As part of its continuing efforts to raise awareness on the growing Christian and Muslim issue in Mindanao, Angel C. Palanca Peace Program Foundation, Inc., (APC3), in partnership with FEU Public Policy Center, held a round table discussion entitled, “What is the Price of Peace?” facilitated by the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Cagayan De Oro, Rev. Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.
Picking up from the initial forum on the Bangsamoro Initiative, held at FEU Makati, last 24 February 2015, Sr. Victorina Palanca, I.C.M., ACP3 founder, introduced the peace points for discussion.
Panel of discussants were FEU professors Dr. Christian Afundar and Clive Ocon from the Institute of Education, Dr. Wilson Chua, Marco Gutang, Jerome Requidan, Bernard Bragas and Greg Dulay from the Institute of Arts and Sciences.
Archbishop Ledesma, pragmatic and realistic about the present state of the issue, shared ten “challenges” for peace in Mindanao. First, Christianity and Islam are both religions of peace. Second, the vast majority of Muslim, Christian, and Indigenous people communities in Mindanao aspire for peace. Third, all-out war is not the answer to the Mindanao situation. Fourth, leaders of Muslim communities point out three major grievances: diminution of their ancestral territory, erosion of their cultural identity, and the lack of self-determination in their development.
Fifth challenge was, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) represents a reasonable, practicable and carefully crafted settlement for attaining a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. Sixth, ongoing questions on the BBL with regard to territory, sovereignty, Sharia Law, police force, natural resources, etc. may need to be clarified and aligned to our Constitutional principles.
Seventh, the Mamasapano incident should not be equated with BBL. Eighth, instead of viewing the MILF as enemies, the BBL makes them and the envisioned Bangsamoro entity, partners for peace and development in Mindanao. Ninth, the alternative to scrapping the BBL would be a return to square one a generation ago and the continuing violence and unrest in Mindanao.
And lastly, His Excellency Archbishop Ledesma, S. J. said, “all out peace can open the doors for all out development of Mindanao’.
A healthy exchange resulted with Professor Gutang citing obstacles facing the Bangsamoro bill. He furthered that it must be signed before the current president’s term ends. While Dr. Edilberto de Jesus, former Secretary of the Department of Education and FEU President and now Independent Trustee, suggested a resolution similar to New Zealand and Canada and how they deal with their indigenous populations through affirmative action. “These people, even though generations apart from their founding fathers, have come to terms with the wrongs of their past and have given the indigenous peoples of these lands legal autonomy within the confines of their modern nation states”.
Jose Cabaltera, FEU consultant, saw the dialogue as an opportunity to take a gigantic step towards the direction of equality and peace. He said, “I take peace issue to heart. Not many nations deal well with their religious minorities. We see conflicts in Thailand’s southern provinces, China’s Uighurs, and the most recently Myanmar’s Rohingya”.
In the end, His Excellency Archbishop Ledesma, S. J. said, “With or without the BBL, peace and development should start with us. We should start from ourselves and with no conversion of hearts and minds, we’ll not achieve a sustainable and lasting peace”.