Social Representations of a Controversial Peace Agreement: Subjective Public Meanings of the GRP-MILF MOA

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Using social representations theory, we studied the social meanings of a controversial Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In Study One, we describe the discursive content of the social debate by content analyzing articles from newspapers and selected websites. Study Two uses a survey to examine the fit between social representations of the political elite, as found in media, and the nonelite in Mindanao territories where the MOA was hotly contested. Study Three presents the social representations of the MOA at the local level through analysis of key informant interviews and archival data. Discriminant analysis on survey data shows that in general, the debate of political elites in media mirrors the contentions on-the-ground. However, the issue of constitutionality was only taken up by the political elite. Our findings suggest that the political stumble of the GRP-MILF peace process lay in a lack of procedural fairness and an on-the-ground participatory process acceptable to all antagonistic parties. However, the socially represented fair procedure is not about conventional democratic ways like using or not using a constitutional frame, but rather about pragmatic positioning and public consultations.