Violence Averted in Mindanao

 “It was not long ago that in barangay Mamaanon that the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], heavily armed and ready to fight, came as close as 50 meters to one another. If it was not for Nonviolent Peaceforce who intervened, the community would have experienced the effects of another war ... Piagapo is already affected by conflict and cannot afford anymore, so I would also take the opportunity to appeal the community to support Nonviolent Peaceforce for the wonderful work they have been doing for peace in our community.”

This was said by the former Mayor and current Chairperson of the Association of Barangay Captains of Piagapo municipality on 8 November 2012 during a programme which included the official signing of a peace covenant between local military and MILF commanders, in the presence of Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) and the community (see photo).

The Chairperson was referring to an incident wherein due to a lack of coordination and miscommunication, elements of the AFP and the MILF were set for an imminent armed clash.  Civilians were panicking and preparing to flee. 

An NP-trained early warning and early response local monitor informed NP’s local partner, the Kalimudan Foundation Inc, who in turn informed NP.  NP immediately contacted the MILF and government bodies responsible for coordinating troop movements so as to avoid violent clashes under the ceasefire agreement. 

They also contacted the security component of the International Monitoring Team, a third-party ceasefire mechanism led by Malaysia, of which NP is a part.

Within an hour, the ceasefire mechanisms did what they were designed to do – prevent open hostilities by utilising structured lines of communication.  Sometimes though these lines become plugged and that is where NP and the local early warning mechanisms it helps to build have a profound impact, at many levels.  A clash was avoided thereby surely preventing the loss of life.  Civilians did not flee and the terrible consequences of such an action like the disruption to livelihoods and education was avoided.

And at the higher level? At the time, MILF and Government representatives were meeting in Malaysia for peace talks.  Had violence occurred that day, it is likely that the talks would have been cut short, and had the violence spiraled out of control, in a worst case scenario, the delicate talks could have potentially been derailed. It was not long after the incident in question that the MILF and the Government signed a Framework Agreement for peace – a monumental step in achieving a just and lasting peace.

Date Published: 
Thursday, November 29, 2012