Joji & Dann Pantoja are peace building missionaries commissioned by Peace Mennonite Church and administered through Mennonite Church Canada. They are assigned to the Philippines to lead a team of Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Specialists called PeaceBuilders Community Inc. They also co-founded Coffee for Peace Corp. to help indigenous farmers in the Philippines produce, process, and market their products in accordance with inclusive and sustainable development principles.
Sep 10 2017
We are so encouraged when Joji received another citation from the ASEAN Business Awards 2017:
ASEAN BUSINESS AWARDS 2017
NATIONAL WINNER, PHILIPPINES
Inclusive Business Category
Coffee for Peace is a social enterprise in the areas of Mt. Apo, Bukidnon, and the Cordillera Administrative Region which envisions Peace Communities practicing relational harmony and enjoying quality life by engaging in a sustainable coffee value chain. It incessantly seeks various ways to economically allow marginalized communities in Mindanao and the Philippines become sustainable. This is not only an approach to sustaining peace efforts but also to give a better alternative to armed struggle and other destructive environmental practices just to bring food on the table.
We dedicate this award to all the farmers in the Philippines.
We will continue to pray for your liberation from all kinds of oppression.
We will continue to listen, to serve and to work, with your guidance, towards the advancement of justice for the peace of all the families toiling the land.
We honor our Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) field training facilitators — Clay & June Rojo, Twinkle ‘Tala’ Alngag Bautista, Byron ‘Bee’ Pantoja, Jobee ‘Sihaya’ Basas, Aiza ‘Wanay’ Baluyan — with this award. We express our gratitude for the administrative work of Tyron Ortiz and Chacha Denila Homez.
Coffee for Peace is also a finalist all over Southeast Asia in the ‘Inclusive Business’ category.
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2017/09/10/cfp-won-the-national-inclusive-business-category-at-the-asean-business-awards-2017/
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2017/02/25/we-thrive-we-dont-merely-survive/
Jan 21 2015
From the 20th to the 22nd of January we were in Bukidnon Province. We met with the architects of Central Mindanao University’s Mount Kalayo Institute for Social Enterprise Growth (MKISEG) to explore the possibility of a partnership between MKISEG and Coffee For Peace to create a program for training indigenous farmers in coffee cultivation.
We also made sure to spend time catching up and fellowshipping with the PAR Bukidnon team and with the enthusiastic young missionaries of the Kalinaw Youth Movement — PAR Bukidnon’s campus ministry at CMU.
Pastor Manny Alquino of PAR Bukidnon gave us a tour of his Sidlak Pinoy operation — a social enterprise which creates inexpensive house-building bricks out of Bukidnon’s abundant river silt mixed with the ash of burnt rice hulls.
Before heading back to Davao, we joined MKISEG in presenting our coffee education plans to the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. The NCIP shares our hopes for an improved quality of life among Bukidnon’s marginalized IPs.
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2015/01/21/4436/
Jan 01 2015
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!
There are overwhelming reasons why Joji and I, along with the whole PeaceBuilders Community, are excited to face the New Year!
New Sceneries. By the invitation of various local and provincial tribal leaders, we will be extending our Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) community development operations in the Kalinga Province. This scenic province will be a major focus of our presence.
The first field is the preservation of the indigenous traditions and culture. Among the main riches of the Cordilleras are the presence, culture and history of their indigenous people. The Kalingas have customary peace processes, traditions of hospitality and solidarity, and a strong relationship with the spiritual world. But they are disregarded by the mainstream lowland culture. In the minds of many Filipinos, the Kalinga’s history of head hunting is highlighted because of cultural prejudice. Lowlanders tend to turn this exceptional practice as if this is the Kalinga’s only characteristic.
The second field of work for PAR Kalinga is seeking to help in the transformation of the political, economic and social injustices in the Cordillera Region. The Cordilleras are full of natural resources, but have been one of the poorer provinces of the Philippines for years. Their riches—gold mines, forests, pure spring water, streams—are drained for the good of the Manila-based central government. However, the Cordillera’s provinces reportedly receive less funding from the government than all the other provinces in the Philippines. A promise of autonomy for the Cordilleras had been negotiated in 1986, after years of fighting from the Cordillera People’s Alliance – Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPA-CPLA) but the government now considers the agreement closed, after what CPA regards as foul play. Tension is strongly felt by those who fought for autonomy, and PAR Kalinga has been asked to help in advocating for the cause.
