DAVAO CITY – “Can we break these walls of exclusivity?”
This was the question raised by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza among datus, sultans, imams and Christian preachers attending the 2nd International Royalty and Nobility Interfaith Peace Conference.
Dureza noted that there is a tendency for some groups to carry out development and peace building efforts based on their own personal agendas and not on common interests. He stressed that this approach should be avoided at all costs as it fuels a sense of alienation especially among the marginalized and underserved sectors of the community.
“There is a need for convergence [in our peace building efforts]. We need the support of everyone,” Dureza told the more than 100 delegates of the international peace conference.
The presidential peace adviser explained that this is the reason why the Duterte Administration is pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), as it is primarily anchored on the principle of inclusivity.
“[The President] really wants to see concrete, radical change,” Dureza said as he emphasized President Rodrigo Duterte’s vision of “address[ing] the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people.”
To achieve this goal, Dureza insists stakeholders in the peace process must come together, speak with one voice, and collectively push for the BBL’s passage in both houses of Congress.
“There is a need to heighten the campaign for the law,” Dureza said, as he claimed there are still those who “don’t understand the context of the law.”
“What is important is to prepare the groundwork [for the bill’s passage]. [This] will help us get the vote [for the law’s passage],” he added.
Dureza also said the BBL is a “shared dream by everyone” and will start the process of finally “entrench[ing] the Bangsamoro” in the country’s political system.
Moreover, the peace adviser pointed out that the BBL, once passed, will help to effectively address the growing threat of violent extremism in the country.
“What they did in Marawi should teach us a lesson. A terrorist knows no kin, no friend. Anyone who will be an obstacle [to their goal] will be eliminated,” Dureza said adding a warning that “The virus [of violent extremism] has been [with us] for a long time. [It has now] become a hydra.”
Dureza also noted that the lack of good governance, aggravated by corruption in the bureaucracy, has largely contributed to the rise of violent extremism in the country.
“If people see that the first beneficiaries are your (politicians) relatives, those who are not in the circle will feel excluded,” he said.
Furthermore, Dureza said “When officials flaunt big cars. People will not accept this. They will rebel [against government].”
It is in this context, according to Dureza, that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process spearheaded the process of “social healing” among those who were affected by the armed conflict.
He said “The conflict [has brought about] a break [in] social relationships [wherein] the moral fiber [of society] is destroyed. Roads can easily be rebuilt. But broken relationships take a long time [to heal]. Social healing is therefore crucial.”
The peace adviser therefore called on the sultanates across the country to become agents of peace and help the national government in strengthening the social healing process.
“The sultanates play a very important role in molding the minds of people. Engage them. Take the lead. These [efforts] can mean a lot.”