Enough for today-A A +A
Monday, October 15, 2012
SOMETHING very historic is happening today. The framework agreement for peace in Muslim Mindanao is going to be signed in Malacanang, to be witnessed by about 200 MILF rebels, government officials, civil society representatives and leaders from the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC).
When news of the breakthrough in the peace talks came out the other week many of us were caught by surprise. It was unexpected not so much because the talks were done secretly, which they were not, but because after decades of fruitless discussion ending in more bloodshed, where reportedly 150,000 Filipinos ended up dead, it was hard to believe we were already approaching the cusp of Success.
Although the framework agreement was the product of generations of negotiations and sometimes, heartaches, Sunday’s Philippine Inquirer gave final credit to today’s signing to two gentlemen, one on the government side and the other belonging to the MILF. The first was commended for his extraordinary ability to listen and to understand where the contending parties were coming from, and the other for his motto, “Be tough on issues but soft on people”. The first was, of course, Atty. Marvic Leonen, the government’s chief negotiator while the other was Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s information chief.
The negotiations had to tackle and resolve issues from two main contending points, from the military and from the political points of view. The peace panel had first to convince the armed components from both sides that the other was to be trusted not to pull the trigger. After years of bloody confrontations, that must have been a tall order indeed! We are told that Atty. Leonen’s inexhaustible capacity to understand, believe and trust in the sincerity of the fighting men on the government and the Muslim side became the linchpin that convinced them to lower the guns and give peace a chance.
Leonen’s deep grasp of the problems of the country’s minority, his strong legal background and solid reputation for integrity reportedly blended effectively with Mohagher Iqbal’s own quiet optimism that peace can be achieved in Muslim Mindanao so long as both sides also accepted the political reality that co-existence does not mean separatism but rather inter-dependence. When the terms of the framework agreement were finally worked out, the credit shifted to Mr. Murad Ebrahim, the MILF’s supreme leader and to President Benigno Aquino III who agreed to its signing. One page of history then unfolded, to become official with the signing of the covenant.
To be sure, the framework agreement does not yet guarantee that peace will descend upon the Philippines and its Muslim Mindanao provinces. The guns may have been silenced today but uneasy fingers still wrap around the triggers. The fighting men of the MILF have not yet been ordered to surrender their firearms, and the soldiers of the government are still very much present in the area. The issue of how to disarm the civilians whose guns are as close to them as their wives has not been resolved. There is still the drum-roll of an agitated Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Chairman Nur Misuari to attend to.
No, real lasting peace is not there yet. But it rounded the corner when both sides agreed to trust each other. That, for the rest of us, is good enough.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on October 15, 2012.