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Peace, not war, is normal

Certainly joyful and even mirthful was that picture on the front page of this paper yesterday. It showed a group of women—some of them veiled Muslims, and one veiled nun (Sr. Arnold Maria Noel, who is becoming an “icon” for peace for her constant presence in peace activities), rejoicing as they release a “dove of peace.” The release was part of the “Women’s March for Peace” in celebration of the first anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the basis for the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law.

It certainly felt good, seeing faces wreathed in smiles and bright with anticipation for the passage of the BBL, and for the return of peace in Mindanao. As Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal declared at a peace forum: Peace should be viewed as the normal state of things. And as another nun, Sr. Erlinda Hisug of the Oblates of Notre Dame, said during the same event: Life inside evacuation centers, where families are forced to flee because of fighting, should never be considered “normal.” Families properly belong in their own homes, in their communities, enjoying the “normal” life that peace affords.

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Through the years, years in which people began to take for granted “un-peace” and uncertainty in Mindanao, talk of peace was often accompanied by grim sights, grim statistics, sad stories, sadder tragedies.

Amid all the talk of warfare and conflict, we had forgotten that the idea of living in peace and certainty, something we in other parts of the country take for granted, is a prospect to be welcomed with joy and celebration. Peace is a happy thought, even if the way to it can often be littered with tension and confrontation.

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But as the celebrating women on the Inquirer front page show: It’s time we proved to the country, especially our sniping, quarrelling politicians, that peace is a social good we all desire, that we all should resolve to pursue and create. Smile, for peace is at hand!

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Hopefully, the creation of a council to work for the passage of the BBL, with respected community leaders including Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr., businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, former ambassador and civic leader Howard Dee and youth leader Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman as members, should bring the BBL closer to fruition.

The goal of the council, is, according to news reports, to lead a National Peace Summit to “deliberate on and discuss the BBL” and, I presume, lead to the formation of a public consensus in support of the draft law.

For now, public opinion seems sharply skewed against the BBL—that is, judging from the media coverage of the issue. If all you do is listen to radio commentators, some of whom read nothing but text messages sent by rabid critics of the BBL and of P-Noy, you’d think the entire populace is up in arms against the passage of the Bangsamoro bill.

Of course, as the Pulse Asia survey findings show, public opinion today is highly critical of the President’s explanations regarding Mamasapano. But I don’t know if this criticism of P-Noy is directly related to rejection of the BBL. In the public mind, I would guess that both Mamasapano and the BBL have been conjoined, even if one is not—officially, even logically—linked. The peace talks and the agreement did not lead to Mamasapano, in fact the killing of the SAF 44 was a result of a violation of the agreements reached by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. And the passage of the BBL does not open the door to more Mamasapanos; indeed, it ensures, by putting in place a mechanism for governance and drawing the Moro rebels into the mainstream of political life, that no more Mamasapanos should take place.

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If politicians today are frothing at the mouth and racing with each other to denounce the MILF, ridicule the government peace negotiators, and scuttle the chances of passage of the BBL, it is because they believe they have public opinion in their favor.

They believe that throwing potshots at the MILF leadership and finding fault with the draft BBL are a surefire way of “endearing” themselves to voters and launching their candidacies of higher office.

Is this an accurate reading of the public mood? Will the critics of the BBL succeed in scuttling the peace deal and lay to waste the years of hard negotiations that went into forging the agreement?

If you support peace, anticipate it, and are willing to work for its establishment after decades of fighting in Mindanao, then make your voices heard. Let our politicians know that they are bucking public opinion, and that supporting peace initiatives will work to their political benefit, not damage their chances at the polls.

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Peace is indeed a happy thought, a development we should all support and devoutly pray for.

I don’t really know what those working to derail the BBL want as a consequence. Time is crucial.

P-Noy himself pointed out that men like Iqbal and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim are not getting any younger, and a new, younger, more militant generation of MILF leaders may not be so amenable to “talking peace” should the BBL bite the dust.

Then, too, they might very well point to the failure to pass the BBL as proof of the doublespeak of the Manila-centric government: that despite years of negotiations that led to a more-or-less stable ceasefire, there was really no intention to grant a semblance of autonomy and recognize the aspirations of the Bangsamoro.

Then where would we—the entire Filipino people and not just Muslim Filipinos or residents of Mindanao—find ourselves then? Is not peace the better alternative?

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TAGS: Arnold Maria Noel, Bangsamoro Basic Law, Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, peace, War, Women’s March for Peace
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