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Marawi City IDP Leaders Decried Militarization and Urge Passage into Law of BBL

Posted on 04 January 2018 by cbcs_mike

Prominent Internally Displaced Person (IDP) leaders of the Marawi City carnage mostly women after narrating their different heartbreaking experiences, suffering and anxieties ended with a synchronized assertion for demilitarization of Marawi City and instead work for the immediate passage into law of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTC) drafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), now filed in the House of Representatives as HB6475. They further, emphasized that the passage into law of the BBL and eventually the implementation of Islamic laws are the only ultimate solution, so that the Marawi Crisis will not be repeated again as well as in all other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

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The different stories was told during the activity called “Listening Process” with IDP Community Leaders held at the Ayala Resort, Mindanao State University, Marawi City last December 19, 2017 sponsored by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) base in Cotabato City, headed by its Chairperson Mr. Guiamel Alim.

The burst of emotions came after an overview was given by Mike Kulat, Senior Program Officer of CBCS stressing that: “the process maybe new to some but necessary in order to document the actual experiences and sufferings of the victims of war”. Reminding that for the last two decades of lingering armed conflicts in the Moro dominated areas, there were occurring wars at least every two years and there were no concrete documentation on them.

In the past, what where counted were numbers of massive displacements, numbers of killed on both sides of protagonists, captured war materials including civilian lives in some cases. On this the Marawi Crisis, victims are lucky enough as there were much talks of “Marawi Recovery Programs” manifested by the existence of “Bangon Marawi Groups, a ten billion pesos President’s commitment and many others. Nevertheless, the usual recovery programs deals on; Buiding economy and businesses establish schools, rebuild hospitals and infrastructures. So the question is: Can these physical reconstruction and recovery fixed and remedy the root-cause of the problem? Can it cure traumatic and mental anguish due to lost of kit and kin? What about destruction of relationships, social dislocation and political disintegration? He added that these were the importance of the listening Process and from the victims’ perspective, documents their perceived alternative solutions and recommendation in order to avoid repetition of the same traumatic experiences not only in Marawi City but in the whole of Mindanao.

One unique story of a sudden war in Marawi was revealed by a Christian teacher happened to be trapped by the war while on seminar at the Noramis Convention Hall in Lilod Madaya. She disclosed that prior to the May 23 start of war, there were already talks of armed group’s threats of occupying Marawi City but disregarded by many including her. Even on the following day as sporadic firings were heard in Amai Pakpak Hospital and Dansalan College, she thought it was a simple rido as usual and will subside soon after authorities intervened.

A day after,” the burst of firings became intense until the first time I saw Omar (Maute) with a Yakan speaking fellow” she started. And continued: “She commanded all of us to go down of the hall, counted us and ask some questions. Then he ordered us to stay intact and come back to us later and then left for supervision of their troops.” And added that: “This was the time that the first thing that came into my mind was the Zamboanga Siege” and fear and anxiety, she stressed. After they left, the trapped groups were able to contact with Barangay Officials who instructed them to leave the place immediately towards Amai Pakpak Hospital before the armed men go back.

However, before we reached the place, “we met several patients escaping and told us that the hospital was already occupied by the Maute-ISIS groups”. So they redirected their route towards Matampay. Upon reaching the place, the teacher went back to Noramis since a number of her fellow Christians were left in the area who were new in Marawi that came from the municipalities of Bumbaran and Wa-o and do not know what to do.

When she delivered her fellow Christians to safer place only then she remembered to look for her seven month old baby left with her family. On the occasion of escaping she had to climbed to the closed gate of the Noramis in order to enter several times. At one time he met an escaping man and cried for help and she said: “this was the first time I saw how a man cries in times of severe crisis.”

Many different but similar stories were told of war experiences but were all ended up in taking the Marawi incident as hard lessons for self-reformation and transformation. However, the matter could only be effective and sustained by complementary structural mechanism through passage into law of the BTC darted BBL and returning back to Islam as a guiding principle in the day-to-day lives of not only the Maranaws but the Bangsamoro people as a whole.

Johary Ditucalan Ayo
CBCS Area Coordinator for Lanao

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CSO LEADERS RECALLS EXPERIENCES ON MARAWI CRISIS

Posted on 04 January 2018 by cbcs_mike

Twenty eight leaders of Moro civil society organizations (CSOs) converged in an activity called “Listening Process” conducted by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) in an aim to validate, document and fuse the multi-dimensional issues that came out after the infamous Marawi City Siege, that resulted in a tremendous destructions both physical and emotional aspects. The activity was held in Iligan City on December 18, 2017.

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Guiamel Alim in his welcome and overview of the event stressed that: “the process may sound to some as new process but a timely and long neglected process” especially on the case of the Bangsamoro who had been on armed-conflict for so long. He stressed that the process is a data-gathering and documentation that allows a “free-flowing story telling” without rebuttal.

He emphasized that the Marawi victims of crisis are lucky enough as the talks of “reconstruction, rehabilitations and recovery programs” had been talk of the town and becomes flavour of the day not only by the Meranaws but even on national scene. The usual reconstructions and recovery programs deals on: (1) Buiding economy and businesses (2) Establish schools (3) Rebuild hospitals, infrastructures (4) New laws, [parliament ... federalisms]. However, he quipped: “can the physical recovery fix the structural roots of the Marawi crisis and Bangsamoro problem as whole?” This is the main focus of the activity: “that the result will be used as an instrument in correcting historical injustices” against the Bangsamoro and identify both short term and long term solutions to recurring problems.

