Mindanao in the search for a new world peace PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 13:47

The Southerner

Rey-Luis Banagudos

Last March 15, a group of European Union (EU) ambassadors  made another extraordinary visit to Cotabato City to meet with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al Haj MuradEbrahim and other top ranking front leaders, officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), International  Monitoring Team, and civil society.

“Our visit to Cotabato City highlights the EU and its member states’ continuing support for the Mindanao peace process and development in the region”, EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said.

“Our hopes remain high that the positive gains achieved in the peace process” – as embodied in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and its legal iteration the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – “will be sustained despite some challenges”, Jessen further said. The biggest of those challenges will be to get the next President to preserve the BBL and the next Congress to emerge out of the coming May elections to approve it and thereby create a new autonomous government.

The EU diplomatic delegation included Ambassadors Marion Derckx (Netherlands), Thomas Ossowski (Germany); Deputy Ambassador Fabio Schina (Italy),  Xavier Leblanc (Belgium), Gabrielle Zobl-Kratschmann (Austria), Maria del Carmen-Bustelo (Spain); Charges d’ Affairs MihaiSion (Romania) and Nigel Boud (United Kingdom),  Laurent Legodec (France); Attaches Riccardo Dell’Aquila (Italy), Diego Sanchez (EU delegation) and EU program manager EduoardoManfredini.

Under the CAB modalities, the EU is also formally represented in the peace process through the Third Party Monitoring Team, which is headed by the EU ambassador and made up of other parties. In its annual report issued last month of February, the TPMT recommended that “it will be essential to build a path forward, a “Plan B”, so that the next Administration can hit the ground running, to sustain public confidence in the process during this (present) period of uncertainty, and to reaffirm the commitment of all stakeholders in the prize of peace”. The TPMT’s mandate is to monitor, review and assess the implementation of all signed GPH-MILF peace agreements and to make recommendations to the two panels although the latter are not obligated to implement these.

Ambassador Jessen during the visit announced that EU last December has provided P275-million in grant “to allow for a smooth transition and to create conditions for the establishment of the autonomous region of the Bangsamor and the election of its government”. The funds will be utilized by international and local non-government agencies for conflict mitigation, to support CAB roadmap projects, and strengthen local institutions and political processes.

What could be the motive of the EU countries –who are located at the other side of the globe -  for  being so excited, to the point of obsession, with the Mindanao peace process? They are desperately looking for political, security and social solutions to the conflicts and problems caused by established backyard Muslim communities in their individual countries as well as the destabilizing effects of the continuing flood of Muslim refugees from nearby Middle East and North Africa. The Philippines, being a Western-style democracy like many of Europe’s, can probably show them how to deal viablywith sectarian and internecine conflict by the way it dissembles the Mindanao peace process, including the direct and sustained mediation of the international community and organizations like the EU itself. Despite over two millennia of political experience and wisdom starting from the talks and writings of Socrates and Plato and down to the French Revolution, these EU countries today find themselves stumped by the difficulties of dealing with violent conditions in the Middle East and their spillover to Europe.If economies have been globalized, so too there is such need for peace-making, a process that relatively started recently with the EU and United Nations, too.But even for EU nations, the way forward together is a “Tower of Babel” at this time instead.

The CAB and BBL are particularly intriguing because they are comprehensive yet inclusive, historically and culturally affirming yet framed by democratic ideals and principles, tradition-rooted yet progressive in its political vision. This is one reason why last December’s EU P275-million grant is particularly focused on institutional and social mobilization.

EU’s challenge back home is to rebuild their societies to accommodate the modern juggernaut of economic and social migrations, many of whose populations include restless Muslims (and swarms of Filipino OFWs, too). Like the effort in Mindanao, the new society must be durably peaceful, for which it must as well be founded upon time-honored principles of justice, political and social order, communitarianism, freedom, and rule of law.