Let’s have that peace pact-A A +A
By Jun Ledesma
Friday, May 11, 2012
AS THIS piece makes it to the press, I will be landing in what the Greeks claim as cradle of civilization. That of course is very subjective as we too can make our claim as the rest of the nations do. What I will be missing in this trip to the Parthenon is the exciting news that the national government has and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have finally reached the crucial stage where various outstanding and contentious issues clash and settlements are arrived at to agree and where there are details that have to be ironed out must now be decided on. Here, the parties have to come to sobriety. There is no more discordant and incendiary statements, just settling down to decide what are there to give and take and marry the issues in a manner that no man shall put asunder.
It has been nearly four decades that we have been at war. I asked the Phlippine Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista how much longer can the patience endure while we track down that often thorny path to peace especially when there are elements in both the NPAs and the MILF who cannot live in peace? For as long as we talk, he said the hope to arrive at peace is always a sublime expectation. Maybe he is right. At least for now, the ember of hope for peace to prevail in our native land especially in the conflict areas of Mindanao has again rekindled.
Frankly, I am weary waiting for that great promise. I grew up in the hinterlands of undivided Cotabato where some of my intimate friends are Muslims. We play the same games, share the same laughter, we sing together, we share our food no matter how meager we walk barefoot in dusty and muddy roads to school. We never heard the staccato of gunshots and cries of the wounded and those who mourn their dead. Of course we were told of the viciousness of a Moro “huramentadto” but that pales to a Christian bandit who shoots anyone within sight with his garand rifle.
In our place where there were more Muslims then that there were Christians, the municipal jail had more Christian criminals than the Moros.
If I were to turn back the time farther when we first settle in a remote barrio in Midsayap (Mid means wearing and Sayap means hat) our Moro neighbors were kind. Because there were too much land to till, they will go to the extent of giving away some. A box of canned oatmeal is traded in turn and the friendship is sealed. My father would elect a Muslim leader for our governor and senator. My father was named the best farmer in Cotabato. When the late Salipada Pendatun campaigned in Midsayap and delivered his campaign speech, he saw my father from the crowd. He came down the stage and embraced him.
As I grew older I met the venerable Datu Kutin Ulangkaya of Kabacan. He was the grandpa of a friend. We slept in his house. Before we retired for the night, he invited me to their bedroom where he opened a huge jar full of precious gold coins and ceremonial dagger that is felled with gold in the grip. When somebody whispered to him that I am a stranger, he shot back and said, “I trusted him, he is the son of a model farmer”.
Those bucolic images of the pasts are embedded in my mind. From where I am today, it seems like I am in a time warp. Cotabato of my youth is rend into many political subdivisions and there’s a deep chasm among Christians and Muslims. The separatists emerged from the morass of poverty and government neglect. External forces from our southern shores intervened and fanned further the fire of rebellion. Today there are more arms in the hands of the rebels than there are ploughshares. It is maybe due to the fact that with the growing population the vast wastelands that are given to the pioneers have become too small. Education which could have helped in healing the hurting youths was and still is beyond the affordability of both Christians and Muslims. Thus they turn to the land to make the loose ends meet only to find that the land is not enough anymore. Thus we hear of clans war or war among brothers made worse by the atmosphere of instability brought about by the conflict between the MILF and the government.
The prospects that the discussions between the panels on issues pertaining to the geographic scope of the autonomous political entity, power sharing and wealth sharing between the entity and the National Government, mechanisms for implementation of the agreement and the contours of a transition and normalization process is therefore a balm in all these aches. And yes, what is the most crucial here are details on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. What is that piece of paper where the peace agreement is inscribed if these vital concerns are not properly addressed. My friends in the now divided Cotabato, both Muslims and Christians, are tired of talks and the endless discord.
Fighting has brought my homeland to spoils and destructions. Let us have the final draft done and then proceed to sign that peace pact.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 11, 2012.