Initial Findings: Deaths of Moro Children from Military Aerial Bombing


I managed to interview one of the survivors today (September 10), a 13 year old boy, at the hospital. Multiple shrapnel wounds on both legs. Also proceeded to the place where the incident happened and managed to interview the boy's mother who, all in all, lost her husband and 5 of her children, the youngest being 2 years old. One of her children who died was pregnant.

The latest statements from the government military (AFP) say that the airplanes were fired at from the victims' boat and that the military was only retaliating. Here's the version of the civilian survivors and witnesses.

The Manungal family were on board two boats. They had just returned to their home in Barangay Tee, Municipality of Datu Piang, Maguindanao when they noticed that there was a lull in the military offensive and bombing.

However, once they saw planes and helicopters hovering again and bombs started to fall around their village, they hurriedly boarded the boats and made their way along the marsh towards the bank that was straddling the highway. Other residents in the village also boarded their own boats and thus a convoy of boats made their way to the safety of the highway. The Manungal boats were at the rear of the convoy.

When they were around 400 meters away from the bank of the marsh right next to the highway, they were forced to stop to prevent the boat from sinking. Besides the seven passengers (the father and 6 of his children), the front of the boat was also loaded with rice. At that point, helicopter were seen hovering overhead. Soon thereafter, another aircraft (a plane) shot a rocket at the boat which exploded around a meter from the boat. It was that rocket which led to the immediate deaths of the father and 4 of his children. The fifth one died at the town hospital. Only one child survived. The passengers of the other boat at the rear of the convoy of boats tried to rescue the passengers of the boat that got hit and brought them to the bank next to the highway.

The incident happened around 10a.m. There were people on the highway right beside the bank of the marsh who were witnessing the event as it was transpiring. Barangay officials and a member of the civilian militia tried to appeal to the military officials stationed along the bank to tell the air force men not to fire at the boats because on board were civilians trying to escape the military offensive. However, moments later, an order was overheard on the radio "birahin na yan" ("fire at them"). The witnesses along the highway said that it was impossible for the pilots or the military men on the highway not to notice that the passengers of the boats were civilians. Most of the victims were young and small children. Besides, the boats were only 200 meters away from the highway when they were fired upon.

Both the survivors and civilian witnesses say that there were no boats in the vicinity of the victims that were firing at the military aircrafts. This is to belie the military's claim that they were merely retaliating upon receiving fire from one of the boats in the convoy.

After we visited the mother to interview her, we proceeded to conduct an ocular inspection of the portion of the highway from which the place of incident could be clearly seen. However, we noticed the arrival of the military personnel at the house of the mother. When we inquired later on what the military men told her, she said they gave her P5thousand plus three bags of rice. A day earlier, they gave her P10 thousand.

Incidentally, the military initially claimed that it did not fire any ordinance or ammunition at the boats. But one of the attending physicians at the hospital where the survivor is confined said on TV tonight that his wounds are shrapnel wounds, meaning, it came from military ordinance.

On the way back to Cotabato City, we passed by several refugee encampments. It seems the civilians have occupied whatever public place available. From the very nature of their temporary structures, it does not seem to offer any protection from the elements. It is now monsoon season and there's heavy rain everyday, particularly late in the afternoon and in the evening.

I inquired if and how they are able to observe fasting during Ramadan while staying in the refugee centers. Their response was that some of them can no longer observe it due to the difficult conditions at the centers.

The interviews of the survivors of the bombing incident were videotaped although they were conducted in the vernacular (Maguindanon).

Attached are pictures of three of the victims. CAUTION: THE PICTURES ARE GRAPHIC!

Again, law groups are reiterating their earlier appeals to both sides of the conflict to respect and uphold Protocol II of the Geneva Convention on Non-International Armed Conflicts, particularly as it relates to the protection of civilians.

Again, we reiterate that the humanitarian crisis we see now is a direct offshoot of the scuttling of the peace process. We therefore call on everyone, particularly those who have been very vocal in their opposition to the peace process to be more circumspect about the consequences of their opposition to the MOA. The cavalier attitude of many people towards the peace process may proceed from the fact that it is not they who bear the brunt of such consequences. Rather, it is the people residing in the conflict affected areas. The least that we owe them is to educate ourself about the conflict and its roots and how the peace process is trying to provide a long-term and sustainable solution. Knee-jerk reactions without such self-education all too often leads to rash decisions, all too often provide a fertile ground to foment and perpetuate the conflict.

