One of the major accomplishments of MPC during this dark period of the peace process is its leading role in the national campaign for a ceasefire in Mindanao which galvanized massive support from church, academe, business and the war-affected communities themselves. While this achievement is of course attributable to so many interlocking efforts, MPC has been in the forefront of the campaigns from the grassroots to the halls of Malacanang in order to appeal for a ceasefire and bring national attention to the humanitarian crisis in Central Mindanao. After 17 months of open armed hostilities which displaced over 600,000 people, Mindanao has finally reverted back to a ceasefire, with the International Monitoring Team back in Mindanao.
In November 2009, the Bantay Ceasefire Assembly was convened in Marawi City. The assembly succeeded in launching the new thrust of Bantay Ceasefire which is on Humanitarian Protection. Dubbed as “Sagip Sibilyan”, Bantay Ceasefire’s work will now focus in alleviating the suffering of the civilians who are caught in the conflict through a programmatic humanitarian protection work. This will cover work on early warning, disaster response and promotion of human rights. This will also include providing legal services or referral of cases involving violations of human rights and war crimes in order to break the impunity for these abuses. This will not however mean that BC will no longer conduct its regular monitoring of the ceasefire agreement.
There are clearly good lessons that can be drawn from the MOA-AD experience which can shed light on how to move forward. The key here is that civil society and peace advocates recognize, accept and learn from those lessons.
One lesson that MPC offers is that peace education and peacebuilding efforts fell short in educating our communities, schools, families and the public at large on the root causes of the armed conflict in Mindanao which include the legitimate claim of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples to their ancestral domain. The peace movement in general, and that includes MPC, has failed to raise the awareness of ordinary Mindanaoans on the historical background of the conflict and why we should all work for the finding of a just and mutually acceptable political solution to the problem. The peace movement cannot simply afford to be an onlooker to this lingering armed conflict.