COTABATO CITY – “This initiative of gathering us to a dialogue by Good Wednesday Group for Peace is commendable especially in providing the Army a third eye, looking into our programs under the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) that needs to be improved. But at the same time, I see this as very challenging because the AFP is only one part of the whole structure of IPSP.”
This was humbly raised by Col. Agapito Nagrampa Jr. during the dialogue among military, police and civil society organized by the Good Wednesday Group for Peace in Maguindanao last July 11, 2012 at the Sardonyx Hotel, Cotabato City. Col. Nagrampa is the Deputy Brigade Commander of the 603rd Infantry Brigade based at Camp Abubakar, the former stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He further expressed the need to see the role of the local government units and somehow help strengthen and capacitate them to effectively run their affairs towards good governance.
This was seconded by the Brigade Commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, Col. Cesar Sedillo, by saying, “We the AFP, together with LGUs and NGOs, have to work together for the IPSP and for peace,” emphasizing the presentation of Col. Sid Purisima, the OJ3 (Office of Operations and Doctrine) from the General Headquarters, who emphatically shared the elements of the IPSP, which call for combined and complimentary efforts from all stakeholders because the AFP sees the inadequate military solution to the dynamic and complex internal security problems. He also spoke about the involvement of the stakeholders in the IPSP, which is in the planning, implementation, as well as in the evaluation phases that will end on 2016.
For half a day, the dialogue was aimed at opening doors of collaborative efforts among multi-stakeholders as the military is engaged in implementing its new strategy through the IPSP. It was also a venue of raising conflict concerns and issues affecting Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato (mostly the increasing cases of “rido” in these areas), and clarifying activities being done by soldiers and policemen in the communities, hoping to build a shared understanding of roles and needs.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao, commander of the 7th Infantry Battalion, presented the history of GWG, which began as an AFP-CSO forum after the 2009 Maguindanao massacre when he was newly assigned to head the civil military office of the 6th Infantry Division. He was then tasked by the new division commander, then Lt.Gen. Anthony Alcantara, “to reach out to the NGOs” in the light of the tense situation in Maguindanao at that time.
The discussions were summed up by Ariel Hernandez of Balay Mindanaw, where he challenged the local CSOs, LGUs and military in these areas to emphasize on the following: (1) continuing constructive dialogue where criticisms are welcome but should come with proposed alternatives; (2) localize the IPSP by engaging the local governments, especially the local chief executives so that the LGUs will also own the process of resolving rido; (3) close coordination between the AFP on the ground and CSOs for the honest and non-violent elections since they have done it very well in 2010, as documented; and (4) addressing human rights issues, with the new development that all HR violations are being handled by all deputy commanders.
The dialogue was participated in by 35 representatives from Good Wednesday Group and from the brigades and battalions under the 6th Infantry Division. Brig. Gen. Manuel Luis M. Ochotorena, the assistant division commander representing his boss, Maj. Gen. Rey Ardo, inspired both the GWG and the 6ID elements. “We welcome this initiative and we are happy to join the table to discuss issues and get involved in dialogues such as this. This activity provides us the opportunity to assure everybody that 6ID’s mission is to bring stability in this part of Mindanao, and to help attain peace through cooperation,” he said.
He assured that whatever the Good Wednesday Group will find out in its pursuit of objectively monitoring and assessing the whole division in its implementation of the IPSP, these will be acknowledged and considered as points for improvement.
The dialogue was convened by the core of GWG – Bapa Sammy Maulana of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), Mr. Bobby Taguntong of the Citizen’s Coalition on ARMM Electoral Reform (C-CARE), Col. Benjie Hao of the 7IB, and Mr. Sid Makakena of the Maguindanao Task Force on Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU). -belle garcia-