The participants different but identical personal experiences on the Marawi catastrophe ranging from deaths of close kins, caring of olds and the sickly during the sudden eruption of the unexpected war, destructions of houses and lost of properties and valuables. The narrations were usually interrupted with sobs as signs of deep traumatic effects of the war that remains in the heart of every victim.
On the issue of who’s to be blamed in the disastrous event, the participants expressed different outlooks as some blames the Maute-ISIS connections, some to blame the Local Government units (LGUs), the national government and the military. Other have it that Marawi incident is a government “pre-meditated” plans because of the prior threats were allowed to thrive. However, they all ended in their narration as one, that the matter was a shared responsibility including themselves and the whole people of Marawi City and its surrounding communities.

For one the Maute-ISIS connection had been in their midst for several years starting in Butig and Piagapo municipalities including the Marawi City occupation were public knowledge. The matter was known to the community peoples, the LGUs up to national level particularly Department of National Defence but no concrete actions were taken. The reason why Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana once revealed that there was miscalculation and underestimation of the capacity of the Maute-ISIS to do the threat. The narrators all admitted that there was a top-to-bottom neglect of a forthcoming danger at that time.

Majority of the narrators pointed out that the long term solutions to the problem is to unite in supporting the passage of the BTC drafted Bangsamoro Basic law, that will redound to self-reformation, advancing the Bagsamoro identity to include going back to Islamic systems of life. In so doing, using Marawi incident as hard lessons learned, if not the catastrophe will just be a vicious-cycle not only in Marawi City but in all other Bangsamoro areas.

Johary Ditucalan Ayo
CBCS Area Coordinator for Lanao

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ZAMBOANGA PENINSULA YOUTH STATEMENT OF SUPPORT TO BBL

Posted on 14 December 2017 by cbcs_mike

Assalamo Alaykom Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuho.

We, the Union of Youth Organizations in Zamboanga Peninsula and as a component of the youth sector in the entire country, we unite ourselves primarily aiming for the transformation and development of the youth to become more beneficial to the society.

As a youth union, we strongly believe that the development and progress of our society is largely dependent on the status of its youth. And likewise, the Zamboanga Peninsula youth would not prosper without having a conducive environment to live in.

We believe that the state of existence would only be achieved by resolving the Bangsamoro Questions through the immediate passage and enactment into law of the newly crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

The Fey-Zap – as component of the youth sector, commits itself to the best of its capacity to be an agent of peace and societal transformation and Development.

It strongly supports the passage of undiluted BBL as the most viable tool for healing and reconciliation of the long standing Bangsamoro Issues, towards more progressive and brighter future for our generation, Insha-Allah (God Willing).

At this time, its very limited but valued time, the only thing that could bring about genuine smile to the Bangsamoro People which rooted from their heart, is handing over them the enacted and undiluted BBL.

We hope and pray that Allah Almighty will help us youth to be privileged with a progressive and brighter future through the success of the BBL. Ameen.

[Delivered by Ustadz Nuroddin Mantolino, Chairman of the Union of Youth Organizations of Zamboanga Peninsula at the “Interfaith Peace Assembly in support for the passage of BBL” held at Rotonda, Pagadian City on December 10, 2017 attended by no less than two thousand multi-sectoral delegates coming from different municipalities of Zamboanga Peninsula]

By Mohaiya Pua
CBCS Area Coordinator – ZamboPen

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BM-PUSH PRESSCON STATEMENT

Posted on 06 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

July 18, 2017

We, the leaders of the Bangsamoro Platform for Unity, Solidarity and Harmony (BM-PUSH) composed of Bangsamoro multi-sectoral leaders organized in different parts of Mindanao organized primarily to help build constituency in support to the ongoing peace processes between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Fronts conducted series of meetings amidst the current Marawi Crisis and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

We make it known that we denounce any kind of terrorism much more if it caused the displacement, misery and devastation to now more or less 300,000 individuals scattered in different municipalities in the peripheries of Marawi City.

On the other hand, we laud the joint efforts of the GPH and the MILF in utilizing the peace and security mechanisms of the peace process by establishing the “Peace Corridors” purposely ‘as safe and secure corridor for women, men and children fleeing the crisis in Marawi as well as a reliable space for humanitarian assistance to pass through’. We therefore urge the government and the MILF that such Peace Corridors be strengthened and expanded in vulnerable conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

We recognize that the declaration of Martial Law is within the ambit of the president’s mandate under extraordinary condition. However, we are equally apprehensive of its consequences especially on human rights violation under this state and therefore we appeal to the security forces; the police, military, its force multipliers and to DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as the administrator of the martial rule to be mindful of both domestic and international frameworks on human rights in its implementation.

We sympathized with the grieving families of the police and soldiers that perished in compliance with their sworn duties but all the more we grieved with the growing numbers of innocent civilians that died either by trapping or caught in crossfire which is until now continues to be retrieved in various places of the battle zones of which many already in state of decomposition.

We finally call on the stakeholders of the Marawi tragedy to end the crisis for the interest of hundreds of thousand innocent civilians who are carrying the burden of war they never wished.

And therefore, we appeal for the government and MILF to fast-track establishment of the Bangsamoro Government through the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro compliant new Bangsamoro Enabling Law as the best option in ending these decades of armed-conflict in Mindanao.

