By Bong Fabe
Posted 24 July 2009
Peace is not a
thing to possess, but a way of possessing.
Peace is not a gift to be given, but a way of giving.
Peace is not a topic to teach, but a way of teaching.
Peace is not a theory to learn, but a way of learning.
Peace is not an opinion to hold, but a way of holding.
Peace is not a resolution of strife, but a way of striving.
Peace is not a creed to preach, but a way of preaching.
Peace is not a god to serve, but a way of serving.
Peace is not a question to ask, but a way of asking.
Peace is not an answer to seek, but a way of seeking.
“Peace in not a journey’s end, but a way of Journeying.”
DAVAO CITY, Mindanao,
Philippines -- Like the veeerrry looong and winding road that
connects Cagayan de Oro City to Davao City, the road to peace is
full of detours, potholes and challenges that every traveler must
negotiate and traverse to get to his/her destination in one piece.
And Balay Mindanaw
Foundation, Inc. (BMFI), through its internationally-recognized and
internationally-known International Center for Peace in Mindanaw (IC
Peace in Mindanaw), and Kab-ot Gahum: Resource Center for
Empowerment and Development (RCED), is now leading the journey to
peace in the island of Mindanao.
Together with the Eastern
Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP), and the Australian government through the Australian
Assistance for International Development (AusAID), BMFI is leading
the charge for the attainment of peace in Mindanao by empowering
senior officials, officials and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of
the AFP with new “weapons” to better equip them in managing
conflicts, and help bring about peace, in their areas of operations.
“It’s up to you if you
want to become peace advocates, but we want to equip you with
knowledge and tools that people can understand so that when you talk
to them they will believe us that we are not just a force but rather
we want to attain peace. We are aided by the community,”
said Lt. Gen. Raymundo G. Ferrer, EastMinCom commanding general.
Peace. In Mindanao. That is
the legacy that BMFI, through its executive director, Anak Mindanao
Partylist Rep. Ariel “Ayi” C. Hernandez, and EastMinCom, through
its commanding general, Lt. Gen. Raymundo B. Ferrer, would like to
leave behind as leaders.
In partnership with AusAID,
BMFI and EastMinCom are now journeying together to bring peace in
Mindanao through its “Operation Peace Course: Building
Capacities on Conflict Management and Peace-building for Eastern
Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” wherein
NCOs and officials are being equipped with other skills to win the
“We are trying…to equip
you with other skills you can use to win the peace,” Ferrer said.
Hernandez, however, admitted
that peace course is not the definitive answer to the sporadic
conflicts going on in Mindanao.
But he is very sure that the
process “will provide a venue for players like us to think about
new things and to explore other possibilities. I think that’s the
source of wisdom and great learnings. When we start to ask
questions, directly, that affects our frame of mind, that affects
According to Hernandez, most
of the peace initiatives of various political leaders have failed
because it is unclear to them what their legacy will be.
“Kaya nagpi-fail maraming
initiatives kasi hindi malinaw sa leader ano ang
legacy niya. Mas nalulunod tayo sa pressure, mas
nalulunod tayo sa position ng mas nakakataas sa atin. Nalulusaw
yung interest natin na gumawa ng bago, ng mas makahulugan,”
But with Ferrer at the helm
of EastMinCom and Hernandez at BMFI, and with the cooperation and
help of local government officials like Gov. Oscar Moreno of Misamis
Oriental and Gov. Rene Miguel Dominguez of Saranggani, there is a
big chance peace will finally come to the island of Mindanao.
“Sa pamamaraang ito, sa
programa na ‘to, Balay Mindanaw and Eastern Mindanao Command
would like to give that venue to re-examine, or to provide a short
yet meaningful engagement para sa tropa, para sa mga leaders
like us, para sa mga travelers like us, na we define
what is our legacy in each of the things that we do na we
fully believed na may dalang pagbabago ‘to and most
importantly, may dalang bagong pag-asa,” he said.
BMFI, EastMinCom and AusAID.
Three entities that represent a very potent partnership for peace
— the private sector, the security sector and the government.
All three must work together,
hand-in-hand, in partnership and complementing each other to be able
to make a difference in the communities, in the lives of Mindanawans
and ultimately in the island of Mindanao.
But without the cooperation
and help of the LGUs, Operation Peace Course will fail.
“This is actually the time
to say what we can do. Combining resources to make things happen. Sabi
pa ni Obama Yes we can!” said Dominguez.
“Pag hindi n’yo kasama
ang LGU, pag hindi n’yo kasama ang komunidad, hindi niyo
kasama ang mga barangay captains, sayang po ang
investments, sayang po ang buhay ng ating mga sundalo, ng ating
mga kapulisan. Because that will only be in the short term,”
All three — private sector,
security sector and LGU — must journey together for peace in order
to make things happen.
“Kasama tayo sa biyahe,
kasama tayo sa journey hopefully to make an impact to the
communities, sa mga tao na for so long a time, talagang
hopelessness ang frame of mind. Hopelessness ang
attitude, hopelessness ang pagtingin sa kinabukasan,”
While the AFP is tasked
primarily to secure the country against internal and external
threats, there is also a need for soldiers, most especially
officials and senior officials, to increase their awareness of the
issues that lead to conflict in Mindanao.
Changing a fighter’s
mindset, however, is easier said than done.
And that is the number one
challenge Operation Peace Course is trying to address with
its Building Capacities on Conflict Management and Peace-building
While it is true that
soldiers have been educated, trained and are operating in an
environment of the gun, they are also searching for peace.
Perhaps Maj. Gen. Reynaldo B.
Mapagu, commanding general of the Army’s 10th Infantry
Division, said it best when he said that Operation Peace Course “is
an honor for us to share our insights and experiences so that we
could journey together in our vision of peace in this part of the
Gov. Migs Dominguez (left) and BMFI's Ayi Hernandez.
And for the soldiers of the
EastMinCom, Mapagu has this to say: “It is equally important that
we keep increasing our awareness and deepening of understanding
about the issues that lead to conflict, affect the security of the
people and their communities and bringing unpeace.”
But “awareness” and a
deep understanding of the issues that lead to conflict” will still
The private sector, the
security sector and the LGU must also show a credible face before
But sadly, not all LGUs are
credible, said Dominguez.
“Unfortunately, in the
local government, many of us are not credible at all. And that
compounds the problem, compounds the situation,” he said.
Credibility. That is the
hinge that will open or close a community to peace-building efforts,
whether by the private sector, the security sector, the government
or a combination of all three.
And because the security
sector — AFP and PNP — is the face of the government in the
community where they are operating, it is very important that they
show a credible face or else the battle for peace in Mindanao will
“As long as government has
no credibility on the ground, the armed forces will continually face
an uphill battle in trying to win the hearts and minds of our
people. However, with cooperation, with teamwork, despite limited
resources…I’m the first one to say that we will be able to solve
these conflicts. It may take time, it may take generations. However,
top also to our responsibilities as civil servants is to make sure
that we restore the credibility, restore the respect and dignity as
civil servants facing people every single day in our mission to
finally show that we are the best alternative and nobody else,”
And for the soldiers who have
undergone or will be undergoing the Operation Peace Course, Dominguez
has this advise: “As you leave your tour of duties, sana naman
masabi natin na mas maganda yung komunidad na sinerbisyohan ko kaysa
noon. And you have made a difference and you have made a mark in
building or rebuilding Mindanao.”