dialogues help keep the peace in Aleosan
By Balay Aleosan Team / Posted
21 September 2011
Immediately after the
observance of the Holy month of Ramadhan, the peace and order
condition of Aleosan, Cotabato province was reportedly volatile.
Mayor Loreto V. Cabaya Jr. called for the continued upholding of
peace and solidarity in the entire municipality as stories of
another violent conflict spread.
Several armed men, allegedly
members of the breakaway Moro rebel group of Ameril Umra Kato, were
seen in five barangays, namely, Dunguan, Bagolibas, Pagangan,
Tomado, New Panay and Lower Mingadeng, causing the municipal
government to place these barangays on red alert and keep a 24-hour
watch in the communities. It was reported that a number of Muslim
women from said barangays had started to pack their belongings,
bringing these to relatives’ homes in adjacent barangays or
The ongoing tension in the
area was caused by recent sightings of Kato and his men in some
barangays of Aleosan. Kato, together with around 200 to 300 of his
men, disengaged from the MILF and formed the Bangsamoro Islamic
Freedom Fighters (BIFF). This move was triggered by disagreements
between Kato and the MILF leadership as regards the GRP-MILF peace
process, particularly, as to the failure of government to sign the
Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008. The
outbreak of violence that followed the non-signing of the MOA-AD
caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands in Central
Tree planting/tree growing
activity by some 100 interfaith youth in the municipality scheduled
on September 10 at Barangay Dunguan was postponed because of the
tension, according to Lee Rendon, president of the Mission Station
Youth Council (MSYC) .
In this connection, the
Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO)
headed by Mike Estrebillo; Councilor Leo U. Salem, of the Committee
on Public Order and Safety, Fr. Henry Carlos, OMI, the assistant
priest assigned in San Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Station; as well as
representatives from the academe, AFP, PNP and the Balay Mindanaw
without delay sat and discussed the situation. After the meeting
held on September 9, they came up with a plan of conducting barangay
level peace dialogues, particularly in the barangays most affected
by violence in the past years.
Most notable misinformation
shared was that the GPH-MILF peace talks have already bogged down.
This was cited to be the root cause of the panic among the people.
Thus the conduct of “Kapihan para sa Kapayapaan”, bringing
multi-stakeholders on a dialogue for peace in Aleosan.
The barangay-based peace
dialogues generally aimed at increasing awareness on the current
situation of peace and security in the municipality in the context
of the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF.
Specifically, the activity aimed at achieving the following:
- Help assess local peace
and security situation of the municipality;
- Identify immediate,
concrete steps for conflict prevention;
- Help create a positive
space for the local communities to begin dialoguing with each
other about the challenges that they are dealing with; and
trust and good working relationship among themselves toward
forging a collaborative effort in helping prevent violence.
In Barangay Pagangan, around
500 residents – youth and the elderly, barangay officials,
purok/sitio leaders, household heads, teachers, and from the
religious sector – attended the peace dialogue held in the morning
of September 13. Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, of the Mindanao Peoples
Caucus, gave the latest updates on the ongoing GPH-MILF peace talks.
At least 350 residents attended the same activity in Barangay
Bagolibas. Representatives from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate-Inter
Religious Dialogue (OMI-IRD) headed by the director himself (Fr. Pol
Yazar), the Nonviolent Peace Force team, MPC-Bantay Ceasefire headed
by Bapa Butch Gilma, from the AFP, PNP, church and academe also
shared their solidarity messages.
In Barangay New Panay held on
September 17, 300 attended. Ompong Rodil, now a retired professor of
MSU-IIT who was a member of the government peace panel in the peace
talks with both the MNLF and the MILF, with Abdul Malik Cleofe from
MPC and Toto Gamboa from the OMI-IRD acted as the resource persons.
Barangay Dunguan has not readily given its schedule for the first
leg, and we’re hoping to prioritize it in the next leg.
Most common challenges posed
in each of the peace dialogues conducted were as follows: the need
for building deeper and better relationships with one another; to be
aware, watchful or vigilant; the need to talk with each other.
“In the event of
unprevented armed violence, at least the MLGU is now more ready with
its concrete barangay plans of ensuring basic necessities of the
bakwits, far more ready than before,” shared Mike Estrebillo. He
added that this is the first time for the support groups to be
gathered without prior notice. Most importantly he cited the
meaningful impact of people dialoguing for the prevention of armed
“Ang gyera ay magastos,
mahirap, at marahas! We all do not want this to happen again.
At the local level, we need
to strengthen our interconnections, promote interfaith dialogues,
strengthen existing local peace mechanisms (barangay peace and order
councils, council of elders, etc.), as well as strengthen synergy or
collaborative linkages among groups and/or civil society
organizations”. This was captured by Bibing (BMFI) as part of the
“Kurambos” (pooling of
pledges) has become the way of mobilizing or generating support,
promoted by BMFI with the MLGU and other participating organizations
BMFI commends the active
leadership of Mayor Cabaya and the support of all those who in one
way or another got involved in starting up these local yet
meaningful initiative in helping prevent conflicts to happen again.