MANILA, August 24, 2011— A Mindanao-based Catholic prelate has called for a “widened” peace constituency in solving the decades-old conflict in Southern Philippines.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said the public should be involved in the process following the resumption of the negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“We should widen the peace constituency. We should listen and consult the local, grassroots communities,” he said.
Ledesma currently chairs the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The prelate made the statement after the MILF peace panel’s rejection of the proposed agreement from the agreement peace panel.
Last Tuesday, the second day of exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, the MILF discarded the 20-page government proposal because it made no mention of the word “sub-state”.
Citing the negative connotation of the term “sub-state”, the government peace panel used the word “autonomy” instead.
The MILF had been seeking the establishment of a Bangsamoro “sub-state” indicated in their proposed peace agreement submitted to the government.
Despite the rejection, Ledesma urged the government to pursue the peace talks saying that aside from the MILF, there are many other groups that are more than willing to discuss peace in Mindanao.
“I think, on the ground, there are many Christians and Muslim communities that are also really aspiring for a lasting peace process,” said Ledesma.
“In other words, we should not be dependent on the two negotiating peace panels,” he said. [CBCPNews]