PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) was invited to participate in reporting the results of the performance review of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA)—the new government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). A team from a network of civil society organizations, called Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC), was commissioned to do the Rapid Mid-Term Review on the Bangsamoro Transition Period. Upon learning the findings and the recommendations, the Bangsamoro invites the civil society to continue the justice-and-peace journey with them. PBCI commits to continue our humble presence in this journey.
A team from Mindanao Peoples Caucus invited PeaceBuilders Community to participate in the public presentation of findings and recommendations of the Rapid Mid-Term Review on the Bangsamoro Transition Period. Representing PBCI, I accompanied the MPI team between the 7th and the 15th of October 2020.
The objectives of the Rapid MidTerm Review on the Bangsamoro Transition Period were: (a) to determine the mid-year status of the priority areas set to be accomplished by the BTA; (b) to identify gaps, key challenges and problems encountered in the implementation of the mandated priorities during the transition period including the new challenges and constraints brought about by the global pandemic; and, (c) to present to policymakers proposed concrete actions and recommendations as to what remains to be done to close gaps and responses to the key challenges and problems.
The primary tools for the Midterm Review were: (a) documents review; (b) focus group discussions at the community level; and, (c) key informant interviews (KII) for select members of the BTA, the Cabinet, the BARMM agencies, civil society leaders, and international non-government organizations (INGOs).
The first public presentation was held at Coffee for Peace Café last 07 October. It also became a “reunion party” among peacebuilding colleagues in Mindanao.
We travelled together to Cotabato City between 13th and 15th of October. During the first evening, we had a very fruitful discussion with Mr. Mohagher Iqbal in his office. Mr. Iqbal is the Minister of Basic, Higher and Technical Education in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). He is also a member of the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Chair of MILF Peace Negotiating Panel.
“We all aspire for genuine justice and peace,” Chairman Iqbal said. “The civil society organizations,” he adds, “should continue working with us in advancing genuine justice and peace even now that we have BARMM. There are overwhelming tasks and challenges before us.”
The next morning, 14 October, our team visited the office of Atty. Lanang Ali Jr., the Majority Floor Leader at the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Parliament, to officially present the results and recommendations of the Rapid MidTerm Review on the Bangsamoro Transition Period.
The final appointment during that Cotabato City trip, Thursday, 15 October 2020, 1000-1200PHT, was with Hon. Ahod Balawag Ebrahim (better known as Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim). He is currently serving as the first and Interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). He is also the current Central Committee Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Chief Minister Ebrahim is a key figure in the Bangsamoro Peace Process in the Philippines. We presented a copy of our report and enjoyed reminiscing the journey of the MILF-GRP Peace Process.
The highlight of that meeting with Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim was his challenging invitation to the civil society organizations to keep journeying with the Bangsamoro in this peace process in Mindanao. “The civil society organizations,” he said, “have to continue its work towards the realization of justice and peace. Having the BARMM doesn’t mean the work is done. We need to continue working together.”
That was also a time to review our own journey as peacebuilding workers in Mindanao and how the Bangsamoro people have taught us, Christians, about justice-based, sustainable, and lasting peace.
It was in 27 March 2014 when PeaceBuilders Community was invited at the Presidential Palace of the Republic of the Philippines to witness the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). We were celebrating! That Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was a significant milestone towards a justice-based peace between the majority Settlers (mostly Christians) and the Bangsamoro (mostly Muslims) in Mindanao—the southern island of the Philippines.
Soon, the negotiated agreements contained in the CAB were integrated into the laws of the Republic of the Philippines. We campaigned for the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and it passed in our legislative body as the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
The BOL provided for a 6-year transitional government we now refer to as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). This is the 3rd year of this transition period—the subject of the review by MPC.
This renewed field cooperation and collaboration with MPC bring so much happy memories. It was through listening to an elder of Mindanao Peoples Caucus that we saw how the various peoples of this island envision a suitable and peaceful coexistence among themselves—Bangsamoro, Indigenous Peoples and Christian settler communities. Through their stories, we began to understand that “the acceptability of peace will depend upon the mutual respect of these three groups; peace that seeks to resolve the root causes of the armed conflict; peace that allows full recognition of the tri-people who can develop and govern themselves in the economic, political, cultural, social and spiritual spheres of development.”
Since 2006, PBCI has been actively participating in MPC’s work of advancing peacebuilding and conflict transformation processes in Mindanao. We have been partners with MPC in the work of initiating various dialogues and conversations between conflicting parties in Mindanao.
We’re grateful for the gracious and merciful embrace of the Creator in our lives for allowing us to serve as peace workers in these beautiful islands and among these beautiful people.