It is always refreshing to listen to B. Rudy Rodil. I worked with Ompong for over 4 years in the negotiations and it was to him that we turned to when we needed hope, optimism and some “trivia” information on the Mindanao conflict. Over and above his knowledge of Mindanao local history, what I like about Ompong is his sense of hope and belief in the goodness of persons to do the right thing and to build peace.
In his paper, “Achieving Peace and Justice in Mindanao thru Tri-People Approach”, Ompong offers a “frame” for solving the conflict. While Abhoud’s paper frames the conflict from the point of view of Bangsamoro, from a direct party to the conflict, Ompong takes a more detached, objective, non-party stance. This might be the reason why Ompong focuses more on the “process” and “parties” for solving the conflict rather than facing squarely the reality of conflict. Furthermore, Ompong shows an inclination to view solutions to the conflict from a very practical, grassroots, community level rather than the level of formal negotiations at the national level
As a solution to the conflict in Mindanao, Ompong offers the “tri-people relationship” approach:
Within the whole country, it is only in Mindanao that we speak of a “tri-people” relationship. By “tri-people” we refer to the Moros or Muslims, the Lumads and the migrants, mostly Christian settlers and their descendants, the greater number now belonging to the second, third or fourth generations and are already home grown Mindanawons; also, other migrants who are not Chrisitians. The grouping is loose and there are plenty of overlaps in between but the designations are popularly used in the region.
For Ompong, the assertion for self-determination is not just by the Bangsamoro but also by the Lumads and thus:
the migrant population will have to rethink their position. Although they constitute the majority population, it does not seem appropriate anymore in simple terms of majority rule. Democracy in Mindanao will have to be redefined. There are fundamental rights, interest, sensibilities involved that should be considered.
Ompong ends with a plea:
At this point in history, all givens considered, not a single segment of the population can claim Mindanao as theirs. Mindanao is already shared territory. The three segments of the population are capable of working out a modus vivendi that can make Mindanao a home of peace and harmony. We just have to work it out. Dream, visualize, act.
Firstly, Ompong’s framing does not include a compelling narrative. For example, I was looking for something from our collective past (or even present) showing that Moros, Lumads and Christians can work, dream, visualize and solve social problems together. Isn’t it that our collective experience has been one of fractionalization, conflict and competition rather than of cooperation and peace?
Secondly, Ompong does not squarely address the issue of conflict and the assertion by the MILF of sovereignty and self-determination. It does not show how the “tri-people” approach can be successful in resolving the GRP-MILF peace process.
Thirdly, it seems that the “tri-people” approach presupposes that the present situation of the unitary Philippine State exercising sovereignty over everyone, including the Bangsamoro, should not be changed. This is evident in the proposal that “LGUs … will be mandated to institutionalize and lead in community dialogues where all concerned citizens can listen to one another and decide on all major issues, especially peace and development problems.”
Despite these limitations, I think that Ompong’s contribution is to highlight and amplify the “missing yet very important voice” in the Mindanao peace process: that of the Lumads. xxx