Security Sector Reform (SSR): Creating an enabling environment for peace and development

I remember the time when Ms Juvy Loyola, one of the faculty members of Balay Mindanaw Operation Peace Course (Op Kors!), was facilitating Security Sector Reform (SSR) session with some senior officers of the Armed Forces and key leaders of civil society organizations.

I remember the time when Ms Juvy Loyola, one of the faculty members of Balay Mindanaw Operation Peace Course (Op Kors!), was facilitating Security Sector Reform (SSR) session with some senior officers of the Armed Forces and key leaders of civil society organizations. Through a structured learning exercise called “word association (correct minus wrong),” she asked the participants a concept or thought that comes to their mind when they hear the words “security sector.”

Most of the answers pointed out the military and the police only. The other elements in the sector – such as justice and rule of law, non-statutory security forces and security management and oversight bodies – are apparently seen as less crucial to security sector reform. She then proceeded to discuss security sector as the institutions, groups, organizations and individuals – both state and non-state – that have a stake in security and justice provision. These can be organizations providing security and justice services, and the organizations that oversee them.

It is in this context that BMFI’s initiative on engaging key stakeholders, and advancing capacities and gains in conflict management and peacebuilding towards a meaningful security sector reform, was conceptualized. This anchors on the results of the previous peace efforts, which delved much on capacitating senior and junior officers, key enlisted personnel, including the Division Training Unit (DTU) of the military, and some key police officers within the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC). This time, the effort focuses on helping transform the security sector into a sector of sustainable Peacebuilders and Peace Champions optimizing local partnerships between or among communities and people pursuing reforms.

On 14 October 2011, BMFI sat with the members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of North Cotabato with Governor Emmylou “Lala” Talino-Mendoza presiding. Mr. Ayi C. Hernandez, one of the Board of Trustees of BMFI, presented the rationale and strategies that will be employed as far as SSR initiatives are concerned. Without much discussion, this was recognized by the council as complementary to their existing peace efforts. Governor Mendoza, on the other hand, emphasized that the Municipal Peace and Order Councils (MPOCs), being directly connected to the people on the ground, should also be considered having crucial stake in this kind of reform initiative.

Mayor Loreto Cabaya Jr., of Aleosan, North Cotabato, as the head of the MPOC, together with the Municipal Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (DRRM), gave his affirmative action by way of strengthening the multi-stakeholders. “Most of the priority issues identified in the DRRM plan of the conflict affected barangays are related to armed conflicts that is why we appreciate BMFI’s peacebuilding initiatives tapping everybody’s active participation in the municipality,” he said.

As a preliminary move, the provincial and municipal governments, ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya, the military (40IB), and BMFI pooled resources to help construct a madrasah in Barangay Dunguan, most affected by violence in the past years. The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) also committed to provide Qur’an and other educational materials for the of-school age children numbering around 200 in the barangay.

BMFI likewise met with Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu on 20 November 2011. He was interested about the SSR, and committed to support it all the way. He delegated Provincial Administrator Abdulwahab Tunga and Provincial Local Government Operations Officer (PLGOO) Director Isa Romancap to ensure efficient implementation of the initiative from their end.

On 4 November 2011, BMFI was with the Special Action Team (SAT) of the PPOC-Maguindanao. The SAT is composed of four brigades of the 6th Infantry Division, the Philippine National Police, Institute of Primary Health Care (IPHC), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG )and the Maguindanao Task Force for Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU). Attended by about 50 members and escorts of the PPOC-Special Action Team, BMFI showed its 13-minute video as startup. The SSR initiative was then presented, including an inter-active discussion about what is SSR. Police Director Marcelo Pintac emphasized the need of the province for a regular CSO partner as most of their partners come and go, with their humanitarian assistance programs. Col. Prudencio Ramos Asto, of the 6th Infantry Battalion who now is completing his Doctorate in Peace (scholar/adopted son of the province), also shared that most of their men and women have already undergone BMFI’s peace course.

The MTFRU is also appreciative of BMFI’s “reaching out” intention. They have organized municipal level “Rido Settlement Committees,” which as of the present though doing actual conflict resolution work, also needs more capacity building on effective communication, mediation and negotiation.

Provincial Administrator Abdulwahab Tunga, in his speech, cited that “the province is not only welcoming BMFI but inviting BMFI to be part of the provincial team for peace”. If ever BMFI would want to be more visible in the province, they are open to providing it physical space in Buluan, Maguindanao or at the PLGO office in Cotabato City. As a first timer to this kind of peacebuilding effort, the team requested to send at least 10 of their PPOC-SAT members to the peace course scheduled come first week of December 2011.

The group was amenable to the Governor’s suggestion to focus the group’s peacebuilding effort at Barangay Tenoc, Mangudadatu. This barangay really needs major interventions – basic social services as well as capacity building.

Yes, security sector is everybody’s concern – by the entire government, the private sector and the civil society organizations, including the media. This peace initiative, when collectively executed by the broader stakeholders, will surely be another humble contribution to helping end violent conflicts, another mechanism to building sustainable peace and development in this part of Mindanao.

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