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February 24, 2015

BMG Board call for peace amidst Mamasapano tragedy

The Balay Mindanaw Group Board of Trustees meeting at the Rey Magno Teves Hall.

The Balay Mindanaw Group Board of Trustees meeting at the Rey Magno Teves Hall.

“While we will not surrender our advocacy for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), let us move forward to think how we can prevent the escalation of violence in the conflict-affected areas.”

In sum, this was the call of the members of the Board of Trustees of the Balay Mindanaw Group. Last February 17, they had their 2nd Joint BOT Meeting and reflected on the conflict and peace processes in Mindanao over time. Each shared their thoughts and insights after viewing a short video documentation about the history of conflict and peace processes in Mindanao which cited Balay Mindanaw’s peacebuilding efforts. But altogether, they agreed to continue community-based dialogues, particularly in North Cotabato and Maguindanao, do more peace education campaign in our institutions, in schools, in our communities – “to further understand the history of Mindanao, its conflicts and the Bangsamoro people.”

At the Mindanao level, the BOT thought further of the need for a “broader Mindanaoan group and personalities as references” to make the loudest call for all-out peace, backed up by peace constituencies as a response to the increasing clamor (mostly from Manila) for all-out war.

The Chair of the Board of BMFI and BBFI, Ibing Okinlay-Paraguya, presided the meeting with a strong hope that “something good will come out of this [Mamasapano] tragedy and confusions, despite this unfortunate and untimely suspension of the congressional hearing on Bangsamoro Basic Law.” She was one of the members of the GRP Panel who was then pushing for the MOA-AD during the Arroyo Administration. She further added that this is the best time for BBL to be passed in Congress, under the PNOY Administration.

BMFI and BBFI Chairperson Ibing Okinlay-Paraguya presiding the meeting.

BMFI and BBFI Chairperson Ibing Okinlay-Paraguya presiding the meeting.

Kaloy Manlupig, President and Pioneer of the Foundation, said to the group that, while discussions and investigations are on-going on the Mamasapano incident, we [civil society] should “think already of the next possible scenario or steps especially on how we can help reduce the tensions, fears and apathy among the people in conflict-affected areas.”

Like shown in the video, Kaloy recalled the armed clashes that started in Lanao when Supreme Court declared MOA-AD as unconstitutional and illegal in August 2008. Then another impasse in the peace negotiations happened again in 2011. Kaloy pointed out that this should have also led to another bloody encounter however at that time “people did not anymore wait and see for war to come but rather they move everyone to unite against the war that was suppose to break out.” This was true in the case of the remote partner-barangays of Balay Mindanaw in Aleosan, North Cotabato. Because of the local consultations and dialogues facilitated, the communities were made aware of their strong desire to end the long-time war that greatly damaged their lives and homes as well as their dreams.  They sent messages to local military units and local LGUs. They even had a dialogue with the leaders of MILF at Camp Darapanan. “They started telling everyone that they do not want war again” Kaloy related. (Please see related article:  Community-based dialogues help keep the peace in Aleosan)

Also hopeful and could agree more, especially with the initiatives at the community level, Gerry Bulatao, Board Member of Landbank and former Undersecretary of DAR, stressed that “it is important not to give up easily and look at what should be done to reduce the agitation for war. We call for individuals or groups to go legitimate.”

– Belle Garcia-Hernandez

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