We, members of Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325), a national network of women in human rights, women, and peace organizations, express our unequivocal rejection of war and military solution to the crisis arising from the October 18 tragedy in Al-barka, Basilan.
Roughly 30,000 civilians from affected communities in Basilan, Zamboanga Sibugay and Lanao provinces are now scattered in various evacuation camps while others seek refuge in homes of families and relatives who live away from the conflict areas. Majority of the internally displaced persons are women and children.
While We Act 1325 commends President Aquino for issuing a strict order on the primacy of the peace process, and the MILF for staying the course of the peace process, we ask the government and the MILF to:
- Resume in earnest formal negotiations on the substantive agenda;
- Take into account any violations of the ceasefire agreement and related mechanisms such as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) guidelines and make the results of investigation available to the public;
- Institute binding and strict measures that will compel adherence or compliance to all agreements forged between parties in conflict;
- Respect the civilian character of evacuation camps and other defined safe spaces;
- Uphold the government’s commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (and its succeeding resolutions) to ensure that women’s special needs in situations of conflict are prioritized and appropriately addressed, and their contributions valued and recognized;
- Provide protection from sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence, especially in evacuation camps; and
- Involve and engage the participation of more women in formal and informal peace negotiations or processes, as well as in relief and rehabilitation services in affected areas.
As women, we are alarmed that our voices and efforts for peace seem to be drowned by the loud drums of war. We are dismayed by statements from politicians, journalists, media and even some bishops that frame the MILF as “the enemy” rather than a committed party to the peace negotiations and even ceasefire agreement. They question the peace policy and established processes of peacebuilding and confidence-building based on government’s “six paths to peace”. Unfortunately, they are playing to attitudes of machismo as well as ethnic and religious discrimination that are still dominant in our society.
We ask you to stop depicting the other as the enemy. Stop sowing hate. The costs of war increase when anti-peace sentiments and malicious statements are peddled this way. Hence, we appeal to all concerned to work instead in diffusing tension by promoting communication and understanding between parties in conflict.
War solves nothing.
WOMEN DEMAND ALL-OUT PEACE!