Atty. Zainudin Malang




Even as people are still reeling from events in Lanao del Norte, field reports from our colleagues in civil society continue to be disturbing.  Now that fighting has shifted to Moro areas, we hear of insufficient time given to civilians to vacate their villages before AFP bombardment begins.  We hear of food blockades against internally displaced people.  We hear of NGOs being prevented from delivering urgently needed relief items and media personalities being prevented from covering the humanitarian crisis.  We hear of a high ranking national official of DSWD complaining about the assistance to displaced families (25 kilos of rice, per family, per month) as being too “big”!


Therefore, we remind ALL PARTIES AND COMBATANTS of the Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, particularly on the protection of civilian populations.   Civilians enjoy protection from dangers arising from military operations (Art. 13-1).  Neither should they be subjected to attack (Art. 13-2), nor should acts of hostility be directed at places of worship (Art. 16).  Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited (Art. 14).


We call on United Nations humanitarian agencies, international organizations such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and other members of the international community to insist upon their mandate and duty to deliver aid to the victims of conflict.  The concept of Right to Protect (R2P) necessarily includes the duty to protect.


We call on our friends in the media to equally report suffering by ALL communities.  We wish to remind them that 85% of the civilian victims of the 2000 and 2003 all out wars were Moros.   We remind them further of the public's need to be provided with ACCURATE AND COMPREHENSIVE reports from ALL SIDES to the conflict.  Recall too the writings of Noam Chomsky on manufacturing public consent to support a war by playing up unchallenged claims of successful military operations and attrocities of enemies.

Impartiality!  Neutrality! Non-Discrimination!  These are the basics of International Humanitarian Law.








"We Might End Up Becoming The Darfur Of Southeast Asia"

Malang: We might end up becoming the Darfur of southeast Asia


(ANC's Tony Velasquez interviewed on August 18, Zainudin Malang, executive director of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy, on the clashes that have erupted in parts of Mindanao and on the prospects for peace in the south. Malang has been a close observer of the peace process with Muslim separatists.)

Q. What was your expectation after the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in Malaysia, had it pushed through?

A. I was expecting optimism on the ground, not what we are seeing here, not what we saw today. I was expecting the complete opposite after they had signed the MOA.

Q. Are these recent clashes in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte an offshoot of the failure to sign the MOA-AD?

A. I cannot help but arrive at that conclusion. You know, there are only two ways to resolve the conflict: either through military means or through negotiations. And apparently, after the cancellation of the signing of the MOA, the product of a dozen years of long and hard bargaining on both sides, perhaps, there are armed groups who feel it will already be hard to resolve the conflict by way of negotiations.

Q. Do you think the government and military should have anticipated that this would be the backlash from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)?

A. I’m sure they’ve always been aware of the possibility of this happening. This situation is not new to them.

Q. Does it help the MILF if they undertake this kind of hostilities granted that they may have been frustrated?

A. I have to go back to the sentiments on the ground, both civil society as well as sentiments of people within the MILF as well as the other revolutionary movement, the MNLF. You have to bear in mind that the Mindanao peace process is three decades old. This started in 1976. The feeling on the ground is that, they had this 1976 Tripoli agreement, there was a 1996 peace agreement, but where did these end up? It ended up in failed implementation. When the MILF leadership undertook negotiations with the government, many in their ranks were already asking: why negotiate with the government when all the past peace agreements have never been implemented? So there’s always been skepticism among the [MILF] ranks in the peace process. And then at each stage of the peace process, each stage of the exploratory talks and formal talks, there has always been good results that both the MILF and government could present to their respective constituencies. But after all of those hard bargaining, those long years of negotiations, after they arrived at an agreement on how to resolve the conflict, suddenly, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was blocked. So the skepticism that was present before is alive again. I think that’s what we’re seeing now.

Q. Were you privy to the details of the MOA-AD that was to be signed in KL?

A. There were several instances when I had attended very public forums where members of the GRP [government of the Republic of the Philippines] as well as members of the MILF gave the audience updates on what was going on.