New Horizon. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has organized the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP). Its First Volunteers’ General Assembly was held last 23-25 December 2014 in Camp Darapanan, Barangay Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. PBCI representatives were invited as observers.
From being a revolutionary front, the MILF is transitioning to become a political party. In his opening remarks, Hon. Sammy Al-Mansour, UBJP Secretary General, said: “Our struggle is moving from the shooting of bullets to casting of ballots.” Al-Mansour is also the Chief of Staff of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the military wing of the MILF.
For our community, this would be a new challenge in a new horizon of conflict transformation.
We will be anticipating, with much excitement, how this revolutionary-force-turned-political-party would help transform the electoral horizon of Mindanao as they prepare in 2015 to participate in the 2016 elections.
New Mountain. We will be establishing a new model farm for arabica coffee in Kapatagan, a community at the foothills of Mount Apo. Coffee For Peace will be acquiring an 8000-square meter property from our friend and fellow peace advocates — Edwin and Inday Arcenas. We will soon be working together in advocating Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) principles and to plant Arabica coffee together in this mountain range (1000+ meters above sea level), applying our Coffee For Peace advocacy.
New Depth. As we are getting deeply immersed in divided communities because of unresolved conflicts, the more we are becoming aware of the need for inclusive economic development as a critical aspect of our peace and reconciliation mission.
In the past few months, we have been actively participating in an inclusive growth movement in Mindanao being spearheaded by the Central Mindanao University (CMU). Much of our time in 2015 will be strategically invested in developing inclusive growth and development with our CMU partners. We are going to further develop a new social business enterprise called Sidlak Kalinaw.
New Heights. The growing relationship between PBCI and the key leaders of Indigenous People is helping our peacebuilding advocacy reach a new level of effectiveness in the area of conflict transformation.
Last year, a group of scientists and researchers from CMU entered Mount Kitanglad to study certain plants for medicinal purposes. The Cultural Guards of the Talaandig Tribe patrolling the forests arrested the researchers who entered the tribal territory without permission from the tribal council. Past issues and deep wounds immediately re-surfaced.
Our PAR team in Bukidnon were invited by Datu Migketay ‘Vic’ Saway — the spiritual leader of the Council of the Seven Tribes in Bukidnon — to help in the conflict resolution processes. Both the Talaandig Tribe and CMU executives have agreed to go through a conflict transformation process between them. The two parties have expressed a clear vision of where this long-term process is going. Reconciliation.
As we enter 2015, we will be investing time and resources working on this issue.
New Expanded Family and Community. We have been embraced by certain leaders from both the Bangsamoro and the Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao with their love, hospitality, patience, and mentorship.
We, at PeaceBuilders Community, have also embraced them with love, expressed through our justice advocacy for their rights as well as through our sincere respect for their culture.
Last October 15th, Jonathan Cranston, one of our international staff, participated in a tribal celebration. He was able to interact with some academic and tribal leaders advocating for the right to self determination of the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. Here’s a segment of his report:
This struggle for official recognition of traditional tribal homeland is the experience of many in the indigenous community, says Prof. Sharon Bulaclac, a faculty member at Mindanao State University and a consultant for PeaceBuilders, Inc. who attended Talaandig Day with the PeaceBuilders Team. According to Prof. Bulaclac, government administrators at both the local and national levels often have ties to corporations whose profits would suffer as a consequence of official recognition of tribal domain claims. The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 is ostensibly in place to protect tribal rights to tribes’ ancestral lands. Nonetheless, says Prof. Bulaclac, “even though the law is there, sometimes they will pretend that the law is invisible.” The datus (chiefs) of the Panalan Higaonon tribe, who also attended Talaandig Day, made the same assertion as Prof. Bulaclac. They told me that though IPRA is on the books, it is not enforced, and they feel that Mindanao’s Lumad peoples lack recognition and are disrespected.
Another international staff member, Arthur John Block, shared his observation on the communal spirituality of the Talaandig Tribe:
We entered the hall and were surprised to see it full of people. Despite the gorgeous art on the walls, to the school groups and other curious but respectful spectators, the center of attention in the second floor of the two-storey Hall of Peace was the ceremony taking place. A joyful and smiling Talaandig leader was drawing drips of water from a jar with a piece of a banana leaf and anointing the infants and toddlers brought forth by their parents, welcoming and dedicating them into the community; as this was happening, a table of tribal leaders prayed passionately with their hands outstretched toward the children. The colors, the smiles, and the positive reverence displayed by all involved illustrated the beauty – both aesthetic and spiritual – of this tribal community.
