The Kamalitanan Te Matigasalog, Manobo, Kalumanen Tribes Ne Megsabeka (KMMKM) or United Women of Matigsalog, Manobo, Kulamanen Tribes organized a Multi-Stakeholders Peace Forum and Dialogue last 24 October 2018 to provide an opportunity for members of indigenous communities in the tri-boundary of North Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao City to meet and dialogue with government, the military, and peace advocate groups.

Bae Richel Alfaras, Chair of KMMKM, gets the attention of the AFP resource speaker in front and made her point: “We appeal to you to continue the (GRP-NDFP) peace talks because we’re the ones being affected and our ancestral domains become the battleground (between AFP and the NPA).” 24 October 2018. Lorega, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. Photo by PBCI-ICT

In the past few decades, both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) have been recruiting Lumads or Indigenous Peoples (IP) in the ongoing war between the government and communist revolutionaries. In 2015, a congressman reported that 70% of the NPA in Mindanao are Lumad. The number increased to 80% last year according to a military report which was quoted by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Meanwhile, in March 2018, the AFP were looking at recruiting 305 personnel from the Indigenous Peoples.

Two lumad leaders have been quoted expressing the sentiments of many Indigenous Peoples: “The war isn’t ours, but why are we the ones suffering?”

Leaders of the indigenous women engage high-ranking government and military officials in this peace forum. 24 October 2018. Lorega, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. Photos by PBCI-ICT

In the context of these social conditions, the women-led local organization KMMKM invited PeaceBuilders Community in this peace forum. Their letter indicated that they have been “actively engaged in peacebuilding and conflict resolution initiatives at the community level and are generating the support of as many stakeholders as possible.”

Since PeaceBuilders Community have been engaging with the same tribal leaders for more than a decade, we gladly joined the forum and documented the conversation to guide us in our work on the ground.

Datu Jose Dia-on, Chairman of the Tribal Council of Elders, reminds the audience that the indigenous way is the way of peace: “Wala’y pusil.” (No guns.) 24 October 2018. Lorega, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. Photo by PBCI-ICT

The forum was organized in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ month in partnership with the Nonviolent Peaceforce Philippines.

We are grateful to KMMKM as well as to the Nonviolent Peaceforce team in the Philippines — Dr. Delsy Ronnie, Memen Lauzon-Gatmaytan, and Rexall Kaalim — for inviting us. We also thank ForumZFD Philippines who provided our return transportation to the venue — a two hour drive from Davao City.

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2018/10/women-leaders-from-united-ip-communities-organize-peace-forum/

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