Q. What about the contents of the draft MOA-AD?

A. We were given updates on what were the pending issues they discussed, they had resolved. My friends in the Mindanao People’s Caucus, for instance, organized several of these forums in Davao City , in Marawi City , and these very public consultations. And I also recalled that every time that the GRP and the MILF panels are about to meet, they always announce, they make a public announcement that we are about to meet.

Q. I guess the people back then should have already known about the more contentious issues such as the resource sharing agreement with the GRP-MILF, the inclusion of 700 barangays in an expanded Bangsamoro homeland. All of these were made public.

A. Some of these were made public. The forums I attended, these were staggered. They occurred over time. So depending on what the status of the negotiations at that time, that was what was divulged.

Q. Sen. Mar Roxas and Frank Drilon actually have an initialed copy of the MOA-AD, and they’re taking exceptions to several provisions there. For example, that the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity can now enter into separate treaties with foreign governments. And now, they’re saying that that’s totally unheard of for an autonomous homeland, to have that kind of sovereign power. Was that ever included in the consultations?

A. I think they refer not to treaties or all kinds of treaties. They referring to economic treaties, and this is not entirely unheard of. This is the kind of arrangement that they have in Belgium . For example, the Flemish region in Belgium is allowed to set up trade missions or enter into economic treaties with other countries.

Q. Like Quebec in Canada .

A. Yes, so let us bear in mind that the Philippines is not the only one that has an internal conflict in the whole world. So maybe we should learn at how this kind of problem has been tackled in other parts of the world. So I think that’s what the GRP and the MILF panels have borne in mind. And if I’m not mistaken, they’ve also mentioned Northern Ireland , for example, when it comes to a need to reexamine the Constitutional framework to resolve the conflict.

Q. It’s good you mentioned the Flemish territory in Belgium . But doesn’t it cause a lot of tension within Belgium ?

A. The tension that I’ve heard in Belgium is actually being managed by these sort of accommodations or arrangements. Because the Waloon region [of Belgium] can always tell the Flemish, why go for separation when you already enjoying these sovereign privileges? And I guess that’s what both the GRP and MILF panels had in mind when they agreed on this MOA-AD. I suppose what they were thinking was that, there would be no use, for now, to secede because all of these genuine...sort of tools would now be afforded or accorded to you rather than paper autonomy.

Q. But look at what’s happening now, when you see the MILF acting in a belligerent way, just because they’re frustrated, ,maybe this, to them, hopefully a hiccup in the peace talks, and then they finally give up all hope and resort to violence again. What does it say about giving a group like this the kind of powers that are contained in a MOA-AD? Isn’t it dangerous?

A. I will be frank with you. We ourselves are finding it hard to pacify these armed forces. We need to appeal for them to hold back, all the armed groups because, as they were saying, ‘We thought you said we should give negotiations a chance. We’ve been talking already for 12 years. We’ve already faced two all-out offensives already and then it ends up nowhere.’ We in civil society are finding it hard to pacify these armed groups. And I’m not just talking about the MILF, I’m also talking about the AFP. Our work is made much harder when we hear about much-publicized statements from our political leaders who say, if the MOA-AD is signed, there will be bloodshed, which we find completely illogical. Because what they’re saying is, if there’s a peace agreement, there won’t be peace. There will not be any peace. Whereas we are saying, if there’s a peace agreement, there will be peace.

Q. Let me play devil’s advocate. If you say it’s hard to pacify these groups, what we’ve seen is it’s the MILF that has been provoking these all-out wars. So it’s the MILF that is more difficult to restrain than the AFP.

A. I don’t want to take sides. I just want to say that when it comes to military solutions…we hear so many people say now, it’s time to go all out against the MILF. What I want to remind everyone is that every time we adopt a military solution, it never works. Remember that in the 1970s, we were under martial law, and President Marcos, with all the resources and powers he had in his hand, could not crush a hastily organized rebel army with very little training, with no battlefield experience, with very minimal equipment. And the military went against them during martial law. Here we are, three decades later, they are far more experienced, they have more equipment, what makes us think that they cannot put up a fight? What I’m afraid of is, they fought for two weeks in North Cotabato , we already have 160,000 internally-displaced refugees, extrapolate then. Let’s assume they continue fighting for two or three months. How many thousands or millions of refugees will we have? Remember, in year 2000, we had one million internally-displaced people, and these were World Bank and government figures. In comparison, Bosnia only had 600,000, East Timor only had 300,000. What I’m trying to say is, if we do not deescalate the situation, we might end up becoming the Darfur [in Sudan] of southeast Asia.

