CAGAYAN DE ORO City, July 9, 2011â€”â€œWhere are we in all these peace processes?”
This is the one question that the local government unit of Misamis Oriental, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (ACDO) and civil society organizations working for peace in Mindanao led by the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) are trying to answer in the upcoming â€œBishops, Governors and Civil Society Conference on Conflict Transformation to Good Governance.â€
The conference, which will be attended by all peace workers and peace advocates from the regions of Caraga and Northern Mindanao, as well as LGU officials and national legislators from the two regions, is also one way of letting all stakeholders become aware of the peace movement now snowballing in these regions and all over Mindanao, especially in regard to the peace negotiations in different fronts.
BMFI Executive Director Paul Richard Paraguya said that LGU-Misamis Oriental, led by Gov. Oscar Moreno; the ACDO led by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D.; and CSOs led by BMFI have realized that â€œpeace in Mindanao should not be left to the peace negotiators alone.â€
â€œPeace processes should be the business of all stakeholders, especially the communities: They have to be part of itâ€¦They have to be on the same page in every aspect and stages of the talks,â€ he told this reporter.
Paraguya explained that stakeholdersâ€”the common tao in the communitiesâ€”should be part of the talks because when armed conflict erupts, they are the ones who suffer the most.
â€œFormal peace talks are usually done by national governments and the non-state actors like the NDF and the MILF, RPMM, and MNLF. Whatever happens to the formal peace talks, it is always the communities who are at the waiting end. And not only the waiting endâ€”the losing end especially when the talks fail and or come to a halt! Armed conflict is usually in the communities and not in the offices of the national governments and homes of peace negotiators,â€ he said.
However, he stressed that â€œmechanisms have to be established wherein they [the communities] are genuinely represented in the [peace] process.â€
The â€œBishops, Governors and Civil Society Conference on Conflict Transformation to Good Governance,â€ scheduled for July 15 at the Rey Magno Teves Equity, Development and Peace (RMT-EDP) Hall of the International Center for Peace (IC Peace) in Mindanao Building of the BMFI, is the result of years of crusading for peace and trying to find ways to help the government find a lasting solution to the decades-old Moro Question. It is also a venue to help the government craft a roadmap to peace in Mindanao.
â€œThe desire to bring lasting peace to our people in the region has intensified,â€ Paraguya said.
Archbishop Ledesma, who is leading this peace crusade in this part of the country, said that it is not only government officials and peace CSOs who are interested in the peace process but more so the Church because of its unique mission of â€œbringing and spreading Pax Christi (the peace of Christ) to the whole world.â€
â€œLocal government units in the Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions, churches and civil society organizations in the Cagayan, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag, and Malaybalay (CABUSTAM) areas are closely monitoring development issues including the current peace pronouncements of President Noy including the recent peace processes in the country. The incident on the MOA-AD between the MILF and the GRP has given everyone a lesson. Never again should we gamble for peace! Peace should not be left only to the hands of the negotiators. We should now contribute solutions and be part of the process,â€ he said.
Ledesma is the leading light in the CABUSTAM (Cagayan, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag and Malaybalay Dioceses).
â€œWhile we, local officials, are bound by territorial and political boundaries and jurisdiction, our peoples know no boundaries,â€ said Moreno, adding that â€œpeace or attaining peace is the business of all.â€
Moreno recently led the convening of the Joint Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) Meeting of Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Norte in Gingoog City.
DILG-10 Director Loreto Bhagwani said that the conference is a â€œconsultation hoped to strengthen a Tripartite Partnership of LGU, Church, and CSOs that creatively continue to find more humane ways of effective and relevant peace building in the area.â€
Bhagwani, who is set to retire from government service next month, said participants to the conference were selected based on their commitment to move â€œcommunity-based peace initiatives in the region.â€
Paraguya said that stakeholdersâ€”the communitiesâ€”should not wait for the peace talks to succeed or fail before doing anything.
â€œLocal peace dialogues have to happen. In these dialogues issues and questions have to be answered by all the stakeholders. What is the issue at hand? How to solve the issue where all will give their stake?â€ he said.
He also thanked Ledesma for starting the peace crusade in this part of the country, for which efforts he was able to bring â€œthe church close to the stakeholders like legislators and now the governors. The local governments at the same time are now very interested to connect with any stakeholders in order to find solution to the long existing armed conflicts in their local government units.â€
â€œIt is in this context that Archbishop Ledesma, Governor Moreno, Director Bhagwani, and Balay Mindanaw have joined hands to organize the conference. The primary objective of the conference is to start the genuine process of gathering together and dialogue for conflict transformation to good governance. The dialogue will try to find creative means to solve humanely the present poverty and inequity in our communities,â€ he said.
â€œWe cannot afford to leave peace to the negotiators. It is time that we become part of the solution. We should now be proactive and have a common analysis and give solutions workable within our means,â€ he added. (Bong D. Fabe)