BM-PUSH Conveners:
1. P-CART
2. MAP
3. CBCS
4. FBCSO
5. COM
6. WOMB
7. LBO

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ARMM BUILDING

Checkpoints and Chokepoints: The Rocky Road to Peace in the Bangsamoro

Posted on 04 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

[The author Professor Rufa Cagoco-Guiam is a:Professor III, Department of Sociology, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Graduate Program in Public Administration; Director, Campus – Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao, Mindanao State University – General Santos City 9500, Philippines The article was reprinted as published at Asia Peacebuilding Initiatives webpage.]

RUFA CAGOCO-GUIAM

For the past three years, the acronyms FAB, CAB and lately, the BBL encapsulated key points in the rough road characterizing the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). FAB, CAB and BBL stand for Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the Bangsamoro Basic Law respectively.

Considering the Filipinos’ proclivity to use acronyms—from the meaningful to the outrageous—this is nothing new and remarkable. But in the case of the MILF-GPH peace process, these acronyms have taken on significant meanings, not only in the literal sense, but also in identifying important landmarks—checkpoints and chokepoints—in the rugged road to peace in Mindanao, especially in the Bangsamoro.

On October 15, 2012, the panels of the two parties signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and this elicited wide euphoria on the looming positive outcome of the long drawn-out process. The MILF talks with the Philippine government commenced more than 17 years ago, spanning the administrations of at least three Philippine presidents: Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and starting June 2010, Benigno S. Aquino III. Public enthusiasm and excitement over the imminent closure of such a tedious and circuitous peace process was palpable, not only in the core territories of the envisioned Bangsamoro, but also in the contiguous and even in other regions in Mindanao and in many parts of the country. For some civil society leaders, just the mention of the word “Bangsamoro” by the President in a statement read on national television was enough to move them to tears. After all, it was the very first time a sitting president of the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, would recognize on national television the existence of a separate and distinctive identity of the Bangsamoro.

The FAB led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), through Executive Order (EO) 120 that President Aquino signed as early as December 2012. It was tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the organic act that would create and provide guidelines for the workings of the envisioned Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016. As EO 120 provided, the BTC was composed of 15 members, 8 of whom were nominated by the MILF; the rest were nominated by the Philippine government. It was also President Aquino who signed the appointment of all BTC members.

ARMM as failed experiment or more than 20 years since its creation, the ARMM has been the poorest region in the country, with its provinces occupying the bottom rungs of the Philippine’s human development ladder. The original four provinces that constitute the ARMM—Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi—have always been tagged as members of the country’s “Club 20” (the “club” of poorest provinces in the country). After a plebiscite in 2001, the ARMM expanded to include the island province of Basilan and the city of Marawi, a city in Lanao del Sur province, courtesy of Republic Act 9054 (An Act expanding the coverage of the ARMM, and other purposes). Like the original members, the two additional areas also exhibited the same low levels of human development indices compared to other provinces in the country.

From 2006 to 2012, encompassing three periods of the national government’s triennial household census, the region exhibited only one instance when its poverty incidence dipped, although just by a fraction of 1 percent (from 40.5 percent in 2006 to 39.9 percent in 2009). But such a minuscule drop was wiped out with a whopping 8.7 percent increase in the next census in 2012, when its poverty incidence was reported at a very high 48.7 percent (roughly half the number of people in the region) classified as living below the poverty threshold. In actual numbers of families, this percentage translates to 271,355 families, and if this is calculated using the average number of individuals per household of 6 (2 parents and 4 children) – this is roughly 1,628,130 individuals. As of 2012, the total population of the region was a little over 3 million. 1 See Table 1 below for details.
Table 1. Poverty Incidence and Magnitude of Poor Families in the ARMM, 2006, 2009 and 2012

Region/Province Poverty Incidence among families (%) Magnitude of poor families
2006 2009 2012 2006 2009 2012
ARMM 41 40 49 205,834 212,494 271,355
Basilan 28 29 49 14,137 14,787 16,832
Lanao Sur 39 49 67 51,408 68,770 100,946
Maguindanao 46 43 55 70,665 67,899 87,800
Sulu 35 36 40 39,478 42,530 51,278
Tawi-tawi 50 29 22 30,146 18,518 14,999

*Culled from the Regional Development Plan in the ARMM Updates, 2013. p. 22.
In terms of annual per capita poverty threshold, the amount (in US dollars) is quite measly, ranging from US$266 to$400 (see Figure 1 below). The increases in the per capita poverty threshold are dictated by inflationary factors extraneous to the region. In other words, these are not the results of decreasing poverty incidence.

A significant decrease in poverty incidence was recorded in the island province of Tawi-Tawi from 2009 to 2012, at almost 20 percent from its original level of 50 percent in 2006. But this lone outstanding performance dimmed in comparison with the increasing number of poor families in the four other provinces in the region. Two provinces—Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur—figured prominently in the significant spikes in their poverty incidences, with an average increase of 15 percent from their 2009 records (43 percent to 55 percent and 49 percent to 67 percent respectively, in 2012). The two provinces are also the location of several pocket wars and skirmishes classified as horizontal conflicts. Such conflicts are popularly referred to in the literature as “rido” or vengeance fighting among rival political families or among families that have been engaged in grudge relationships for several years now. 2
Figure 1. Annual Per Capita Poverty Threshold in US dollars, 2006, 2009 to 2012

Poverty THRESHOLD in Muslim Areas 2006-2012

As the only autonomous region in the Philippines, the ARMM was envisioned then to have turned the tide for its impoverished communities after the protracted armed conflict. But year after year of its existence, with a representative of the three dominant ethno-linguistic groups in the region at its helm, the ARMM has instead created a popular image that it was a “failed experiment” in autonomous rule in the Philippines. Governance is also perceived to be weak, or even absent in many LGUs (local government units) in the ARMM, starting from the lowest unit, the barangay, to the provincial levels. Local chief executives in impoverished towns in the ARMM provinces are known to be in their opulent residences outside their LGUs, in progressive cities like Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos or in middle income cities like Koronadal and Tacurong in south-central Mindanao.

