People power for peace
READ NOW - J. Vincent Sarabia Ong () - March 19, 2011 - 12:00am

Searching for answers on how the Philippines can be a testament to doing post tyrannical regimes right, I turned to undersecretary Louie Montalbo of the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process for answers. As closed door bureaucratic as his work sounds, Montalbo gave an unexpected response to resolving this issue. He says that the “the hunger for peace has to be palpable. It cannot be abstract.” This is surprising when the words “peace process” or “negotiations” are words that I usually associate with buzz word headlines worth yawning at. And these words spark an enlightening discussion that brings me to a Philippines that can be a road map for Middle eastern countries to aspire for after they have settled down.

Beyond Headlines

As cerebral as these talks are between the government and these groups, Montalbo adds that the issue is real, especially for the conflict areas of Bicol and Mindanao.

OPAPP has been spreading the word by putting a face to the peace process and making it more effective. On their own, they have set up a college tour on talking about peace with Ateneo Professor Jennifer Santiago Oreta, that they plan to bring to Visayas and Mindanao. They were also able gather a massive crowd together for their candle light vigil for peace in Quezon City Circle and Bicol last February.

Simple Questions

One of their grander projects is collaborating with PeaceTech Inc, an NGO for peace building through technology. OPAPP currently funds PeaceTech’s classroom video conference that links schools in Manila, Zamboanga, Iligan, and General Santos, to create a tangible dialogue between these cities. While Louie Montalbo actively participates in PeaceTech’s Mass Video Conference, a massive AusAid funded event gathering at least 6,000 students in Manila and Mindanao to talk about religious conflict. He appeared, last February, as a resource speaker for PeaceTech’s second conference between Manila students gathered in the college of PUP in Manila and Iligan students in Mindanao State University IIT.

 USEC Montalbo relates that his video conference experience, talking to Manila and Mindanao, was a fruitful exchange with the youth because the PeaceTech event was hitting them more on the level of their hearts more than their heads. The stories of prejudice and discrimination moved some kids to tears and brought some to reflect on their behavior.

Let’s Keep On Talking About It

As we part ways, Montalbo’s final message is that the way to keep peace is to continuously talk about it and clamor for it. We can’t let it be an annual commemoration of Edsa alone. As our leaders grow weary of a tense and complicated dialogue, it is the people, according to USEC, that will keep them accountable. As such, we have to keep on holding them up to their promise for a world where we don’t live in fear of sitting in a bombed bus.

More importantly, Montalbo adds that Filipinos can help make the country more peaceful by being more concerned about the issues in Mindanao and Muslims. It is because we should care for them as a minority as he points out that our country is a minority in Asia itself as a Christian nation. If we take care of them as a Muslim nation, the whole of Asia will offer us respect and protection in return.

Thus, leaving me with a sign post on where the Philippines can be as role model for peace as light for other conflict areas. It all starts with respect for our fellow- man and with this alone we can start a people power dialogue for progress. So, let’s keep talking.

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E-mail me at readnow@supreme.ph

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PeaceTech is funded by AusAid, British Embassy, the newly formed German organization GIZ, and OPAPP. Thanks to Titon Mitra of AusAid, Caroline Sperling of GIZ, Akiko Abe of UNDP for attending PeaceTech mass video conference. Visit them online at facebook’s peacetech kabataan and peacetech.net.

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Visit OPAPP website at http://opapp.gov.ph to learn more about the peace talks.

AKIKO ABE ATENEO PROFESSOR JENNIFER SANTIAGO ORETA BEYOND HEADLINES BICOL AND MINDANAO BRITISH EMBASSY MANILA AND MINDANAO MONTALBO PEACE PEACETECH
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