Women Peacemakers kicks off Philippine visit with CPC Women launch

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May 24, 2011 – The Women Peacemakers, namely, Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice Deputy Director Dr. Dee Aker, Women Peacemakers Program Officer Ms. Jennifer Freeman, and 2005 Woman Peacemaker Ms. Thavory Hout from Cambodia are currently on a visit to the Philippines from May 19 – 27, 2011 to meet with the IMT-CPC-MPC Women, the International Monitoring Team and other partners in peace and civilian protection work, in order to share and learn strategies and on the ground experiences on how women in the conflict affected areas can effectively assert and operationalize the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSC 1325).

They are joined by 2010 Woman Peacemaker Ms. Merlie “Milet” Mendoza, CPC-MPC Coordinator Ms. Analiza Ugay (also of Balay Rehabilitation Center), and fellow Woman Peacemaker Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of MPC.

In solidarity with the recently launched “All Women Contingent in the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team,” these women peacemakers from Cambodia and the United States started off their Philippine visit with a solidarity launch of the IMT-CPC-MPC Women Cotingent in Manila last May 20, 2011. The launching was held at Miriam College in Quezon City and was attended by members of the diplomatic community, members of the International Monitoring Team 6 led by Head of Mission Major General Mahdi Bin Yusof, GPH peace panel representatives led by panel member Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Armed Forces of the Philippines led by Peace Process Office Chief Col. Dickson Hermoso, some Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and international NGOs. The Women Peacemakers warmly welcomed the opportunity to personally engage with the IMT and the women involved in the CPC—to learn from their experiences and help build their competencies.

Among the speakers, Dr. Dee Aker highlighted how women’s participation in peace processes and humanitarian work “deliver a fuller security picture” and helps provide a “new framework for dispute resolution,” coming from their common strength and ability of hearing and addressing the grievances of all stakeholders involved. Prof. Ferrer reinforced her statement by sharing her own observation on how there are now major changes among key players in the peace process – pointing out that conflict is no longer viewed as merely military in nature, but with social, political and gender components.

Froilyn Mendoza, a Teduray CPC Women Contingent member from South Upi, shared her own experiences and those of her fellow CPC Women from other protection sites in Central Mindanao. Heartwarming stories of women in different cultural contexts who overcame initial resistance from their own families and communities, to later gain overwhelming respect, admiration and support from the same people who used to doubt their capacity.

The three military men — IMT Head of Mission Maj. Gen. Yusof, Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, Chair of the GPH CCCH, and Col. Hermoso of the AFP — also expressed their support to the Women Peacemakers and CPC-MPC Women as well as shared their efforts on monitoring and civilian protection that is in line with the human security framework that was mentioned by Dr. Aker and Prof. Ferrer.

A day after the launch, the Women Peacemakers and the CPC Women flew straight to Davao—the first stop in the Mindanao leg of their visit. They are scheduled to visit the Mothers for Peace of the Talaandig tribe in Songco, Lantapan, Malaybalay Bukidnon to learn about Traditional Conflict Resolution; the Bantay Ceasefire and CPC Women in Aleosan protection site, North Cotabato; go on a community Visit in Pagatin, Datu Saudi Ampatuan; have a forum with Moro Women; have some courtesy calls with military camps and a meeting with the International Monitoring Team in their field office.

Statement on the Launching of Change for Peace (C4P) Peace Talks Watch

We members of civil society organizations and peace advocacy groups in Mindanao announces the formation of the Change for Peace (C4P) a grassroots campaign whose objective is to develop and strengthen a broad grassroots peace constituency who would monitor developments in the ongoing GPH-MILF peace negotiations, help the public to form an informed and principled stand on the issues concerning the negotiations, and organize grassroots actions and activities that supports the realization of an agreement that will finally conclude the Bangsamoro conflict through a peaceful negotiated political settlement.

While we are encourage by the positive pronouncements both on the side of the government and the MILF that a peace agreement can be achieved within the time period of this current administration we feel that there is still a lot to be done in terms of implementing measurable and realizable actions that will put in concrete terms the steps that would be taken to address the challenges and possible pitfalls facing the negotiation process.

It is in this context that we in C4P have formed a GPH-MILF Peace Talks Watch. The rationale for its formation lies in the realization that each and every one of us are stakeholders to peace in Mindanao and us such we also bear responsibility for ensuring that the current peace negotiations will not be held hostage or derailed by the machinations of spoilers to the peace talks, and by hardline partisan political sentiments of some groups. We need only to recall the events that lead to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) debacle to stress the importance of building a grassroots constituency is to the success of any peace negotiation.

Concretely the Peace Talks Watch campaign aims to ensure that:

  • Grassroots communities will not be misled by disinformation or unfounded speculations about the agenda of the talks and its processes by institutionalizing grassroots dialogues, community discussions, and developing information materials that will popularize the issues that are discussed by the GPH-MILF panels;
  • Both the GPH-MILF panels are reminded of their commitment to resolve the talks within the specified timeframe that they have set by organizing peace talks watch volunteers that will monitor and actively engage the process through solidarity actions that addresses potential stumbling blocks to the negotiations;
  • An active lobby will be conducted to influence legislators, and government officials to support the peace talks and develop a direct link between Congress and key government agencies to the peace panel and the outcome of the negotiations.

We also feel the urgent necessity of launching this Peace Talks Watch because in the end it is us, the people who will have to contend with the failure of the negotiations. It is our communities that will be bombed, our families who will be displaced, our properties that will be destroyed, and our future that will put in jeopardy. It is for this reason that we see the need to be vigilant, to be pro-active, and to be concerned about the outcome of the peace talks for in the final analysis what is at stake is the human capital that we have given – our tears, our joys, our aspirations – to build a community, a Mindanao where there is finally peace based on justice, and where there is unity based on the recognition of the right of its peoples to self-determination.

Signed,

Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP)

Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC)

Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)

Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)

Civil Society Organizations-Forum for Peace (CSO-FP)

United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD)

Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace (BCJP)