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New Game in Town

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The newly-minted Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was the subject of a dialogue between Civil Relations Service officers of the Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) and convenors and members of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) on Tuesday, May 15, at Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City.

IPSP was put together last year by certain government agencies, civil society and the military.  Through it, the Aquino government with the AFP as spearhead will rely heavily on civilian and civil society collaboration to resolve armed threats to the Republic, such as insurgencies and terrorism. To guide IPSP’s implementation by its rank and file, the AFP came up with Oplan Bayanihan.

Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) vice-president Dr. Grace Rebollos represented Western Mindanao when national civil society organizations (CSO) recently met in Manila to form Bantay Bayanihan, which is intended to help the AFP implement its Oplan Bayanihan. Tuesday’s meeting, moderated by Dr. Rebollos, was a preliminary attempt to  concretize this emergent civil-military alliance at the local level.

PAZ collaboration with the AFP and government goes a long way back.  Right after the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA), it conducted hand in hand with SALAAM Foundation many government-sponsored  “culture of peace” trainings  for MNLF rebels to help them start a new life together  as “peace and developments communities” in socio-economically viable ways. Also as a consequence of the FPA, the AFP tapped PAZ to conduct “culture of peace” trainings for its company level officers and enlisted personnel, especially for the many so-called MNLF integrees.

The same ethos to strive towards inclusive, authentic communal peace motivates IRSMP, whose secretariat is PAZ, in the now contemplated Bayanihan partnership. It will be a tricky test in partnering by two institutions who possess opposite characteristics. The military is highly structured, strategic, bound by many rules and regulations while civil society are usually loosely organized, tactical and free-wheeling.

At the end of the morning-long meeting last Tuesday, both sides agreed to form a technical working group who will lay down the terms and mechanisms of engagement.  In effect, how to realize an easy- and familiar- sounding word like “bayanihan” into actions that benefit the people, strictly in terms of their peace and security.   As flags fly, it is not an impossible dream.

by: Peace Advocates Zamboanga




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