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A.D.: Quicksand in the peace talks?


Probably it would be of general therapeutic benefit to our common mental, emotional, and social state of wellbeing to exercise reasonable degree of restraint on our highly excitable impulse to get thoughtlessly, prejudicially, and emotionally involved in matters that are perceptively and obviously extraneous to the history of the ancient de jure and de facto political institutions in Mindanao and Sulu. Getting ourselves judgmentally involved in highly contentious issues and enigmatic political and ideological matters without adequate historical knowledge and diplomatic documents at hand, could easily be likened to a rage-driven warrior charging wildly against the whirlwind. 

Experientially, each time the issue of ancestral domain is brought up for public discussion, its velocity instantly takes the likeness of a meteor surging toward planet earth from the unknown extremities of the universe with all  its “doom day” potential impact.

Yet, if one is really and genuinely serious about bringing or achieving sustainable and lasting peace in Mindanao and Sulu, the matter of ancestral domain should have been the least and last of his interests and concerns, for in the strictest historical sense, it is a concept of land ownership alien and non-existent in the recorded annals of Mindanao and Sulu as internationally recognized pre-colonial independent and sovereign political entities. 

I suspect the concept of ancestral domain only entered the realm of Philippine political history and jurisprudence after the 3rd decade of the 20th Century, most likely during the hasty drafting of the l935 Constitution and carried forward to the revolutionary and fiery temperament of the l987 Fundamental Law. This of course, is better left to the legal experts to determine its definiteness and historicity in the light of the GRP’s renewed efforts in finding the genuine and generally acceptable and realistically viable solution to the decades old Mindanao Conflict.

By all observable indications, there is massive ignorance about the term ancestral domain. The situation becomes grossly pathetic in the rural communities and island barangays, which is why to these unfortunate indigenous communities, the notion of ancestral domain is totally irrelevant and of no existential importance. Of overriding concern to them is the day-to-day struggle for hand-to-mouth survival whose rudimentary requirement, is the traditional 3-meal a day. 

Beyond this basic economic necessity, the whole spectrum of other concerns and worries to them is hardly consequential. Why then, for all those extremely difficult and perplexing political aspirations and interests should the innocent or poorly educated civilians be dragged to this re-cycled peace talks?

Yet, in the light of the wealth of good men, sensible, highly qualified, and truly peace-loving citizens of our land, the GRP glaringly gives the highest priority, distinction, and preference to peace brokers who are not bona fide inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu? Don’t you think this is bizarrely odd? This peace process is made more chaotically complicated and diplomatically intriguing by the involvement of countries that have no ancient political or colonial legacies, accountabilities, and relations with the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu.

It is highly probable that this academic treatise of mine, could be very disturbing, shocking, and in some remote sense, destabilizing to the overly partisan personalities whose pre-occupation has been fanatically focused on the protection and advancement of their vested interests and power aspirations .In serious recapitulation let me emphasize my personal misgiving that tacked underneath the issue on ancestral domain, is the “survival of the fittest” smack down for political power, economic wealth, and other earthly possessions far beyond the peripheries of our basic necessities for a decent and comfortable lifestyle. And if the GRP will again fail to come up with a definition of “ancestral domain” that is endemically, historically, and politically acceptable to all the stakeholders of Mindanao and Sulu, for sure, the Peace Talks will again collapse like a deck of cards or a column of dominoes. Then as in previous peace efforts, A.D. again acts as the sepulchral quicksand in the never-ending search for peace in Mindanao and Sulu.  Let’s hope this is not going to be the cataclysmic conclusion this time.

By Clem M. Bascar

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