We, the Mindanao Peaceweavers- a convergence of seven peace networks in Mindanao- challenges the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to recommit to previous ceasefire agreements and immediately reactivate the ceasefire mechanisms.
There is no other way but for the GRP and the MILF to come together and dialogue for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao. This is the only way for both sides to be accountable to the protection of civilians who are caught in the cycle of war and impoverishment. War is waged in their name and it is in this same framework which demands that they come together and talk.
We thus demand for the GRP and MILF to uphold the primacy of the peace process, not merely through pronouncements and declaration of a Suspension of Military Operations (SOM0) and Suspension of Military Action (SOMA) but to immediately take action against mounting human rights violations against civilians in war torn areas in Mindanao.
It is imperative to immediately reactivate the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to enable ground mechanisms for civilian protection.
There is no other path to peace but dialogue.
We laud and fully support the effort of both the GRP and MILF to sit down and complete the preparation for the resumption of the talks. We also commit to help out the parties concerned in the establishment of an International Contact Group (ICG) and National Contact Group (NCG) to accompany the peace talks. Together with other civil society partners and friends, we offer our allied networks in the island and the region to accompany this process.
We recommit to continue the effort to mobilize international and local support for the peace process in Mindanao.
There is nothing to lose in our effort to forge peace. We call on the public to lay aside their prejudices and biases, and instead find that common ground for peace to flourish. We challenge the media to become an instrument of peace rather than of division.
We believe that both the MILF and the GRP must strengthen their position and commitment for peace and to be on guard against being outflanked by “spoilers” who may also come from their own ranks or constituencies.
The common ground is the civilian community, in whose name war and peace have been waged for ages. By putting the interest of the common people in the center of development efforts, and within the framework of their human rights, we believe that the GRP and the MILF will be able to uphold the people’s protection. Yet it is not enough that the civilians are protected. They must fully participate in the peace building process. We renew our commitment to help make this so.
We welcome the commitment of the GRP and the MILF to acknowledge the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which is an expression of the Moro people’s assertion on their right to self determination.
We believe that the effort to reframe the consensus points can bring about a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.
However, we express alarm and grave concern over reports that civilians are now being armed, allegedly “to defend themselves”, and that such arming of civilians is hinged on a revived “doomsday scenario” that relates to the MOA-AD.
We ask the GRP to prevent the “militarization” of civilians which will only increase possible human rights violations in communities.
In the same breath, we beseech all concerned stakeholders, gatekeepers of peace, and the general public not to make hasty assumptions on the content of the resumed Peace Talks, which may lead to widespread civil disorder.
We also call on the AFP and the PNP to ensure that no incident of such kind would come about anywhere in Mindanao.
And as an act of goodwill from both the GRP and the MILF, we urge them to jointly ensure the safe return of the IDPs to their homes, brainstorm with them regarding their needs for a safe environment in which to observe the season of Ramadhan and jointly guarantee that nothing will disturb the communities in the observance of this Holy Season.
We also enjoin all to observe utmost sobriety and restraint, and to practice discernment. Let us all dialogue so that all perceived fears are assuaged and all possible misconceptions clarified.
Finally, we hurl this challenge to the GRP and the MILF to take the bolder step towards peace in Mindanao: Resume the peace talks!
*Mindanao Peaceweavers is a convergence of peace advocates in Mindanao. It is convened by seven (7) peace networks that coalesced in the spirit of cooperation, complementation and concerted action towards a common advocacy and peace platform. MPW is composed of: Agong Network, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement, Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference, Mindanao Peoples Caucus, Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement and Mindanao Solidarity Network. MPW is run by the following NGOs who act as its secretariats: Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Catholic Relief Services, Saligan and Tacdrup.