The violence has to stop.
We, the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW) call on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to return to the negotiating table for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao.
We strongly condemn the bombings in Cotabato City and other parts of Mindanao. We urge a thorough and impartial investigation, mindful of the cloud of suspicion around previous bombings, that will lead to truth and justice.
We ask both sides of the GRP and the MILF to be mindful in issuing statements in the light of the recent bombing in Cotabato City which killed 5 civilians and injured 35 others, that could create division by projecting the war in Mindanao as religious in nature, when it is not. For several decades, the Moro, indigenous peoples and settlers in Mindanao have live together harmoniously.
Instead, GRP and the MILF should review their peace and security framework and operations to ensure the genuine interests and protection of the Mindanawans, especially their right to self determination and governance.
We also deplore the more quiet but pervasive and lingering violence of displacement being experienced by hundreds of Mindanao communities.
The Geneva based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that more than 600,000 civilians were displaced from August to December last year after talks between the MILF and the government hit a snag over the non-signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.
As of June 25, according to the records of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a total of 71,662 families or 359,022 persons have yet to return home as of June 29, 2009 and of this number, 56,685 families or 286,542 persons are still in the evacuation centers or relatives’
They are cramped in evacuation centers and not spared from daily mortar shelling. Children make up almost 70 percent of the deaths in the war-torn communities.
We are also very alarmed over the recent pronouncement of the military that they view internally displaced persons as “reserve enemy force.”
International humanitarian law and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Displaced Persons clearly state that it is the primary responsibility of the State to protect the rights of the civilian population, especially women and children from being violated.
The GRP and the MILF must protect and uphold the rights of civilians. Both invoke the civilians’ welfare when they wage war against each other and also when they negotiate peace. They should immediately address the situation of the internally displaced persons, by guaranteeing their safety to return home and resume normalcy in their daily lives.
We also urge the GRP and the MILF to review and reactivate the ceasefire mechanisms that had previously been effective in lowering the levels of violence, In the meantime, they must take immediate steps to discipline their respective troops.
We offer ourselves to all parties in seeking that elusive platform where the stalled process can move forward . Mindanao Peaceweavers is a convergence of peace advocates in Mindanao. It currently represents the broadest network of peace constituency in the island cutting across non-government organizations, academe, religious, human rights groups, peoples organizations and grassroots communities.
Mindanao has suffered long enough. The lives of our children have been wasted.We pray that the GRP and the MILF find a common ground for ending the hostilities in Mindanao. There is no other way. The GRP and the MILF must sit down and negotiate. Now.
Convenors and Secretariates:
Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP)
Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference (MPAC)
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)
Mindanao Peoples Peace Movement (MPPM)
Mindanao Solidarity Network (MSN)
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
Technical Assistance Center for the Development of the Rural and Urban