A recent assessment on the state of local democracy (SoLD) in the ARMM describes people participation in governance as minimal, only as voters in elections held every three years. 3 But such minimum participation is further weakened, as voting can be manipulated: powerful political clans and other influential leaders can impose a “command vote” among ordinary citizens. Poor voters in areas hard to access in the countryside are “commanded” to vote for certain candidates in exchange for cash or some form of “protection,” as wards of a political patron.
Throughout its electoral history, the ARMM provinces have been considered “hotspots” and have always been on the watch list of the national Commission on Elections (Comelec). The autonomous region has recorded the most number of election-related deaths in the 2010 elections, thus confirming its negative image as a violence-prone area, with 58 people killed in one instance out of a total of 117 election-related killings in the entire Mindanao region. 4 The 58 were victims of the Maguindanao massacre (aka Ampatuan massacre) that happened in a remote area near a highway in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan municipality, on November 23, 2009. Among those killed were journalists and civil society leaders who accompanied the family of then candidate Ismael Mangudadatu (now governor of Maguindanao province) to Cotabato City to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy. The massacre has now gone down as the goriest and most brutal election-related incident in Philippine contemporary history. As of this writing, the alleged suspects in the massacre still remain in detention, without having yet been convicted, after five long years.

Promised road map to peace?

On March 27, 2014, the long anticipated historic event finally took place. The panels of both the MILF and the government signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on that memorable day. Everyone, from government sector groups and civil society was in a celebratory mood. Ecstatic crowds displayed their “unwavering” support to attain genuine peace in Mindanao in various rallies organized in many parts of Mindanao, even in areas where Bangsamoro peoples only comprised the minority population, like in General Santos City.

“It is too good to be true,” remarked many of the Maguindanaon Muslim attendees in the rally at the General Santos City Plaza, with crowds estimated to have reached between 6,000 to 10,000 people. The city plaza was literally filled up to the rafters that day. I learned later that the crowds were composed of Maguindanaon Muslims from several towns in the nearby province of South Cotabato and even as far as Tacurong in Sultan Kudarat. “I never thought I would live to the day of the signing of this important agreement, Alhamdullilah” said an older Muslim Moro attendee, who withstood rheumatic pain in his knees just to attend the rally.
Such festive mood dominated both civil society and local government units within and outside the region, with local politicians making pronouncements on their “full support” to the Bangsamoro government. Huge tarpaulins and streamers, expressing whole-hearted support to the CAB and the envisioned Bangsamoro, dotted the highway from General Santos City to the city of Cotabato, the seat of the ARMM, which soon will be the center of the Bangsamoro government by 2016. Greetings came from prominent local government officials, military leaders, as well as private sector figures.

But the celebratory mood did not last long; collective disappointment replaced it in the next few months. In April, the work of the BTC was finished and its members were ready to present the draft BBL to the Philippine government. As provided in the CAB, once submitted to the government, the BBL would be certified by the President as an urgent bill for Congress to deliberate on, and passed as a law. Time was of the essence here, as the next Congress was soon to reconvene in late July, after President Aquino’s 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA). But no certification of the BBL as an urgent bill happened.

High expectations were soon doused with a barrage of unfavorable comments and feedback from the Presidential Legal Team, which subjected the draft BBL to meticulous scrutiny. The team’s review of the draft BBL, according to a source privy to the peace talks, resulted in a “menstruatingly (sic) or bleeding red” draft, referring to the comments written in red all over the draft.
The public clamor for a glimpse of the draft BBL was also ignored by both panels. But they also rationalized that no one among them was authorized to release even an outline of the BBL’s basic provisions or contents. In the meantime, public anxiety intensified, even among peace advocates. The common question among them was: why is the draft BBL not released for us to read or review? One leading peace advocate and prominent civil society leader, Fr. Eliseo R. “Jun” Mercado, Jr., OMI commented that since the draft BBL was not released to the public, there was no way the public could participate in making suggestions or recommendations to improve the draft. 5

ARMM BUILDING

The Office of the Bangsamoro People, the seat of the ARMM regional government in Cotabato City
“ARMM Regional Building” by George Parrilla – http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgeparrilla/3230084949/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The let down

On July 28, 2014, President Aquino delivered his 5th State of the Nation Address before top officials of the country, including members of the two houses of Congress, and influential civil society leaders. For many advocates, sympathizers and followers of the peace process with the MILF, the President’s address was a huge disappointment in many ways, both in substance and even in the observance of what one prominent journalist refers to as “good manners and right conduct (GMRC),” something that any Filipino is expected to have learned in elementary school.

