Sustain gains of the peace process, address violent extremism

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Undersecretary Nabil Tan, the deputy presidential adviser on the peace process, said sustaining the gains of the peace process in Mindanao could help prevent violent extremism.

Tan, who has been actively involved in the peace negotiations representing the government in the talks with the Moro fronts for years, made the appeal during a forum on the Bangsamoro Peace Process and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism on Sunday, September 17.

He said furthering the peacebuilding in Mindanao would discourage the emergence of violent extremism and radicalism particularly in conflict-ridden areas.

Tan provided updates on the developments of the implementation of the peace agreements with the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

He exhorted the need to support the overall peace process in Mindanao amid the ongoing conflict in Marawi.

“The crisis in Marawi is just a microcosm of things until and unless fully healed, conflict can erupt,” he said, adding that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) “will actively engage in the social and cultural healing processes because they are very important.”

“The social healing and cultural healing is part of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, which OPAPP is a member,” he said.

 

“Poor governance, non-involvement of the youth, education, health, etc. these can be drivers of extremism because when hope is almost lost, which is prevalent in the conflict area, it’s a fertile ground for extremism,” Tan, chairperson of the government implementing panels dealing with the MILF and MNLF, said.

Sheik Zayd Ocfemia, chairperson for social affairs of the Zamboanga Peninsula Ulama Council, emphasized during the forum that wrong interpretations of the teachings of Islam, and the vulnerability of the people in the conflict-prone areas are some of the major causes of the violent extremism in Mindanao.

Tolerance and co-existing with other religions are at the center of the teachings of Islam, he said.

Quoting a verse from the holy Quran, Ocfemia said Islam is against the notion of using violence.

He said the Ulama or Muslim clerics in the country have earlier issued a fatwa or Islamic law declaring terrorism as haram or forbidden.

Ocfemia noted that they have laid down several actions to address violent extremism and terrorism through countering “the narrative of the radicals and the war mongers by instituting policies and programs aimed at reducing poverty, promoting social justice and equal opportunities regardless of religion or ethnicity.”

The Ulama also called on to strengthen “interfaith dialogues with the cultural and religious sensitivities of all groups in order to attract wider participation among Muslim scholars.”

 

Prof. Alih Aiyub secretary-general of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said the mixture of structural violence in Mindanao has provided a conducive environment for radicalism to emerge.

He said a comprehensive solution to address the social ills in the conflict-ridden areas should be implemented on the ground.

For his part, Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the military is tapping all sectors, particularly the Moro fronts to “completely defeat terrorism.”

“Security is a shared responsibility. It needs sustainment of partnership between the different stakeholders,” Medina said, representing Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“The resolution of the Bangsamoro question is the long-term solution in achieving peace in Muslim Mindanao…It has direct and lasting impact in combatting terrorism,” Medina said, quoting Galvez.

During the forum, Peter Cheng, OPAPP program manager for Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi area, also provided the updates to the participants about the six-point Peace and Development Agenda of the Duterte administration.

Abul-Jalil Umngan, the area manager of Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) for western Mindanao, also spelled-out the strategic direction for Mindanao “to operationalize the policy directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to push for the systemic shift to a federal form of government.”

“As such, we will be providing a mechanism that will bring the Moros together to forge unity; ensure their participation in the national discourse on federalism; and isolate the extremist groups within our midst. For this purpose, we will be at the soonest, convene the All Moro Convention,” Umngan, representing Secretary Datu Hj. Abul Khayr Alonto, said.

The whole-day forum was initiated by OPAPP in connection with the month-long celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month. ###

 

 

By | September 19th, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

PWDs supportive on BBL, aspire for further inclusion in the peace process

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.

 

By | September 17th, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

Police helps sustain the gains of the peace process

ZAMBOANGA CITY –  The chief of the regional police office here on Tuesday said the improved partnership between security forces and the Moro fronts in Zamboanga Peninsula has helped thwart “potential crisis”  from armed groups.

