Save the Children cites Bantay Ceasefire for peace efforts

The Save the Children, a United States-funded non-government project implementing alternative education program in this town, awarded the Plaque of Appreciation to the Bantay Ceasefire during its third year anniversary program at the rooftop of the town hall here last Wednesday.

Yul Olaya,  project officer of Save the Children here, explained they decided to give the award to the Bantay Ceasefire “because of its very valuable contribution in trying to prevent the escalation of the war in Midsayap early this year. Their volunteers had been risking their lives for peace and peace is a very important requirement that could help facilitate learning.”

The war which displaced some 40,000 individuals and affected over a dozen villages here early this year, also threatened the education program of the Save the Children as classes were suspended in many of the barangays that were beneficiaries of their projects.

Aside from alternative non-formal education, the Save the Children had also been helping schools develop and improve their curricula. 

Brenda Albarico, the Bantay Ceasefire volunteer here who accepted the plaque, said they were “very happy with the recognition. This is an affirmation of what we have been doing in the field.”

Albarico earns income from driving a tricycle. During the war, she used her tricycle to ferry villagers fleeing from the war, to the nearest evacuation center. “Inahan pud ko” (I am a mother, too), she said.

One of the few women Bantay Ceasefire volunteers who has been actively rendering duty at the male-dominated Joint Monitoring Action Team (JMAT), Albarico said, “this  (plaque) brings to us renewed vigor and passion in what we have been doing.”

The Bantay Ceasefire has two representatives at the JMAT in Barangay Rangaban here. Rangaban is one of four barangays heavily affected by the war between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the months of January and March this year.

Aside from the Bantay Ceasefire, other members of the JMAT are representatives from the Malaysian-lead International Monitoring Team, the MILF and the Army.

Rexall Kaalim, coordinator of the Bantay Ceasefire, who was present at the awarding ceremony, said he was as well elated seeing his volunteers receive the award. “They (volunteers) deserve that award. This will encourage us to work harder in improving the conflict transformation and monitoring skills of our volunteers.”

One of the steps that he said they have lined up is “an exchange program of sort.”

He explained that under the exchange program, Bantay Ceasefire volunteers from other provinces would be sent to Midsayap “to experience how things are done here and for Midsayap volunteers to be sent to, say, Marawi or Basilan, to also learn from their experiences there.”

Kaalim, who announced that the Bantay Ceasefire would hold a general assembly meeting before the year ends, said the “gains and lessoned we earned in Midsayap would be among those that will be highlighted in our coming gathering.”

He claimed there have already been “countless little gains” of Bantay Ceasefire, “but we would rather want to consider ourselves an organization that is still continuously learning from these lessons—especially from our shortcomings.”

The monitoring group has 700 volunteers in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao. (MindaNews)