The date of the 5th SONA coincided with the celebration of one of the two most important holidays among Muslims, 6 the Eid-l’Fitre, or the end of the holy month of Ramadhan. As president of a country with a significant Muslim minority, Aquino was expected to have prefaced his 5th report to the nation with greetings of “Eid Mubarak” to the Muslims, especially the MILF panel members, who were among the audience that day. The president also did not acknowledge their presence before delivering the essence of his speech. How can the highest and most important leader of the country not display “good manners and right conduct” before the delivery of his address?

In terms of content, the 5th SONA only made a short, two-paragraph reference to the draft BBL. Almost everyone who closely followed the progress of the GPH-MILF peace talks expected more, since the silence that enveloped the whole BBL prior to the SONA was attributed to not pre-empting presidential opinion on it. And because no significant pronouncement on the BBL was made during the SONA, observers concluded, and rightfully so, that the President was not really quite serious about forging peace in the Bangsamoro, as earlier hyped by his subalterns. Hyping on the BBL and the whole peace process may just be part of a political rigmarole of the president and his men and women to convince the people of their concern for the Bangsamoro, however superficial it is.

In July, public disappointment further intensified, as invariably expressed in many outlets, including social media like Facebook and Twitter. As a result the two panels (MILF and the Philippine government) agreed to have a 10-day “workshop” in early August (first few days until the 10th) at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City. An “independent” panel of lawyers also joined the workshop to facilitate the discussions aimed at “ironing out” differences between the two panels on the BBL. The phrase “ironing out” implies that something has got to give – or be “flattened out” as a result. Would this mean the MILF will bend over backwards once again, to succumb to what the central government wants?

No final common draft came out of the 10-day workshop, as there were still some issues left unresolved, foremost among them, the proposed structure of the new Bangsamoro government. As provided for in the CAB, the Bangsamoro government is asymmetrical to the national government – it will have a ministerial government in contrast to the Philippine national government’s unitary structure. The disagreements in the workshop led to extending the deadline for the draft for another 8 days, until August 18, 2014. As of this writing, the public eagerly awaits for the final, commonly agreed BBL.

Several press releases were issued, and many newspaper headlines screamed alleged “accusations” from the MILF about having been betrayed by the national government leadership. To this, the chair of the MILF panel and the head of the BTC quickly issued a firm denial of the accusation, saying among others that the MILF still hopes for a peaceful resolution to the impasse. Such denial was confirmed with the signing of the MILF of a joint statement with the Philippine government, through the Executive Secretary, on the two panels’ agreement on a common BBL draft as of August 14, 2014 (four days before the extended deadline).

The rugged road continues

The protracted MILF-GPH peace process that spanned more than 17 years is that of a rugged road with checkpoints in forms of several peace agreements and accords as well as joint initiatives to forge peace in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. But the chokepoints—the disagreements and heated discussions, including allegations of violations of ceasefire agreements on both sides—are quite numerous and daunting. President Aquino’s widely hyped “matuwid na daan“ (straight path) toward good governance and sustainable peace in Mindanao maybe straight indeed, but it is pockmarked with huge rocks and potholes that can derail smooth passage.

Many of those who have seen this long and checkered peace process have become frustrated. They think that after all is said and done, all the hype about a “presidential” peace process is still what it is – just a farce. For them, the Bangsamoro are just given a ride – a ride for them to pin their hopes for a peaceful future on a draft basic law that will never see its approval, as it was originally formulated. It might pass through a predominantly Christian Congress, after some arm-twisting from the Office of the President, through the PAPP (presidential adviser to the peace process). But it might be a version that is quite emasculated and drained of the long-delayed “affirmative action” or transitional justice that is due the Bangsamoro.

But, there are those who still believe in the proverbial silver lining after the storm. And I am one of them. It is true there are pockmarks along the road that goes toward lasting peace. But it also behooves on all of us – constituents who believe in the virtue of peace over war – to contribute to this arduous and challenging task through collective action. Peace cannot be forged only at the top – those in the middle and at the bottom of the social structure also have their own significant roles to play in the collective efforts toward durable peace. Such collective action can be in the form of helping remove the road blocks and pockmarks along the way, through our joint efforts of problem solving, conflict resolution at the community level, and helping nurture the seeds of peace among our children and youth.

http://peacebuilding.asia/checkpoints-and-chokepoints-the-rocky-road-to-peace-in-the-bangsamoro/

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MANIFESTO of SIGN NEW BBL CAMPAIGN

Posted on 03 October 2017 by cbcs_mike

We, the members of the coalition of broad networks of Bangsamoro/Filipino Civil Society and Grassroots Organizations serving Mindanao and its Islands had long been supporting and accompanying the GPH-MILF Peace Process towards its successful conclusion.

The peace process had been lingering with uncertainties for the last twenty years while majority of the Bangsamoro were and are holding their high hope of attaining just and lasting peace in their homeland through negotiations as they believed in the principle that the most civilized way of achieving peace is through the negotiating table.

