“Consequences of Mindanao war have been very painful – and costly”

It was Jan. 9, 2008, and the people in Lanao del Sur were having a march-rally. It was the second leg of the series of Mindanao-wide peace rally led by the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), a network of 164 civil society organizations (CSOs) in Mindanao. The organizer of the rally in the region is the Ranaw Regional Management Committee of CBCS, led by Amenodin Cali.

“The failure of peace agreements in the past can be attributed mainly to the non-participation of the Bangsamoro people, because non-participation means they do not own a peace agreement,” said Abdullah Dalidig of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform and Good Governance (IMERGG) and Muslim Multi-sectoral Movement for Peace and Development (MMMPD). “As real stakeholders, their collective voice should be basis of authority and the last word in the solution of the problem.”

“The consequences of war in Mindanao have been very painful and costly. More than 150,000 people died and 100,000 were estimated to be injured. Millions were displaced from their homes and several hundred thousands, including more than 200,000 Bangsamoro who sought refuge in the Malaysian State of Sabah have not returned home,” Dalidig added.

Anwar Saluwang, deputy secretary-general of United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), an organization of Muslim youths based in Cotabato City called for the immediate return to the negotiating table of both the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels.

“We the Bangsamoro in Central Mindanao feel exactly what is felt by people in Ranaw. The Government should not wait for the Bangsamoro to becomes Bangsamoro Armed Forces,” he cited. Saluwang was there with the Marawi-based members of UNYPAD.

The first leg of the peace rally was held in Cotabato City and participated by more than 30,000 sectoral representatives. Still, the call is addressed to both the Government and the MILF to immediately resolve the present gaps in the peace talks.

“The Bangsamoro does not belong to the MILF or the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) but the MILF and the MNLF belong to the Bangsamoro,” said Sammy Maulana, secretary-general of CBCS, as he called for the dismissal of early misconceptions that the rally was “pro-MILF” and anti-government.

A number of questions have been raised by the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that participated in the second leg of the rally regarding the present status of the peace talks, as written in their united statements.

“Is it due to the lack of sincerity of both parties? Or shall we blame the MNLF, MILF and ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) who seem disunited? Or is it due to inadequate international involvement of the paid spoilers (alleged terrorists)? Or is the review of the GRP-MNLF-FPA, an obstacle to the GRP-MILF Peace process? Can there be a creative and yet acceptable process without violating the Philippine Constitution? What will happen in the event of the collapse of the MILF-GRP Peace Talks?”

“There is no doubt that the failure of peace agreement will lead to violence, chaos and war. But the people are tired of war. It is anti-people and violates the very core values of all religions and civil society: love, peace, nonviolence,” the CSOs stated. (Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society)