Q. Right now, we have a Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH). So far, we haven’t heard from it. If that committee does its job, then it should defuse the situation.

A. I remember one instance when I talked to a member of the CCCH. This was about Cotabato. This was when a Civilian Volunteer Organization and the MILF were fighting. The MILF were farmers in that area; the CVO members were also farmers in the barangay. There was fighting and it was reported to the Joint Ceasefire Committee. The committee came in and it was told by the CVOs, “We don’t recognize any captain. We don’t recognize any ceasefire committee.” So, the problem is, the public in Manila who don’t know any better, who are not immersed on the ground, who don’t know what’s happening, it’s very easy for them to be manipulated. It’s very easy for public opinion to be manipulated nowadays. Because we know that in times of war, the first casualty is truth. I would advise our friends in media to get a direct line to the CCCH so we will know what’s really happening. Let’s not rely…our sources of information should not depend on groups that are taking advantage of the conflict. We have so many groups who feel that their interests, whether economic or political, will be affected negatively by the peace process. I’ve always said the reason why there’s still no signing of a peace agreement is that….I’ve always said that if the government panel, as well as the MILF panel were left on their own to decide if they should sign the agreement, they would have done that two years ago. They just couldn’t sign it because they’re afraid. There are powerful economic and political forces who genuinely feel that their interests, political and economic may be adversely affected by the Mindanao peace process. Because we are talking here of returning the ancestral domain of the Moros themselves. Now, let’s ask ourselves: who are enjoying now the fruits of these ancestral domain? Who owns the mineral rights? Who has tens of thousands of hectares per DENR records in Mindanao ? How would you think they feel, now that the government is about to return the ancestral domain back to the Moros?

Q. But were they consulted in the first place?

A. If they had been consulted, what do you think they would say? Our friends in Zamboanga are complaining, they’re saying they were not consulted. But later, they said, they were. And they’ve said no. Apparently, what they mean by consultation is, to them, they are consulted if the government takes their position. In layman’s term, when we ask, what do you think? It doesn’t necessarily mean that I would have to adopt your position. But to them, they say that since they have already expressed their views in a public forum, albeit informally, their position is, the government should adopt their position. The problem is, if you’re in the GRP or MILF panel, if you try to accommodate everyone’s interest into this agreement, without asking anyone to make sacrifices or compromises, we will never arrive at any peace agreement. And what we saw today, it will continue to grow.

Q. How can this be resolved? The President has already ordered an all-out offensive. The military says it’s not going to stop because it’s already got the upper hand. Even local officials say it’s got to stop now. When do you think it’s going to stop?

A. I myself am hoping everything dies down, everbody calms down. How is it going to stop? There has to be…we have to show to everyone that there is a big constituency for peace. As of now, what’s being given air space and print space are the anti-MOA and the MILF. And both of them are either saying, if there’s no MOA, there’s going to be war. Or if there’s MOA, there’s going to be war. Right? Perhaps, it’s about time, the silent majority, if there is really a silent majority in support of the peace process, or the peaceful resolution of the conflict, maybe now is the time, now more than ever is the time for us to come out and say to everyone, say to these groups, say to those who would rather resolve the conflict by armed means, ‘Wait, there’s a big constituency in support of a peaceful resolution of whatever grievances, Bangsamoro grievances you have there.'




With the facilitation of the Malaysian Government, the Government of Republic of Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Panels have initialed today the final draft of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). Having restarted the talks today, relying on the deep reservoir of goodwill and cooperation on both sides, the two Panels have crafted an important document that would contribute immeasurably to peace in Mindanao, progress and prosperity for the Philippines, and strong affirmation of Malaysia-Philippine bilateral relations and multilateral cooperation for peace.

The conclusion of today's session marks the end of the negotiations on the third aspect of the Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001. Both sides reached a consensus to initial the final draft pending its official signing by the Chairmen of the two Peace Panels in early August 2008, in Putrajaya, Malaysia. The ceremony will be witnessed by the Secreatary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Malaysia.