Chief Superintendent Billy Beltran, director for Police Regional Office 9 (PRO),  said crime rate in Zamboanga Peninsula region has significantly went down in recent years following strong collaborations with the leaderships of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“There were almost zero major incidents such as bombings that occurred in Zamboanga Peninsula,” he said during a “Peace Forum,” which was attended by the top brass of the police regional office.

“We were able to avert potential crisis situations because our close coordinations with the Moro fronts.”

“We felt the need to seal the gains,  that’s why we invited them (MNLF and MILF) and show our appreciation,” he said.

He said it is very important for the police to fully understand and appreciate the overall peace process.

“It is very important for the policemen to understand the peace process and its protocols.  We always put premium to sustain the gains of the peace process,” Beltran said.

“We are very careful not to bring distrust among the parties,” he said.

According to him,  the police has set up several mechanisms to regularly coordinate with the Moro fronts.

“That process is already embedded in our organization.  We have people in charge to directly communicate and collaborate with the Moro fronts,” he said.

“We needed to get in touch with them every now and then.  We want them to know that we are thankful and share our milestones to them,” Beltran said.

During the forum, Peter Cheng, program manager of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for Western Mindanao,  provided updates to the top police officers  of the six-point Peace and Development Agenda.

Cheng said the office has conducted several peace tables across the country to initiate peace conversations.

“OPAPP is engaging different sectors.  More than 10 peace table have been conducted,” he said.

In parallel,  OPAPP is also implementing more than 200 projects across Zamboanga Peninsula like,  and island provinces of Basilanz Sulu,  and Tawi-tawi under the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn or PAMANA.

PAMANA aims to extend development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach, conflict-affected communities to ensure that they are not left behind.

For his part,  Lt. Col. Abdurasad Sirajan,  action officer of GPH-AHJAG for Western Mindanao,  briefed top police officers in Zamboanga Peninsula on the development of the southern peace process.

He said there’s a need for the security forces to put premium to the peace process to address the growing threat of radicalism in Mindanao.

“We need to protect the primacy of the peace process amid threats from terrorist groups,” he said.

The Peace Forum is an annual event initiated by the Police to deepen their collaboration with the Moro fronts and update on the developments of the peace process. ###

By | September 6th, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

Student Grant Certificates awarded to 196 student beneficiaries

One hundred ninety-six (196) student beneficiaries from Midsayap, Tacurong and Cotabato City were awarded grant certificates for the school year 2016-2017 as part of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) – Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Study Grant Program during a series of workshops facilitated by the two agencies from 29 to 31 August 2017.

The event, entitled “INFO-EX: A Conversation with the 2016 OPAPP/PAMANA-CHED Student Grant Program Beneficiaries”, is part of the monitoring and evaluation mechanism of the program under the GPH-MNLF Peace Table to gather feedback from the beneficiaries to improve its implementation.

The workshops were conducted to convene the 2016 student grantees in Zamboanga Peninsula (Region IX), Northern Mindanao (Region X), Davao Region (Region XI) and ARMM, and to provide an avenue for exchange of information between CHED and OPAPP as service providers, and the students as beneficiaries and implementation partners.

Among the concerns raised were the intricacies of the guidelines and the setbacks in the process of application for the assistance. CHED and the beneficiaries agreed to address them in a series of meetings after the event.

Gypsy Buisan, one of the grantees who is on her senior year taking up Bachelor of Arts and Communications in STI College, Cotabato City, extended her utmost gratitude and regarded the program as one of her milestones to realize her dreams.

Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila (OPAPP) dahil isa ang OPAPP sa naging bridge kung ano at sino ako ngayon. Although hindi pa ako naka-graduate, alam ko na may pangarap ako at goal ako na dapat marating,” she affirmed in front of around 80 students who compose the 1st batch of beneficiaries for school year 2017-2018 in Cotabato CIty.

