OZAMIZ CITY—After years of informal engagements with the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on peace-building efforts in Mindanao, peace activists had finally sought a formal role in the transition to the Bangsamoro government.
This is the latest twist in the peace-building work of civil society organizations, following the landmark and highly acclaimed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that Malacañang and the MILF had signed on Oct. 15.
In a news release early this week, the Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW) noted that “civil society has always been challenged by both peace panels to become involved but most of the engagement has been done sporadically and informally.”
MPW groups nine peace advocacy networks in the country. These MPW members have been indirectly engaging the parties in the Mindanao peace process.
These are Agong Peace Network, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, Bisayang Dako Alang Sa Kalinaw, Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference, Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement, Mindanao Solidarity Network and the Mindanao Association of State Colleges and Universities Foundation. The Initiatives for International Dialogue serves as MPW secretariat.
“It is time that civil society’s engagement in the peace process becomes official,” said Fr. Angel Calvo, chair of the Zamboanga-based Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace.
“Peace advocates must also now become more active in policy making,” Calvo added.
During its recent assembly in Davao City, MPW members vowed to “continue engaging the government and MILF peace panels beyond the Framework Agreement.”
Calvo said MPW’s participation in the peace process can come through an official mandate “akin to the one given by the panels to the International Contact Group (ICG).”
Composed of four international nongovernmental organizations and four governments, the ICG was created to be a third-party observer in the peace negotiations.
In a coauthored commentary about the Framework Agreement, Kristian Herbolzheimer and Emma Leslie, both of ICG-member Conciliation Resources, noted that civil society organizations “have been essential to keep the [Mindanao peace] process alive.”
“They’ve mobilized for peace in a range of ways: Interreligious dialogue, cease-fire monitoring by people living in the conflict-affected communities, cross-sector consultations to develop peace agendas and humanitarian assistance,” Herbolzheimer and Leslie said.
To jump-start its active involvement in the peace transition, MPW said it will endorse individuals from its ranks to join the Transition Commission (TC).
The TC, which President Aquino will be creating, will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will serve as the charter of the new political entity.
The TC will be composed of 15 members from the Bangsamoro communities. Of the 15 members, eight will be nominated by the MILF.
Both the MILF and government are currently in the thick of wrapping up negotiations on the issues of power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization in time for their self-imposed deadline by the end of the year.
The Framework Agreement, plus consensus on the three issues, will make up the comprehensive peace formula that was expected to address the Moro aspiration for self-determination.
As soon as the comprehensive agreement is in place, Aquino will constitute the TC.
Throughout the transition phase, the peace panels will continue to exist in order to oversee the execution of agreed measures. Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao