DURING the launching of the Overseas Filipino Bank, President Rodrigo Roa – Duterte warned that war will erupt in Mindanao if nothing happens to the Bangsamoro Basic Law which has languished in Congress since the previous administration.
President Duterte recalled that the promise to allow the Muslims to govern themselves has first been made by former President Corazon Cojuangco – Aquino. After another four Presidents – Fidel Valdez Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III – that promise remains a promise.
After 32 years of negotiations, the realization of the dream of the Muslims of governing themselves in accordance with their religion remains to be a dream. Its realization now rests upon a Congress predominated by non-Muslims. Some of whom are not keen on giving our Muslim brothers and sisters the freedom that they have long cried for and deserve.
Through the years, a pattern of the peace process in Mindanao has become evident. Government negotiators will craft an agreement with representatives of armed revolutionary Muslims and propose an enabling law which eventually ends up nowhere because of unconstitutional provisions or not in accordance with existing laws. Along the way, an armed group will break-away from the main organization negotiating with the government, namely, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that, in turn, broke away from the MILF which replaced the MNLF as the party to the negotiations.
What could the cause behind such? Simply put, they would want to still have a respected fighting group whose elements can proudly say, “We told you so,” in the event that the agreements are not implemented and the process falls through. Thus, they still have the option to continue with their armed struggle because the government failed to deliver on its promises, foreign facilitators notwithstanding.
Curiously, President Duterte, the MILF, and many legislators all agree that some provisions in the draft BBL presented for approval by Congress are actually unconstitutional.
How could the negotiators during the previous administration have come up with a draft BBL with provisions that are, without doubt, unconstitutional just like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (MOA-AD BJE) that was junked after it was initiated for the signature of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? Wouldn’t it have been better and less costly if they had just focused on the “unconstitutional” provisions and discussed publicly what steps could be undertaken to endure that whatever agreement they come up with will be implementable?
To address the impasse, President Duterte called on Congress to move for the amendment of the Constitution first before proceeding with deliberations on the draft BBL that has languished in the august halls of Congress because of unconstitutional provisions.
Considering this known fact that has blocked efforts to finally see the final peace agreement through, we have continued with the education, advocacy and constituency building phase of Yes for Peace among the Filipino people – through the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education. The latest focused group of respondents were members of the DepEd National Employees Union and the Career Executive Service.
With the latest round of “surveys”, we have established the fact that ninety-four percent (94%) of the Filipino people agree that constitutional provisions and laws that are contrary to the peace agreements must be amended through existing legislative processes. Of course, the move towards Federalism is among these albeit there are more provisions in the constitution that need to be amended to ensure that provisions in peace agreements are doable. Thus, it may be best if we include these in the ongoing discussions on what constitutional provisions would need to be amended to see to it that the peace agreements can no longer be declared unconstitutional or in contradiction with existing laws.
Last year, we leveled-up YES FOR PEACE – Bayanihan ng Bayan from a mere peace education and advocacy campaign into a five-track holistic citizen-led movement supported by convergent governance or “Govergence”, a term coined by the Career Executive Service Board (CESB). After all, we have simply seriously taken into consideration statements made by President Duterte and sought ways through which these can be given followed through using existing government community-based development programs with inputs from Career Executive Service Officers (CESOs), Career Executive Service Eligibles (CESEs), and Career Service Executive Eligibles (CSEEs) from different agencies, including the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, in cooperation with the CESB as well as senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the incumbency of General Eduardo Ano and the Philippine National Police under the direction of Police Director Ronald dela Rosa.
Since the comprehensive peace process (with the MILF as well as the CPP-NPA-NDF) is apparently falling through right before our eyes, we have humbly submitted our proposal to bring the Filipino people into the forefront of the comprehensive peace process – pursuant to the Three Principles Underlying the Comprehensive Peace Process – to President Duterte and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus G. Dureza.
A couple of days ago, Yes for Peace – Bayanihan ng Bayan advocates namely, Jane Ocampo-Ibay, Rose Mae Reneido – Cabatit, Yusoph Mando, Nette Villanueva; Yami de Ocampo, Fortune Guerrero and I, presented and discussed the proposed five (5) parallel but inter-related tracks of our peace education advocacy and social mobilization campaign to Director Eduardo “Bong” Jovita of the Conflict Prevention and Management Unit of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) whom I believe was most probably tasked by Secretary Dureza to meet with us and help prepare the completed staff work on our proposal before it is presented by Secretary Dureza to President Duterte.
Director Jovita intimated that Secretary Dureza believes that for the comprehensive peace process to succeed, the approach must start with the family and should be community-based and definitely, we agree.
In fact, the action steps of Yes for Peace will start with the family. After schoolchildren have been guided by their teachers in answering the questions of Yes for Peace and committing themselves to contribute to the implementation of community-based projects, they shall ask their respective parents and housemates to likewise answer the questions of and commit.
Based on the results of the peace education and advocacy phase of Yes for Peace, Barangay Councils shall declare their respective Barangays as Zones of Peace.
With the foregoing and the fact that Secretary Dureza is charged with the management of the comprehensive peace process and has the authority to coordinate and integrate, in behalf of the President, all existing peace efforts by virtue of Executive Order No. 3, s. 2001, we look forward to closely working with OPAPP while maintaining the neutrality and independence of Yes for Peace.
We hope that Director Jovita has seen the light of what we presented to him and therefore take steps to integrate Yes for Peace Bayanihan ng Bayan with other peace efforts. We hope that his actions will not be contributory to the war President Duterte has warned us of and instead be the catalyst for people’s participation in the comprehensive peace process.
After all, “The Filipino people’s will is sovereign, all government authority emanates from them.”