Being present at the Fourth Mindanao Media Summit

Participants take time to smile and relax for a date with posterity

Participants take time to smile and relax for a date with posterity (Photo by Skippy Lumawag courtesy of Mindanews)

The formal sessions of the 4th Mindanao Media Summit just concluded early afternoon today, 09 August 2008.

The theme: “Mindanao 2020: The vision begins with us”, is placed in an imposing tarp at the back draft. It was a reminder to me as a member of the group who took on “drafting” the vision from the participants. “Where are the other members of the styling committee?” I asked myself.

I ate a late breakfast today as I stayed late for my recent attempt to write a narrative report. So when I entered the summit hall, I have to do some catching up on who did what the night before.

I caught up on the secretariat who were busy calling the rest of the group for the picture taking.

Meanwhile, I picked the shiniest plate on the buffet table and proceeded to feast on hotel breakfast. In my peripheral vision and hearing I could hear Jocan talking me to drop the breakfast for a moment and smile it out in the photographic firing squad.

I managed some sips of brewed coffee and few scoops of the one-serving steamed rice and the hard-boiled egg and beef curry sud-an. I have to or I couldn’t move a muscle to say “cheese”. Oh, I went there seconds later as I have to squeeze in my summit shirt. I went there to see if the pool was really tempting enough for some laps of swimming, to regret I didn’t plunge when I could last night.

The last day of the three-day gathering of Mindanao media’s “decision-makers” started with quaint picture taking by the poolside of the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Lanang, Davao City.

It was supposed to capture for the future the faces of the news professionals who participated in the summit in a step to improve capacity as stakeholder to peace and development in Mindanao.

It was supposed to be a light prelude to discussions by MindaNews’ Carolyn Arguillas on “Reporting Peace” and the chairs of both GRP and MILF peace panels on “Updates of the Peace Process”.

Both chairs, Gen. Rodolfo Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal, didn’t make it. But the presence and presentation of retired Mindanao State University professor Rodolfo “Ompong” Rodil gave us substantial and educational inputs.

The engagement with Ompong that morning more than achieved what we sought to ask him, about updates. He was in his element (as a Mindanao history expert) to bring us back to history in an attempt to explain the context of the problem in Mindanao.

Well, I shouldn’t forget. Ompong is vice chair of the government panel negotiating with the MILF and was also a member of the government panel who negotiated with the MNLF.

He never failed to clarify and rectify the incomplete information and education we get from our society about the problems in Mindanao.

He even went to correcting labels, insisting it is not accurate to use the terms “Mindanao conflict” to address the GRP-MILF peace process since it is only a portion of the other conflicts in Mindanao. He cited two other streams aside from the Moro problem, The Filipino and the Lumad streams.

Boymords, one of my editors at MindaNews and columnists in Central Mindanao Newswatch, described his presence and presentation as “level-headed” not passionate, but still meaningful.

OK. I have learned to accept every person’s presence in the hall, and hopefully might learn more to be a contributor for understanding among Mindanawons. Si Ompong man gud ni apila nga “I hope we could learn to accept each other’s presence here (in Mindanao) since all of us are already here and we can no longer just kick anyone out anymore.

Ompong did not do a hard sell on the proposed Memorandum of Agreement on the ancestral domain strand of the talks. But his scientific, detailed, incisive and thought-provoking presentation managed to explain well enough the intramurals of the peace process at present.

I liked best how he answered the question of a participant from Zamboanga City, where there is local-government led opposition to the inclusion of some barangays to the MILF’s Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

The participant was direct about his disagreement to one of Ompong’s points and Ompong managed to give an emotional but factual response. He said “WE were among the beneficiaries” of a mistake of government policies in the past since the American period of agricultural colony resettlements and political mainstreaming.

Ompong is kind and he showed just that in his answer. With his calmly and witty response he hit the person without him knowing it like a sharp knife that brought him nailed painlessly on his seat. I sat across him, I should know.

Anyway, the discussion came as a follow through to those made by Peace Process Adviser Hermogenes Esperon morning of Friday, day two of the summit.

Aside from clarifying his “lacking of balls” tussle with Cotabato Vice Gov. Manuel Piñol, the retired general addressed some of the sharpest FAQs (frequently asked questions). Really, the tiff between Esperon and Piñol brought this discussion with personal curls.

Anyway, Esperon said there is nothing to fear about the MOA.

Jokingly, he grappled with his English in an attempt to explain the MOA’s implications.

It was initialed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 27 by the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He said the MOA wasn’t confiscatory, it wasn’t unconstitutional, and that its a product of negotiations that never meant to give out some parts of the country. He said the people through a plebiscite will make the final decision.

Esperon explained the time frame they have eyed up to the signing of the Comprehensive Compact or the Final Peace Agreement. It should be done before the May 2010 elections.

He said both the ARMM elections and the MOA should be taken together and not separately.

In the afternoon, foreign and local election monitors took turns in engaging the media about the nuances of the August 11 ARMM elections. Monitors from the Asian Network for Free Elections dissected what factors ail Philippine elections in general and ARMM regional polls in particular.

Inputs on Reporting and Monitoring Elections is one of the “skills”-aspect interventions dished out for the summit. A knack for covering clean elections also makes for looking up on good governance, said Salic Ibrahim, who chairs C-CARE, one of the local election monitors in the ARMM polls with 7,000 volunteers looking out for the region’s more than 9,000 precincts.

Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar took the participants to a session on reflection and analysis as he facilitated the visioning portion of the forum.

I am writing in retrospect as I realized another chapter of the Mindanao Media Forum has already unfolded.

I think it was in June sometime in that month this year and somewhere in Cotabato City where I was fortunate to be present in a core group meeting dishing out the skeletal plans for the forum.

From the First MMS in Pearl Farm and Marco Polo (2002), Second MMS in Malagos (2004), and Third MMS in Cotabato City (2005), we can see Mindanawon journalists collectively tackle the issues that affect them as persons and as news professionals and the communities they ought to serve, too.

I wrote “formal sessions” of the summit in my first line because I believe that before and after the summit are informal sessions among journalists when they make the important decisions off the spotlight, without the ambiance of hotels and convenience of being together for a time, and being exposed to the elements of Mindanao’s working fields of sweat and blood.

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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