Davao City

‘I’m not a peaceful person,’ says Sara in jest at peace conference

Ferdinandh Cabrera
‘I’m not a peaceful person,’ says Sara in jest at peace conference

PEACE TALK. Vice President Sara Duterte speaks before Kusog Mindanao conference participants in In Davao City on November 11.

Ferdinandh Cabrera/Rappler

Vice President Sara Duterte says 'it's peace harvest season' in Mindanao, and that 'the peace doves overshadowed the war hawks' in pushing the Mindanao agenda

“You know, Ma’am, I’m not a peaceful person.”

Vice President Sara Duterte on Friday, November 11, said this in jest as she recalled what she told local peace advocate Irene “Inday” Santiago whose help she sought for the Davao City government’s peace-building campaign when she served as its mayor.

Duterte smiled, and participants of the 2022 Kusog Mindanao Conference broke into laughter.

The joke brought back memories of her raining punches on a sheriff who served a court’s eviction order against informal settlers in Davao despite her pleas for more time in 2011. The incident was caught on video which subsequently went viral.

Person, Human, Hand

Friday’s conference in Davao brought together grassroots leaders, technocrats, local government officials, peace advocates, businessmen, former rebels, and representatives of various civil society groups in Mindanao. 

It was aimed at putting the region’s concerns about sustainable peace on the national agenda, specifically about issues on shared resources, the national budget, federalism, and sustainable development. 

When she was mayor, Duterte had enlisted the help of “Inday Irene” Santiago, a prominent advocate of women’s rights and Mindanao peace, for the local government’s peace community-building efforts in the Paquibato District, a place in Davao that was once heavily influenced by communist rebels.

The local government approach involved academic institutions, cooperatives, social enterprises, and civic and other private groups in the peace-building efforts that recognized the indigenous peoples’ structures and provided villages with livelihood aid and improved infrastructure.

Duterte’s home city and the rest of the Davao Region were declared insurgency-free by the Regional Peace and Order Council in October.

Duterte said she was convinced that “it’s peace harvest season” in Mindanao, and that “the peace doves overshadowed the war hawks” in pushing the Mindanao agenda. She cited the government’s peace settlements, first with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and then with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Some wonder whether “Inday Irene” will get to assume a bigger role in the peace process.

Peace a ‘fragile beauty’

Duterte said the challenge was how to sustain the peace in Mindanao, especially at a time when terrorism has been posing serious threats.

“Dealing with it needs a very strong heart,” she said. “Peace is a delicate, fragile beauty; it needs constant attention,” Duterte added.

A long-term approach, she said, would be to make peacebuilders out of young students.

“Before you train them to become reserve officers, we teach them first about peace. Peace-builders first before military training,” she said.

Duterte said the Department of Education (DepEd), which she heads, was planning to incorporate a “national culture of peace” in the elementary curriculum. 

The Davao conference, supported by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Australian Aid, was organized by the Institute for the Autonomy and Governance and Kusog Mindanao along with Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (Mincode), and the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID). – Rappler.com

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