Filipinos in Mindanao, the peace agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the ways we can all contribute to a lasting peace and inclusive development throughout the country. All of us citizens should engage in order to improve our understanding of the peace process, and better appreciate the difficult steps necessary to sustain and strengthen that peace over time. We urge the youth, notably Christians and Muslims, to work together in building stronger solidarity and a shared vision of nationhood,” a group of academicians urged in a published blog.

A peace deal lesser in substance and soundness than the one which President Aquino and his negotiators have configured in collaboration with the MILF, often over difficult issues, would not have survived – so far – the cataclysm of Mamasapano. More significantly for the future of peace in Mindanao and nation, Mamasapano has forced Filipinos to look at their selves in the mirror of nationhood to realize that the enemy of peace is not the Moro rebels but their own violent cultural prejudices and racial hostility, that the rebel shooter in the viral video is as much a suffering victim as the SAF brother he shot. Perhaps then, Mamasapano may yet go down as the final, cathartic turning point in Mindanao’s struggle for peace, and the bereaved Fallen 44 as our God-ordained martyrs. (ZABIDA-PAZ) *****




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