By Francis Wakefield
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza believes the people of Mindanao themselves hold the key to bringing long-lasting peace and sustainable development in the island-region.
During a gathering of alumni of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Cagayan de Oro City on Saturday, Dureza said residents of Mindanao “are the best talents that we need to transform society,”
Noting that many of those in attendance are now based in different parts of the country and abroad, Dureza said: “Some of you are looking at Mindanao from a distance. You have the talent, capability and strong desire to [carry out] transformation here in Mindanao,” he said.
According to Dureza, Mindanao has an “excellent pool of human resources” that can be marshaled to address the many challenges the island-region is facing, particularly in the peace and development front.
“You are in the best position to help. The work for peace is something you can do in many ways,” he said.
Dureza said the contribution of Mindanaoans will be crucial especially in combating the rise of violent extremism (VE), which reared its ugly head during the Marawi crisis last year.
“We are already here in our shores. I know that your hearts are now bleeding with what has happened to the city,” he said.
Dureza said this is the reason the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is carrying out initiatives designed to repair the “social fabric” that was torn apart during the five-month siege.
These efforts include social healing activities that have allowed victims of the conflict to openly express their sorrow, anger and other grievances.
“When there is conflict, people have pain in their hearts. We need to bring back social cohesion in the community,” he said.
Dureza, however, said genuine transformation cannot happen unless the issues of corruption and rido (clan war) are also decisively addressed by all stakeholders.
Based on a needs assessment undertaken by OPAPP, residents identified the culture of rido and alleged corrupt practices as major stumbling blocks to the area’s rehabilitation.
“For instance, when a local official only attends to members of his clan, you are depriving others of opportunities,” he said. “And when you take the law into your own hands…That is not a standard value.”
Dureza said these issues are now being utilized by violent extremists to justify their actions and obtain support from people for their twisted cause.
“These are among the many triggers of violent extremism. And mainly because the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people have not been adequately addressed,” he said.
Bangsamoro Organic Law
Dureza is confident these key concerns will be addressed once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has been renamed as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
He said when the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, “he will announce a new Bangsamoro unit. It will be called the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).”
Dureza said the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “was very pleased” with the BOL, describing it as an “enhanced version of the ARMM.”
He explained that when the proposed law is signed by President Duterte, there will be a plebiscite in October this year, to be followed by a transition period.
“If the majority of the Bangsamoro people agree (through the plebiscite), that is the time the law will take effect,” he said.
Thereafter, the President will constitute a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) that will be composed of 80 members – 40 coming from the MILF and the rest from the other sectors of society.
Dureza said the BTA will adopt a parliamentary form of government and will be headed by a chief minister.
He gave assurance that the term of office of current ARMM officials will not be cut short with the establishment of the BTA and will still be able to serve out their terms until June 2019.
“The BARMM will transcend the concerns of the Bangsamoro,” Dureza said.
In closing, the peace adviser called on the MSU alumni to find inner peace within themselves and become agents of peace and development.
“If you want peace, you have to be a peaceful person first. You cannot give what you do not have,” he said.