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PEACETALK | How our historicity could bring lasting peace to Mindanao




1st of three parts
GISENYI, Rwanda (MindaNews) — The extension of the term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) for another, but final, three years is unquestionably necessary for the completion of the infrastructure of lasting peace in Mindanao, which is now steadily rising from more than five decades of bloodletting, but the whole nation is seemingly so unconcerned.

On May 17, 2021, the Philippine Congress will again resume its session but it will adjourn sine die on the first week of June of this same year. Considering the many major concerns of Congress as our country reels through the COVID-19 pandemic, the twin bills, both calling for the extension of the term of the BTA for another, but final, three years, now pending in Congress, may be buried into oblivion, and with the peace process eventually plunged into the abyss of death due to time constraints.

In my previous article, I articulated how the non-extension of the term of the BTA, in the absence of an electoral code, would put the BARMM into a political interregnum, which may convert the whole region into a powder keg and, eventually, into the state of social conflagration. I also articulated in that article that there are still two remaining options that can be taken to save the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.

Let me reiterate these two remaining saving options: One, for President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to certify as urgent the passage of the bills, now pending in congress, all calling for the extension of the life of the BTA; and Two, for both houses of Congress to immediately act and act fast not as politicians but as visionaries. By visionary, it means working for the best interests of the present and future generations, and not for the next election.

It is conceded that, at the first blush, it does not seem quite a good electoral strategy for politicians to embroil themselves on issues involving the Bangsamoro during the electoral season or during the period not so distant to the next electoral exercise, considering the unwashed prejudices, and, at times, bigotries between and among the culturally divergent inhabitants of Mindanao. This is the reason why, in our previous article, we appealed to our politicians concerned to enliven a true visionary in them so that they may be able to see the light and for them act of in accordance with what is best for the people of Mindanao and the generations yet to come.

At this juncture, we would like to clarify, however, that it does at all mean that, when the politicians closely embroil themselves on issues involving the Bangsamoro, it is as if they embrace a sure formula for electoral perdition or as if they sign their political death warrants. Far from it!

Engagement in this kind for prophetic works is, in fact, an opportunity for our politicians to venture into the domain of excellence, which is actually an effective way of dotting themselves prominently on the political landscape, which time cannot anymore erase and which nothing can remove it from social memory. It also serves as an opportunity for the people to separate the grain from the chaffand to correctly decide whom they should sign a social contract with every time an electoral exercise is held. Thus, in a deeper analysis, for the politicians to put his social and political craftsmanship at full display by grappling bravely with other forces within the arena of peace-building in Mindanao is actually a formula for electoral victory, not merely as an ephemeral incident of life, but as a long-lasting one.

The extension of the term of the BTA is widely considered as a great imperative to ensure the success of the ongoing peace process in Mindanao, especially under this time when the building of the strong edifice of peace in this troubled Island is already about to be completed. But the doldrums that welcomes the ongoing campaign for the extension of the term of the BTA in both the executive and legislative departments of the government meets the eye, if not downright frustrating.

The petition for the extension of the term of the BTA for another, but final, three years, containing a million signatures was already sent to Malacanang, with the widest real-time social media publicity afforded to it, merited neither a squeak nor a whimper within different decision-making mechanisms in government. Despite its overarching importance in the life of the nation, the mainstream media treated the submission of the cart-full petition as drab as it treated the filing of the case by the Philippines government against the illegal appropriation of our Islands and seas by China in the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

MindaNews has been giving a blow-by-blow coverage of the developments pertaining to the peace process since its inception two decades ago. It still continues to do so until today. It is, therefore, our fervent hope that, by its comprehensive coverage of the events relative to the peace process in Mindanao, MindaNews would be able to galvanize the public fervor on the peace process and to mobilize our decision-makers into collective action for the purpose of ushering the peace process into its final phase.

TOMORROW: Lessons from Rwanda

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