As we feel we are nearing the peak of our efforts as well as majority of the Bangsamoro seems gradually exhaust their patience in unending dream of peace, we are launching today (September 29, 2017) our campaign under one banner of broad civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks with the grassroots called “Sustainable Initiatives of Grassroots and Networks for Bangsamoro Basic Law” to be popularly known in its acronym as “#SIGNnew BBL”. These initiatives was conceived as our means of maximizing multi-prong approaches in appeasing those becoming impatience as well as to employ every available means in advancing the passage into law of the new Bangangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

Anent the above, we make these calls and statements to wit:

  1. We laud President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their continuing efforts as manifested in their series of meetings undertaken on: (1) September 4, 2017 meeting of the President and MILF leadership (2) September 14, 2017 meeting of the President with the Bangsamoro Tranistion Commisioners (BTC) and Congress leaderships and finally (3) September 20, 2017 meeting of the President with the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), Congress leadership and majority of the Cabinets and finally endorsed BBL as “Urgent Bill”.
  2. We likewise commend Congresswomen Bai Sandra Sema and Ruby Sahali for spearheading the submission of the draft new BBL in Lower House as well as their commitments to peace manifested through authoring House Bill 6475.
  3. Our calls to both members of House of Senate and House of Representives to give credence to the new BTC draft BBL. This is neither an incursion nor intrusion to your independence as Legislative Branch of the government but an appeal to uphold the gains of the now forty two year’s peace processes between the Government and the Moro Fronts (MNLF and MILF).
  4. For those whose felt exhausted of decades of waiting for peace to withhold their frustrations and instead to be calm and sober and give chance to the peace processes and benefits of the doubt to first Mindanaoan Pressident who has a very strong political will to end the Mindanao Question.

Finally, we are one in belief that the enactment into law of the BBL and eventual establishment of the envisioned Bangsamoro entity is the only effective way in suppressing rising violent extremism and narrow-down adventurism of the younger generation of the Bangsamoro.

#SIGNnewBBL Convenors:
1. League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO)
2. United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)
3. Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
4. Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP)
5. People’s CART (P-CART)
6. Federation of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organizations (FB-CSO)
7. Federation of United Mindanawan Bangsamoro Women – MPC (FUMBW-MPC)
8. SEED Foundation Inc. (SEED)
9. Community Organizers Multiversity (COM)
10. Women’s Organization Movement of the Bangsamoro (WOMB)
11. Coalition of Moro Youth Movement (CMYM)
12. Confederated Descendants of Rajah Mamalu (C-DORM)

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Guiamel-Alim

All Wars Are Wars Against Civilians

Posted on 28 June 2017 by cbcs_mike

Neither the AFP nor the “Terrorist” Groups is winning the war

By Abu Mumar

(The author is a Bangsamoro independent thinker who spends his profession years in non-violent peace building. He heads the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a Cotabato City-based Peace and Human Rights-based network of Moro NGOs and POs and an avid promoter of transitional Justice and Reconciliation)

The on-going violent battles in Marawi City will soon be over. One group may win the battle but no group is going to win the war. Surely, we are all the losers. The only benefits we can gain from these wars are lessons to be learned. Why they happened, how will they not happen again.

Guiamel-Alim

In this violence in Marawi City as they are in other parts of the Bangsamoro, many civilians lost their lives. Some are being held hostages. Others are trapped inside the conflict zones and still others are made human shield. Thousands were displaced living under the mercy of relief assistance. Millions worth of properties destroyed. Some children are sick, many died. Source of livelihood are stopped. The education of the children is disrupted. Relationship among people destroyed. Fresh wounds of prejudices and hatred developed.

Millions of pesos are spent everyday for this war rather than for development. And there is no guarantee that other similar or even worst battles can not occur sooner or later elsewhere. It was in Maguindanao, then to Basilan, then in Zamboanga City and now in Marawi City. The high-level armed skirmishes in Sulu, Basilan and Mahuindanao may have ended but sustained violence continues to no end. The fighting is not solving the roots of the real problems.

What is next after fighting? Relief and rehabilitation work? Mending destroyed relationships? And the vicious cycle continues. What justice is due to the displaced civilians? Those who died? Those whose properties were destroyed? Are they simply the “collateral damage”? Are there guarantees that the violence will not recur after the battles end? Are we making new history or continuing the history of violence from decades past?

Let us face it. War can only fulfill certain functions. Its usefulness is very limited. Violence does not recognize boundaries and targets. The acts of terror perpetrated by the enemies of the state and the corresponding anti-terror acts by the state are all producing casualties to the civilians. In Mindanao, as it is in the Bangsamoro, the violence has been there for long. We can condemn them (wars) but is it enough to curse them? Something comprehensive must be done to end the wars. What are the roots of conflict in Mindanao? What are the reasons why there are terror groups? What are the structural, emotional, psychological socio-economic bases of the conflict and terrorism?

Remember the 5 major causes of violence and the 6 paths to Peace during the administration of former president Ramos? Three presidents since then had ruled the Philippines after the 6 paths to peace had been formulated. Whatever happened to them? Was it the same as the all-out-war of Estrada? The all-out-peace of Arroyo and Aquino? Is this the same as the 6-point peace and development agenda of the present administration? Or is it just the syndrome of “pass it on” to the next administration?

Isn’t our conflict local? Why is it dragging too long? Why has it gained international recognition? Whatever happened to the Tripoli Agreement of 1976? The Jeddah Accord? The Final Peace Agreement of 1996? The FAB of 2012 and the CAB of 2014? When will we ever learn the art of implementing agreements? Are there frustration, disheartenment and hopelessness in the peace processes that has been dragging for long time that other groups are looking for other alternative means? Why have other wars ended and ours is still going on?

How many more lives, properties and millions worth of war materials do we need to dispense of before we say enough is enough? When will war end, to end the sufferings of the civilians?

The peace processes

Is there anything the on-going Bangsamoro peace processes can contribute in designing and implementing a more comprehensive solution to a complex socio-economic and security problems in the Bangsamoro? Will a meaningful autonomy, acceptable to Bangsamoro liberation fronts, be a deterrent to violence? Will it usher in cooperation between the national government and the liberation fronts to promote development and stamp out violence?

