Peace activists quell religious extremism through political dialogues

Mindanao Peace Process • Sat Jul 15, 2017 07:18 PM  •  149   0
By John Unson
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COTABATO CITY --- Radical peace and political activists are now helping quell violent religious extremists (VREs) but in a front far from being deadly and destructive.

The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and a local partner, the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), are jointly addressing, through dialogues, community concerns such as underdevelopment, the Mindanao secessionist conflict and the “social injustice” Moro people complain of, to win the war against VREs.

The IAG’s latest AusAID-assisted “politics for peace” dialogue was held in Cagayan de Oro City from July 13-14, where participants discussed lengthily the implications of the security crisis in Marawi City to the southern Mindanao peace process.

The activity was assisted by the Regional Commission on Bangsamoro Women in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Started in the 1990s by Malacañang, the current southern peace process, markedly so shaky all the time, aims to put a durable closure to the nagging security issues besetting the southern Moro domain.

The peace process had ushered in the September 2, 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front, brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, among them petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Some peace activists and political strategists helping push forward the IAG’s “Promoting Political Climate and Stability for Peace Program” are worried the trouble in Marawi City will affect the enactment into law of the  reformatted draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The proposed law is the enabling measure for the implementation of all compacts between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which do not recognize the 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement. 

Malacañang has a separate accord with the MILF, the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro. 

The MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which drafted the proposed BBL after extensive public consultations, will submit its copy to President Rodrigo Duterte next week. The first ever draft BBL was disapproved by Congress for containing unconstitutional provisions.
 
It was also obviously opposed by some lawmakers antagonized by the infamous January 25, 2015 “Mamasapano incident” that shook the nation to its core and challenged the government-MILF peace overture. 

The IAG is helping build consensus among southern peace process stakeholders on how to best address the nagging, decades-old Mindanao Moro problem through political dialogues. 

Some of the political analysts and civil servants participating in IAG-sponsored dialogues said on Saturday that the hostilities in Marawi City may even possibly help lawmakers understand better the need for an immediate political empowerment of Moro communities to hasten nation-building and resolution of internal conflicts. 

Just last June, the IAG sponsored a two-day dialogue in Makati City on the prospects of the draft BBL in relation to the situation in Marawi City. 

Speakers, among them members of the BTC, took turns explaining their views on the two issues. 

Some spoke on how a peaceful resolution of the Moro problem, that has been hounding Mindanao since the early 1970s, could insulate the Bangsamoro region from VREs, or outcast Islamic militants capitalizing on poverty, underdevelopment and negligence to stoke hatred to government.

Local VREs in the ranks of the Maute terror group, also known as the Dawlah Islamiya, the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Ansa'r Al-Khilafa and and the Abu Sayyaf are eloquent in fomenting animosity to non-Muslims using socio-economic and political marginalization of Moro sectors as talking points. 

Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali said one solution to the spread of violent religious extremism in the Bangsamoro area is for Congress to grant legislative imprimatur to the new draft BBL. “This is a peace process and we want this peace process to succeed,” Sahali then said. 

Recorded proceedings of every IAG-initiated political dialogue are distributed to government policy makers and national officials as reference for planning and law-making initiatives.

The IAG, also a partner of the political “think tank” Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany, is a regular publisher of books and reference materials on political issues and problems besetting Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities.
 
The publications also outlines recommended solutions to community concerns the IAG is trying to help address through political forums.

The entity has also been supporting the Mindanao peace process actively. It has even sponsored a series of forums in recent months on federalism and its viability in the Philippines.

For the IAG and the people involved in its periodic dialogues, violent religious extremism now plaguing parts of Mindanao, being spread by local VREs claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is now a serious problem all southern sectors must cohesively address. 

IAG’s director, lawyer Benedicto Bacani, said multi-sectoral and inter-agency dialogues are the best means of building consensus on how local governance and security issues in the Bangsamoro area can easily be resolved.

Good governance is also one factor that can help nip violent extremism in Mindanao from its bud, according to Bacani.
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