Breaking convention

Written by The Standard news.

It is likely that President Benigno Aquino III, who only has nine days remaining in his term, considers the failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress as the biggest frustration of his six-year term.

Getting the bill passed would have brought the promise of lasting peace in Mindanao and would have earned for Mr. Aquino the distinction of being the president finally able to end the decades-old conflict in the South.

Alas, deliberations on the BBL were hampered by the perception that the government only spoke with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and not the other stakeholders in Mindanao—other Moro groups, indigenous peoples, Christians and others.

And then came January 2015, when 44 police commandos pursuing terrorists died in the hands of MILF members in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. This dealt a final blow to the bill because it raised the issue of the MILF’s sincerity in talking peace with the government.

But now there is talk that the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front will hold a Moro Convention that they hope would end the protracted conflict in Mindanao. All fronts will be represented in the meetings, and attendees will be there in view of the Bangsamoro in general.

Specifically, the convention will produce a draft bill that would go well with the federal-parliamentary system envisioned by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.

The most encouraging phrase in all this must be “all fronts.” To be sure, taking into consideration the concerns of all stakeholders who would be affected by the proposed Bangsamoro entity will be complicated and difficult. But this is exactly how consensus is built.

Alongside talks of peace should be efforts to make economic gains felt by a wider group of Mindanao residents. Some of the poorest and underserved local government units are in Mindanao. Dissatisfaction with their leaders, poor education and lack of opportunities to improve their condition consign many to a life of discontent, resentment and insurgency.

Peace is never easy; lasting peace, even less so. Even if an agreement is finally arrived at and a law finally passed, the pursuit of peace entails constant, inclusive consultations. This may just be another item for discussion—speculation—for most of us. For those who live in Mindanao, these decisions would define the way they live. The incoming administration must learn to listen more than its predecessor ever did.

Source: The Standard News

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