Lumads to pray for peace, lesser suffering

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Thursday, March 26, 2015


ILIGAN CITY -- Fearful that the renewed violence will spread into their communities, leaders of the indigenous peoples in southern and central Mindanao will hold on Saturday, March 28, simultaneous rituals that will invoke divine guidance to have the peace process between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continue.

Today, it has been one year since the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed between the government and the MILF, formally transforming their relationship from that of adversary to peace partners.

The CAB, a product of 17 years of political negotiations, is currently being implemented with the legislation of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as a principal instrument for carrying out the consensus contained in it.

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“From the sacred grounds of Upi (Maguindanao), to the golden Arakan valley (stretching parts of Bukidnon and North Cotabato), up to the majestic slopes of our Mt. Apo, the indigenous peoples are united in making their call for peace,” read an advisory jointly put out by Timuay Sannie Bello and Datu Roldan Babelon, Teduray and Erumanen Menuvu leaders, respectively.

According to Bello and Babelon, the synchronized rituals will be a way for the indigenous peoples to “say their piece of peace” amid the renewed crisis in the region brought about by the tragic January 25 clash in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, and the ensuing hostilities directed at the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) that displaced more than 120,000 people. Among those displaced from the fighting are indigenous peoples in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

The synchronized pengapar (Menuvu for prayer ritual) will happen at 12 noon, to be led by spiritual leaders of every tribe, either called baylan or waliyan. It is timed to mirror the state of things in the region, “very hot,” according to Bello and Babelon.

Around 500 indigenous peoples villages in Cotabato City, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato are expected to hold the synchronized ritual.

Lessen suffering of communities

“With what is currently happening with the Bangsamoro, the indigenous peoples of south-central Mindanao are once again threatened with the conflict expanding into their villages if no action is done,” said a statement issued by the groups Timuay Justice and Governance, and Gempa Te Kelindaan Ne Kamal ahead of the rituals.

“The indigenous peoples believe that in time of crisis, the Divine Creator must be called upon; for He is the creator of all beings -- living or non-living. Inflicting pain on fellow creatures and all of creation is not the answer to the ongoing crisis of our beloved Mindanao,” the statement added.

The prayer ritual is a way of “asking for His mercy to lessen the suffering in the villages,” the statement added.

Bello and Babelon said that the intention of the prayers is to “ask the Divine Creator to unite all Filipino citizens for the sake of peace in south-central Mindanao and the entire country; allow the peace talks to continue between the government and the MILF; and the passage of an inclusive and just Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

One year since CAB

Today, March 27, key actors of the peace process will gather for the launching of a compilation of peace essays, speeches, and statements bound into two books and a magazine that will be launched in time for the commemoration of the first anniversary of the signing of the CAB.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) will host the book-launching event to be held at Intramuros, Manila.

Entitled “Getting to Peace: Opening Statements from the GPH-MILF Peace Talks (2011-2014),” the book is a compilation of statements that were delivered by the chief negotiators -- Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal -- during the formal peace negotiations under the Aquino administration.

Another book, “In Defense of the Bangsamoro Basic Law: Selected Essays,” is composed mainly of speeches and essays articulated in several peace forums and discussions on the Mindanao peace process. The authors are Ferrer, peace panel member Senen Bacani, the government panel’s technical working group head Jose Luis Martin Gascon, the head of peace panel’s legal team Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman, University of the Philippines College of Muslim Affairs Dean Julkipli Wadi, retired Justice Adolf Azcuna, and the framers of the 1987 Constitution.

Along with the books, the “Kababaihan at Kapayapaan” magazine will also release its third edition with stories of women advocating peace in the country.

Coronel-Ferrer noted that proponents of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF have been firm in their commitment to making President Benigno Aquino III declaration at the signing of the CAB a year ago to “not let the peace that we have all worked for be snatched from our people again.”

“We want to emphasize that while the congressional deliberations have been delayed by the Mamasapano incident, the peace process continues. We are confident that members of our Congress, with the commitment of its leaders, would ensure passage of the BBL in line with their own commitment to the success of the peace process,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 27, 2015.

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