Increasing Digital Capacity of MPC’s CSO partners

The Digital Literacy Training started off by a backgrounder given by Mr. Ammier Dodo. He emphasized that as part of the BARMM, we all have to carry our advocacies wherever we go, be it digital or in any other form. Especially in the peace process, digital literacy is very important in the transition period. Everyone must be part of making sure that we altogether achieve moral governance.

On social media and countering fake news

For Abdulhadi Daguit, the digital literacy training meant correcting fake histories by sharing the real narratives or actual experiences of Marcos victims and survivors. Even in digital space, storytelling is a powerful tool against fake news.

Mr. Ammier stressed how fake news peddlers are “weaponizing” social media without us knowing. Participants learned how to identify disinformation channel and who are susceptible to fake news. One of the participants shared that some detractors create fake BARMM government websites. She shared, “Lalo na ngayon ay panahon ng eleksyon. We verify news sources. Imagine if a single person shares fake news. We have to be responsible citizens.”

Social media platforms

Mr. TU Alfonso walked us through the different social media platforms and pointed out the advantages and disadvantages of each one. Most of the participants shared that they have not really optimized Facebook in their advocacy work. Being able to use different platforms such as Tik-Tok, YouTube, and Facebook will enable them to reach out to more people and learn about their advocacies. 

Creating Publication Materials

Many of the participants joined Digital Literacy Training for the first time. And as what Ammier Dodo said, one of the resource persons of the training, “Every time may first timer, nakaka excite kung ano ang magiging output ng training for them.” The resource persons introduced two PubMat-making tools- Canva and MsPublisher.

For Bencita joining the digital literacy training meant being able to bridge information on the importance of vaccination to her community through informative publication materials. She was a beginner at creating publication materials. The last digital training she had ever attended was how to use a type writer way back her school days. She said, ““Nadagdagan ang kaalaman ko sa Canva and MS Publisher kasi first time ko din. Lalo na ang Canva, napakalaking bagay na makatulong sa advocacy. Lalo na sa pag gawa ng tarpaulin para sa advocacy for vaccination.” 

The resource speakers critiqued the outputs one by one, also giving the participants the opportunity to correct their outputs. They have learned several tips in terms of visual aesthetic to make the publication materials more interesting, catchy, and easier to comprehend for the audience.

Digital Conferencing

Findings from the Training Needs Assessment identified digital conferencing skill as the participants’ priority topic in the digital literacy training. Zoom and Messenger are the two main conferencing platforms taught by the resource persons. One of the participants shared, “Gusto ko talagang matutunan yung zoom, kasi dati binibigyan ako ng link at di ako makapasok. Hanggang sa matapos na lang ang meeting ay di pa din ako maka pasok.”

The resource persons demonstrated how to use the platforms, first from the standpoint of the one creating the meeting and second as participant in a meeting. They walked us through the different features of both Zoom and Messenger.

Since most of the participants were using smartphones, the resource persons also introduced Zoom and Messenger features using multiple devices. After the demonstration, the participants have gotten to experience the digital conference platforms on their own. It was an exciting learning experience for them. They have also found out how to address sound feedbacking whenever two laptops were using Zoom or Messenger simultaneously in one place.


In the past two years during the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, the internet, online applications, mobile devices and all associated hardware and software have become firmly embedded in everyday life, to the extent that we lose control of the phenomena. For that matter, we need to develop digital literacy skills. Being able to communicate and to access and share reliable information online is central to CSOs and social movements. Undoubtedly, for MPC and our CSO partners working for the BARMM transition, being able to gain digital skills hold a lot of implications in advocacy work and complementing with the BARMM government.

Regional dialogue: creating spaces and building partnerships for all stakeholders

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus in partnership with the United Nations International Organization on Migration through the Supporting Conflict Transformation towards Effective Peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro Region (STEP BARMM) Project, recently conducted a Participatory Action Research (PAR) entitled: “Promoting Conflict Prevention, Social Cohesion and Community Resilience in BARMM in time of COVID-19.”

Various stakeholders and partners from the BARMM government and the CSOs joined together in examining the results of the Participatory Action Research results and findings during the recently concluded Regional Dialogue last March 24, 25, and 26, 2022 at the Waterfront Hotel, Davao City. The PAR findings and recommendations were presented by Ms. Melot Balisalisa-Atillo, the PAR team leader.

Ms. Melot Balisalisa-Atillo presenting the findings and the recommendations of the Participatory Action Research.