The Parties look forward to continue the negotiation on the Comprehensive Compact and finally address the Bangsamoro problem and conflict in Mindanao.

The Panels conveyed their appreciation to H.E. Prime Minister Dato' Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi for the Malaysian Government's continued assistance in keeping the peace process on track, and to H.E. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's unwavering commitment in pushing forward the Mindanao peace process.

Done on the 27th of July 2008 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Panel Chair Panel Chair


Special Adviser to the Prime Minister

Collapse of GRP-MILF Negotiations Most Serious Threat to Peace

Collapse of gov’t-MILF talks on Moro homeland ‘most serious threat to peace’

By ISAGANI DE CASTRO, JR. abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak


The collapse of the talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on an expanded Moro homeland is “the most serious threat” to the peace process and may eventually lead to war, according to an analyst.

Zainudin Malang, a lawyer of the Bangsa Moro Center for Law and Policy, warned that the collapse Friday in Kuala Lumpur of the government-MILF talks on ancestral domain “is the most serious threat to a peaceful and negotiated solution to the peace process.”

Malang, an analyst of the government-MILF peace process, said the “level of skepticism over the negotiating parties’ sincerity is approaching irreversible levels, if not so already,” he said in an e-mail sent to Newsbreak, in response to the collapse of the talks.

“Frustrations over past un-implemented peace pacts, coupled with flip-flopping stance on this latest peace process risks transforming the Mindanao conflict into an unmanageable type of war,” Malang said.

Backtrack on plebiscite

According to a report by Reuters news agency, the government’s attempt to push back the timing of a plebiscite that would expand the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was the reason for the collapse of the talks.

Reuters said government negotiators tried to delay the referendum on enlarging a previous Muslim homeland until after a political agreement was reached.

This would have reneged on a previous commitment to hold the vote six months after a deal on territory was signed, originally scheduled for August 5. MILF negotiators walked out of the meeting.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks on an ancestral homeland last Friday in Kuala Lumpur ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address tomorrow.

But Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, the former presidential adviser on the peace process, said Saturday there is still hope for the peace process.

“The peace process is a continuing effort. In the latest talks in Kuala Lumpur over the last few days to finalize the draft agreement, there remain some differences. Although the meeting did not immediately bring about progress in the ancestral domain issue, I am sure that the parties will continue to look for ways to hurdle the difficulties and move the process forward.”

‘A conflict of Darfur proportions’

Malang noted that the government-MILF peace talks have been going on for 11 years already, or since 1997 during the Ramos administration.

“During that period, we have already seen two all-out wars and countless other large-scale fighting,” Malang said.

In 2000, the first all-out war under the Estrada government, led to one million internally-displaced people. In 2003, under the Arroyo government, there were more than 400,000 internally-displaced persons.

“The four-decade long Mindanao conflict is one of the most serious yet under-reported conflict in the world,” Malang said.

“Ironic because this is a conflict of Darfur and Timorese proportions. It has already cost more than 100,000 lives and millions of internally-displaced persons.”

During eleven years of the peace process, he said “agreements and consensus points that would have led to an early successful conclusion of the talks have also been set aside due to pressure from conservatives and hawks.”

“The GRP-MILF talks is only the latest of numerous attempts to peacefully resolve, by way of negotiations, what is now the longest-running armed conflict in Asia. But precisely because past efforts have failed, this latest one may turn out to be the last one, should it fail,” Malang said.

Seek to clarify

In a forum last week on the draft agreement on ancestral domain, Malang allayed “fears” that the creation of an expanded Moro homeland will lead to oppression against the Christians by Muslims. He said the Moros will not be “treating Christians as unjustly as the Christians have treated the Moros.”

Malang said “fears” of both sides should not be used to block the peace process but should be an opportunity to “seek clarification.”

"Let’s not use it as basis to oppose any signing. Nothing has been signed yet. If we don’t see anything good in it, then let the people decide. Because a plebiscite, after all, is an expression of sovereignty, which can only be exercised by individual members or society and the polity, not by their elected leaders or their representatives,” he said.

