MANILA - President Benigno Aquino III's high popularity rating improves the odds of the peace framework between his government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hurdling the challenge of legislation and ratification, a party-list representative says.
Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez of Abante Bisayas and Mindanao (Abamin) says Mr. Aquino's popularity with citizens could discourage splinter groups of rebels thought to be the biggest obstacles to peace.
"We should watch out for the splinter groups... but with the popularity of the President, with so many people believing in him, those who want to sabotage the peace process won't have such an easy time," the representative of Abamin adds.
Another difference, he notes, is involvement of the grassroots in the peace process.
Previous initiatives, Rodriguez notes, focused attention on key belligerent actors. In the last few years, however, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has worked with local government units, civic groups and non-government organizations.
With stakeholders consulted every step of the way, the lawmaker says, there has been a groundswell of acceptance for the framework set to be signed today by the President and leaders of the MILF.
Another congressman, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro allays fears of displacement of Christians. Section 6, No. 2 of the framework allows those unjustly dispossessed of their lands to file for claims.
"The context is payment," the Cagayan de Oro lawmaker points out. "Nobody will be dislodged, but those who can prove they were dispossessed of their property -- Moro and Christian -- will be paid by the government and the Bangsamoro body (once ratified)."
He describes the framework as "constitutional and valid" and "the best chance for peace in a long, long time."