After the presentation, the participants were able to offer insights and fresh perspectives in examining the historical patterns of violence and its underlying drivers in BARMM’s most active conflict hotspots. The participants have clarified some points in the presentation, for example, the exact locations of the incidences and the people involved in the conflict, and how these were resolved. All in all, the participants were satisfied by the accuracy of the findings and affirmed the recommendations of the PAR.

Engineer Mojahirin Ali, the Director General of the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority presented the BARMM Development Plan and Roadmap 2025. He emphasized the BARMM government’s drive for inclusivity, reform, and innovation in implementing government projects and programs. He assured everyone that BARMM government were making strategies and decisions based on the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Director Farrah Naparan of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) emphasized the need for joint effort between formal and informal sectors.  She said that huge part of sustainability is on the part of the government, but there is also a need for work on the ground through parallel efforts of Civil Society Organizations. For OPPAP, they are mostly focused on the soft side rather than the infrastructures. They have conducted consultations and studied again bills, so we can move forward and lobby the NJRCP.

Ms. Melina Nathan lauded the PAR team in the success of the research. She also recognized the hard work of the BARMM government in reducing poverty incidence rate in the region. She also repeatedly emphasized how women must enter the decision making spaces in all structures of the government, from grassroots to parliamentary.

There was a breakout session wherein the participants offered more extensive and detailed narratives of the case studies presented by Ms. Melot Balisalisa during the PAR results presentation. The discussion in these breakout groups included supplementary narratives, analysis of gaps and opportunities in the research outputs, and recommendations for moving forward the different development and sectoral agenda in the BARMM government transition.

There was another breakout session on the last day of the regional dialogue wherein the participants were divided into four groups to discuss four topics. The topics were the following: 1) Strengthening Community Access to Peace Dividends , 2) Conflict Resolution and Peace Mechanisms, 3) Non-Moro IPs Ancestral Domain, and 4) Countering Violent Extremisms. In the open dialogue, the participants learn from each other and hear everyone’s point of view, created rooms for different perspectives and have collectively addressed the gaps in each of the topics based on each other’s experiences.

The last part of the regional dialogue was a sharing and open discussion on partnership building with stakeholders. As CSOs, they must be able to locate their roles in the transition process and think of ways to effectively partner with the BARMM government. Everyone agreed that the results of the PAR and the discussions during the regional dialogue must be communicated to all the ministers so that they can address the recommendations that surfaced from the forum.

Building Bridges

Gains, opportunities, and challenges for CSOs and IDPs Partnership

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) find strength in diversity, in its participatory nature, and sectoral focus. Because most of its programs and projects concentrate in the local level such as in barangays, municipalities, and cities, access and delivery of services are efficient and tailored to the immediate needs and the local contexts.

The role of the CSOs in coming up with durable solutions for the IDPs is especially significant and strategic. They are in the best position to partner with local chief executives and to serve as bridges for the locals to make their concerns heard and addressed by the local government.

Sharing stories and possibilities

There are various CSOs in BARMM engaging with the displaced population and the MPC gathered them in a forum together with the IDP leaders to talk about durable solutions. The IDPs and CSO Forum was an opportunity to share the situations of the IDPs in the BARMM region and the civil society’s efforts to address displacement.

Akas Sanguila, an IDP leader, opened the conversation by setting the context of displacement in Datu Saudi, Shariff Saydona, Talitay, Mamasapano, Datu Salibo, and Datu Piang.

“We hope that the CSOs will serve as the bridge between the government and the IDPs so that that our leaders will see the realities faced we face in a daily basis.”

Akas Sanguila, IDP Leader

The IDP leaders presented their plans for durable solutions. Afterward, the CSO representatives responded to the IDP plans by offering their current services and engagements with IDPs in the six municipalities.

A cauldron of creative minds

Bringing in their capacities, expertise, and commitments, the CSO representatives looked into the entry points for collaboration with BARMM line agencies, IDP leaders, and MPC. Although limitation in fundings and human resources was a challenge among the CSOs, together the group thought of ways to synchronize all its efforts on the ground and somehow tried to bridge hiatus in between project cycles. Together we identified ongoing projects and in what areas the CSOs are operating. In addition, we identified the government ministries we can partner with in joint efforts especially those that already have programs for the IDPs. The spirit of volunteerism was alive and invigorating during the forum despite of the possible issues and gaps identified during the planning.

The MPC would like to thank the IDP leaders and the CSO representatives who attended the forum, mainly, The Asia Foundation, Tiyakap Kalilintad, IDEALS, UnyPhil- Women, OXFAM, International Organization for Migration, UNYPAD, MOSEP, MWDECC, CBCS, Non-Violent Peace Force, Catholic Relief Services, and Community Organizers Multiversity sa Mindanao.

