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Home » Peace Stalk: Speech for the Roundtable Discussion on Deradicalization

Peace Stalk: Speech for the Roundtable Discussion on Deradicalization

Peacebuilding: Creating Safe Spaces for Dialogue and Action

Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig
Founder and Senior Adviser, Balay Mindanaw
Delivered (online) at the Roundtable Discussion on Deradicalization
Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy
Astoria Plaza, May 21, 2024

Thank you very much for giving me this space. I have been asked by Atty. Salma and Ma’am Amina to share with you my insights on my work as an independent mediator in the GRP-RPMM Peace Process and Balay Mindanaw’s efforts at creating safe spaces for dialogue at the barangay level through peace conversations in areas directly affected by the CPP-NPA-NDF armed conflict.

Balay Mindanaw is a peacebuilding and humanitarian NGO that has community-based peacebuilding teams in the Bangsamoro, Northern Mindanao and Caraga. Our basic mission is to help plant seeds of peace in areas that are directly affected or threatened by violent conflicts.

We were introduced to direct peacebuilding work in 2003 when we were requested to help set up and act as independent mediator and secretariat of the formal peace process between the Philippine Government and the RPMM or the Revolutionary Workers Party of Mindanao – a breakaway group from the CPP-NPA-NDF that continued to wage armed struggle even after the break-up.

When the principals approached us to help them set up the process, we had absolutely no background in peace negotiations, madiation, and peacebuilding in general. However, we realized that they were offering us a basic resource for mediators and negotiators: Trust. Thus, we said yes to the invitation, and that decision opened the peacebuilding door to us as a local homegrown NGO. Soon we bacame actively involved in regional and global peace initiatives and networks, eventually becoming the secretariat of Action Asia – a network of peace practitioners from all over Asia and the Pacific. It also became an opportunity for us to mainstream our technologies in community organizing, community participation, people empowerment, good governance, livelihood, microfinance and other aspects development work.

Reflecting on the experience, I can say that the process eventually became a journey of trust-building, and a space for transforming persons, relationships, institutions, and hopefully, societal structures.

This peace process which is also called “The Other Peace Process” had these features:

  1. Formal talks were held within the country (usually in the BM Peace Center)
  2. The mediator was an NGO, and not a foreign government,
  3. And most importantly, its inclusiveness through the participation of the broad stakeholders was institutionalized through a formal agreement called “Rules for the Conduct of Local Consultations as Integral Part of the Peace Process”.

The process that was used for this peace negotiation did not involve complex political negotiations. Rather, a local peace and development agenda that will have an immediate impact on the ground was pursued.

The parties, after conducting local peace consultations in 100 villages in Mindanao, signed the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in 2005, without any reported ceasefire violation until today.

I will now talk about our involvement in the CPP-NPA-NDF issue. We were involved in the latest formal talks as resource person in the formal talks in Oslo and other venues in Europe. While there exists no formal peace negotiations between the Government and the NDF at the moment, we believe that the effort to search for and pursue a peaceful, just and lasting end to this violent conflict (with or without a formal peace process) must continue. One thing is quite clear to us: we must continue to help create spaces for genuine and inclusive dialogues for peace.

Let me also add that our interventions aimed at capacitating local communities, LGUs, the security sector and other stakeholders to analyze, understand conflicts, and find solutions to these have significantly helped in resolving and even preventing local violent conflicts. The approach is quite simple and straighforward: gain the trust of all the stakeholders, and encourage them to come together and talk – talk about their concrete issues and concerns, their hopes and dreams.

Peace education courses offered by various public and private agencies have to be sustained and enhanced. Balay Mindanaw has been conducting peace courses called Operation Peace Course or OP Kors! for the past 23 years having graduated at least 3,000 military and police officers, government officials and employees, NGO and PO leaders, and even non-state combatants. I believe this has contributed to the formation and development of a peace constituency.

The OPPAPRU website states:
“The meaningful transformation of combatants, their families and communities, lies in its community-based, community-driven approach. Under this strategy, all members of the community, particularly local government units (LGUs) and the residents themselves, are part of the peacebuilding process.”

This statement is significant as it captures so many critical elements in peacebuilding. It puts emphasis on people and community and LGU participation in conflict transformation. It also reminds us that the challenge of transforming violent conflicts does not end at resolving the vertical angle as the the horizontal aspect is equally (or even more) critical.

The various efforts at addressing radicalization and violent conflicts may have yielded some positive results. However, the one big key challenge remains: How to bring about just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of these conflicts – the conditions of inequity, underdevelopment, poverty and marginalization.#