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A Beautiful Ceasefire

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Keeping and supervising the ceasefire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) plays an important facilitative role to the current Mindanao peace talk. Otherwise, it’s impossible for them to be shooting at each other and talking at the same time.  Keeping them from shooting is the delicate yet hard-nosed mission of the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which has a multinational composition under the command of Malaysian military officers.

Aside from supervising the ceasefire, it also implements civilian protection, socio-economic and humanitarian agreements between the MILF and government.

IMT has four teams in Mindanao, and IMT Team 3 – whose area of responsibility covers ZAMBASULTA and Palawan -  has a new commander in the person of Lt. Col. Norazman.  Last Tuesday, May 15, he and his military aides visited the office of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) to exchange notes with Fr. Angel Calvo.

IMT Team 3 is based in Zamboanga City, whose residents are negatively critical towards the peace process.  Fr. Calvo briefed the new IMT commander on the historical and cultural reasons for this widespread opposition. Yet, he told the Malaysians, Zamboanga has always played a pivotal role in the keeping or breaking of the peace in Mindanao. (E.g., the Moro rebellion was hatched in the city in 1970; the last Spanish fort to surrender to Filipino revolutionaries was Fort Pilar.)

Lt. Col. Norazman informed Fr. Calvo that after years of being shunted in an office inside the Western Mindanao Command camp, the city government has recently allowed the IMT to set up office somewhere else in the city (while their military camp office is being repaired).  This is good because this will make the IMT more accessible – as it should be- to more sectors of local society, Fr. Calvo noted.  He invited the IMT to attend the monthly meeting of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, in which important current issues related to peace are discussed.

Amid the rising geopolitical tension in Southeast Asia, the IMT project in Mindanao is a lesson in progress in inter-communal, cross-border cooperation.   Cease fire! – be it for an insurgency like Mindanao’s or other spheres of conflict, in the Philippines as well as in the ASEAN. 

Otherwise, as a Chinese sage has said, behind the marching feet of armies (or violent conflict) only weeds and thorns will grow.

by: Peace Advocates Zamboanga




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