CSOs and IDPs brainstorming during the workshop session.

Building bridges together

Restoring the dignity of internally displaced persons requires a multi-sectoral approach. No single organization can act on its own when it comes to addressing the plight of the IDPs. The IDPs, the government, and the CSOs have an essential role in finding solutions for internal displacement and thus sustaining the gains of the peace process in the BARMM region.

Regional Dialogue: linking research and policy-making

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Philippines, organized a two-day Regional Dialogue and Training Workshop in Exploring the Nexus of Conflict, Climate Change, and Human Mobility, and the Lived Experiences of the Bangsamoro last March 17 and 18 at the Eden Nature Park and Resort in Davao City.

This regional Dialogue has convened policymakers, environmental advocates, climate change advocates, officials, and representatives from different local government units (LGUs) to discuss the dire state of climate change in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Converging problems

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus presented and validated its research findings on the Climate Change, Conflict, and Human Mobility Nexus by describing three cases of evident interlinkages experienced by communities in mainland Maguindanao and BASULTA (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) island provinces.

While climate change cause or exacerbate conflict (e.g., competition for dwindling resources, changing land boundaries, movement of camps, and acquisition of new lands, etc.), conflict, in turn, prevents people from successfully coping with climate change- a double bind, preempting cooperation. The existing conflict and climate change impacts already experienced by the communities in BARMM both erode or slow down the locals’ capacities to create adaptive measures, making the BARMM region vulnerable to climate-change concerns.

The speaker from MAFAR (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform) shared that some agriculturally-driven communities had to leave their livestock at the onset of conflict. Initially provided by MAFAR, the goats were consumed by the soldiers who camped in the barangay. Harvest failures also occurred, especially since rainfall has become unpredictable for the past decade. Both armed conflict and climate change disrupted agricultural life and threatened food security, which drove people to engage in armed conflict, gun hires, drug selling, and illegal migration. 

Fragmented approaches

There is an apparent gap in understanding how conflict cuts across climate change and displacement problems. There are several pathways that conflict, climate change, and displacement converge or even form a nexus, which were explained during the research presentation. The problem was so intricately converged, but the way it was addressed at present is fragmented or in silos.

As observed during the panel discussion, each ministry follows its mandates and works within the boundaries of predetermined programs and projects. Not even localized, but ones downloaded from the national level to the region for implementation. The danger of top to bottom approach is that local government units and regional-level department counterparts would stick to reaching a certain quota and implementing projects for implementation.

An example was the formulation of municipal-level LCCAPs (Local Climate Change Action Plans) which, even according to the Climate Change Commission officer present during the forum, were similar across all municipalities. As if they were all ‘copy-pasted.’ These two words were mentioned constantly during the discussion and manifest the underlying process in developing the plan and all other regional development plans.

While the ministries fear duplication or overlapping of programs and strictly follow the thematic focus of their respective ministries, there must be an elaboration on how the programs address the interlinking phenomenon holistically. For example, how can MENRE’s climate change mitigation projects potentially decrease conflict incidences? Or, in the case of MILG, how can they guide the LGUs in the localization of their development plans so that they will be both conflict-sensitive and adaptive to climate change impacts?

The many roles of women

Noraida Chio stirred an extensive discussion on the plight of the displaced Muslim women in BARMM. Not only were they prone to illegal recruitment, but also to become their husbands’ ‘milking cows’ or their easy source of income. The existing conflict, disinterest in engaging with traditional sources of income such as agriculture, desire for a better place to settle, urging from the family, and the availability of illegal means to apply abroad- all of these are factors in the migration of Muslim women.

However, being the one who earns doesn’t automatically translate to greater decision-making power or an excuse to shy away from her traditional gender role. They still carry the huge obligation of taking care of the family.

Human Mobility is an adaptation to conflict and climate change/ environmental degradation. While there is nothing wrong with migration as an adaptive strategy, it has to be safe, informed, and a free decision.

A policy towards a holistic approach

The challenge now is how the Bangsamoro government and the humanitarian forces working in the region can address the risks of the nexus. And what are the next steps for translating these research findings into peace-building practice and policy? What mitigation and adaptation practices are conflict and climate-change sensitive that can be applied in the BARMM region?

– MP Atty. Mary Ann M. Arnado, in her message as one of the members of the panel of reactors during the Regional Dialogue

“It is very very important for all of us to acknowledge and wake up to the new reality that we are in a climate change emergency. It should be acknowledged because if we do not look at that particular aspect, we will all be in a vicious cycle, and our interventions will not be cost-effective.”