“I’m encouraging all na mag-aral nang mabuti dahil itong assistance na binibigay ng OPAPP ay malaking tulong sa pamilya ninyo. May lima akong kapatid and I am the eldest. Iyong perang naibibigay sa akin ng OPAPP ay ibinibigay ko sa parents ko dahil alam ko kung gaano kahirap kitain ang pera na pinang-aaral sa akin. As a grantee, please do your best na mag-aral nang mabuti at huwag mawala sa assistance ng OPAPP,” she urged.

On 4 April 2013, a Joint Memorandum Circular between OPAPP and CHED was signed for the implementation of the Study Grant Program. This was intended to financially aid the members of groups with existing peace agreements with the government or their next of kin for college education.

Under the same program, student grantees who are deemed qualified for the study grant will be provided with Php5000.00 per semester. From 2013 to 2016, a total of one thousand two hundred ninety (1,290) student beneficiaries attributed to the GPH-MNLF Peace were provided Php 10,000 per year to cover school expenses such as tuition, monthly living and book allowances.

 

 

By | September 4th, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

STATEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER JESUS G. DUREZA ON DND CLEARANCE REVOCATION OF FORMER MARAWI MAYOR SOLITARIO & SONS

After a speedy review made by the Department of National Defense on the basis of the inclusion of former Marawi Mayor Omar Solitario and his two (2) sons in the list to be arrested pursuant to the declaration of martial law, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana found basis for their being retained in the arrest list and ordered the cancellation of their temporary clearance.

The clearance was intended in our efforts to facilitate their planned meeting with Secretary Lorenzana and be allowed safe passage through martial law checkpoints.

The message I received today from Sec. Lorenzana said:

“Based on the vehement objections of the AFP, PNP and local leaders in Marawi & Lanao Sur, I have recalled/cancelled the clearance I gave to Solitario and his two sons effective today. They are now subject to arrest.”

We submit to the judgment call of Defense Secretary Lorenzana.

By | August 22nd, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

STATEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL PEACE ADVISER ON MARTIAL LAW “CLEARANCE” OF FORMER MARAWI MAYOR OMAR SOLITARIO

Even before Marawi erupted, former Mayor Omar Solitario contacted me about possible incidents involving the Mautes as his brother, also former Mayor Pre Salic was a relative by affinity of the Mautes in Lanao. He volunteered to help. OPAPP then provided support in his plans of putting back in operation a local radio station that had stopped due to the need to install a new antenna to mobilize listeners how to counter violent extremism. He even published a small book on how to deal with the emergence of violent extremism.

I also arranged a Davao meeting with the President where he offered help. After the meeting, I got him on a consultancy arrangement with OPAPP.

When Marawi erupted, he was sending me timely situation updates and offered if he could initiate talks with the Mautes. After consulting others, I advised him to first refrain from dealing with them as the situation was still fluid consistent with government policy that we cannot undertake peace talks with plain terrorists.

Subsequently, when his name was included in the arrest orders pursuant to the declaration of martial law, I revoked his consultancy arrangement with OPAPP. He later informed me that he left Marawi City and stayed in a safe sanctuary outside the city but he kept in touch making suggestions on how to deal with the developing incidents. He was distressed why his name was included in the list. At one time, when the President was in Cagayan de Oro monitoring Marawi, I arranged his phone call with the President . The president told him over the phone that he instead should talk to me. So I continued handling him.

Later on I was informed that there was an arrangement for him to meet with National Defense Secretary Lorenzana to discuss how he could help government. Since his name was still in the arrest order and in order to enable him to meet with the Defense Secretary in Iligan City or in Marawi, I recommended that a clearance from the SND be issued to allow him to safely travel to meet the SND for the purpose considering there were AFP checkpoints and his name was on the arrest list. I talked with Sec Lorenzana and I was told that a clearance for him was being issued, including his two sons (the latter two not being included in my representations as I did not know them and their activities.)

During our cabinet security cluster meeting at Camp Aguinaldo, I was furnished copies of the clearances signed by Sec Lorenzana and I emailed the copies to Former iligan Mayor Franklin Quijano to pass them on to Omar Solitario. I also later called Solitario that he should directly arrange the planned meeting with SND as OPAPP does not get involved in AFP operational matters.