Aren’t the local “terrorist groups” homegrown ones? Were they not descendants of old comrades in the MNLF and the MILF? What are sending them to support international-based terror groups? Can development in the Bangsamoro attract them to return to the fold of peace process?

We are told that the use of arms or violence can not kill an ideology. But we can offer better ideas and alternatives to offset them. The grant of self-determination concretely expressed in meaningful autonomy will offset the demand for a separate state. This is suggested by a Catholic bishop and now cardinal as “a perfect balance between addressing a legitimate demand of social justice for the Bangsamoro and a respect to the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippine state. The success of the peace process is undoubtedly a big contribution in paving the way for national unity and reconciliation. This state of affairs will hasten cooperation in pushing for scaling up development in the war-torn Bangsamoro areas while at the same time working together towards preventing radicalization that can lead to terrorism.

We cannot afford to have another failure in the peace process.

If part of the reasons in the growth of local terrorist groups is the prolonged unresolved conflict and the frustration over the failure of the past agreements, another failure can be disastrous. The monolithic MNLF was factionalized due to dissatisfaction and frustrations. Except for the MILF who towed separately the pathway of the peace process, all the subsequent split groups followed a more “extremist” line. Failure in the MILF present peace process may produce high level of frustration, bitterness and disheartenment among its ranks. Their vulnerability to join the global ideology of the caliphate may not be remote. Should this be the case, peace negotiations can be relegated to the thing of the past.

We must end the violent wars through the peace process. We can not afford to see more civilians suffering from a prolonged war where there are no victories but only losers. In these wars the civilians are the sure losers and the rest of us.

Condemning terrorism is one thing. Offering better alternative is another thing. Using the hard approach of military counter-terrorism is necessary but can only fulfill limited functions. It is not sustainable. When the act of counter-terrorism goes beyond the limit and the use of force becomes inappropriate and in-proportionate, they can become harmful and can produce more potential terrorists. “The effectiveness and legitimacy of the state’s actions against terrorism will be undermined if the state, through any of its agencies, uses its power in violation of international human rights standards”.

We can kill one terrorist today, two terrorists will be born tomorrow. As has been the case of the Abu Sayyaf who has been pulverized (pulbos) many times in the past. A comprehensive approach based on the platform of addressing structural, psychological, emotional and socioeconomic marginalization is more strategic and sustainable.The state has to adopt a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism, with a particular focus on preventing and countering “violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism”, while upholding human rights and the rule of law.

We have to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro as well as other minority groups. There is the imperative need to correct historical injustices and address marginalization, political exclusivity and discrimination. To avoid emotional grievances, profiling of criminals or “terrorists” built on “stereotypical assumptions based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, etc. are not only discriminatory but also ineffective”Using the above approaches, we can solve our domestic problems. After all, all conflicts are local. Their solutions are also local.

Our failures can only attract many to join others.

CBCS Secretariat

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BM-PUSH OF ZAMBOANGA PENINSULA OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO

Posted on 29 May 2017 by cbcs_mike

We are saddened with the unwanted crisis occurred in Marawi City, which resulted to the evacuation of the innocent civilians and the unexpected declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao by the President.

The BM-PUSH Zamboanga Peninsula Area is not in authority to doubt the decision of the president for the declaration of Martial law,but we have the following appeals and call:

1. To the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to give highest respect to the civilians and uphold  Human Rights in the implementation of Martial Law while fighting with the terrorist groups.

2. To the people in authority to find immediate action in resolving the crisis in Marawi City which may help in sending back the evacuees to their respective homes especially during this Holy month of Ramadhan.

3. To the government of the Philippines to fast track the peace processes and work for the early passage of the Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL).

4. To the people in Marawi City in particular and Mindanao in general to be united and be vigilant enough in order to protect their communities.

5. We are calling for the cessation of hostilities in Marawi City to end the current conflict and violence.

The BM-PUSH ZAMPEN Area, is condemning the incident in Marawi City which brought the tri-people into unsafe condition and even left their livelihood and education of their children at home in exchange of the indefinite stay in the unfavorable evacuation centers.

The BM-PUSH ZAMPEN Area,is in Solidarity with the innocent civilians and all people in Marawi City and the Lanao provinces. We hope and pray for the early resolution of the problem. May the Almighty Allah will protect and guide you all always. ALLAHU AKBAR!!!

By: Mohaiya Pua

BANGSAMORO PLATFORM FOR UNITY AND SOLIDARITY & HARMONY. (BM-PUSH) ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, SIBUGAY AND PAGADIAN CITY
MAY 27, 2017

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CBCS Statement on Martial Law, Terrorism and Counter-terrorism

Posted on 29 May 2017 by cbcs_mike

It is unfortunate that we are caught again in a situation where people had to live in high level of fears and uncertainties in their securities. This situation is brought about on one hand by terror attacks and on the other hand, by the counter-terrorism response. In both cases, the civilians and non-combatants are the sure victims.

Declaring martial law as a form of counter-terrorism and the threat of heavy militarization from government on one hand and the counter military actions from the enemies of the state on the other hand are among the reasons that we see in the exodus of the Meranaws from Marawi city to Iligan city and Cagayan de Oro city and other places. It is the excessive use of force and some features of Martial law that even peace-loving individuals are afraid of.