-MP Baileng Mantawil, Member of the Parliament, in her reaction on financing climate change mitigation and adaptation mechanisms

“The issue of Climate Change is a global concern; part of it is the BARMM communities. While we are busy addressing peace, let’s not forget the great danger that we are now facing.”

It is crucial that the regional Dialogue stirred the conversation between policymakers, researchers, CSOs, local government units, and the ministries to talk about how to translate and concretize the key findings and recommendations from the study to address the pressing issues on conflict, climate change, and massive displacement in the Bangsamoro region.

The policymakers should investigate the viability of creating a regional body or office to ensure the BARMM government’s actions concerning climate change and conflicts are more coherent, systematic, and programmatic. Most importantly, such an office must rely on evidence-based programming to ensure it addresses the nexus.

A holistic approach to protracted displacement

(Lessons from the series of municipal consultations in Shariff Saydona, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Datu Saudi, Datu Piang, and Talitay from September 2022 to February 2023)

Restoring the dignity of internally displaced persons requires a multi-sectoral approach. A municipal consultation is a multi-sectoral approach to addressing the needs of the IDPs and discussing the options for sustainable solutions to their problems.

Since September of last year, the MPC, through its partnership with The Asia Foundation, brought together key line agencies in the BARMM government, the IDP leaders, relevant CSOs, and the municipal government units in a series of municipal consultations in the areas of Shariff Saydona, Datu Salibo, Mamasapano, Datu Saudi, Datu Piang, and Talitay.

In the municipal consultations, the IDP leaders presented the action points they came up with during the leadership and humanitarian protection training in Davao City. Even though the IDPs have approximately the same dream of returning home, often the municipality’s mayors or administrative heads deemed it necessary to provide a brief contextualization on the ground in each IDP location because of the volatile peace situation in the areas.

What is a durable solution for the IDPs

“Kung bibigyan nga kami ng pabahay at makakabalik kami sa aming dating barangay, mahirap din naman kung wala kaming kuryente, pa tubig, o pangkabuhayan doon. Mas maigi pang manatili na lang kami dito kung saan kami nakatira ngayon kasi may mga hanap-buhay na din kami dito. Mahirap nang iwanan ang mga nasimulan naming dito sa bago naming tinitirhan.”
(It will be great if they will build houses for us. But it won’t be easy to return home without the necessary social support, such as electricity, water system, and livelihood. It’s better to stay where we reside because we have already established our livelihoods here. Leaving what we have already started in our new resettlement areas will be challenging.)
Woman IDP leader, a former resident of Mamasapano who is now residing in Shariff Saydona

“Nagpapasalamat kami na pinuntahan niyo kami dito sa Saydona at nalaman namin ang mga programa ng BARMM para sa amin. Tatanggapin naming ang ano mang tulong na ibibigay sa amin. Pag sinasabi nating bumalik sa dating tahanan, di lang naman ibig sabihin nun pa bahay. Kelangan din namin ng pagkain, pagkakakitaan, seguridad, at iba pa. Pero kung ano man maipapa-abot ng BARMM sa amin, busong puso naming tatanggapin yun.”

(We thank you [BARMM line agencies] for coming to Saydona and finding out about BARMM’s programs for us. We will accept any help you can give us. To return home doesn’t end in building houses; we need to be able to sustain ourselves, livelihood, and security, among others. But we will wholeheartedly accept any forms of help the BARMM government can give us.)

IDP Leader, an Ustad and a former resident of Shariff Saydona, displaced because of armed conflict between the BIFF and the military in their barangay

The IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in all the target municipalities dream of better lives. While some IDPs were able to settle in the area they are displaced, others prefer to return home provided there is peace in their places of origin, and they are given support. For this to happen, pre-conditions must be laid out beforehand, such as the assurance of safety, tangible assistance from government and humanitarian actors, job opportunities, and, most importantly, decent housing.

Response of the municipal government leaders

“It is important to have a profile of the IDPs first so we will know the characteristics of the population. From my experience of being the MDRRMO for 30 years in Saydona, the host communities should provide for the IDPs who evacuated in their areas. Also, what about those who have already resettled and integrated into their host communities? Is it still viable for them to return home, or should we support their current livelihoods? Because it is only useful to return them home if we can assure the peace and security of their barangays. We cannot provide ‘band-aid’ solutions. The root cause of the problems must be addressed first. We need a holistic approach involving all the BARMM ministries, all stakeholders, and all the peace forces.”

