Hard to get peace

We can assume that everybody wants peace, because this is the natural tendency or urge of every soul.  But the flipside is that nearly everybody also differs on how to achieve it. This is an irony that ever haunts peace-makers to this day.

The rejection of the peace deal between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by Colombian voters showed again the ugly face of this dilemma. The “no” votes narrowly defeated the “yes” votes by a ratio of 50.2% against and 49.8% in favour.

Most of those who voted "no" said they thought the peace agreement was letting the rebels "get away with murder". They also branded the agreement as too lenient with the rebels.

This turndown virtually created a situation of uncertainty in this South American state. The question is what is next for the parties?  Would war the necessary option now that the peace overture is blown out?

However, both parties assuredly said they will continue the path of pacifism.

Most likely, this reversal will impact on the current peace processes around the world especially on the GPH-NDFP/CPP/NPA and the GPH-MILF peace process. But the greater impingement is expected more on the first peace process, given the fact that the NDFP/CPP/NPA, like the FARC, is a Marxist-Leninist organization. But we do not know exactly how this affects this process, whether positively or otherwise. On the MILF, perchance the clearest lesson it can learn is that peace is really hard to achieve. Obstructions, or to use a milder term, smokescreens, are endless in the arsenal of the spoilers. They used them sparingly or discriminately.

Of course, under the current Administration of President Rodrigo Duterte there is a greater chance of passing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for three clear reasons: First, the President had unambiguously said he will pass the BBL; second, he has all the time to pass it; and third, he is extremely popular. This is not to mention that both houses of Congress are dominated by his allies. Both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President are also his party mates.

Earlier, in an editorial, we highly commended the FARC and the government of Colombia for their historic success in inking a peace pact that ended the 52 years of bloody conflict. This salutation still stands. We know how difficult to negotiate for years. Negotiation can never be fun. It is a very stressful exercise.

In no yardstick, the rejection is a failure. It can precisely indicate where the holes that are needed to plug are located. Hard lessons are usually the good lessons learned.

To us, the huge lapse, if we may, lies in the overconfidence of the parties that because everybody is presumed longing for peace, then they will vote yes for the deal. The result of the referendum spoke otherwise. They also underestimated the influence of former President Alvaro Uribe who personally campaigned against the deal. But the most fascinating overlook was still the decision to hold the referendum on October 2, which was barely a week after the peace deal was signed on September 26, in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. There was very limited time to explain to the people the content of the deal and what benefits await them.

On the referendum, the better way perhaps is to conduct it twice or thrice and if the peace deal is defeated on the first try, then the next, and then the third. After these attempts and the result is still rejection, then the parties can renegotiate the terms of the peace agreement. By this, the chance of success is greater or at the least the reversal is very much tolerable. It is the will of the people and they have spoken.

Of course, this is not a judgment call or a criticism or vain talk. We respect the standpoints of the parties. This is just thinking aloud, so to speak!