Last 07-09 June 2022, Lakan Sumulong participated in a regional dialogue of civil society organization (CSO) leaders on the Bangsamoro Peace Process. It was organized by the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, led by Atty. Mary Ann Arnado. The objectives were: (a) to enable Mindanao CSOs to reflect on the new political realities and challenges facing the extended transition period in the BARMM as national government transitions from the Duterte to Marcos presidency; and, (b) to prepare at the earliest possible time to effectively address emerging issues with the end in view of sustaining and protecting the gains of the peace process.
Analysis of Current National Situation
The three-day conversation started when the 45 CSO leaders and workers were given time to personally reflect on the current national situation. Most of them walked around the garden of the forest-surrounded venue. They were guided by three questions:
- What is your reading of the political landscape under the Marcos administration? Specifically, what are the risks to peace in Mindanao?
- Under the new administration, how can CSOs help sustain and protect the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process?
- In light of the previous discussions, what are the necessary actions that CSOs must undertake?
They came back with rich insights and fact-based experiences. The sharing time was lively. They cried. They laughed. They expressed frustration. They shared data. They analyzed. They projected their various future scenarios.
Speaking the Truth in Love
Lakan Sumulong was asked to wrap up the opening session with an inspirational talk. He presented the challenges CSOs are facing in terms of truth-telling in a society manipulated by the producers of perceptions-as-reality. Ha called for a return to the basic tests of truth, that of correspondence, coherence, and consistency. “Let’s talk about truths that correspond with facts,” he said. “Let’s talk about truths that are coherent rationally and logically,” he continued. He emphasized the need to frame correspondence and coherence with sound ethical values. “Let’s talk about truths,” he said, “that are consistent with what is good, righteous, and just.”
Lakan pointed out that truth-telling can burn us out as CSO leaders and workers. We need an energy source that would sustain and regenerate us in our struggle for truth. “First, we must determine to do everything out of love,” Lakan said. “Let’s accept the limitation of our self-resourced love because this self-love is not sustainable and easily burns out.” The secret, according to Lakan, is to “open our whole being to be a funnel of love from the Creator, God, Allah, Magbabaya, Manama, or for the non-religious, the Universe.”
His inspirational talk was concluded with a quote from Timothy Snyder: “Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”
Strategizing and Action Planning
Throughout these three-day conversation, Mags Maglana served as the facilitator.
Prioritization. The second day was spent in strategizing and action planning. Mags gave them a guide question to prioritize their peacebuilding tasks in the present political dispensation: “Given the previous analyses, what should CSOs prioritize in the first 100 days of the Marcos Jr administration?”
The CSO leaders and workers also had the privilege of listening to the Hon. Mohagher Iqbal, Minister of Basic, Higher, Technical Education of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). He shared both his official position and his personal views on the result of the election and the possible risks of the Marcos Jr administration to the Mindanao Peace Process. He allowed the CSO leaders and workers to engage him through a heart-to-heart question-and-answer session for almost an hour.
Action Planning. On the third day, the participants started identifying their priorities and the necessary actions or activities to address such priorities. They answered key questions to initiate and sustain a new movement: Who are the implementors? Who will lead? What are the timelines? What resources are needed?
The Mindanao People’s Caucus will soon be publishing the documented results of these proceedings in their website and social media outlets.