MDRRM Officer Shariff Saydona, in his closing statement at the last municipal consultation

The Municipal Secretary of Datu Saudi said that the municipality passed an executive order to ensure the safety of the IDPs and that their rights are protected. He also repeatedly emphasized the necessity of studying the local social issues in the area before proceeding with any project for the barangays.

The Local Government Unit of Talitay, led by the Hon. Sidik S. Amiril recognized the importance of political commitment and the essential role of the LGU authorities in addressing the issues of the IDPs in their municipality—furthermore, Hon. Amiril laid out the current efforts of the LGU in settling conflicts in their municipality.

However, not all municipal mayors attended the municipal consultations, and we can see the disappointment among the IDPs looking forward to their leaders’ responses to their plights. In their stead, the MDRRMO officers or the administrative head of the municipalities were the ones who relayed the mayors’ message of support to the current and planned efforts for the IDPs.

Response from BARMM ministries and CSOs

The MHSD (Ministry of Human Settlements and Development) assured that the IDPs would be facilitated in accessing housing and livelihood services as mandated by their office. Given the limited government budget, other relevant private sectors are willing to help provide infrastructure, housing, and services.

The MSSD (Ministry of Social Services and Development) representatives presented their current programs for the IDPs and how they can be accessed. Although they strongly emphasized the role of the LGUs in accessing such support from the BARMM government agencies. The LGU leaders should map out the extent of humanitarian aid, present the list of IDPs, and define the needs of the IDPs per sector.

From the peace forces, MPOS (Ministry of Public Order and Safety), CCCH (Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities), and AHJAG (Ad Hoc Joint Action Group) informed the IDPs and the partners present during the consultation of the past and current efforts of the peace agencies in trying to resolve the conflicts in the municipalities. With this, they assured that they would find solutions to the problem and assist them in their return once it’s already safe. However, they also informed the communities of the skirmishes in some barangays in the target municipalities, which will also prevent them from returning.

The representative from MOSEP (Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress) presented their organization’s current projects and programs in Datu Saudi. MOSEP provided dignity kits to the women IDPs, cash assistance to pregnant women, awareness-raising on the law against child marriage, and other capacity-building activities for women and children.

The CBCS (Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society) was also present in the consultation in Shariff Saydona and gave a background of their organization. Right now, the CBCS, in partnership with Atty. Raissa Jajurie’s office is working on the passage of the IDP Bill, which successfully went through a second reading in the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority). She handed out info-magazines, pamphlets, and IEC materials for everyone to read and review the rights of the IDPs.

Holistic approach

The main criteria in their decision include: security in their home village, access to land, access to basic services and economic opportunities. The complexity of the IDPs’ displacement surfaced during the municipal consultations.

However, we need to first recognize the scale of internal displacement in municipalities in addressing the IDP problem together. By engaging the displacement-affected communities, the BARMM line agencies, the LGUs, and the humanitarian actors, we can all achieve more effective responses supporting durable solutions for the IDPs.

The IDPs often describe themselves as the “invisible” and the “voiceless” in the LGUs, and so the series of municipal consultations was an effort to promote the integration, participation, and non-discrimination in the entire process of humanitarian response.

The ideas, opinions, and experiences shared during the municipal consultation resulted in a rich and diverse collection of information that will be used in laying out the following steps to attaining durable solutions for the IDPs.

Strengthening knowledge and leadership among the internally displaced

(Lessons from the IDP Leaders Humanitarian Protection Training last August 20-23, 2022)

Against the backdrop of the signed peace agreement between the Philippine government and MILF and the ongoing post-crisis reconstruction process is the threat of possible internal displacement. Forced evacuation can be due to protracted high-level armed conflict, clan wars, and environmental hazards.

The historical cycle of displacement, uncertainty, and marginalization of conflict-affected civilians puts the entire BARMM government‘s response to displacement and peacebuilding in the spotlight. As of the end of 2021, approximately 267,278 individuals in the whole Mindanao were internally displaced, and 37% percent of the population are located in the BARMM region (Bryant, Fernandez, & Baraguir, 2021).

Influencing how the government approaches the problem of displacement in Bangsamoro requires strong leadership not just in the BARMM government but also among the internally displaced population. To ensure that they are included in the broader conversations of the best route to recovery processes, they must be equipped with lobbying skills and learn how to engage and negotiate with their local leaders. And that they can articulate their inherent rights as IDPs.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus, in partnership with The Asia Foundation through the IDP Resiliency Project, conducted a three-day IDP Leaders Humanitarian Protection Training last August 20-23, 2022. The primary objective of this training workshop was to develop the skills and knowledge needed by IDP Leaders to engage in discussions on policies and programs intended for them. The necessary knowledge and skills are essential in participating in policy-making, planning, budgeting, and implementing government projects and programs so that they can deliberately and confidently address the issues and concerns affecting their situations as IDPs.

