ISABELA CITY, Basilan – Today, November 29, 2011 marks a very important day of understanding and cooperation in Basilan as a group of 80 key stakeholders representing the various sectors are gathered at the Bishop Querexeta Formation Center in Isabela City to promote the multi-sectoral dialogue and community resilience in the province.
This is seen as a way of understanding the different perspectives from a mixture sectors representing the local government units, government line agencies, military, women, youth, NGOs, religious and Agrarian Reform Cooperatives. This is a means of finding new ground of working collectively towards a peaceful Basilan, especially in the light of the past and very recent violence that took place a month ago in Al-barka that caused so much grief, fear, resentment and anger at all levels –local, national and even international.
Moreover, this meeting sends a clear message for people to maintain tranquility yet vigilant of the conflict situation, and cultivate the theme of this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace – “Common Word between us and you: Love of God and Love of Neighbor” – not only in Basilan but all over Mindanao.
This was firmly expressed by Miriam Suacito, Executive Director of Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. and co-convenor of this conference in partnership with the Provincial Government of Basilan and the Department of Interior and Local Government of the Province. She said that “this gathering is timely not only for the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Basilan and NGOs who are building and working for peace but also for other key stakeholders to see the different lenses of what is the real situation in Basilan, especially on the conflict issues related to the peace and security in the province.”
She added in her message about her hope that “this conference may soon have a ripple effect to our children and our children’s children not only in Basilan but also in Mindanao and the whole Philippines” since the gathering allows the participants to cultivate the best possible collective interventions from the different sectors.
Engr. Tahir Latip, the Provincial Administrator of Basilan representing Governor Jum Akbar, has articulated his concern over the illusive peace situation in the locality despite the peace processes and the different community peace initiatives. It was humble of him to admit that the lapses of the LGUs in delivering the basic services which are necessary in the development of the communities of Basilan. Being a local government official himself, he acknowledged the poor performance of LGUs, saying, “Marami kaming pagkukulang” – in terms of availability, delivery of government services and infrastructures as well as systems in the local government. Thus he challenged the sectors recognizing “the need for reforms and good and committed leaders as well.”
From the sectoral workshops, critical issues were raised, particularly the poor governance and leadership, poor delivery of basic services as well as infrastructures, lack of community participation in decision-making processes, lack of quality education and employment opportunities.
Other socio-political, security and cultural problems were also cited, including the rido or family feud, ruling of political dynasties, nepotism, proliferation of guns, criminality, kidnap-for-ransom activities by lawless elements, corruption in LGUs and agencies, and lack of moral values.
The over-all consequence of all these issues and problems is a “development paralysis” as strongly mentioned by the Academic Sector’s report presented by Jerrelyn Asanti, the Division Alternative Learning System (ALS) coordinator of the Department of Education in Basilan.
Other effects mentioned by the different sectoral reports, which were summarized into four aspects by Dr. Grace Rebollos, past President of Western Mindanao State University or WMSU, includes (1) Psychological: fear, phobia, trauma, insecurity, greed, negative image by the media; (2) Economic: poverty, low productivity, displacement and the inability to work; (3) Systemic breakdown: no rule of law, poor delivery of basic services – education, health, livelihood; (4) Poor Governance: absent CEOs/officials of LGUs, poor delivery of basic services, poor utilization of resources, corruption and no sense of transparency and accountability, lack of interest/enthusiasm to learn good governance and crabby mentality of officials.
Though the conferences ended with a collective signing of a peace agreement among the participating sectors, it was then a start to move the multi-stakeholders to another level of engagement. The strengthening of the Peace and Order Councils at the local level (from barangay to municipal and city to provincial levels) was clearly endorsed by the body. A provincial public and safety peace plan was also proposed to be formulated based on a participatory consultation which was gladly well-taken by the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC).
For whatever it takes, a continuous dialogue between and among the stakeholders was unanimously pushed to be done on a regular basis. This was also a challenge supported by both Vice Governor Al Rasheed Matunang Sakkalahul, Convenor of the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Basilan, and Fr. Angel Calvo, Convenor of Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP).