How women helped bring peace to Mindanao

by Fidea Encarnacion,

Posted at Apr 08 2014 09:01 PM | Updated as of Apr 09 2014 05:01 AM

"The Women at the Peace Table" forum told the stories of the women who took part in crafting the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Photo by Fidea Encarnacion,

MANILA – Women who helped lead the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) said they had to adapt and deal with cultural and social issues.

In a forum organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that was hosted by Cheche Lazaro, government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said women involved in the talks were approached with discrimination in the beginning.

“There was, in the beginning. You had to moderate somehow. We did get some nasty remarks in the beginning, when they sort of felt challenged, especially when we’re getting into the very tough issues of power sharing," she said.

However, they later learned how to cope and defuse tension by taking advange of humor.

"When we were haggling over figures in normalization [our facilitator said,] 'that's kitchen economics.' [They were told to be] beware of the housewives because we know how to haggle, something like that. [We] took advantage of it. We just haggle, continue to haggle."

“Afterwards, you get over it, they get over it, we get over past tension that happened… [with] initial coping mechanisms. Gender jokes, we just put up with it. That’s kind of a learning process," she said.

Usec. Yasmin Busran-Lao, a Maranao and a Muslim, said it was a challenge.

“As a Bangsamoro, the cultural aspect as a Maranao, we have cultural practices [and] beliefs which are peculiar to the culture in relation to as how a woman should behave. Then as a Muslim, I share the same problem as Muslim women all over the world face when it comes to religion. [Lastly,] as a Filipino, I have to accept that I’m a part of this country and therefore my citizenship is something that I have to embrace."

“So how do you bring all these aspects together and come up with a very sound position? It was a challenge,” she said.

Busran-Lao said peace is an issue that must be approached with an open perspective.

“Peace doesn’t recognize religion, culture, gender, and all that. It's a human basic need and therefore, every one of us shouldn’t be judged whether we [are] in the government’s side or on the Bangsamoro side. We all have the right to decide for genuine peace, regardless of where you [sit],” she said.

Teresita Quintos-Deles, the first woman to be appointed as the Presidential advisor for peace process, said her choice for "Track 1" was aligned with her vision of promoting women to play a big part in the society.

“Track 1” is the term coined for those who are at the table during the peace negotiations.

“[Women consist] of half of humanity and yet we do more of the housework… certainly every issue can take a different twist if we have women there.”

Recalling the time when the position for chair had to be filled, Quintos-Deles said that she was not sure if Coronel-Ferrer would accept the position.

It was to her relief when the latter joined the panel.

“I was surprised, I wasn't sure that [she] would be willing to move into government. She was an academe, third-party advocate. Not [everyone] was willing to cross over and take a definite side.”

She said that women should continue to be involved. The women of the peace table took the first step when they decided to join the government for the peace deal.

“I also think women are more ready now. I think by this time, women who have been [pushing] for the peace process for so long outside of government [have] realized that some of us have to move to government.”

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed on March 27, 2014.

The CAB, which incorporated agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, will be the basis for the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law Bill.