Knowing one’s location in the context of displacement

IDP leaders working on their IDP plans

The IDP leaders internalized how they could be organized and can be the source of each other’s protection. The resource person emphasized that in the absence of local peacekeeping forces, the individuals that made up the community can protect themselves from possible sources of conflicts, not as human shields, of course, but as a united community ready to stand up against external disruptive forces. The resource person demonstrated this community strength as she gave examples of communities successfully intervening and resisting the onset of ridu during a graduation ceremony in a particular conflict area in Maguindanao province.

Knowing one’s inherent rights

Beyond the self is the wider community where rights are manifested, protected, and claimed. IDP leaders are responsible for asserting their rights and ensuring the community enjoys them. With a clear vision of their leadership and knowledge of the IDP rights, the IDP leaders were prepared to draft their IDP plans and what they intend to do as leaders once they return to their communities.

Knowing where to begin

It was vital for them to include the role of the BARMM government and civil society organizations in removing the barriers that excluded them from participating in the rehabilitation dialogues. They want to represent themselves in committees that are currently talking about humanitarian responses and to be able to recommend efficient service delivery and protection. Being provided with platforms for doing so and having the resources to join such conversations were mentioned in the IDP plans for durable solutions.

More than the tangible support for rebuilding houses, they want to participate actively and meaningfully in conversations that will impact their lives.

We always begin by ‘listening.’

(MPC’s listening sessions from June to August 2022)

“Mahirap maging IDP. Kailangan naming iwanan ang aming mga mahahalagang kagamitan, lalo na ang aming mga tahanan, mga hayop, at lahat ng aming kabuhayan.” (It’s not easy to be an IDP. We had to leave our valuables, especially our houses, livestock, and livelihoods.)

Norma Samaon, an internally displaced person from Brgy. Pageda, Talitay, July 20, 2022

A makeshift hall in Barangay Pageda, Municipality of Talitay, Maguindanao Province, where the Mindanao Peoples Caucus conducted one of its listening sessions last year, 2022. All seven sitios composing Barangay Pageda were affected by a firefight between two rival families last March 2020. The conflict was due to political reasons. The expressed needs of the IDPs are food, shelter, livelihood, and WASH support, among others.

Listening is an important first step in any humanitarian effort. And in designing durable solutions, the IDPs themselves are the most authentic source of information.

In line with this, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus and The Asia Foundation, through the IDP Resiliency Project, carried out an initial data collection in these areas through listening sessions, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and secondary data analysis, consisting mostly of IDP records taken from LGUs and DSWD regional offices where IDPs are temporarily residing.

Old and new conflicts: setting the context of displacement in mainland Maguindanao

Abolition of MOA-AD in 2008

The tales of conflicts the IDPs shared dated way back to 2008, when the MILF announced a breakthrough in negotiations with a Memorandum of Agreement on the issue of an autonomous Moro homeland. A total of 750,000 persons were displaced, and numerous human rights cases of abuse took place during the 2008-2009 hostilities (Amnesty International, 2009).

BIFF and ISIS: vengeful splinter groups

After the MILF signed the peace agreement in 2014 with the Philippine government ending years of conflicts, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started its all-out-offensive in 2015 against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The BIFF is a breakaway faction of the MILF that disagrees with the peace process and wants an independent Islamic State in the south. Despite the AFP’s claims of having defeated the BIFF, they have continuously conducted small group operations targeting the remaining 50% of BIFF members who have taken refuge in the Liguwasan marshlands and mountainous areas of the Maguindanao province.  In 2017, a conflict erupted between the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF, and the ISIS-inspired local terrorist group in Datu Salibo, killing at least 25 people (Crisis Group, 2017). The influence of ISIS has spread throughout the Southeast Asian region, where more than 60 groups declared allegiance to the caliphate.

The political feud escalated to ridu

In 2020, the Municipality of Talitay was troubled by the cycle of violence between two political families, killing significant town officials. The ridu between the warring clans reached a bloody vendetta after the 2019 elections when one party breached the agreements made before the election. The conflict led to the displacement of hundreds of families and the fear of LGU workers to be identified with any warring group.

Who are the 2,211 recorded IDP families?

MPC community coordinators walking through the flooded roads of Barangay Bintan, in Kilalan, Municipality of Talitay as they conduct the first listening session.

