SONA 2008: Mindanao peace process mentioned in passing

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Tuesday, 29 July 2008 08:06
var sburl1009 = window.location.href; var sbtitle1009 = document.title;var sbtitle1009=encodeURIComponent(“SONA 2008: Mindanao peace process mentioned in passing”); var sburl1009=decodeURI(“”); sburl1009=sburl1009.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl1009=encodeURIComponent(sburl1009);DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – She finally mentioned the supposed breakthrough in the Mindanao peace process on the 38th minute of her 57-minute State of the Nation Address (SONA).

In seconds, however, President Arroyo shifted to another topic, as if the initialing Sunday night of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, was not significant.

The President also said nothing about the postponement of the August 11 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which she endorsed to Congress on July 22.

“Wala akong narinig” (I heard nothing), Guiamel Alim, head of the council of elders of the Cotabato City-based Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, told MindaNews. Guiamel was referring to the very quick mention of the Mindanao peace process in the President’s SONA.

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) said,

“either she has nothing or doesn’t know what to say or that is how she views Mindanao – on the margins – as is our sad wont from leaders from imperial Manila. Why is this not surprising?”

Amirah Lidasan, president of Suara Bangsamoro party list, told MindaNews the President may be “weighing reactions re postponement of ARMM elections.”

“Either way, it is favorable to her most favored political ally because the term of (ARMM Governor Zaldy) Ampatuan will be extended (if the election is postponed),” she said.

Lidasan also said the President mentioned talked about the economic agenda in her SONA but from Zamboanga to North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao are all plantations.”

She said the President mentioned “nothing about the plight of the Moro masses, especially the halaw (those deported from Sabah).”

In her speech, the President said, she named in her 2006 SONA, North Luzon and Mindanao as the country’s food baskets but “the sad irony of Mindanao as food basket is that it has some of the highest hunger in our nation. It has large fields of high productivity, yet also six of our ten poorest provinces.”

”The prime reason is the endless Mindanao conflict. A comprehensive peace has eluded us for half a century. But last night, differences on the tough issue of ancestral domain were resolved. Yes, there are political dynamics among the people of Mindanao. Let us sort them out with the utmost sobriety, patience and restraint. I ask Congress to act on the legislative and political reforms that will lead to a just and lasting peace during our term of office,” she said.

The President did not specify the “legislative” and “political” reforms she wanted, although she specified she wanted this done during “our term of office.”

“The demands of decency and compassion urge dialogue. Better talk than fight, if nothing of sovereign value is anyway lost. Dialogue has achieved more than confrontation in many parts of the world. This was the message of the recent World Conference in Madrid organized by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the universal message of the Pope in Sydney,” she said.

Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy noted the “very short reference to peace process” in the President’s speech. “General marching order to Congress. Vague as to election postponement. Good thing she emphasized she wants changes in legal framework to implement peace pact during her term.”

Fr. Jonathan Domingo, publisher of the Mindanao Cross, said “I guess she just said on the peace process, appropriate legislative acts.”

The President is “focused on short-term, palliative solutions. The SONA lacks vision of hope that can inspire people.”

“Kailan ba naging totoo si Madame?” (Since when has she been genuinely concerned) asked Fatmawati Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum.

Fr. Bert Layson, former parish priest of Pikit, North Cotabato, a town visited by war four times from 1997 to 2003, said the President issued a “very general statement.”

”She could have elaborated it further for the public to understand and support it,” Layson said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)


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