by Zarelle Glen Dorothy A. Villanzana | April 18, 2022
From the likes of Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, and Nelson Mandela, on March 27, 2022, Commission of Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Dr. Ronald L. Adamat joined up the ranks as he became the first-ever Filipino recipient of the Mahatma MK Gandhi Prize for Nonviolent Peace. It is an uplifting moment not only for the educational sector but also for the entire Philippines.
Great turmoil has eradicated many lives and opportunities in this beloved country of ours. Throughout its history, wars have been prevalent in the Mindanao region. Although peace talks were continuously being made, none of those exchanges of words seemed to spark enough change in the number of fallen people in the Muslim areas.
More so, as rebellious influence seeped into schools, students slowly turned from pens to guns, and from quick-witted answers to empty seats. Leaving behind their families, hiding in the mountains, they decide to lead a new life they believe to be the only path towards peace and justice. Later, they figure out too late and are pronounced dead as they seek to surrender and return to the government.
As an educator, Commission of Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Dr. Ronald L. Adamat has expressed how sad and complicated these student experiences are. “If this insurgency persists, then there’s no peace, and if there’s no peace, then there’s no development,” he believed.
In line with that statement, Adamat dedicates his life to peace-building. He authored several bills which helped create harmony in the nation, and he also brought about many advocacies which continuously shape our country today. From the start of his Peace Initiatives in 1987 to the amendment of the 1987 constitution that awarded him as one of the recipients of the presidential medal of merit by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
When Adamat joined CHED in 2016, he paved the way for many advocacies such as Federalism, Indigenous People education, Peace education, agriculture, and good governance, among others.
Adamat’s inclination to defend indigenous people’s rights is particularly strong as he is also a member of the Indigenous Peoples of Tedurays of Upi, Maguindanao, thus it meant very much to him that these ideological groups in the mountaintops would stop intoxicating the vulnerable minds of the youth. Along with this, being a CHED Commissioner, he had the initiative to integrate both Peace Studies and Indigenous Peoples Studies into the higher education curricula.
He was also one of the authors of the Bangsamoro Law, which allowed a drop in the presence of armed conflicts, as the struggle of the Mindanao people has finally been answered with self-determination and a proper government, which overall, meant a better economy for the Philippines.
With all these advancements toward peace for the country and more, it is no question how such a prestigious award could fall into the hands of a Filipino educator who, in his words of gratitude, said being an educator, he feels very much inspired to pour out his energy, resources, time, and talent toward peace-building. With much honor in receiving the award, Adamat also plans to use it to challenge the Filipino youth to never forget the value of peace in nation-building.
The award was named after Mahatma Gandhi, the “Great Soul”, Indian lawyer, writer, activist, freedom fighter, a critic of injustice, and the strongest symbol of nonviolence in the 20th century. With every action brushed with the colors of harmony and order, he took his final breath into martyrdom and became his country’s father.
“Never in my wildest dream that one day, an award named after the man I admired so much be conferred on me today,” Adamat expressed in his thanks. “Rest assured that I will always treasure deep in my heart the Mahatma MK Gandhi Prize for Non-Violent Peace Award for the rest of my life. Thank you very much.”
Supposedly, the peace prize was to be awarded in 2020, but the awarding ceremony had to be adjusted due to the pandemic. In relation to this, Adamat remarked that we should declare peace as a pandemic, that we may “Infect people not to rest in peace, but to live in peace.”
Out of 258 nominees around the world, only two have been awarded the Mahatma MK Gandhi Prize for Non-Violent Peace, and the first-ever Filipino recipient, Commissioner Dr. Ronald L. Adamat, received it with great awe and gratitude. In his acceptance speech, he mentioned gaining inspiration in bringing peace to the Filipino people through reading the words: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”