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Brief Background

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) is a grassroots network of Indigenous Peoples, Bangsamoro and Christian communities and leaders who have common vision for peace in Mindanao. MPC is known to have stood up for the struggle to finally resolve the age-old armed conflict in Mindanao through a negotiated political settlement that contains the essentials acceptable to both negotiating parties and that addresses the historical oppression and forced marginalization of the native inhabitants and indigenous peoples of this island.

As such, MPC is actively working for the strengthening of the participation and engagement of tripeoples grassroots constituency in the Mindanao peace process so as to allow their recognition as self-determining peoples who can develop and govern themselves in the economic, political, social and spiritual spheres of development.

Since its establishment in 2001, MPC has made various breakthroughs in the peacebuilding arena which facilitated significant gains in the peace process.

One of which is the formation of its independent ceasefire mechanism known as the “Bantay Ceasefire” which gained recognition and respect among the formal ceasefire mechanisms of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Bantay Ceasefire is composed of more than 600 volunteers, from Basilan, Lanao provinces, Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Compostela Valley and Sulu, who are actively monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

Given the serious humanitarian crisis that befell Mindanao, MPC has enhanced its work from ceasefire monitoring to humanitarian protection, dubbed as “Sagip Sibilyan”, in order to extend direct humanitarian assistance, from advocacy to capacity building interventions, to thousands of innocent civilians who became forced and direct victims of internal displacement, human rights abuses and military repression.

Since the outbreak of the war in August 2008, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus has been leading the campaign for a ceasefire amidst a highly polarized situation where Christian vigilante groups like the Ilaga (Rat) were pitted against Bangsamoro communities.  It has been a total shock among the Bantay Ceasefire volunteers who too were threatened because of their open support to the peace process.  Despite constant threats and intimidation and with the hawks gaining the upper hand within the government, the MPC did now step back in its peace advocacy.  Seeing the collapse of the ceasefire which Bantay Ceasefire members had painstakingly preserved through vigilance and monitoring work – MPC had to address a serious demoralization problem among its members some of them were even afraid of wearing their uniform vests.

August 2008 and the ensuing backlash in the peace talks leading to an open outbreak of armed hostilities and a massive humanitarian crisis had put to serious challenge MPC’s commitment to peacebuilding and peace advocacy.  The August 18 attack by the MILF in Kauswagan and Kolambogan had created such a highly emotional public outrage that even known civil society organizations and peace advocates within these areas at that time could not openly call for a ceasefire as it is misconstrued to be siding with the MILF. The mindset at that time was to avenge the death of innocent victims, have the civilians take up arms and fight to the end.

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