“WE are supposed to enlighten, to simplify things. But if we are as confused as all the rest, why pass on our confusion and ignorance to the rest of the world?”
Carol Arguillas, editor of MindaNews, and founder and president of the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center (MNICC), issued this remark during her session on the third day of the PCIJ-Newsbreak seminar on “Reporting on Conflict and Peace: The Story of Mindanao,” finding the media’s coverage of the peace negotiations between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), particularly on the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), wanting.
Arguillas, whose mastery of the politics, culture and history of Mindanao is probably unmatched by any other Filipino journalist, said this was inexcusable since the peace process has already spanned three administrations from the time of President Fidel Ramos.
Listen to Arguillas’s talk on The Language and Practice of Journalism and Mindanao: From Rebellion to Elections, Calamities, Kidnapping, Peace Talks, Political Clans:
- Part 1
Language: English and Filipino
File size: 20.9 MB
- Part 2
Language: English and Filipino
File size: 20.7 MB
She reminded journalists that the MOA-AD is only the third agreement out of three agenda items — the first two being relief and rehabilitation, and security — prior to the crafting of the comprehensive compact agreement.
“If you have to report, read and ask. Peace is a process, not just an event,” she said, advising them to brush up on the other previous agreements that provide context to the MOA on ancestral domain.
Uninformed reporting on the scope of the MOA, she said, is also to be faulted for the hysteria fanned by politicians over the alleged “dismemberment” of the Philippine territory with the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE). Protesters have even accused the government of giving away Mindanao to the MILF on a “silver platter.”
Under the MOA-AD, explained Arguillas, the envisioned BJE will have as its core the present geographic area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and six towns of Lanao del Norte.
Annexes of the MOA list 735 barangays under Category A (in six provinces in three regions and four cities), and 1,459 barangays under Category B (in seven provinces in five regions and two cities) for inclusion in the BJE. But these will still be subjected to a plebiscite to be conducted within 12 months following the signing of the MOA-AD for Category A areas, and not earlier than 25 years from the signing of the Comprehensive Compact for Category B areas.
Arguillas also said journalists today should consider themselves fortunate given over a hundred books on Mindanao, mostly dealing with history and peace, that have been published between 1996 and 2008.
She recommended Mindanao historian Prof. Rudy Rodil’s “Mindanao in Q and A” and Patricio Diaz’s “Understanding Mindanao Conflict” as basic reading materials.
While noting there have been improvements over the years, Arguillas still maintained that the media portrayal of Mindanao continues to be primarily one involving conflict.
Improving media coverage of Mindanao has been “discussed to death” over the last 20 years, she said. “Sana naman hindi na ganito ang ating topic. In the future, we hope we won’t have these kinds of workshops or conferences anymore.”