DAVAO CITY – A security task force (TF) in the autonomous region for Filipino Muslims in Mindanao vowed to clip the wings of lingering family or clan wars to eliminate the general climate of conflict and uncertainty among its residents, and to hopefully encourage more people to engage in more social and gainful livelihood activities.
Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., who was designated as the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) told the first meeting of the security sector in the region that the national government wanted to see the end of rido.
“We need to address with finality the problem of rido. This is through the enhancement of our collaboration between the security sector, the BARMM, and our local government units,” Galvez told a meeting of the Bangsamoro Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (BTF-ELAC).
He said rido or family disputes most often result from land disputes, local politics, and inherited generations of misunderstanding and stereotyping between two feuding clans or groups.
“If left unresolved and continues without proper interventions from authorities, the hostilities among the feuding families can escalate and could pose a serious threat to the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he added.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) said that this was also the instruction of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
“Ensuring the security of our community is a collective responsibility. All of us have an important role to play,” he said. “We must be united in addressing the root causes of rido. The coordination and partnership between the security sector and local government units need to be strengthened to ensure a more holistic and community-driven approach,” he said.
“Our security forces are the guardians of peace. However, for them to be most effective, they must be supported by a network of proactive, engaged, and informed stakeholders. All of them play crucial roles in creating a platform for open dialogue and cooperation. We need to harness the collective strength of these groups and institutions to address the underlying issues that fuel rido,” Galvez added.
He urged the TF to craft a comprehensive approach to address ridos as the TF also expanded its membership, which added Chief Minister Ahod B. Ebrahim, the head of the BARMM and the current chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Ebrahim was designated co-chairman of the TF, along with Minister Sha Elijah Dumama-Alba of the Interior and Local Government, who was designated executive director.
Several technical working groups and a secretariat were also established to ensure that policies were carefully considered and adopted by the body, the OPAPRU said.
The meeting on Monday was held inside former MILF Camp Siongco in Maguindanao del Norte, which also called on “intensifying convergence in delivering socio–economic development programs in geographically isolated and depressed areas to address insurgency and other poverty-based issues in the region.”
“As we know, poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and instability fuel conflict. It is therefore crucial to uplift the lives of our MILF and MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) brothers and sisters, and their camps into zones of peace and development,” he added.
Peace and order situation
Last January 9, the Peace, Security, and Reconciliation Office (PSRO) of the Bangsamoro government reconciled three warring families of their five-year-old land conflict in Pagalungan town, Maguindanao del Sur following the intervention by Bangsamoro peace mediators.
PSRO Director Anwar Alamada said the conflict “that had previously resulted in the loss of lives among the Bacana, Dimaagil, and Madal families.”
The final conflict resolution was done in a reconciliation ceremony held on January 9 in Cotabato City. The warring families took religious oaths before the asatids, symbolizing their commitment to upholding the agreement.
The families also signed a peace covenant in the presence of the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Chairman Butch Malang and several Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) commanders.
In 2023, the PSRO resolved 27 cases of both major and minor rido and established a peace monitoring mechanism to prevent the recurrence of riots.
Meanwhile, Galvez also lauded the major accomplishments of the region’s security sector, which include a decrease by four percent in the area’s “crime environment” in the previous year.
“For the crime environment, there is a significant decrease in total crime incidents in Cotabato. Maganda po ‘yung pinakita na performance ng ating local government unit under Mayor Matabalao and the security sector,” reported Police Regional Office of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional Director, PBGen. Allan Nobleza during the meeting.
According to Nobleza’s report, the total crime environment in Cotabato City in 2022 went down from 433 to 425, which is a 4.06 percent reduction compared to 2022 data. Comparing peace and order indicators (PSI) with these data, the crime incidents went down by 7.1 percent in the city within the same period.
“As we welcome this development, we need to address with finality the problem of rido. This is through the enhancement of our collaboration between the security sector, the BARMM, and our local government units,” remarked Galvez.
Various proposals were discussed during the meeting, ranging from community-based conflict resolution mechanisms, to targeted development projects aimed at addressing pressing socio-economic concerns affecting residents.
According to Senior Minister Von Al-haq, who represented Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, the collaboration among different agencies and communities is a shared responsibility in maintaining peace and security in the region.
Galvez also stressed the importance of involving local government units in the decision-making process, recognizing their deeper understanding of the situation on the ground.
“Critical to these efforts is the convergence of different national line agencies and BARMM ministries in the implementation of the development plan for MILF Camps Bader and Omar,” he remarked.
Recently, the Joint Task Forces on Camps Transformation (JTFCT) updated its Camps Transformation Investment Plan, which has undergone a series of validations among various local stakeholders.
“The resettlement and housing program is a crucial component of the camp transformation plan. This program is a response to the pressing need for secure and sustainable housing solutions,” Galvez said.
This initiative will primarily benefit decommissioned MILF combatants, as OPAPRU continuously delivers “to establish housing communities that are safe, dignified, resilient, and contribute to social cohesion and economic development.”
On Tuesday, a Master Development Plan to fully transform this former MILF bastion into a zone of peace and development was launched at Camp Abubakar in the town of Barira in Maguindanao del Norte.
The 20-year period Master Development Plan, features an initial 234 housing units that will be built in the fiscal year 2024. At least 134 housing units will be funded under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program, while the 100 units will be shouldered by the BARMM.
The said plan also features access roads, telecommunication facilities, potable water sources, agricultural plantation areas, institutional and religious buildings, health facilities, and mercantile areas, among others.
Spanning up to 300 hectares, Camp Abubakar is among the pilot areas that are now reaping the dividends of peace and development.
Commitment to the peace process
Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), reaffirmed the Marcos administration’s commitment to eliminating local terrorist and communist organizations, as the armed forces intensified its counterinsurgency efforts targeting the local communist armed conflict in the country.
“The guidance given to us by the Commander-in-Chief was that he emphasized two issues and these are, we have to support BARMM. The second is to address the rido issue. These, I think, are very timely and need to be addressed with the horizontal rido or horizontal conflict that we are facing right now, and a big challenge for us,” Gonzales said.
“For us in the security sector, we don’t have the luxury of time, we have to finish our campaign by the end of this year. The more challenging aspect is that we have an additional task and that is to support the Normalization and Decommissioning Program of the National Government,” he added.
The same commitment was expressed by Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Sixth Infantry Division covering most of the BARMM areas, and Brig. Gen. Nobleza, director of the BARMM Police Regional Office.
“Before we can have a very good development, progressive rather than development, the greater foundation is peace and order. Therefore, I believe that all things that we have discussed here really contribute to the progress and development of the region especially in the Philippines,” said Abunawas Maslamama, who represented BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim during the meeting.
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