MANILA

Make peace a priority agenda, election candidates urged

WITH just a few days remaining before the May 13 midterm polls, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a Mindanao-based regional peace building and solidarity non-government organization, urged candidates to "make peace in Mindanao and the whole country an utmost priority," citing the urgency to pursue a substantive peace platform.

"This election is crucial as this political exercise will shape the future of our nation. We challenge all candidates to say something about the issue of the continuing conflict in the country, including addressing the woes of displaced indigenous communities, as well as residents in the still ravaged Marawi and how they plan to tackle them. Will this be included on their list of priority agenda? We haven't heard enough," said Gus Miclat, executive director of IID.

Miclat added: "We are looking for a solid and sincere commitment of candidates to peace and not the hollow rhetoric and vague promises which are usually abundant during a campaign period. We are geared towards supporting candidates who are willing to become dedicated defenders and champions of justice and peace. This election is an opportunity to reassert a kind of peace that is founded on a progressive realization of respect to human rights, dignity and assertions of self-determination of our people."

Immediately after the elections, the IID will spearhead a Regional Peoples' Assembly on Transitional Justice from May 20-22 in Quezon City to generate solidarity and gather survivors of past and ongoing human rights violations and victims of the armed conflict in the Philippines especially those from Mindanao. The gathering will also dissect the ongoing peace processes in the country.

"This assembly hopes to foster dialogue and learning among victims of armed conflict not only in the Philippines but those in the region of Southeast Asia. A transitional justice and reconciliation framework is an essential element for healing the wounds of the past, that have left scars in the minds and hearts of the victims of the armed conflict especially in Mindanao," Miclat said.

Participants from Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia and Aceh are expected to join mostly Mindanao and Manila-based counterparts in the meeting.

"If we are to comprehensively address the roots of the decades-old conflict in our country, we must have the collective desire to recognize the legitimate grievances of the people. Aside from providing the legal structure for self-governance and exercise of greater autonomy for the Bangsamoro for example, we must also possess that willingness to correct all damaging and defective narratives against the Bangsamoro and all other inhabitants of Mindanao," said Miclat.

On May 23, IID, in coordination with Meranaw civil society partners, will also organize a civilian-led mission to Marawi City represented by civil society groups in Mindanao, Manila and regional peace advocates in Southeast Asia. This solidarity visit hopes to commemorate the second year anniversary of the Marawi City siege and memorialize the tragedy that befell the people of Marawi two years ago during the Holy Month of Ramadhan.

IID has been in the forefront of engaging the peace process in Mindanao since the “all-out war” declared by then President Joseph Estrada in 2000 against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It has since initiated and helped establish various networks for peace in the country including Bantay Ceasefire, Mindanao Peaceweavers, Friends of the Bangsamoro, and All-Out Peace, among others. (PR)


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