Duterte must act fast on Mindanao peace process: NGO

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2016 04:22 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte

The Philippines may be closer than ever to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao, but the administration must work fast to close what's left and avoid increasing skepticism from the South, a non-government organization (NGO) said.

Crisis Group Asia, an NGO that seeks peaceful resolution of conflicts in the world, said the country is 80% closer to achieving peace, but Program Director Tim Johnston told [email protected] on Friday, the remaining 20% is always the toughest.

He noted, the South is very cynical and skeptical of any peace process from the government, as often, they were promised a great deal but the government fails to deliver.

"You are doing peace deal in the context of a very cynical south and they are very skeptical of this. One the things that is gonna be key is speed, delivering fast. They have suspended their opposition to this deal and still have their faith," he said.

Johnson also noted, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is still in its honeymoon period, but it is bound to end like all others do. 

When it does, the political opposition to the peace process he has started with the Moro people may reemerge stronger and the peace process "will become one of the focal points of scoring points," he said.

Hence, he said, the administration must move at a much accelerated pace.

"If Duterte can move this forward during this honeymoon period rapidly, it has a much better chance of going through. I think it's an opportunity that's a tragedy to lose, this particular case, because the situation in the Philippines, no one can predict when patience in the south will run out," he said.

He added, the radicalization rising globally is not stopping, and the Philippines will not be immune to the trend. 

"We think the biggest risk is to fall into anarchy or criminality. I think the radicalization problem given the external context is a very real risk," he said.

Johnston maintained, the government can funnel funds through the Bangsamoro Transition Commission as a gesture of goodwill in the meantime, to show their commitment to the process and "so that people can see some early dividend of peace."

He also believes, the Bangsamoro peace process should not be parked in place of federalism as many government officials have suggested.

"I think that would be rash. Federalism is a very uncertain project. It will take a long time and we need something fast to keep faith of Bangsamoro that this deal is still on," he said.

Instead, he said, a Bangsamoro government could be a good model for the impending shift, where autonomy will be given to federal states.

"It can test the waters to see what kind of powers the congress is willing to devolve. It could test the constitution questions where and if they have to change the constitution," he said.