The year 2015 will be decisive as we directly advocate for the IP’s right to self determination in several specific cases. One of which is walking with our Dulangan Manobo sisters and brothers. Even as we commit to this, we humbly keep in mind that we are not here to simply help. We are here to bind our lives with the oppressed. Their liberation is our liberation.
We’re excited to embrace 2015. Happy New Year!
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2015/01/01/were-so-excited-to-embrace-2015/
Nov 08 2014
The first segment of our Kalinga journey were spent in various tribal communities to get to get initial experience of the places, the people, and the various cultures in this province.
The second segment of our journey was invested in PAR teaching:
We facilitated a PAR Orientation and Vision Sharing. This two-day introductory seminar generated much agenda for a possible peace and reconciliation movement among these community leaders in Kalinga.
The two-day event concluded with a questionnaire that Twinkle prepared. Those questions would be discussed in the respective communities who were represented in this initial seminar.
Below are some images of those exciting two days in Tabuk, Kalinga:
Finally, we were invited to participate in a celebration, review, and renewal of peace pact between two tribes:
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2014/11/08/kalinga-par-community-is-born/
Oct 02 2014
We’re attending this gathering of diplomats, executives of international aid agencies, corporate decision makers, and political leaders. This is a sort of reaction to the growing concern about ISIS and other “radical groups.” The event is called A Forum on Current Dynamics of Radicalism in Southeast Asia: Peace Building Challenges and Opportunities in the Philippines, held here in a five-star hotel, Shangri-la EDSA.
The organizers invited us for free!
My reflections based on Peace Theology:
Radix. Latin word for root.
Radical. A person who advocates thorough or complete political or social change; a member of a political party or part of a party pursuing such aims. (synonyms: revolutionary, progressive)
I’m a radical in a sense that I see, analyze, and act to understand and help solve my perceived root of a problem.
There are violent radicals.
There are active nonviolent radicals.
I belong to a movement committed to active nonviolent radical approach to social change. I am a Radical Transformation activist.
Governments, corporations, civil societies, religious institutions, academic institutions, security sectors, and media must distinguish active nonviolent radicals like us from those violent radicals.
Radicalism is not the problem.
Terrorism is the problem. Terrorism is committed both by non-state armed elements and the armed forces of many states.
Radical, active nonviolent transformation is happening!
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2014/10/02/active-nonviolent-radical-transformation-is-happening/
Aug 20 2014
The positive attitude of PeaceBuilders Community towards the Bangsamoro is energized by our peace theology.
While being supportive and actively praying for the success of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), our hope for the future goes beyond politically negotiated agreements and beyond legislative acts of governments.
As a community of Christian peace and reconciliation missionaries, our hope is ultimately based on a biblical view of the final justice and peace on earth when Christ, the Prince of Peace, will govern the world with genuine justice for all. In our worldview, the reality of this radical just-peace began with the first coming of Jesus Christ and will be completed in His Second Coming. In this sense, the context of our peacebuilding mission is in the intersection of the ‘already’ and of the ‘not yet.’
It is this biblical hope that motivates us to call on our fellow Christians to repent, seek forgiveness, and correct our unjust actions, as well as to forgive, and to reconcile with, the people who treated us unjustly—in the past.
It is also this spiritual hope that energizes us to strive for just-peace in the present—including our support and advocacy for the on-going peace process between the GPH and the MILF.
It is because of this hope that we say, “Peace is possible!” with much conviction and passion.
From this theological perspective—
- We affirm our support for the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its four Annexes;
- We continue to celebrate the signed 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, praying that it will be an effective instrument to attain just-peace in Mindanao and in the whole Philippines;
- We express our appreciation for both the GPH and MILF Peace Panels who demonstrated their dedication and commitment to peace as the “only option” in this negotiation;
- We applaud the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) for finally submitting a “mutually agreed draft” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to the Office of the President;
- We call on His Excellency President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to certify the BBL before the Legislative Branch as an urgent bill;
- We call on the Legislative Branch of our government to process this Bangsamoro Basic Law with careful, responsible examination and deliberation using the lenses of justice, righteousness, and peace for all;
- We call on the People of the Philippines to look at this peace process through the reconciling eyes of their spiritual hearts and minds.