Related Story• Gov’t backtrack on plebiscite derails peace talks with MILF

Statement of the Mindanao People's Caucus on the Collapse of the GRP-MILF Peace Talks

Press Statement
July 26, 2008

In the light of the renewed collapse of the GRP-MILF talks in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, it is obvious that the opponents of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Ancestral Domain have once again succeeded in frustrating the efforts of the negotiation. With veiled threats of constitutional challenge, legal battles, communal violence and plain hysteria, we missed to grasp peace just when the Peace Panels have come closest to it.

In the name of the women and children and ordinary civilians in the conflict-affected areas, we urge both principals in the negotiation to uphold, sustain and defend the consensus points in the negotiations. Let us not allow politicians and vested interest groups to hostage the peace talks with their own economic and political interests. Let us not be swayed by the noise of a few loud personalities who are desperately protecting their own interests.

We appeal to both parties to continue finding viable options and solutions until we finally reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

We express strong disappointment over some statements and threats which vowed to kill the peace agreement even at this time when the Peace Panels are yet to give birth to the MOA on Ancestral Domain. We do not deserve this kind of demeanor coming from political leaders who, instead of forging unity among its people, are in fact the ones fanning hatred and violence.

Today is the time for us to examine the interests of those who block efforts of the peace process. It is time that we come together to engage in a meaningful dialogue, surface the fears and exchange notes in order to achieve understanding and unity.

We appeal to President Arroyo to sustain the primacy of the peace process and defend this policy against political pressures and vested interests including those coming from her own allies. The postponement of the ARMM election could have been a good step towards that direction.

Obviously, we are racing against time. With the final pullout of the International Monitoring Team come August and with no discussion on the extension of their tour of duty, war looms in many corners of Mindanao. Ordinary people, not our politicians and leaders, will be the ones to pay the consequences of the opposition to the MOA. This is where our hearts just bleed, out of frustration and sheer desperation, at the kind of leaders who are at the helm in Mindanao at this point in our history. We need leaders who will bring the people to an era of peace and development, not those who irresponsibly condemn us to war and violence, while they spend their quiet evenings in the city life of Davao, Manila or elsewhere.

MPC reiterates its call for the formal resumption of the GRP-MILF peace talks and the signing of the MOA on Ancestral Domain as a critical step towards showing the concrete result and progress in the negotiation. (30)


Secretary General
Mindanao Peoples Caucus

Tokyo International Peace Building Conference Paper

Addressing the Gaps in Human Security Initiatives in Mindanao*

By: Atty. Zainudin S. Malang**

Thank you for inviting me to comment on the presentations in this session. Now, since I come from Mindanao, allow me to comment by correlating the presentations to some of my own observations on best practices and not-so-best practices in addressing gaps in community development and human security.

My first observation is the imperative of engaging local stakeholders in addressing these gaps. It is clear from earlier presentations that local stakeholders are not just important but even indispensable. The reason is that they have the most at stake, they are the ones most familiar with the situation on the ground, and therefore know more how to deal with it. Local stakeholders must be engaged not only in program implementation but, more importantly, they must be engaged from the very beginning – in program identification, design and conceptualization. The aid and donor community must always bear this in mind in their initiatives and programs. Mr. Hossain’s paper itself captures the essence of this approach and I quote:

“CDCs identify their own problems and challenges, formulate own strategies and development plans, and then manage, monitor, and implement all projects at the field level.”

In Mindanao, NGOs and civil society have repeatedly expressed concern that except in the program implementation stage, they have been relegated to passive roles by those who come from the outside and impose their brand of peace building.

My second observation is that any intervention or initiative to address human security gaps need to proceed from a well-rounded understanding of how those gaps arose and the environment in which the initiatives will be introduced. Conflict analysis and needs assessment are indispensable and necessary preliminary steps. A lack of or even flawed conflict analysis, prepared without adequate inputs from those primarily affected by human security gaps can lead to serious issues. This is particularly true with respect to gaps brought about by internal conflict where social-political divides, instead of being addressed, may manifest itself in the implementation of initiatives intended to address those very same gaps.