People who had experienced Martial Law during the Marcos regime can tell harrowing stories of ordeal, fear and insecurities in their lives and properties. This is especially so when President Duterte said that the martial law in Mindanao “ could not be any different from the martial law declared by Marcos” and that he could be “harsh”. These statements make people think that things can get worst.

We thought that the situation in Marawi City was not worst than the Zamboanga siege in 2013. In the latter, the damage was big, the forces of enemies of the state were in big number and the fear was great. However, situation was normalized without declaring Martial Law. We were confident that military will be able to neutralize the enemies sooner in Marawi City.

We condemn any action, especially terror attacks as well as counter-terror attacks that create havoc, sending peace-loving civilians and non-combatants to scamper for safety, leaving their livelihood, the education of their children and their miserable existence in evacuation sites under the mercy of relief goods.

We appeal to both the government forces and those fighting the government to give the highest respect to the lives of the civilians and the non-combatants.

For the government military forces to enforce its mandate strictly in accordance with the law and with respect to human rights and the International Humanitarian Law. We further appeal to the government to immediately solve the violence in the Marawi complex in order to send back the civilians home, especially that it is already the holy month of Ramadhan. Running violence that can spill over to the adjacent areas and may drag in other non-state actors , can adversely affect the on-going peace processes between the government and the mainstreamed Moro fronts.

We appeal to those fighting the government to distance themselves from the communities in order to ensure the safety of the civilians and to spare the non-combatants and peace-loving individuals.

For the government forces and the enemy of the state LET NOT THE CIVILIANS BE THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE.“Killing an innocent and peace-loving civilian (person) is like killing the whole humanity, while saving the life of an innocent and peace-loving individual is like saving the entire humanity”

Finally, we share our thoughts that counter-terrorism the military way can only have a very temporary relief effect. As shown in the experiences of other countries and even in the Philippines, the “hard” approach did not prevent extremism or terrorism to recur. The long-term solution is to dig into the structural, emotional and psychological causes of violence and extremism. Frustration, hopelessness and poverty are among the incubators of violence and to some degrees extremist reactions.

It is therefore imperative that after the conflict, the sources of violence that can lead to extremism must be rooted out. The Bangsamoro, when given the space and adequate authorities, can help push development and stamp out the sources of violence and extremism.

CBCS Secretariat                                                                                                                                       Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)

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DAVAO BP-PUSH CONSULTATION

CSO LEADERS OF DAVAO APPREHENSIVE ON THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE PEACE PROCESSES

Posted on 12 May 2017 by cbcs_mike

Thirty two Moro CSO Leaders coming from different provinces of Davao converged in a consultation forum conducted at MTRC , Bajada, Davao City on May 9, 2017 sponsored by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS).

DAVAO BP-PUSH CONSULTATION

The forum participants were spearheaded by the Bangsamoro Platform for Unity, Solidarity and Harmony (BM-PUSH) for Davao areas led by Mr. Sami Buat and MNLF Commander Leopoldo Lalang, Led Convener and Co-Convener respectively. BM-PUSH is a loose formation of community leaders committed to support the ongoing peace processes between the government and the Moro Fronts as well to relentlessly call for unity and solidarity among the major Bangsamoro groupings .

The CSO leaders’ apprehension came after President Duterte express some sort of “pessimism” in the ongoing Bangsamoro Peace Process due to failure of the MNLF – Misuari faction to unite with the MILF now leading the negotiation. However, it was discussed that even if the Misuari group was allowed by no less than President Duterte have their own and separate negotiation, the upcoming Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) to be crafted by the expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is already a convergence of both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the presence of no less than five representatives from the former.

The other crucial issues raised in the dialogue of Moro CSO Leaders are the timetables in drafting new BEL is very erratic. Under the Duterte’s Roadmap for Peace and Development, it was stipulated that the final draft will be finalized and submitted to the Office of the President before July 2017. Then later, there was a request from the Office of the President for the BTC to submit their draft by May 18, 2017 and in response the later committed to hand the final draft by May 15 which is merely four days to go. And current information reveals that a new timetable was forwarded by BTC, extending their submission of final draft of BEL to the president on June 1, 2017. Be that as it may, again around twenty two days left and still time is in essence because if we follow the Roadmap, before it can be submitted to the president, the draft BEL should have been presented to “Bangsamoro General Consultative Assembly” which still don’t have features of how it looks like for now.

In the afternoon, Al-Haj Murshid Mascud, vice chairman of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) and currently Chairman of the “BTC – CSO Task Force on Bangsamoro Consultative Assembly” was invited to shed light on the function of the task force related to the ongoing drafting of the BEL. He explained that the task force is creation of BTC Honorable Chairman Ghazali Jaafar purposely to consult the CSO Leaders in Mindanao and in preparation for the stated Bangsamoro General Consultative Assembly. He informed the leaders, that other Task Forces were also created to consult other major groupings and sectors of the Moro society among others, the Sultanate, Religious, Non-Moro Settlers, IPs, Business, LGU officials women, youth and others. He ended by saying due to time constraints, the BTC may or may not able to conduct the said assembly “but at least we already have started and now doing our consultations on the gorund.”

In the plenary discussions, the CSO leaders identified appropriate and timely advocacy campaign during the period and concretized important issues and concerns in a statement signed by the participating CSO leaders and committed to furnish all concerns and in media entities.

Datu Emil Gonzales

CBCS Area Coordinator

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