As we dream and work towards national peace and reconciliation, we resonate with the statement of the late Nelson Mandela: “In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of the people.”
And so, we pray for the completion of this peace process between the GPH and the MILF for the salaam-shalom of Mindanao and of the whole Philippines!
We deeply believe that peace is the will of God. May God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2014/08/20/our-support-for-the-bangsamoro-is-based-on-a-spiritual-perspective/
Jan 30 2014
We are so thankful for the explicit, official public support of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) to the tail-end of the peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
PCEC WELCOMES THE FINAL STAGES OF THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS IN MINDANAO
Prayerful statement of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches on the signing of the Annex on Normalization and the Addendum on Waters during the 43rd Exploratory Talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held last 25 January 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the final parts of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro
We praise God for bringing the GPH-MILF Peace Negotiations in this stage when all four Annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) have been signed. Along with all the God-worshipping and peace-loving people in our country, we shout “Hallelujah!” as we give our support to this newly-signed agreement.
We congratulate the members of both the GPH and the MILF Peace Panels, past and present, for their faithfulness, diligence, and perseverance in pursuing this noble task of conflict transformation through peaceful negotiations. We specifically applaud the current members of both the GPH and the MILF Peace Panels who have demonstrated transparency, determination, and trustworthiness as they struggled with many difficult issues around the negotiating table.
We anticipate with much excitement the final signing in the next few weeks, when all aspects and annexes of the FAB are integrated into one Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
We pray that the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Transition Commission would reflect the just and peaceful aspirations of all the Moro people, all the various tribes among the Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Migrants in Mindanao. We also pray that this Bangsamoro Basic Law would pass the careful, responsible examination and deliberation in the House of Representatives using the lenses of justice, righteousness, and peace for all.
We pray that even now, those of us who truly seek genuine transformation towards the peace of the Moros, Indigenous Peoples, and Migrants in Mindanao, would start praying for, and plan on supporting, Moro-led political parties that reflect the justice-oriented and reconciling peace for Mindanao and the whole Philippines. We also pray that the 2016 election for the Bangsamoro Government would pave the way for a new political leadership among Muslims in Mindanao.
We call on our leaders in the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of the government to exemplify honor, transparency, justice, and compassion as we continue this negotiation and partnership until all aspects of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro have been fully implemented.
We call on all those who claim to follow Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace—to pray with the whole body of believers for the peace of our land as we journey together with our Muslim neighbors.
May we all experience genuine shalom-salaam within us and around us!
PCEC Board of Directors
January 30, 2014
(For more information, contact Bishop Efraim Tendero at 913-1658 or at email@example.com.)
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2014/01/30/so-affirmed-by-the-philippine-church-in-their-support-of-the-peace-process/
Jan 27 2014
Joji and I are so happy that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was able to negotiate the ‘Bangsamoro’ with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
In the road map released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), step 10 says there will be an election of the Bangsamoro Government by 2016.
In this coming Bangsamoro election, anyone from among the various Moro sectors, families, or groups can organize their political party and can launch a political campaign to be elected as the Government of the Bangsamoro. They can be a party led by any of the MILF personalities (Murad, Jaafar, Iqbal, Mastura, etc.) or a party led by any of the MNLF personalities (Misuari, Sema, Cerveza, etc.) or any of the current Moro political families (Mangudadatu, Ampatuan, Tan, Dimaporo, etc.) or a party led by Moro NGOs (Kadtuntaya, Swara Bangsamoro, Kapamagogopa, Tulong Lupah Sug, etc.).
What the MILF had planted can be harvested by any Moro sector, family, or group.
Those of us who truly seek genuine transformation towards the peace of the Moros, Lumads, and Migrants in Mindanao, must start praying for, and supporting Moro-led political parties that reflect the justice-oriented and reconciling peace of our beloved Mindanao and the Philippines.
We specially call on the Christian community in the Philippines and around the world to give this peace process a maximum chance!
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2014/01/27/why-we-believe-the-new-bangsamoro-is-an-inclusive-political-entity/
Sep 13 2013
These recent armed clashes between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Zamboanga is characterized by confusion, disinformation, utter disregard for human lives, and grave human rights violations.
