Peace in Mindanao
Concerned with the peace process in Mindanao, Senator Richard J. Gordon, the author of the automated elections, visited the headquarters of the MILF in Camp Darapanan, Cotabato last Saturday to talk with MILF leaders regarding the upcoming automated elections in the ARMM.
"I thought I should go there and tell our Muslim brothers face to face that I am sincere and although I could not support the cancellation or postponement of the elections, I wanted them to hear that I support the peace process", Gordon said.
Upon their arrival at Camp Darapanan, Senator Gordon, accompanied by BUHAY party-list representative Carissa Coscolluela, were greeted warmly by two columns of MILF militiamen on both sides of the road.
Gordon said that the meeting was warm, cordial and candid. Gordon told MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Ghazali Jaafar and other members of the MILF central committee that he could not support the postponement of the upcoming ARMM elections. He told them that the automated elections will revolutionize the 2010 elections which are fast approaching. He reminded them that previous elections in the ARMM pushed through while there were on-going peace negotiations and that in fact the peace negotiations resulted to the signing of two peace agreements.
The first meeting was with the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP), the mass arm of the MILF who asked Gordon to inform the Senate of their desire to postpone the elections. They said that the present officials and candidates will not really represent the people and that it will take them three more years to have peace in Mindanao and will delay their timetable for peace if the elections push through.
In a later meeting, Gordon met with Ghazali and members of the MILF Central Committee who told Gordon that their people might not be able to accept it if the elections pushed through and that there could be trouble in Mindanao if elections pushed through.
In both meetings, Gordon said that the real enemy is ignorance and the lack of understanding of the details of the peace agreement which needed to be properly explained so that people will not draw their own conclusions out of fear. Gordon also told Ghazali that he believed in the integrity and effectiveness of the leadership of the MILF to assuage the lesser instincts and violent tendencies of some within the ranks so that they could harness these energies to working on a just and harmonious peace. Gordon said that peace is not the document but the living between Christians and Muslims in a harmonious relationship like married couples who have to work on their marriage to create a successful union.
Senator Gordon with MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar talking about peace issues in the ARMM.
He reminded Ghazali and the members of the MILF Central Committee that they are far too deep in the peace process and that they should not throw away what they've worked hard and sacrificed for. He added that it is important to push through with the elections so that peace and development in the ARMM will finally set in.
In no uncertain terms, Gordon told Ghazali and other MILF officials that he is opposed to the postponement of the ARMM elections but that he is a very active proponent for lasting peace in Mindanao. He assured the group that he will support the peace process.
Gordon believes that closer is better and that the national government should load up not on weapons of war but with blessings of peace. Gordon told everyone present that he supports the idea that more funds for education, health and infrastructure development be brought to Mindanao to develop the region. He believes that those who belong to the marginal sectors of society could succeed in life through business and employment.
Gordon said that it is a no brainer that the ARMM is the poorest region in the country but with dedicated leaders and the proper government support and funding he believes that the ARMM can make a turnaround and become one of the most prosperous regions in the country.