Peace Advocates Hail New House SpeakerFebruary 6, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Posted in 1 | Leave a comment
COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 06, 2008) – Peace advocates in the southern Philippines expressed optimism that the recent change in the leadership of the House of Representatives will bring about peace and developments in the strife-torn region.
Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles was elected as new Speaker in the House of Representatives replacing Rep. Jose de Venecia lll this week. Many peace advocates said they have not seen any keen interest in De Venecia in flexing his authority and influence to hasten the Mindanao peace process.
Key members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation, which has been operating various humanitarian projects in Muslim areas the past seven decades, believed that Nograles would reach out to underprivileged and impoverished Muslim areas in the region.
“We are hoping that being a Mindanaon, Speaker Nograles will advance the cause of peace process between the government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to end the conflict in Mindanao before the term of President Arroyo ends in 2010,” said Oblate priest Bert Layson, who is active in helping resolve security problems in Moro-dominated areas.
“Speaker Nograles should, as the country’s third highest elected official now, devout enough time in the legislation of measures that can foster religious and political solidarity among the culturally-diverse sectors in the South,” Layson, director of the OMI’s Interfaith Dialogue Initiatives, said.
Peace talks between the government and the MILF started January 7, 1997, but gained headway only in 2003 with the help of Malaysia as “third party mediator.”
Even the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace pact with Philippine government on September 2, 1996, is confident that Nograles will use his influence in the House of Representatives to support efforts in fostering peace and sustainable development in Mindanao.
“We are hoping that it would not be difficult for Speaker Nograles to listen to the voices of his Muslim brothers and sister yearning for peace and development in their homeland,” said Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, also the Secretary-General of the former rebel group MNLF.
Some officials of various non-governmental organizations involved in peace advocacy thrusts in Moro communities are elated too with the assumption of Nograles as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“Having a Mindanaon as Speaker of the House, a very important institution in the country, is a source of pride and honor. We will now have a thundering voice in the law-making body of the land,” said Datu Haron Bandila, chairman of the Regional Business Council in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Bandila said he is certain Nograles, as a native of Davao City, will also easily comprehend the socio-economic, religious and political intricacies of the ARMM, which is home to more than three million Moro residents. (Jerick Wee)