The invisible population

On July 29, 2022, the field coordinators visited Shariff Saydona and Datu Salibo and were surprised to find out that the local government units (LGUs) do not have IDP records. Seemingly forgotten, the officials interviewed by the team do not know the whereabouts of their former residents. Even the IDPs in Madtabayog, Datu Piang said they “have no voice” in the LGU. Suppose ever the MPC would provide any tangible support for them. In that case, they suggest MPC should engage or connect with them directly instead of forwarding the assistance to the LGUs for distribution.

Help and support remain challenging for the “unrecorded” IDPs. From the series of listening sessions in Datu Piang, Talitay, Datu Salibo, Shariff Saydona, Mamasapano, and Datu Saudi, a total of 2,211 families were recorded and validated. Some lived in evacuation sites, rented houses in neighboring barangays, or stayed with relatives.

The prevailing lack of representation and identification of IDP camp populations has influenced assistance to the IDPs. Missing records meant missing out on social services.

“We need to identify the needs in the community. We have fishers, farmers, and entrepreneurs. We have to conduct data collection and identify the demographics of the population. We have to address the needs of each population. Conduct FGD and gather the IDP leaders from the home-based IDPs and the evacuation center IDPs, and this, we may develop a proposal for projects.”

Akas Saguia, IDP leader, resident of Datu Piang

The renters

In the 2008 war between the AFP and MILF, many lived in fear in overcrowded camps, nursing uncertainties amid war. Some lived with relatives or in makeshift shelters on roadsides. IDPs still live in deplorable situations in evacuation sites in Barangay Madtabayog, Datu Piang. From the listening session conducted by MPC last July 12, 2022, IDPs had to pay P100.00 per month as a “rental fee” to the landowner where they are temporarily settling. Since the IDPs temporarily reside in private properties, there is always a threat of forced eviction.

In a listening session in Datu Piang last July 12, 2022, the IDPs living in Barangay Madtabayog raised problems of insufficient water supply and WASH facilities in their current location. Their recent locations were also severely affected by flooding due to perennial rains and typhoons. As temporary settlers uprooted from their farmlands, they had difficulties adjusting to urban life.

From the listening sessions conducted in the municipality of Talitay, 198 families have not yet returned to their villages. IDPs lived outside their villages in temporary shelters made from donated plastic tarpaulins and woven coconut leaves for more than a year after the bloody clan war. Without sustainable sources of income, the IDPs live off humanitarian assistance and informal livelihoods.

A family to the BIFFs

The presence of BIFF family members among the population of IDPs remained to deter and slow down the return and resettlement plans for the IDPs. In a listening session conducted in Datu Saudi, the IDPs shared that designing return and resettlement plans were challenging because some of the men in their community are BIFFs. The IDP women feared being associated with the BIFFs, but at the same time, they also missed their husbands. When asked about resettlement plans, the IDPs preferred the area near the highway to make it easier and safer for their BIFF family members to visit and avoid chance encounters with the government armed forces.

“Di sila pwedeng magkita or else magkakagulo talaga. Dapat ma identify ang mga pamilyang may involvement [sa BIFFs] at yung mga ordinaryong sibilyan. Pero di naman natin yan malalaman kasi di nila yan sasabihin.”

Norodin Guiamaludin, field coordinator, in his sharing about the situations of IDPs in Talitay and Datu Saudi

Respect begins with listening

Most of the time, in listening, healing begins when both the IDPs and the humanitarian actors reflect on how needs are met and how lasting solutions can be found in their displacement. It is the role of humanitarian people and the government to listen without ‘cherry-picking’ what they can give to those who fit their definition of ‘IDPs.’

While we listen to their dreams and aspirations for the future, we must also listen to their stories of human rights and humanitarian abuses. We have to listen to the people we seek to help because they know, more than anyone else, how they can be supported and what they need.

Bantay Ceasefire and Humanitarian Protection

The Bantay Ceasefire was an initiative of communities in Mindanao to prevent a resumption of war and protect the safety and security of civilian populations. As an 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.

Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training

Integrating feminine leadership into one’s identity is particularly difficult among women in BARMM region where credibility is established in a culture that privileges patriarchal or masculinist authority. Dominant perceptions and misconceptions still are prevalent that women are not cut out for leadership. And so hearing personal experiences of women leaders challenging the conventional ways of leadership are always beautiful, invigorating, and inspirational. There is no scarcity in women leaders, but there exists an environment that stifles their potentials. 

