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Catholic Church Leaders in Mindanao Discuss the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ

Pastoral Companion

  

“THE Role of the Catholic Church during the Period of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” was the theme of a Consultation on Jan. 9-11, 2013, in Davao City. The Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines called for this consultation with support from Catholic Relief Services. The consultations brought together eleven bishops and about thirty other representatives of Catholic universities, theology seminaries, radio stations, and peace centers from different parts of Mindanao.

The main objective of the consultation was to clarify the provisions of the Framework Agreement which was signed by the GPH and MILF panels in Malacañang on Oct. 15, 2012. The participants appreciated the presence of the two panel chairpersons themselves: Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (who took over from Dean Marvic Leonen) for the government panel, and Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, assisted by Mr. Abhoud Syed Linga, for the MILF panel.

In separate sessions, the speakers explained the key provisions of the Framework Agreement.  The polyvalent meaning of the term, “Bangsamoro,” was pointed out – e.g., as a new political entity, a people, or a territory. The Framework Agreement presents a road map – i.e., the formation of a Transition Commission, the drafting of a Basic Law that has to be passed by Congress and ratified by a plebiscite, the creation of a Transition Authority, and finally elections for officials of the Bangsamoro by the year 2016.  The Bangsamoro entity would have a ministerial form of government and have an asymmetric relationship with the central government. The territory of the Bangsamoro was also presented to the participants by means of comparative maps indicating its reduced coverage when compared with the thirteen provinces claimed by the MNLF in 1996 and the area proposed for referendum in the MOA-AD of 2008.

The speakers dwelt on four annexes that still need to be completed as works-in-progress.  These are the annexes on Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements.  Several continuing challenges were also frankly admitted such as the status of the earlier peace agreement with the MNLF, the situation of the indigenous people communities, and the proliferation of arms in the area.

The third resource person, Fr. Albert Alejo, S.J., described the findings of several consultations among various communities in Mindanao and other parts of the country.  In particular, he dwelt on the results of Konsult Mindanaw which focused on the need for Sincerity, Security, and Sensitivity to address people’s distrust, fears, and layers of hurts.  More positively, the consultation also brought out the dimensions of Solidarity, Spirituality, and Sustainability to highlight the spirit of volunteerism, the role of religious leaders, and the need for institutionalizing social changes.

The final speaker, Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, P.I.M.E., shared his own experiences in setting up the dialogue center, Silsilah, which has helped form over the past quarter century hundreds of Christian and Muslim practitioners of the dialogue of life and peacebuilding.  From the Prelature of Isabela, a Silsilah-formed couple, Mr. and Mrs. Joel and January Zanoria, shared their experience in helping transform a situation of conflict between a Christian and several Muslim barangays into one of dialogue and a common search for peace and development.

During the planning period by sub-regions and then by sectors, the participants arrived at several recommendations. Among these were:

  • the preparation of a primer on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro to dispel misconceptions
  • the formation of a speakers’ bureau to extensively explain the FAB to students, church communities, and the general public
  • encouraging intra-faith dialogue to overcome prejudices
  • sponsoring radio programs and peace forums to disseminate the FAB
  • integrating peace education in the curriculum of schools
  • sponsoring a retreat on reconciliation and forgiveness as the Christian approach to peacebuilding
  • creating a Mindanao Peace Committee involving bishops, universities, seminaries, media, and peace centers to continue the conversation and forge partnerships on peacebuilding

Bishop Angelito Lampon, OMI, and Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, ECID chair and vice-chair respectively, were expected to continue this evolving network of Catholic peacebuilders in Mindanao.

Despite the many challenges ahead, the participants in general ended the consultation with “vigilant optimism” and a more realistic assessment of the Framework Agreement.  They also expressed hope for a shared peace in Mindanao that would depend not so much on the peace panels alone but more so on the continuing participation of all sectors, including communities and organizations of the Catholic Church.

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