OPAPP: Sustain gains of peace process

By Darwin Wally Wee

September 20, 2017, 6:36 pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Nabil Tan has exhorted the need to sustain and advance the gains of the peace process to counter and address the root cause of violent extremism -- a key driver that led to the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City.

Tan, who is actively involved for years in the peace negotiations with the Moro fronts representing the government, made the appeal during a forum on the Bangsamoro Peace Process and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism on Sunday, September 17.

Tan said furthering the peace building in Mindanao would discourage the emergence of violent extremism and radicalism particularly in conflict-ridden areas.

Tan provided updates on the developments of the implementation of the peace agreements between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF).

He exhorted the need to support the overall peace process in Mindanao amid the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.

“The crisis in Marawi is just a microcosm of things until and unless fully healed, conflict can erupt,” he said, adding that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) “will actively engage in the social and cultural healing processes because they are very important.”

“The social healing and cultural healing is part of the Task Force Bangon Marawi, which OPAPP is a member,” he said.

“Poor governance, non-involvement of the youth, education, health, etc. these can be drivers of extremism because when hope is almost lost, which is prevalent in the conflict area, it’s a fertile ground for extremism,” Tan, chair of the government implementing panels dealing with the MILF and MNLF, said.

Sheik Zayd Ocfemia, chair for social affairs of the Zamboanga Peninsula Ulama Council, emphasized during the forum that wrong interpretations of the teachings of Islam, and the vulnerability of the people in the conflict-prone areas are some of the major causes of the violent extremism in Mindanao.

 Tolerance and co-existing with other religions are at the center of the teachings of Islam, Ocfemia said.

Quoting a verse from the holy Quran, Ocfemia said Islam is against the notion of using violence.

He said the Ulama or Muslim clerics in the country have earlier issued a fatwa or Islamic law declaring terrorism as “haram” or forbidden.

Ocfemia noted that they have laid down several actions to address violent extremism and terrorism through countering “the narrative of the radicals and the war mongers by instituting policies and programs aimed at reducing poverty, promoting social justice and equal opportunities regardless of religion or ethnicity.”

The Ulama also called on to strengthen “interfaith dialogues with the cultural and religious sensitivities of all groups in order to attract wider participation among Muslim scholars.”

Prof. Alih Aiyub, secretary-general of the National Ulama Council of the Philippines, said the mixture of structural violence in Mindanao has provided a conducive environment for radicalism to emerge.

Aiyub said a comprehensive solution to address the social ills in the conflict-ridden areas should be implemented on the ground.

For his part, Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Naval Forces Western Mindanao commander, said the military is tapping all sectors, particularly the Moro fronts to “completely defeat terrorism.”

“Security is a shared responsibility. It needs sustainment of partnership between the different stakeholders,” Medina said.

He represented Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, during the forum.

“The resolution of the Bangsamoro question is the long-term solution in achieving peace in Muslim Mindanao…It has direct and lasting impact in combating terrorism,” Medina said, quoting Galvez.

During the forum, Peter Cheng, OPAPP program manager for Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi areas, also provided the updates to the participants about the six-point Peace and Development Agenda of the Duterte administration.

Abul-Jalil Umngan, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Western Mindanao area manager, also spelled-out the strategic direction for Mindanao “to operationalize the policy directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to push for the systemic shift to a federal form of government.”

“As such, we will be providing a mechanism that will bring the Moro people together to forge unity; ensure their participation in the national discourse on federalism; and isolate the extremist groups within our midst. For this purpose, we will be at the soonest, convene the All Moro Convention,” Umngan, representing Secretary Datu Hj. Abul Khayr Alonto, said.

The whole-day forum was initiated by OPAPP in connection with the month-long celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month this September. (PNA)