Representatives of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) expressed their desire to have a more active participation in the peace process during a forum spearheaded by Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD Centre) held on 06 September 2017 in Quezon City.

According to an initial survey conducted by HD Centre, PWDs often feel that they do not have a role in or avenue to influence the peace process. Thus, the forum highlighted recommendations in ensuring that PWD rights and services in the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Government will be addressed and their participation in the peace process strengthened.

In his message, Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan shared the history of the country’s peace process and how the Six-Point Peace and Development Agenda aspired for a more inclusive environment in the Bangsamoro.

“We are all Bangsamoro, we live in one region and we are the same people that the revolutionary forces are trying to fight for,” Undersecretary Tan said.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Implementing Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal seconded Undersecretary Tan’s statement as he acknowledged the rights and needs of the PWDs in conflict-affected areas.

“PWDs are much vulnerable in times of conflict. When we discuss the issues on them, it’s mainly based on charity.  But the moment they [PWDs] were involved in peacebuilding efforts, na-kumpletoyong equation,” Iqbal shared.

The morning session was then proceeded by three panel discussions conducted in the afternoon that focused on the following topics: (a) personal narratives that the PWDs faced in conflict-affected areas; (b) how the proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Government can address the needs of PWDs; and (c) how to ensure that the Bangsamoro government provides the services for PWDs.

’Yong Persons with Disabilities gusto rin po ng kapayapaan, pero sila mismo ‘yong mga IDPs [Internally Displaced People] na mas nahihirapan. Kung may surprise armed conflict, hindi agad sila nakakapag-evacuate dahil sa kapansanan nila. Gusto namin ibaba na hindi lang kami beneficiaries, but we are also part of the government,” shared Suharto Hayudini, president and founder of the Association of Tausug with Disability.

Further participants from the consultative dialogue also included PWDs from Zamboanga, Wao and Parang municipalities and representatives from National Council on Disability Affairs, National Anti-Poverty Commission-Persons with Disabilities Sectoral Council, Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Philippine Federation of the Deaf Inc., Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Davao Jubilee Foundation Inc., International Alert, Asia Foundation, Australian Embassy in the Philippines, UK Embassy, Moro National Liberation Front, MILF and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.