According to our latest update, this senseless violence has left 53 killed and 70 wounded. There are now 25,000 evacuees. Hundreds of homes were burned. The local economy had been badly hurt, it exacerbated the already impoverished condition among the common people.
Differing Stories by Various Factions of the MNLF. Rev. Absalom Cerveza, an evangelical pastor who joined the MNLF and became its spokesperson, was quoted saying that they have chosen the path of war over a failed diplomatic approach to gain their independence. A few weeks before this incident, Mr. Nur Misuari, the founding chairman of MNLF, felt betrayed when the Philippine government withdrew from 1996 peace pact review. For him, the government’s withdrawal amounted to the abrogation of the 1996 Peace Accord between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MNLF. So, he made a unilateral declaration of independence of the Bangsamoro Republik from the Republic of the Philippines. The Bangsamoro Republik, in the mind of this faction of MNLF, includes Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Palawan.
Another spokesperson, Atty. Emmanuel Fontanilla, informed the public last Monday morning that, indeed, they have entered and took over several villages in the City of Zamboanga through military force.
Meanwhile, one of the official MNLF Facebook pages consistently claimed that those men who entered Zamboanga City in the morning of September 09 were fake MNLF elements. Mr. John R. Petalcorin, the page administrator and one claiming to be the MNLF Director of Advocacy reporting directly to Nur Misuari, issued a general order:
GENERAL ORDER FOR THE MNLF
Stay at home or somewhere safe, maintain a low profile, and avoid any trouble. But be ready to protect your life and your family if your household is harassed. The genuine MNLF is not involved in that chaos in Zamboanga and nearby towns. Don’t get swayed by the bandwagon of media. If your senior officers in the unit would ask you to prepare for a combat mission, please report the name to me 0921-7172040 so I can warn you if that person is in the list of the over 200 Fake MNLFs that we intercepted. Allahuakbar!
The following are the major Counterfeit MNLF operators in Zamboanga and Basilan area. Please do not obey any kind of instructions (especially combat recruitment instructions) from these persons.
George Sampang, Abdulsalim Laki Wahi, Bulleng Montong, Kiram Abdullah, Ocacc Mohammad, Hj. Sahipa Walsa, Manalbang Tahil, Tuan Samili, Usman Powa, Degte Ibrahim, Akramin Menembanl, Nurmina Mahamud, Afdar Salik, Hj. Abbas Tangkian, Min Alam, Hb. Andang Hashim, Lacson Sawadjaan, Abdullajid HB. Hussein, Hj. Abdua Jakaria, Hatimil Hassan, Jan Jakilan, Mitsuara Hassan, Ustadz Abdulmuhmin Mujamid, Likhab Salahuddin, Aramel Amirin, Datu Bungsu Mursalun, Ustadz Hassan Jaiiani.
The other official MNLF Facebook page, however, has a message that directly contradicts the message above. It gives a link to the official website of the MNLF with the following editorial on its front page:
CAUSES OF THE SUDDEN ERUPTION OF FILIPINO-MORO WAR IN ZAMBOANGA CITY
The Filipino-Moro war raging now in Zamboanga City between the colonial Philippine occupation soldiers and the Bangsamoro freedom fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) could not have occurred if the present Aquino government respected only the September 2, 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Jakarta Peace Agreements.
Clearly, it is noted that another factor that led to the Filipino-Moro war now raging in Zamboanga City is the unwarranted harassment and arrest of MNLF harmless members and supporters entering the city. The present AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City could have been averted without the tactical design of the colonial city government under Mayor Beng Climaco to block the peaceful rally of the MNLF members and mass supporters. Worst, the harmless MNLF members and supporters were harassed and some were arrested and jailed for committing no crime at all, except only to witness and to participate in a peaceful assembly.
The alarming turn of events just dismayed the MNLF freedom fighters in Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan and Sulu. Thus, they decided to come to the aid and rescue of the persecuted MNLF civilian members, who have come to Zamboanga City from all over Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan.
Demonstrating to the Philippine colonial government that the Bangsamoro people have the legitimate and historical right to proclaim their independence and national self-determination by any possible peaceful means, the MNLF freedom fighters entered the four areas of Rio Hondo, Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon and Sta. Barbara to press their claim to a peaceful rally and raising publicly the MNLF-Bangsamoro national flag.
However, the colonial Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) occupation soldiers used, as usual, force and firepower to drive them out of Zamboanga City. But the MNLF freedom fighters stood their ground engaging the Philippine military troops equipped with tank reinforcements and helicopter gunships beginning on September 9, 2013.
