Executive Order 70 will surely affect our active, nonviolent field operations as Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) workers. EO 70 uses novel terminologies such as ‘whole-of-nation approach,’ ‘inclusive and sustainable peace,’ ‘end local armed conflict,’ and ‘national peace framework.’ And yet Martial Law in Mindanao continues. How do we proceed with our work in the context of an increasingly militarizing PAR mission field?

Lumad, Moro, and Settlers of all ages represent a new inclusive development initiative by PBCI-CFP Team in partnership with PeaceCreed — a local community-based organization. 05 December 2018. Central Mindanao.

A genuine ‘whole-of-nation’ approach is built on a dialogical relationship with all the people. It is sustained by a synergy of trust-and-trustworthiness among parties who are committed to relational healing. It is best attained through conflict transformation processes using an integrated transformative framework that touches the spiritual-ethical, psycho-social, socio-political, and economic-ecological aspects of national wholeness.

I’m reading EO 70 from a peacebuilder’s set of lenses.

I really like the official title of EO 70: “Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework.” I look at this description from the lenses of a peacebuilding worker.

The underlying principles and policies that were based on the Constitution are dear to my heart: (a) renouncing of war as an instrument of national policy; (b) peace and order, protection of life, liberty, and property, promotion of general welfare to be enjoyed by all people; and, (c) a just and dynamic social order that would result in inclusive and improved quality of life.

When the EO 70 articulated ideals that I have been embracing, I got inspired and became excited. These are:

  • “healing the rifts that divide the nation” to end all armed threats;
  • “intensified development” and “peacebuilding initiatives”;
  • the “importance and effectiveness of the Whole-of-Nation approach as opposed to a purely military option in combating terrorism and violent extremism”;
  • armed conflicts are “symptomatic of social, economic, and historical problems”;
  • addressing the “root causes of insurgencies… and other armed conflicts” through harmonized delivery of social services and inclusive participation of all sectors;
  • “efficient mechanism… to attain inclusive and sustainable peace”;
  • formulating a National Peace Framework that is “responsive to local needs and sensitive to realities on the ground”; and,
  • the presidential “mandate to ensure the faithful executions of laws.”

I love, and I agree with, what is written. But I also need to look at the public performance of the one who is ordering what has been written.

The Second Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey, conducted from 27-30 June 2018, found seven out of ten (70%) adult Filipinos with much trust, 18% undecided, and 13% with little trust in Rody Duterte. Majority of the Filipinos trust Duterte.

There are, however, some factors why I’m skeptic about the credibility of this EO 70.

:: Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace? While being inspired by EO 70 that claims to “facilitate societal inclusivity” and ensuring the “participation of all sectors of society,” the threat to bomb schools of Indigenous Peoples is still fresh in my memory. These schools may be teaching subjects framed in a socialist ideology, in contrast to the neo-liberal development framework of the government. But for a caring father of a whole nation, would bombing children who think differently really demonstrate “inclusive and sustainable peace”? It is difficult for a common peacebuilding worker like me to listen to two contradictory voices from the one mouth of the same person.

:: Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict? While its language intends to communicate the ‘whole-of-nation’ (WoN) approach, it seems to me that EO 70 — as indicated in our foreign policy statement and as demonstrated in the increasingly militarizing government structure — actually intends to institutionalize the ‘whole-of-government’ (WoG) approach to attain an insurgency-free republic through military force and martial rule. Experts on the ‘whole-of-government’ approach are learning that even if governments set budgets, programs, and objectives that cross organizational boundaries, WoG activities might still be limited unless there are fundamental changes in accountability systems, dominant cultures, and structural arrangements. And this is exactly what I see in EO 70. It’s more of WoG approach than WoN approach.

:: Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework? I’m excited about this part of the EO 70. It talks about addressing “the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions as well as other armed conflicts and threats.” I’m praying that this framework would be presented to the public soon.

The ideals stated in EO 70 can only be realized with the people’s trust in the government, and the government’s trustworthiness as perceived by the people. Trust and trustworthiness are two sides of genuine relationships between the government and the people.

Carry on with our integrated framework for a PAR movement.

While waiting to see, assess, and respond to the framework spoken about by EO 70, we at PBCI and CFP have been operating based on an Integrated Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Framework. This has been our own imagination of a justice-based people’s national peace framework.

We will serve each PAR Community by equipping them with certain spiritual discernment skills and social analytical tools to help them understand the issues causing the crises they are facing in their particular province.  By having a clear discernment and analysis of their situation, they can make relevant and effective crisis intervention.

We will encourage them to look beyond their current crises and to envision a future when there is genuine peace and reconciliation in their particular province.  This vision is characterized by the kind of social structures and relationships they would desire.  Such long term vision will help them discern the root causes of the crises they are facing and will also help them look through the taken-for-granted facades of social realities that keep the cycle or recurrence of their crises.

We will walk with them, in each ‘level of response’ and through ‘the time frame of activity,’ as they move from their crises to their desired change.  We will offer how our understanding of shalom transformation (spiritual, psycho-social, socio-political, and economic-ecological) would guide their journey towards their desired future.

Inclusive and sustainable peace is based on harmony.

