GRASSROOTS communities and Mindanao’s internally displaced persons (IDP) warmly welcome the formal entry of the Royal Norwegian Government in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) particularly on its “specific coordinating role” in the Civilian Protection Component (CPC) as mentioned in the April 21, 2010 Joint Statement of the GRP-MILF peace panels. Norway’s experience in various conflict areas all over the world and its far-renowned commitment to world peace will definitely bring in a fresh impetus to the peace process in Mindanao.
Despite the limited time at hand, we appreciate the efforts of the peace panels to make do with whatever time is left in the Arroyo administration to be able to address doable measures that will help normalize the situation in the conflict-affected areas such as the safe return of the IDPs and the clearing operations of unexploded ordnance (UXO). Equally urgent is the need to finalize the Terms of Reference of the Civilian Protection Component of the IMT which need not wait for the advent of a new administration. With tens of thousands of IDPs still displaced, their day to day survival and collective suffering should not be extended any longer in order to appease political ambitions and electoral dirty tactics.
Based on the Mindanao-wide consultations conducted by the Bishop-Ulama Conference, it is crystal-clear that the Mindanaoans want the GRP-MILF peace talks to continue. Picking up from the lessons of the MOA-AD, the Mindanao Peoples Caucus makes an appeal to all groups and sectors especially politicians and church leaders to refrain from issuing statements that would undermine the laudable efforts of the peace panels of both government and MILF. We encourage our leaders to closely coordinate with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and extract correct information from them rather than issuing false statements that could just create unnecessary anxiety among the communities who bore the negative consequences of these irresponsible remarks and false assumptions about the interim agreement.
We also call on influential religious leaders to spearhead dialogue instead of obfuscating the truth about the GRP-MILF peace talks. As men and women of peace, we should learn the lessons of the August 2008 skirmishes which shattered the relationships of communities which we have painstakingly built through years of inter-religious dialogue, healing and reconciliation.
Irresponsible statements could easily fan animosity and paranoia which is the least that we need at this point when the country is facing a major political exercise in the upcoming May 2010 election. We also call upon the peace panels and the OPAPP to intensify its information drive and advocacy campaign so that the people will no longer be misled by black propaganda and divide and rule tactics.