The military reported that the MNLF forces who went to Zambaonga to declare independence actually came from the neighboring islands of Sulu and Basilan; they were not MNLF elements from Zamboanga City. These armed men from Sulu and Basilan were reportedly under the command of Habier Malik.
On the first four days of this armed crisis, Nur Misuari was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, on Friday the 13th of September, he surfaced disclaiming Habier Malik and his actions in Zamboanga City. In other words, he’s saying that he’s not responsible for the chaos, deaths, and human rights violations that affected hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in a thickly populated urban center.
If this is true, then who’s giving orders to Habier Malik?
Mr. Mujiv Hataman, Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was interviewed by GMA News. He said that Malik, Fontanilla, Misuari, and Cerveza have differing statements. Hataman also mentioned that he listened to the stories of the spouses and families of MNLF men who travelled from Basilan and Sulu to Zamboanga. He learned that their respective spouses were instructed by their commanders “to join a peace parade” in Zamboanga City.
Inspite of Misuari’s denial of his involvement in this Zamboanga violence, President Benigno Aquino III, in a public interview, made it clear that he will not allow Misuari to get off the hook.
A Conspiracy of Anti-Peace Forces. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in a statement published in their official website, believes that “there is a conspiracy of all anti-peace and anti-MILF forces against the success of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation which is in the last stretch.” This was published in the context of the recent series of bomb explosions in Mindanao that killed 17 and wounded 81 people. “The administration of President Benigno Aquino III is not spared from this conspiracy. It is as much as the target of this hate and shaming campaign as the MILF,” the statement added.
The MILF also added Misuari’s call for independence as among these anti-peace forces.
In another statement, MILF’s spokesperson Von Al Haq, assured the public that the current armed conflict in Zamboanga will not affect the on-going Peace Talks between the GPH and the MILF.
Somehow, the conspiracy theory of the MILF must be considered. Is it really mere coincidence that this military stand off happens a day before the 40th GPH-MILF Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur?
A Distraction Away from the Pork Barrel Issue. It is also possible that this event may be used as a media distraction by powerful people who are involved in one of the major corruption expose involving senior legislators and possibly senior officials in the executive branch. This is popularly known as the pork barrel scandal. Several questions have to be considered in relation to this:
- Why would this armed conflict in Zamboanga happen right at the time when the House Committee on Appropriations will make official the scrapping of $643 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which is just one of the more than $12B pork barrel funds? Just coincidence?
- Is it really mere coincidence that the witnesses against Janet Lim Napoles who were about to fly to Manila to report to the office of the National Bureau of Investigations got stranded in Zamboanga airport on that fateful Monday morning? Napoles is the alleged mastermind of a major pork barrel fund scam.
- Would the same people who benefited and are still benefiting from an armed conflicted state of Mindanao be connected with the powerful oligarchs who are involved in stealing billions of dollars from the various pork barrel funds?
Our GloCal Perspective. We look at the current AFP-MNLF clash from a global-local (glocal) perspective. The global factor is the intervention of the United States in the internal affairs of smaller countries like the Philippines; this is a view which is articulated by David Stockman — a private equity investor who served as the Budget Director of the Reagan Administration in the 1980s.
Meanwhile, a small segment of our society — who would lose so much of their war-based wealth and power interests — is actively doing a smear campaign against President Benigno Aquino III and is actually working to destabilize the barely budding peace and order in Mindanao. These shadowy forces know how to use desperate personalities and organizations. They can also manipulate armed groups desperately needing financial input. We believe that all these tactical operations are done to advance a strategic political purpose—that is, to maintain the status quo wherein their corruption-based wealth and power would continue to thrive.
These same forces — some are occupying powerful positions within our government and some are apparently opposing our current administration — are behind the war-based economy that enslaves the people of Mindanao and the whole Philippines. They seem to have persuaded President Benigno Aquino III to welcome the increasing presence of the U.S. military in our country.
There’s so much money in this new agreement with the Americans. The $526B US Defense Budget for 2014 includes a promise that calms the psyche of the American tax payers. This budget —
COUNTERS TERRORISM. Protecting the United States from terrorism remains a national security priority. The United States and its allies have had many successes against terrorist groups, but the priority of fighting terrorism remains, even as the specific threats have changed. The Budget continues to prioritize this mission by funding investments that are consistent with the four principles of the National Strategy for Counterterrorism, including: combatting terrorism in ways that are consistent with core U.S. values; building the capacity of our partners to fight terrorism; developing systems and capabilities to defend American citizens and deny terrorists safe havens; and preventing terrorists from developing, acquiring, or using weapons of mass destruction.”
