THE time for finger-pointing on the ongoing conflict in Mindanao should end now and what is needed to attain lasting peace is an institution that has the political will to appeal to both parties to sit down and discuss solutions, according to a party-list representative.
This is the gist of Anak Mindanaw Rep. Ariel Hernandez’s House bill 6624 or “An act establishing a Peace in Mindanaw Academy” which aims to seek solutions to the conflicts not just in Mindanao but in all of Asia’s southeast nations.
Hernandez said the bill is already on its first reading in the Congress and he is confident that once Sen. Edgardo Angara will file a counterpart bill in the Senate, it will reach the second reading as there are many peace advocates in the Congress who will support the bill.
He is also looking for possibility of having Senators Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. and Jose Miguel Zubiri as possible co-sponsors in the Senate.
But Hernandez said that although the Peace in Mindanaw Academy is an ambitious undertaking, he pointed out that it is not the solution to the conflict but a “modest contribution to the quest for lasting peace” not just in Mindanao but elsewhere.
The bill, he said, is not just to cater to the conflicts in Mindanao but he envisions the academy to be the center of peace initiative in the entire Asean region.
Hernandez said that from experience all minor conflicts escalated into major ones because they’re not “properly managed.”
He cited the all-out war declared by then-President Joseph Estrada in southwestern Mindanao in 2000 where the conflict did not start with the takeover of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte but in a 30-hectare coconut land in Nilabayan town of the same province.
Another factor that Hernandez thinks is one of the hindrances in the peace process is that it is limited only between the ‘principals’ (leaders of the rebel groups and the government) and practically excluding the communities affected.
He pointed out that when the MNLF and the government signed the peace agreement in 1996, many were disappointed and disillusioned because the communities were not involved in the peace process.
But with the realization of the academy, Hernandez said the affected communities will become the ‘onsite schools’ where peace advocates and experts from all over Asia can learn and share their own experiences.
“If there are groups that are in conflict, it would be best to bring them to the center table to discuss and come up with an innovative and better solution,” he said.
He also lamented that schools and universities do not offer a subject on “creative conflict management” to their students so they can have a better understanding of the conflicts that are happening in their communities.
He said the subject, once integrated into the curriculum, is another way to ensure that the perspective of a conflict could be directed away from the old notion of war and violence and towards a more dialogue-based approach.
As a Mindanaoan myself, Hernandez’s move is indeed a noble intention that should have the all-out support from all sectors of society.
Let’s give peace in Mindanao a chance!
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The Beat By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM