Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Power Sharing? Who are Sharing?

Last October 4, 2013 (Friday), the forumZFD and Civil Peace Service – Bread for the World in partnership with the Al-Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University conducted the second of the series of roundtable discussions (RTD) on contentious topics in the on-going peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The title of our project is Pakighinabi: Peace Lens. The objective is to discuss issues that are crucial in the framework agreement, such as territory, power sharing, wealth sharing, normalization, or justice system, which we believe that various perceptions of our people which is not properly handled, may lead to misrepresentation and polarization of our communities.

The first of the series discussed about “Wealth Sharing” and we had Atty. Johaira Wahab as the lead discussant. This was conducted last August 28, 2013 at Ateneo de Davao University with a multi disciplinary set of participants.

The second was about “Power Sharing” where we invited Guiamel Alim, Executive Director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation to be the lead discussant. The main output of the RTD was focused on our dream of National Unity and Reconciliation. Dir. Alim was hopeful that once the Final Peace Agreement would be signed as scheduled that this will address the problems of the Bangsamoro people.

But we ask ourselves, power sharing? Who are sharing?

In a country like ours, we are severely divided into contending ethnic groups, clans, and political ideologies the result of these have caused us conflicts, war, and political dynasties controlling the status quo that hampered our overall human development.

At the grassroots level, our people have the tendency to take care of their own group which led to a politics of inclusion and exclusion.

As a result, we see people in power are taking care of their own defined constituencies within their own turf and even the “moro” fronts are having their own way of defining the Bangsamoro people and their own struggles thinking that they have the monopoly of common sense in addressing the socio-political problems of our time.  Unfortunately this system of exclusion has become a breeding ground for new armed groups to emerge from one generation to another.

Most political analysts and policy makers alike believe that power sharing is the most viable democratic means of managing conflict in divided societies. (O’Flynn and David Russell, 2005)

In an article written by Ian O’Flynn and David Russel, “New Challenges for Power Sharing”, said that, “in principle, power sharing enables conflicting groups to remedy longstanding patterns of antagonism and discrimination, and to build a more just and stable society for all.” But how do we do this in the proposed Bangsamoro region?

When we speak of power sharing, the first thing that comes to my mind is the “actors” involved. They are the people on the ground who are the real players and actors that controls the access and the delivery of basic social services; the way of life and even the justice system of the community.

In an ethnographic study about Mindanao and Sulu, the research had showed that the following are the actors: the religious leaders, dissident/ground commanders, traditional leaders, and politicians. Each one enjoys a relatively autonomous practice of power on the ground. Now, with the Zamboanga standoff, we can see that even the Civil Society Organizations, religious groups, and interfaith organizations have become players in the peace process and each one having their own agenda and claim of representing the people.

The study also mentioned that “they have found a way to co-exist and to allow each sector to be at the forefront of people’s attention. Each navigates their territory by being careful not to overstep the boundaries in their exercise of power so as not to upset the prevailing balance of forces in the area.”

Looking at the on-going discussions of the panels, it seems that both parties (MILF and GPH) are more concerned in discussing the vertical line of power sharing. Vertical line refers to the power between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro. But what about the horizontal line (the power players at the ground), which conflict in our areas are mostly related to horizontal issues?

According to Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chairperson, “the annex on power sharing specifically deals with “jurisdictions and authorities over certain matters” of the Bangsamoro. For instance, jurisdiction over natural resources.”

But they do not see the dynamics on the ground. Thus, we ask, “Power Sharing for whom?”

We know already who are in power. But we need to empower our people.  We are the true holders of power in a democracy. We need to understand that it is our power to vote and elect our rightful leaders that will define our future.

Therefore, we need to have institutions that will ensure that true power sharing will materialize on the ground. In a democratic process, “there is an indeterminate number of ways in which democratic power sharing can be realized”. But looking at the present situation, it is only the MILF and the GPH that are discussing the pertinent points of the annexes. How can we have faith that this system will work when we will only be allowed to be part of the process when it is already deliberated in Congress and during the plebiscite?

We hope that the Pakighinabi: Peace Lens will resonate on the different levels of our community. We cannot wait and let things happen on their own. We need to find ways of how we can engage our government and the MILF. Besides, it is our taxes that funds the government agencies that work for the peace process.