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Monday, April 13, 2015

Facing the rough road to communicating peace

By Rene V. Carbayas

ISABELA CITY, Basilan – Government communications group is now facing a challenging and tough job in communicating the peace process and in generating public support for the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Throngs of negativity haunted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and this has become widespread from the ordinary street vendor to the politicians at the halls of Congress.

Giant media outfits have benefited a lot from the skyrocketing ratings and most views, as each and every aspect and the blow by blow accounts of the gruesome fate of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who perished in that fateful incident at Tukalanipao, Mamasapano in Maguindanao has been carried on the airwaves and landed at every Filipino home.

As what a government peace negotiator has said at a forum: “What could have been a ‘private grief’ has turned into a celebrated ‘public grief’.” Just like any other disasters covered by the media such as the Zamboanga siege and Yolanda, etc., the media proved to have again triumphed in capitalizing on emotions to spread societal ills and ineptitude of institutions and human capabilities.

If there is one positive effect (granting there’s a such) of the post-Mamasapano national discourse is the fact that more Filipinos are getting interested in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was also considered by pro-peace groups as a casualty together with the 67 Filipinos. Unfortunately, the interest is marred by personal biases and prejudices, digging more holes in the already very rocky and rough road to peace. And this has also betrayed the ignorance of most Filipinos on the peace process, which has been going on for about seventeen years.
The need to communicate peace

There is no doubt that every Filipino longs for peace, especially in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. We may be at different levels in understanding peace but the desire is still strong. With or without the BBL, the people must understand and cultivate a culture of peace, which is the foundation of a stronger and enlightened citizenry that respects other people’s traditions, beliefs, and aspirations.

We need to stop labeling people and isolating ourselves - such as being anti-Muslim, anti-BBL, or imperial Manila - and learn from a child who knows no boundary of color, race, and beliefs. For the child, it is the humanity that counts—the joy of friendship, of togetherness at play, and the laughter shared are cherished and loved.

Many would argue that this is easier said than done because we are only human. But, we are humans, higher than the animal kingdom. Thus, we reason and are rational beings. Maybe we have already dwelt so much in our emotional state, and, perhaps it is now time for Filipinos to be rational and to find better understanding on the things that happened at Mamasapano to further appreciate the need to pursue the peace process.

Many still believe that there is a ”greater good” that would come out of all the challenges that the nation is facing. It is time for every Filipino to engage, and keep an open mind to the possibilities and opportunities, including the exploration of better alternatives to attain peace.
Quality information is knowledge towards decision-making

In spite of the media coverage on the peace process since President Cory’s time, many still claim that they lack information about it. Since the enactment of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and eventually the drafting of the BBL with the MILF, many remain ignorant of the peace negotiation especially the grassroots and other stakeholders for two reasons: they are not interested because they don’t care about the outcome or they have already taken an irreversible position on the matter thus they refuse to listen to any explanation. The latter poses the biggest challenge to all peace communicators.

Aside from dealing with limited time and resources, both human and logistics, the government communicators are also pressured to find the right and effective key messages that the public would appreciate and accept through the different communication platforms.

For the anti- and pro-BBL alike, quality information is still the key to arrive at an enlightened decision in life. A massive information drive, therefore, must be launched now. To dilly-dally is to drive the elusive peace away.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said that it would launch a massive campaign on the peace process and the BBL with the end in view of reaching out to all and sundry.

Recently, the Media ng Bayan also gathered selected personnel from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) together with some Manila-based PTV and Radyo ng Bayan for a planning workshop to guide the government communication pillars in a unified messaging through coordinated actions with respect to the BBL and the Peace Process.

During the said workshop, PIA Director-General Jose Mari M. Oquiñena has challenged the communicators to be radical in its approaches and to use alternative platforms in communicating peace and the government's vision of shared security and shared prosperity with the Bangsamoro people of the Philippines.