Peace panels urged to institutionalize dialogue among Moros and lumads

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CAGAYAN DE ORO City, April 25, 2011—A peace advocacy organization in Mindanao is urging the peace panels of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to institutionalize dialogue among Moro and indigenous peoples at the grassroots level.

Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), said that they have presented a position paper to both peace panels of the government and the MILF which detailed the demands of the indigenous peoples.

The position paper, which was agreed upon by the Teduray, Talaandig-Higaonon, Arumanen, Matigsalog, Subanen, T’boli, and the Dulangan Manobo tribes, includes the lumads’ demand to institutionalize dialogue among Moro and indigenous peoples leaders at the grassroots concerning the GPH-MILF peace talks; recognition of their traditional governance; and recognition of their native title rights and other rights covered under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

Arnado said that MPC Council Leader Bae Magdalena Suhat, a tribal leader of the Matigsalog-Manobo people, submitted the position paper to the MILF panel during its recent consultation in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat.

“The indigenous peoples of Mindanao see the consultation as a positive effort on the part of the MILF to reach out and discuss with us our concerns relating to the agenda of the talks. We also see this consultation as a reaffirmation of the traditional agreement between the Moro and the IPs which forms the basis for our mutual cooperation and defense, and alliance and brotherhood as native inhabitants of Mindanao,” Suhat said.

The consultation at Camp Darapanan was part of a series of consultations with the MILF panel which the MPC organized to ensure that the GPH-MILF peace process truly reflects the aspirations and welfare of the tri-peoples of Mindanao.

Prior to the consultation in Darapanan, the MPC had also organized consultation meetings of the MILF panel with the business sector, academe, church and religious sector, and non-Moro NGOs.

Arnado said that MPC is also organizing consultations of the government peace panels with various sectors all over the country.

This series of consultations will be conducted to preempt some “hawks” in government and in other groups from preventing the achievement of a political settlement to the conflict in Mindanao, which the government and the MILF agreed must be achieved within one year.

It will also ensure that the people, especially the grassroots understand the peace process, its agenda and also the demands of both sides.

“The consultation are key to making the people understand,” Arnado said, adding that this was the missing element previous talks which resulted to the 2008 war after the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The MPC, formed in 2001, is a grassroots network of Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro and Christian communities and leaders who have common vision for peace in Mindanao.

MPC is working to help resolve the age-old armed conflict in Mindanao through a negotiated political settlement that contains the essentials acceptable to both negotiating parties and that address the historical oppression and forced marginalization of the native inhabitants and indigenous peoples of this island. (Bong D. Fabe)

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