Section 5 of the EO 70 talks about the need for “principles, policies, plans, and programs that will bring inclusive and sustainable peace.” As a faith-based peacebuilding community, we start with the spirituality of peace and peacebuilding. This is designed to be inter-faith and embracing of all religions that presuppose the existence of a Creator.

1. Peace is harmony with the Creator. This is spiritual-ethical transformation. Harmony with the Creator is acknowledging the One who created all that exist as the Ultimate Reality. For those who seek harmony with the Creator, a commitment to spiritual-ethical transformation is made.

2. Peace is harmony with one’s being. This is psycho-social transformation. This is about our identity and development as a person. Identity means being a person-in-community, not merely a consumer-in-the-marketplace.

3. Peace is harmony with others. This is socio-political transformation. We are called to love others as neighbors and not to look at others as mere competitors. In this perspective, people are called to live a community-oriented lifestyle. In the community lifestyle, the other is treated as a neighbor to be loved as one’s self. The poor is embraced justly as an integral part of the community.

4. Peace is harmony with the creation. This is economic-ecological transformation. Creation, from this perspective, is seen as an organic-relational world, not merely as a mechanical-utilitarian world. In a mechanical-utilitarian view of the world, the emphasis is exploitation. If one of the parts of the machine-world is not functioning, the tendency is to replace it. Hence, the natural resources can be exploited for the present, and then later, it can be substituted with technological products and solutions—that is, synthetic materials. In an organic-relational world, the emphasis is stewardship and loving care of creation. We all came from the dust of the earth. We are one with the creation. We are one humanity! We are all energized with the same life-energy of the Creator. That is the story of our Being Alive! We are all called by the Creator to be care-takers of Mother Earth!

We, at PBCI, also adhere to the vision of sustainable peace. Our staff and volunteers are required to take this course before they are sent out to the field.

Adapted from Global Peace Index

Conflicts end best in reconciliation, through ‘conflict transformation.’

EO 70 aims to “end local communist armed-conflict.” One of its underlying principles is “renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.” But the actions of the government so far with regards to the armed conflicts has been war-oriented. Some residents of Marawi, for example, reportedly complained about the the air strikes as overkill despite the possibilities of ceasefire negotiation.

“Beyond victories in the kinetic space, it is clear that socio-economic roots of conflict in Mindanao need to be resolved lest Marawi just be the harbinger of recurring conflict,” Joseph Franco, a Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS), said. He further suggests: “Given the non-ideological triggers behind Marawi, it would be wise for policymakers to refrain from enacting heavy-handed counter-ideological initiatives.”

I think EO 70 will be used as an instrument to advance what Franco calls “heavy-handed counter-ideological initiatives” against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

We, at PeaceBuilders Community, will continue our Conflict Transformation approach as we have been advocating based on our Peace and Reconciliation Training Resources. As a community of PAR missionaries, we’re reminding ourselves of our basic understanding of conflict, conflict transformation, and reconciliation.

Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from the other party in achieving their goals. Conflict is usually a result of unmet basic needs and violated human rights.

Conflict has at least four dimensions.

  • Personal. These are the changes happening in an individual — emotionally, spiritually, mentally — when he or she is involved in conflict.
  • Relational.These are the changes happening in people’s relationships when they are involved in conflict.
  • Structural. These are the political and economic realities that cause the conflict. Are the basic needs of the people involved in conflict being met? Who has access to resources and institutions of decision-making? Who are the ones with no access to resources and institutions of decision- making?
  • Cultural. These are the factors how conflicts change the cultural patterns of the communities. How do their culture affect the development and handling of conflict?

Conflict Transformation, according to John Lederach, is “to envision and respond to the ebb and flow of social conflict as life-giving opportunities for creating constructive change processes that reduce violence, increase justice in direct interaction and social structures, and respond to real-life problems in human relationships.”

Reconciliation is the end goal of peacebuilding. Towards this purpose, let us intensify our efforts in equipping, strengthening, mobilizing, and multiplying our field volunteers based on our PAR Training Resources

  • Reconciliation is focused on building relationship between antagonists. The relational dimension involves the emotional and psychological aspects of the conflict and the need to recognize past grievances and explore future interdependence.
  • Reconciliation is a place, a locus, a space created for encounter by the parties; a place where the diverse but connected energies and concerns driving the conflict can meet, including the paradoxes of truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy.
  • Reconciliation endeavors to reframe the conflict so that the parties are no longer preoccupied with focusing on the issues in a direct, cognitive manner. Its primary goal and key contribution is to seek innovative ways to create a time and a place, within various levels of the affected population, to address, integrate, and embrace the painful past and the necessary shared future as a means of dealing with the present.

We will stay in the path of Conflict Transformation even in the midst of the government’s implementation of EO 70 and even in the midst of how the non-state forces would react to it. We will stick to our inclusive development activities through social entrepreneurial initiatives. For these principles, we will have to re-affirm our commitment to active non-violence even to the point of following the Way of the Cross.

May this vision be counted as one of the many prayers for the transformation of our beloved country.  May God bring genuine peace and reconciliation among our people and in our land!

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