AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 224

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Session 224: The Challenges of Peace and Development in the Southern Philippines

Organizer: Patricio N. Abinales, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Discussant: Susan D. Russell, Northern Illinois University, USA

Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago in the Southern Philippines suffer from long-running insurgencies, both communist and Muslim separatist. Violence has claimed more than 120,000 lives in the last four decades, and combined with economic under-development, has resulted in high levels of poverty and low levels of human development. Efforts to exit the vicious cycle of conflict and poverty have operated both at the community level and at an institutional or international level. The twin panels address questions at these two levels: How are indigenous peoples impacted by possible settlements with Muslim separatists? How can mainstream Philippine society be persuaded to support the peace process? How does the peace process intersect with other community and institutional efforts to manage, contain if not eliminate the conflict? How do different development assistance strategies impact on the communities and how do they respond to these inflows of aid? Finally, what are the prospects for peace under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III?

“Collating Consultations”: Democratizing the Mindanao Peace Process
Albert E. Alejo, Independent Scholar, Philippines

The peace process is too precious to be left alone to the negotiation of two fighting forces, and need the visions, voices, and values of diverse groups, starting from those who are directly afflicted by conflict, and extending to those whose lives are also affected. But what does it mean to take seriously the people’s peace perspectives? For Konsult Mindanaw, a project of the Bishops Ulama Conference, it has meant conducting 311 focus group consultations from various parts of Mindanao, and asking women wearing veils, retired men in uniform, researchers from ten academic institutions and artists to join in the endeavour. But given that KM is just one of the more than two dozens of initiatives by various groups, what patterns can we discern from the voluminous data? What methodological challenges confront those who are collating the consultation results? How is the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III sincerely absorbing these voices? Finally, would the sum of these consultations eventually satisfy the other legal requirements for a valid consultation process? This paper is a distillation of my personal engagement in at least two of the major consultations as well as in the lobbying for making the peace process more democratic.

"Move Beyond Keeping the Peace!": Peace and Development Communities (PDCs) and the Philippine Government-Moro National Liberation Front Peace Process
Starjoan Villanueva, Independent Scholar, Philippines

This paper describes the impact of Peace and Development Communities (PDCs) which were established in support of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (GRP-MNLF). It argues that, contrary to government’s belief and assertions, this peace process is still at the peacekeeping rather than the peace-building phase, and a major stumbling block is the general impression among various Mindanao stakeholders, particularly MNLF combatants, that the government is not sincere in in fulfilling its commitment and obligations to the 1996 peace accord. The PDCs are thus critical in re-building this trust, acting as the conduits for the delivery of basic services and development projects, and, more importantly, in building a culture of peace.

The Peace and Ancestral Domain Struggle of Mindanao Lumads 101: Past, Present and Future
Jason R. Sibug, Independent Scholar, Philippines

This paper explores efforts by the non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Mindanao (Lumad) to assert their rights and influence the directions of politics in the island. It looks at the various organizations the Lumad had formed, from community-based NGOs to associations like the Mindanao Highlanders Association. It likewise examines the effective of state responses to lumad appeals, from the passage of Republic Act 8371 (the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) to the creation of a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples), and effects of the entry of corporate capital on lumad lands. Finally, the paper explores the fraught relationship between the lumad communities and the Muslim groups, noting that while local “peace pacts” have done much to minimize tensions, there is still much work to be done to bring about some parity between lumad-Moro relationship, especially on the issue of the ancestral domain.

Healing Communities, Reclaiming Traditions: Legal Pluralism, Islamic Revivalism, and Ethno-based peace and Development in Muslim Mindanao
Alber Husin, Independent Scholar, Philippines

This paper highlights current realities in Mindanao in terms of conflicts and underdevelopment as a prelude into underscoring how communities are healing by reclaiming their traditions. It argues that there cannot be one single paradigm that will work for the many Mindanao. While we can and should be able to identify basic principles such as human rights, justice, equality, people or community centered development, among others, however, we will have to let the communities heal themselves by being sensitive enough to recognize, affirm, and support what truly works for them in their respective contexts. The paper specifically looks at the following local strategies: (1) legal pluralism being adopted in different settings in Mindanao that combine features of traditional and Islamic justice system with state institutions; (2) Islamic revivalism through Bangsamoro Development Authority and its Islamic paradigm on peace and development in Mindanao and the revitalization of Islamic Principles and traditions in environmental governance as will be seen in the Al Khalifa; and (3) the re-emergence of an ethno-centered peace and development strategy via a case study of the Iranun Development Council in the Maguindanao Province that seeks to re-establish traditional Iranun Institutions in their existing political domains.