Fiscal Year 2014 Budget of the US Government: Department of Defense
(Office of Management and Budget, p. 71)
A small chunk of this budget would be given to the Philippine government — only if we can prove that there are indeed terrorists in our own backyard.
Then we hear of the Zamboanga armed crisis that is so confusing, so chaotic, so deceiving and so murderous! Even attempts by conflicting parties on the ground towards a peaceful surrender and freeing of hostages is suppressed and hindered by some powerful actors.
This is our own glocal assessment and analysis which is largely influenced by our field experience where we see foreigners operating along with local military personnel.
Because of this painful reality, we resonate with the cry of an ancient Hebrew prophet:
How long, Lord, must I call for help,
But you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)
Praying with the Body of Christ in the Philippines. And so, we shared our hearts and minds to the evangelical Christian leadership in the Philippines and submitted our humble perspectives. We prayed with them. We did biblical reflection with them. We studied the facts with them.
Then the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches published a pastoral letter to the nation. We resonate with their words:
PCEC STATEMENT ON THE CURRENT ZAMBOANGA CRISIS
The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) is made up of more than 30,000 congregations nationwide who follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. We follow Jesus for whom loving one’s neighbor is an expression of loving God, and for which reason he rejected the use of violence and retaliation even against one’s enemies.
We are thus convinced that conflicts are best resolved through peaceful means. We believe that the use of violence in Zamboanga City would only claim and injure the lives of people—whether they be government soldiers, MNLF fighters, or civilians—who are equally valuable before the sight of God.
As we express our solidarity with the people of Zamboanga —
:: We call on all the constituencies affiliated with PCEC and all other Christian churches and mission agencies to pray for the peace of our land;
:: We call on His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III and Mr. Nur Misuari to order their respective troops for the immediate ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities;
:: We call on the evangelical churches, ministry organizations and relief agencies to work together with all humanitarian agencies for the protection of civilians and to provide emergency relief to people affected by this violence;
:: We call all parties to immediately engage in a peaceful dialogue to resolve these conflicts;
:: We call on other parties who have caused, or have contributed to this violence in order to protect their corrupt wealth-and-power interests, to repent before God and change your ways. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
PCEC prays that sustainable peace, based on justice, would be reached between the Government of the Philippines and all the Moro fronts through a peaceful, inclusive, negotiated settlement.
PCEC continually supports the current Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with prayers that the on-going negotiations in Malaysia between their respective panels would not be affected by the crisis in Zamboanga, and that this GPH-MILF talks would result in a successful comprehensive agreement.
PCEC is earnestly praying that the people of the Philippines would quickly learn to settle our conflicts through dialogue and negotiations in the context of a culture of peace.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (II Thess. 3:16 NIV)
The Board of Trustees, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches
Bishop Efraim M. Tendero, PCEC National Director, firstname.lastname@example.org. or telephone 9131655-57
Towards a Radical National Transformation. We also believe that in the long run, we have to deal with the factors causing the armed conflicts in our land. Among the major ones is corrupt oligarchy and their practice of patronage politics.
As a segment of the Body of Christ in this country, we have to start with our worldview and a sound biblical-theological framework for our corporate actions. We have been presenting to the evangelical churches a holistic understanding of the Gospel that addresses the need for spiritual transformation, psychosocial transformation, sociopolitical transformation, and economic-ecological transformation.
At the same time, we also recommend to the church leaders and theologians to continue advocating our priority advocacies in the area of Christian social theology and ethics. The evangelicals are now actively contributing to our national transformation by addressing the current Philippine challenges we’re facing as a society. As a start, we have focused our actions on the following:
- Abolish the pork barrel system;
- Reveal, investigate, prosecute all those involved in pork barrel scam – past and present;
- Pass the Freedom of Information Act; and,
- Dismantle the patronage politics of the oligarchs.
Thank you, our global community and partners, for your love, prayers, and support.
May we all experience justice-based peace within us and around us.
Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2013/09/13/how-we-look-at-the-afp-mnlf-armed-crisis-in-zamboanga-city/