Case in point is the staffing pattern of aid agencies operating in Mindanao. Study after study have shown that the conflict was bred by social-economic-political marginalization of the minority in the hands of the majority. In fact, a UNDP commissioned opinion poll asking detailed questions among those who comprise the majority in the Philippines showed that almost half of the respondents showed a negative perception of the Moros in Mindanao, even to the extent of denying them employment for no other reason than they don’t belong to the majority. Presumably, this sentiment runs across the entire strata of Philippine society. And yet for decades, the staffing pattern of many agencies in Mindanao show a dearth of consultants and program managers with sufficient familiarity with the conflict, much less people who actually come from the conflict affected area. This deprives their programs of valuables inputs and local sensitivity. In one instance, a staff of a humanitarian aid agency told a group of IDPs to go back to the mountains and find some rootcrops if they wanted food. An official from another major funding agency also publicly questioned the logic of designing an assistance program tailor-made for the marginalized minority.

The other important understanding we must incorporate in addressing gaps is that of the socio-political environment in which a peace promoting initiative is being introduced. Is the conflict ongoing? Or is there a ceasefire? Has a peace agreement been signed? Is the peace agreement in the process of being implemented? Answers to these basic questions must be asked because the appropriateness and viability of programs depend on those answers. I have seen programs designed for a post-agreement situation in an area with unresolved conflict.

The third observation I would like to share is the need to periodically and earnestly re-evaluate not only programs but also the frameworks that inform them. What works and what doesn’t are questions the aid community must ask themselves repeatedly and, more importantly, actively seek candid answers from their target beneficiaries. I just came from 3 months in Aceh where I participated in a meta-analysis of past reintegration programs for former combatants for the purpose of identifying the gaps in those programs. In Mindanao, the latest human development index figures for the five Bangsamoro provinces show that they continue to be the lowest in the whole country even after decades of receiving peace and development funds.

Allow me now to share some positive developments in relation to that I have just raised.

The first positive development is that key actors from the aid and donor community have recognized the need to give greater role to groups coming from the conflict affected area. As Mr. Alim says in his presentation:

“There is now a growing recognition especially from the international community, of the important role that CSOs play in societal reconstruction.”

I notice that JICA, for instance, have directly engaged the Bangsamoro Development Agency which was established by agreement by both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They have also directly funded Moro NGOs. Previously, funding and assistance to communities were largely coursed through institutions where Moros did not have an effective voice. Other agencies have also followed suit. CIDA (through its LGSPA program), USAID (through its GEM program) and AusAid, have also undertaken a pro-active hiring of technocrats and professionals from the Moro communities. Even Asia Foundation, whose Philippine country chief is here with us, has adopted such an approach.

The second positive development I have observed is that those who are trying to raise the level of human security in Mindanao are now more aware that the success of economic interventions cannot be divorced from the larger political peace process. Last year there was a concerted effort by all the aid agencies to exert firm pressure on the government not to launch an all-out military offensive, recognizing that no peace and development assistance can possibly succeed where there is widespread fighting. The peace process in Mindanao spans 3 decades. That period is marked by numerous frustrations and false expectations. It was only when the international community has taken a more direct and active role that the peace negotiations has achieved substantial gains towards addressing the roots of the conflict. I am pleased to mention here that Japan is one of those countries that have made substantial contributions.

The last positive development is that there is more attention now to the human rights concerns of Moro communities. For years, no one wanted to touch this area because human rights cases were viewed as a political hot potato for aid agencies. But after being reminded by human rights advocates that human security also mean “freedom from fear”, more funding is now being devoted to human rights training.

However, let me emphasize that human rights assistance to Moro communities is still in its inception stage. Save for the Asia Foundation, there is still a reluctance to fund legal representation to indigents who are subjected to warrantless arrests, torture, and harassment. This should be the core of any human rights assistance and yet the bulk of the funding is given only to conferences and forums. If we are to encourage marginalized communities to pursue legal and peaceful avenues for the redress of their grievances instead of resorting to rebellion, we must give them the means to do so.

With this, I end my comment. Thank you again for inviting me.
* Delivered at the Tokyo International Peacebuilders Symposium 2008, U.N. House, Tokyo, March 24, 2008.
** Atty. Zainudin S. Malang is a Convenor of several civil society organizations. He is also a newspaper columnist and is frequently engaged as a resource speaker on the Mindanao Peace Process, human rights, and the political economy of the Mindanao conflict. Atty. Malang holds a degree Master of Laws from Kyushu University (Japan) and a Master in Regional Integration from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (Spain). He recently completed an intensive 6-month joint peacebuilding program jointly administered by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Program.