Friday, August 23, 2019

Lidasan: Pushing the Pen towards Peace


IT’S nice to be back in Buluan, Maguindanao. A few months ago, we were here with several legislators for the Public Hearing and Consultation ng BBL. And now, we are here again to educate and inform the public about the Bangsamoro Organic Law or RA 11054.

When PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) signed EO 08, of the Expanded Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), his administration made sure it will have proper representation coming from the Women, IP, youth, academe, and traditional and religious sectors.

With that, I would like to share with you the Role and Responsibilities of the Academe in peacebuilding and campaigning for an inclusive, multi-faceted Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The Bangsamoro Struggle in the past symbolizes “a sword or a rifle”. The academe symbolizes the Pen. We use the pen in many ways. As part of an academic institution, the idea of having an inclusive Bangsamoro was a challenge because we live in a diverse community.

But when you look at the communities in Mindanao, we see that we have a thriving ummah of Muslims, IPs, and Christians that look to us, the academe, for safe spaces for dialogue. We learned that this space provides understanding and learning from one another.

In a larger scale, this is what we hope to achieve, on a much larger space, with the implementation of the BOL. The contributions of the academe in the Bangsamoro peace process covers Four Points: Formation, Instruction, Research, and Engagement.

Allow me to explain a few of these points:

On engagement, the Ateneo, where I come from, has always been a firm supporter for the BOL and for the peace process. Our university has held a peace forum since 2012, and recently a peace summit for the then-BBL last May 15, 2018. This is where we gathered stakeholders that had different, opposing views from us regarding the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was drafted by the BTC. We listened to these views and helped arrived at a consensus.

Listening to others’ opinions did not diminish our stance on the bill -- rather, it made it stronger.

For instruction, we also reiterate our commitment to peace through Iqra, our multi-disciplinary journal that highlights Islamic viewpoints on the humanities, social sciences, STEM, law, and many more.

A true highlight of our formation is in how we work with young leaders. One of the strongest sectors, with the most energy and passion to pursue peace, is the youth. Through our programs, we have been able to convene the Bangsamoro Youth Caucus, which consists of young Moro leaders in communities such as Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga, Marawi, and Manila.

For research, we also have our Bitiala series of dialogues, patterned after our University’s Pakighinabi series. Sometimes, when we discuss peace, we in the academe can delve too much into the intellectual side of things. We forget that so many other sectors are committed to peace, just as we are. Our Bitiala series allows us to express our opinions and views in a safe space, where we can gather all sectors to think and speak freely.

In peace-building, we cannot just focus on one side – we have to see different viewpoints in order to achieve an inclusive agreement. Peacebuilding is a multi-sectoral effort.

The role of the academe is not to sit idly by while those in the grassroots do the dirty work. It is not to sit in air-conditioned offices while those who are poor and destitute can do nothing about their situation. We in the academe are there, not to highlight problems, but to find solutions, and to create structures where every Bangsamoro can feel safe.

We still have the plebiscite to hurdle. And after that, we have the unenviable task of transitioning from the Armm to the Bangsamoro as it is. There is a long journey ahead, but our team and our communities are very eager and willing, to push our pen even more than we have before.


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