‘No turning back’ in peace process | Inquirer Opinion
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‘No turning back’ in peace process

“There should be no turning back,” chief government peace negotiator (with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in her acceptance speech when she was named the Hillary Rodham Clinton Awardee for Advancing Women, Peace and Security this week.

The awarding rites, attended by Clinton herself, were held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.


Coronel-Ferrer acknowledged that “the momentum toward peace almost ground to a halt” last January after 64 died as a result of a police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The biggest number of casualties were 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police; the other victims were 17 members of the MILF and other armed groups, as well as three civilians.

While acknowledging the validity of the Filipino public’s reaction to the tragic deaths of the “Fallen 44,” Coronel-Ferrer bemoaned what she called the descent of public discourse “into bigotry against the Moros, the MILF, as well as Muslims in general.”


Despite the generally positive public opinion in the months leading up to the signing of a final peace agreement, the Mamasapano killings suddenly stirred latent anti-Moro feelings, Coronel-Ferrer said. “Centuries of distrust and hatred resurfaced. Lost in the vitriol were the goals of the process. To stop the bloodletting that had counted more than 120,000 lives lost in combat since the 1970s. To bring to the fold the biggest nonstate armed group in the country, and enable its moderate, reformist leadership to prevail over the more radical and violent ideologues.”

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But it’s not only resentment against the Moros and the peace process that has been stirred by the explosive rhetoric of those seeking to exploit the post-Mamasapano public sentiment, fueled by what Coronel-Ferrer described as “a public fed with misinformation and driven by prejudices bordering on Islamophobia.”

Misogyny, too, has surfaced, said the peace negotiator. “If former secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton had been called a ‘funny lady’ in the course of her drive to find peaceful solutions and creative compromises in one area of conflict, I in turn have been called a ‘dumb bitch,’ a traitor and a weak negotiator who bartered away the country to the Muslims/Moros.”

Ms Clinton, who recently announced her candidacy for president of the United States in next year’s polls, comments in her book “Hard Choices” about “the unfortunate reality that women in public life still face an unfair double standard… an outrageous sexism, which cannot be tolerated in any country.” To which Coronel-Ferrer agrees, saying she knows “only too well how true this is.”

With her granddaughter Kaleigh Ysabelle present at the awarding ceremony (along with her sister Sheila Coronel, now with Colombia University), Coronel-Ferrer was moved to express her dream that the little girl not “inherit a country divided by prejudice, dishonored by sexism, and stunted by the narrow vision of members of its political class.” At the same time, she added, she has met “many, many grandmothers in Mindanao who reject the same, and ask for respect and dignity for all.”

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On May 9 the 56th International Art Biennale Exhibition opens in Venice, significant for the Philippines because it will mark the return of the country to this important international art event after 50 years.

It was in 1964 when the Philippines first participated in the Biennale, with National Artists Jose Joya and Napoleon Abueva representing the country.

The idea of a Philippine participation in the Venice Biennale was hatched in 2013, when Sen. Loren Legarda, who had visited several international art events and noted the absence of the Philippines from them, posed the question during the budget hearings of the Department of Foreign Affairs and of the government’s cultural agencies.

A yearlong process was set in place after the DFA, together with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), agreed to work together with the senator to pave the way for the country’s participation in the Venice Biennale.

After an invitation from the Biennale’s organizers was received, the agencies announced an open and transparent search for the winning entry, with some 16 curatorial proposals received by the Coordinating Committee.

In September last year, the NCCA, the DFA and the office of Senator Legarda announced the winning entry: Patrick Flores’ proposal titled “Tie a String Around the World.” The selection was made by an international jury of artists and art experts.

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Flores is a professor at the Department of Art Studies of the University of the Philippines and is the curator of the Vargas Museum. At the same time, Flores is adjunct curator of the National Art Gallery in Singapore, a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council, and a guest scholar of the Getty Research Institute in 2014.

Apart from showcasing the Philippine exhibit, which will feature a tribute to Manuel Conde’s recently restored award-winning film “Genghis Khan,” plus the works of younger artists, the Venice Biennale will also feature globally renowned artist David Medalla, who will conduct a lecture there on Aug. 20. Medalla is best known as a pioneer of land art, kinetic art, participatory art, and live art. He has exhibited in many parts of the world, including such works as “Cloud Canyon” and “Bubble Machine.”

The Venice Biennale will run from May 9 to Nov. 22, highlighting the “return” of the Philippines to the global art world.

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TAGS: Hillary Rodham Clinton, International Art Biennale Exhibition, Mamasapano, MILF, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, peace process
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