09-11 February 2024, Cotabato City.  A gathering of Civil Society Organization leaders who compose the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) marked the commemoration of the organization’s 22nd Founding Anniversary. The event also served as a poignant reminder of MPC’s transformative role within Mindanao’s social fabric. We have had the privilege of being part of MPC since 2006, and it’s been an incredibly transformative experience for us. Through our involvement with MPC, we’ve witnessed firsthand the power of dialogue and collaboration in fostering peace and understanding among diverse communities in Mindanao. Together, we’ve participated in forums, engaged in discussions, and worked towards common goals of social justice and reconciliation. MPC has provided us with a platform to contribute to positive change in our region, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a vital movement for peace and development.

The Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus has been growing since its founding in 2001 under the leadership of Atty. Mary Ann Arnado. Her work with MPC has been instrumental in advocating for peace, conflict resolution, and the protection of human rights in Mindanao. Atty. Arnado is a Member of Parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The atmosphere throughout the three-day forum was electric with camaraderie and dedication to the cause of justice-based peacebuilding. Each of us shared memories of past collaborations and emphasized the profound impact MPC has had on community development. Each story shared served as a testament to MPC’s unwavering commitment to peacebuilding and social cohesion.

During our community reflection time, Lakan shared his reflections on MPC’s influence on PeaceBuilders Community’s journey. The attendees’ feedback resonated deeply with all of us, echoing sentiments of appreciation for the organization’s guidance amidst the complexities of conflict resolution.

The PBCI-CFP Team have had the privilege of being part of MPC since 2006, and it’s been an incredibly transformative experience for us. Through our involvement with MPC, we’ve witnessed firsthand the power of dialogue and collaboration in fostering peace and understanding among diverse communities in Mindanao.

A brief reflection on our journey

Since its inception in 2001, the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC) has played a pivotal role in advancing peace initiatives in the region, achieving significant milestones along the way. Among its notable achievements is the establishment of the independent ceasefire monitoring mechanism, Bantay Ceasefire, which has garnered recognition and respect from both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In response to the dire humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, MPC expanded its scope beyond ceasefire monitoring to encompass humanitarian protection efforts under the banner of Sagip Sibilyan. This initiative aimed to provide direct assistance to thousands of civilians who were displaced or have fallen victim to human rights abuses and military repression.

On 27 October 2009, a significant step was taken in the GRP-MILF peace talks with the agreement on a Framework on Civilian Protection signed in Kuala Lumpur. This framework aimed to ensure the safety and security of civilians amidst the conflict. Following up on this agreement, during a meeting on 08-09 December 2009, both panels decided to expand the mandate of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) to include the Civilian Protection Component (CPC). This addition was crucial in restraining combatants from actions that could jeopardize civilian safety.

To effectively implement this mandate, the peace panels sought the involvement of organizations with expertise in civilian protection. MPC and the Nonviolent Peaceforce were invited to join the CPC of the IMT. While MPC had prior experience in protection work, operating within the IMT represented a new and distinct role. Nonetheless, the opportunity to address civilian suffering within a formal government-MILF mechanism offered avenues for institutionalizing protection efforts. Thus, MPC accepted the invitation, recognizing the need for program adjustments and member realignment.

During this period, MPC achieved a significant milestone with the evolution of its women’s program. This program aimed to operationalize UN Security Council Resolution 1325 within the Philippine context of peace and security processes. It involved mobilizing women leaders across various domains, including peace talks, ceasefire monitoring, disaster response, early warning systems, civilian protection, peacekeeping, and security sector reform. Building upon the Women Framework on Civilian Protection submitted to the peace panels in September 2009, the women’s program aligned its efforts with the operations of the IMT. By participating in the CPC of the IMT and advancing its women’s program, MPC demonstrated its commitment to enhancing civilian protection and promoting gender-inclusive peacebuilding efforts. These initiatives not only contributed to immediate crisis response but also laid the groundwork for sustainable peace and security in Mindanao. As MPC continues to navigate its role in the peace process, its dedication to protecting vulnerable populations remains unwavering.

Current issues and challenges we’re facing

As discussions delved into legislative initiatives and strategic planning, participants showcased a remarkable depth of engagement and collective determination. Key topics such as the proposed Bangsamoro Indigenous Peoples Development Act and the Bangsamoro Electoral Code underscored MPC’s commitment to advancing policies that empower marginalized communities and uphold democratic ideals.

The conclusion of the forum left attendees with a renewed sense of purpose and unity. Identifying priority areas for future endeavors highlighted the continued relevance of MPC’s mission in addressing pressing challenges within the Bangsamoro region.

As the journey forward unfolds, there is confidence in the collective ability to effect positive change and build a brighter future for generations to come.

Our PBCI President & CEO is part of the present technical working group of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus.

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2024/02/we-celebrated-the-22nd-founding-anniversary-of-the-mindanao-peoples-caucus/

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