MANILA, June 30, 2013—Providing the basic needs demanded by rebel groups is the first step in solving the decades-old Muslim insurgency in the country, a Catholic priest said on Saturday amid the slow-paced peace negotiations happening between the government and Muslim secessionist groups.
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA), called on government leaders to adapt a more integrated approach in settling differences between the two groups.
“We have to root out the cause on why peace remains out of reach for these sectors. One reason is that the basic needs of our secessionist brothers and sisters—those that will lead them out of poverty and toward progress—are not being provided by the government,” Gariguez said in the vernacular.
He added that because of the high incidence of poverty in far-flung areas, individuals tend to resort to insurgency for the government to heed their demand of getting a fair share of basic needs.
“Uprisings and other occurrences characterized by the absences of peace exist because basic deficiencies are not met,” Gariguez said, further noting scholarly works that cite high preponderance of insurgency and gun-violence in poverty-ridden areas.
The priest urged both parties to settle their differences by peacefully communicating their stand on both sides, noting that problems pertaining to peace and order are best settled not through violence, but through peaceful discourse that would attend to the needs of both parties.
“The problem could not be solved by guns. This should be settled by talking about the issues at stake just like what is being done in the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, continuously monitoring its progress, and pushing for the improvement of all sectors concerned,” Gariguez said.
“Cooperation among everyone is vital for our goals to be achieved,” he added.
In response to the differing views and opinions of the government and separatist groups, he said that differences that remain irreconcilable are all part of the process. He added that concerned parties must first have to focus and work on their commonalities to give way for the settlement of their differences.
“Disagreements are also part of peace. We could not agree all the time. But what is important is for us to focus on where we agree and work our way from there,” he said.
True peace does not simply equate to the absence of revolutions or uprisings. Rather, it is something rooted on the virtues of justice, fairness, and equality, he noted.
“It is important for us to contribute in this movement to attain peace and order. As Catholics, we are expected to live at peace and this process is a great chance to let love reign in our society,” he said.
Resumption of peace negotiation
Following a four-month break, peace negotiations between the government and secessionist groups will resume early next month.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed on October 15, 2012, together with the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing, normalization, and transitional changes and modalities comprise the comprehensive peace agreement that seeks to end the decades-long insurgency between the government and Muslim separatist groups.
At present, only the annex on transitional changes and modalities is done. The remaining three annexes will be discussed when the peace talks resume next month. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)