The Right Moment Is Coming Soon

Break New Ground For Peace
By Jun Mercado
GMA News TV - Blog

It is, often, said that conflict resolution will only be possible at the right moment. No doubt, the right moment is hard to predict. It can occur anytime and suddenly.

Today, there is a general call for the resumption of the peace talk in Mindanao. People are tired of war.

There are three major factors that contribute to the appropriateness of the resumption of the peace process between the GRP and the MILF.

The first is the human tragedy of internally displaced persons. Their continued stay in evacuation centers is not an option. More than ever, the parties to the conflict should cease fighting for the “evacuees” to be able to return to their farms and re-build their lives and homes once again.

There are unresolved political issues that need to be addressed. But the return of the evacuees to their farms must not be held hostage to the resolution of the unresolved political issues. The resolution of political issues belongs to “another” table that should continue to seek creative ways to break new grounds to overcome the present impasse in the political talks.

The second factor is the realization by both parties that a lasting settlement in Mindanao cannot be won by war. Military solutions, even the unlikely military "victory" do not result to peace. It is quite obvious that military force cannot solve political, economic and cultural issues that are at the roots of the Mindanao conflict. Military solutions have been tried and the best they have produced are but fleeting truces among the combatants. This realization is the major factor for the GRP and the MILF to re-engage in the peace process.

Moreover, the political leadership both in the national government and the MILF appears serious in their resolve to come up with enduring political settlement of the long drawn conflict that has been the major factor in the underdevelopment of Mindanao.

At present, both the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are committed to the peace process, and yet they are NOT engaged. Everybody hopes that the peace process should resume notwithstanding the obstacles that the MOA-AD has engendered.

The GRP and the MILF, in principle, have remained committed to the cessation of hostility resulting from the GRP-MILF Agreement on the Security Aspect that was signed in 2001. Similarly, both parties continue to acknowledge the Agreement on Development and Rehabilitation Aspect that was signed in 2002. The major mechanisms of these two agreements are still in place, though others have lapsed and their terms of reference need to be reviewed and renewed.

The third factor is the awareness that both protagonists, at the present time, need a lot of confidence building measures. This knowledge is something positive to chart creative ways and paths to rebuild the trust between the two parties. To date, there are no movements to come closer though there is the guarded openness to the resumption of the peace talks.

Malaysia remains the facilitator of the peace talks. In times when peace talks run aground, the facilitator usually takes on a more active role in bringing the two parties to the table once again. Malaysia’s political future is also in transition as the new Prime Minister takes over in two to three months.

No doubt, there are great obstacles to peace. Foremost is the historical bias as well as the history of conflicts in Mindanao. Wounds on both sides are, indeed, deep. They continue to exercise tyranny over the spirit of the people of Mindanao. Relations between and among peoples in Mindanao are, largely, shrouded in mutual suspicion and mistrust. There remains the challenge on either side to rise above the general ignorance and bias that have, for years, characterized the relationships between Christians and Muslims alike.

The general unrest in the region is further exacerbated by the recent spate of lawlessness like kidnappings, terrorism and plain and simple banditry in the region. When people become insecure, even in their homes, the ground becomes fertile for all sorts of fear. And fear leads to militant and armed “vigilantism".

Now that we have come at a critical juncture in the peace process, there is a sense of urgency to dare break new ground and re-begin the peace process. We need to renew our commitment to the peace process. Are we ready to do so…?

The new set of members of the negotiating panels and the respective support groups and organizations are almost complete. The events that will soon unfold not very far ahead will usher the perfect opportunity to restart the honest dialogue for a new, sustainable, fair, and legal agreement.

Under one light, and one united light alone, will an agreement be a success and be sustainable. Wander from the light and everything will turn futile.