Statement of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on the Barcelona Attack

The Filipinos are deeply saddened on the tragic event in Barcelona, Spain that unfolded before us early Friday morning.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process offers our sincerest condolences and prayers to the Spanish government and to the families, relatives and friends of people targeted by this senseless attack.

We stand together with the world on condemning all actions seeking to destroy the sanity of any citizen and nation. We firmly uphold that this incident is an assault against the humanity which we all need to resist.

The Spanish people are with the Filipino nation on our quest to bring peace and development in our country. Today, the Filipinos stand with Spain. Spain and the Philippines have a long historical past together. We are reaffirming our commitment to the international community against all acts of terror and violence.

By | August 19th, 2017|MILF, News|0 Comments

Marawi’s displaced young adults given respite through peace-building and psychosocial activities

ILIGAN CITY – Since the armed conflict erupted in nearby Marawi City more than two months ago, twenty-two years old Ruben Salman Ampang has been suffering from sleeping disorder.

“Nights in the evacuation site are longer. It could be the condition since you’re not at the comfort of your own home. But most cases, my sleep is being interrupted by the mental sounds of bombings and gunfights,” he said in Filipino.

Ampang was in his usual daily routine driving his motorcycle and transporting passengers in the busy alleys of Marawi’s central business district when members of the IS-aligned Maute seized several structures in their attempt to declare a caliphate in the country.

“We stayed for about three days until we were advised by the military to vacate our homes. In those days,  it was hellish. The sounds of bombs and gunfires hurt my ears,” he recounted.

In dull moments,  Ampang will sometimes find himself reminiscing his nightly jamming with friends.

“We usually hang out at Mapandi bridge. I play my guitar while my friends sing.  We cook our meal and eat together. With the crisis, I seldom see them now. Some of them are in Manila already,  while some are staying in different evacuation camps,” he said.

But on Tuesday,  Ampang could not help but to rejoice at the reunion of some of his friends during the second day of the week-long “Kwentuhan Kabataan” – a psychosocial intervention and peace building effort as part of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ (OPAPP) early recovery program for the displaced individuals brought about by the armed conflict in Marawi.

Ampang and his friends are among the hundreds of young adults who were provided the needed psychosocial assistance to help them cope up with the trauma and the strain living in the various evacuation camps here.

The week-long activity,  which started on Monday, July 31, is in line with the directive of OPAPP Sec. Jesus Dureza to “build relationships, bring back social cohesion,  and mending the torn social fabric brought about by the armed conflict.”

This week’s program was designed specifically for the youth,  following the success of its earlier engagement with the women, including mothers,  in several evacuation sites here.

With the help of the youth volunteers from the Mindanao State University’s Iligan Institute of Technology,  young adults underwent fun-filled games and story-telling activity to build solidarity and camaraderie.

Another displaced youth,  who only identified herself as Johanisa,  said that they have been living in the evacuation camps for more than two months and it’s only during the intervention that she gets to know more about other youth.

“I now considered them as one of my closest friends,” she said during a reflection session.

Her admission triggered an applause by her fellow participants.

“This kind of intervention help us not only to forget temporarily our plight but most important it thrives our determination to move forward,” Johanisa declared.

Rakila Mamosaca,  a volunteer from MSU,  who helped facilitate the sessions,  noted the eagerness and energies of the participants on how to improve their situation in the evacuation camps.

“You can see their will-power to help themselves,” she said,  noting that part of the session is to encourage participants to point out what measures they can do to alleviate their living conditions in the evacuation sites.

Among the suggested ideas are job creation,  sports, physical fitness,  and strengthening interfaith dialogue among the evacuees and residents in Iligan City.

Johair Comadug,  a representative of the local government unit of Marawi,  said they are working to ensure that the needed assistance for the youth is being looked at.