Last May 16-19 the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, through its Grassroots Learning Hub project, conducted the 4-day Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training held in Eden Nature Park and Resort. It was a convention of both seasoned and emerging women leaders from the Moro and IP communities in BARMM region. The participants are partners of MPC, mainly, from Bangsamoro Free Election Movement (BFEM), Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc. (MWDCC), UNYPAD, Social Welfare Committee (SWC), Women’s Organization of Rajah Mamalu Descendants (WORMD), Indigenous Women Research Center (IWRC), and Bantay Ceasefire.

The training consisted of various topics about Gender Concepts and Feminist Leadership, Situational Analysis of Women Political Participation during the Bangsamoro Transition Period, Advocacy and Lobby Skills, Effective Communication and Public Speaking.

They have also watched two videos, one was Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising Campaign, and second was Manal Omar’s Women at the Negotiating Table. Both videos showed how women leaders can embrace their own femininity in leadership. 

The women leaders were able to practice their skills and knowledge on the following topics through a practical exercise in conducting press conference and lobbying session. Many legitimate questions aroused during the two sessions mainly concerning the status of the IP Code, Electoral Code, situation of communities outside the Bangsamoro region, intensification of women’s political participation in all levels of government, peace dividends, and the role of CSOs in the transition period among others. The women leaders showed their knowledge in the BARMM issues and skills in interpolating with the media and BTA members in these practical exercises.

The MPC acknowledges that more than acquiring new skills and having more knowledge in social issues within BARMM is not sufficient. The learning must be coupled with a growing sense of feminine identity as a leader and that they must anchor their leadership purpose in potentials and strengths they already possessed as women. The Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training is not the beginning of the process of materializing this vision, but this is a continuation of the many years that the MPC, together with its partners have built an environment that overcomes barriers to women’s leadership and participation. 

Women’s Leadership and Political Participation Training

Integrating feminine leadership into one’s identity is particularly difficult among women in BARMM region where credibility is established in a culture that privileges patriarchal or masculinist authority. Dominant perceptions and misconceptions still are prevalent that women are not cut out for leadership. And so hearing personal experiences of women leaders challenging the conventional ways of leadership are always beautiful, invigorating, and inspirational. There is no scarcity in women leaders, but there exists an environment that stifles their potentials.

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2nd Regional Dialogue on Bangsamoro Peace Process

The series of Regional Dialogues continued to create synergy and proved to be the best way in getting the valuable insights of the CSO leaders in BARMM on the peace process as the Philippines enter a new political landscape.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus in partnership with the United Nations International Organization on Migration through the Supporting Conflict Transformation towards Effective Peacebuilding in the Bangsamoro Region (STEP BARMM) Project conducted another round of regional dialogue.

There were 45 participants from Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Davao City, Cagayan De Oro, and Marawi who attended the 3-day forum at Eden Nature Park and Resort last June 7 to 9.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus invited participants from Consortium Bangsamoro Cso, League of Bangsamoro Organizations – LBO Inc., BAWGBUG Inc., PeaceBuilders Community, Kunsensya Dabaw, Kalimudan Sa Ranao Foundation Incorporated, Moro Consensus Group – MCG, Balay Mindanaw Group, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – Sentro, Unypad, CBCS), Civil Society Oragnizations Movement for Moral Governance (CSO-MMG), TASBIKKa Incorporated, CRS, Singanen o Mindanao, Ecoweb, and Bantay Ceasefire. Ms. Melina Nathan, the Senior Peace and Development Advisor United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office, was also present during the dialogue.

Ms. Mags Maglana facilitated the 3-day regional dialogue where the CSO leaders were able to voice out their sentiments, opinions, uncertainties, optimisms, and their plans for the future of peace and development in BARMM.

Focus in the discussion is how can the different CSOs help sustain and protect the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process and what are the necessary actions that CSOs must undertake. The regional dialogue was effective and participatory because, though constrained by time, everyone was given the chance to talk and be heard.

Minister Mohagher Iqbal of the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE)–BARMM was also present during the second day of the regional dialogue. He encouraged everyone to “go back to the basic to understand the complexities of the problem.” He also stressed the vital role of dialogue in the peace development work, he said:

“Dialogue is a corner stone of MILF policies, we need to engage people, groups, and be able to identify common grounds… We open our doors to dialogue. While the past is important, the future is more important. You need to understand where they are coming from and their directions.”

As the group move forward, we hope to become more cohesive as group of CSO leaders working towards peace in Mindanao. As what Atty. Mary Ann Arnado, the Secretary General of MPC, said as she closed the 2nd regional dialogue, “We have a heavy task ahead but we will be doing this by holding hands together.”