“This program is vital for us to determine what interventions that the local government of Marawi will implement for the youth,” he said.

Each session is ended with the creation of a core group who the participants named to carry out future programs for them in evacuation camps.

Dir. Ferdinand Jovita,  who oversee OPAPP’s Conflict Prevention and Management Unit,  said there is a need to actively engage the youth sector,  which comprises the bulk of the evacuees.

He said it is important to let the youth recover from the trauma of the armed conflict and let them understand their critical role in the overall peace building.

“What we’re working on is to empower the youth and to sustain this program for them,” he said. ###

PRRD offers genuine political autonomy to the Bangsamoro people

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to support the creation of a genuine political entity for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

In a speech during the turn-over ceremony of the proposed draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Malacañang on Monday, President Duterte went beyond his prepared speech to express his commitment for the enactment of the bill as this will address historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

“I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislation for its consideration,” Duterte, who hailed from Mindanao, said.

“There will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the constitution and aspirations of the Moro people.”

“I am for this, within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” he vowed.

The President said the event “marks a new milestone in our history that stand as proof of our resolve to set aside our differences and stand united to achieve a common goal of peace.”

The BBL is part of the process to implement the political track of the peace deal – Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has formally submitted to the President the enhance draft of the basic law which aims to provide a genuine political power for the Bangsamoro to govern over their ancestral lands in Mindanao.

This is the second submission after the previous congress failed to pass the BBL.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel earlier said that they aim to enact the bill within the year.

The passage of the BBL will signal the creation of a new Bangsamoro government with a parliamentary-form structure to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will manage the new autonomous region.

President Duterte said the passage of the bill “is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust, and injustice that caused and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos.”

“The draft BBL embodies our shared aspiration of a peaceful, orderly and harmonious nation after decades of armed struggle and violence, we will come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing the real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The President emphasized that the government is mandated to establish a genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao under the current constitution.

“The proposed BBL puts into life and spirit the constitutional mandate provided in the 1987 constitution for the establishment of a truly autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

“This paves the way for meeting the just aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination, and that is consistent and reflective of the distinct historical cultural heritage and economic and social structures common to the people residing in the Bangsamoro,” he added.

“The draft bill jointly written by our Muslim, Christian, Lumad brothers and sisters shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as to bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices commitment against the Bangsamoro people,” Duterte said.

“Indeed the entire country will benefit from it along with the region of the Bangsamoro people. May this new entity be marked by good governance, equitable sharing of wealth and generation of revenue, and normalize stable environment.”

For his part, presidential peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza urged the public to support the process “in realizing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro”

“Be with us still as we continue to surmount the more important challenges that we face in bringing peace and development in the land,” he said.

“We have gone this far, different governments in the past have built the foundations, layer upon layer, that has brought us today to where we are.”

MILF chairman Al Haj Ebrahim Murad expressed his appreciation to Dureza “for recommending to the President the certifying of the BBL as an urgent bill during his endorsement to congress.”

He said the MILF has high hopes for the President to “shepherd the passage of this law, and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.”

“Mr. President, we hear you speak the historical injustice committed against our people and we marvel at the ease which you narrate the historical basis of our cause, today at a crucial moment in our history, you have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the aspiration of our people through the enactment of this Bangsamoro Basic Law.

BTC Chair Ghadzali Jaafar believed that under the Duterte administration, “we would see the dawning of the establishment of the government in Bangsamoro homeland, which they truly deserved.”

Murad bats that the BBL will serve as the antidote to the growing concerns over violent extremism, particularly in Mindanao.

“We watched at the utter disgust over the distractions in Marawi City that violent extremism has inflicted,” he said.

“The danger of violent extremism is that it feeds over the frustration of our people and take over the narrative of historical injustices so that it can justify the violent ideology in which reality is never linked to aspiration of our people,” he said.

But because it exploits the narrative of historical injustice, it is important to address legitimate grievances and correct historical injustice so that it will be denied any semblance of legitimacy,” he added.###