The interest in discussing and addressing violent extremism (VE) and its prevention in recent weeks has reached some sort of a crescendo in this country due to the lingering Marawi siege; and in the region due to the debacle of the Rohingyas in Burma/Myanmar. It has become what we call the “flavor of the month”.
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The peace constituency needs to go beyond Mindanao, into the halls of Congress and the Senate, into local and barangay councils in the Visayas and Luzon, in Metro Manila, into the board rooms of corporations, into the classrooms of universities and schools, into the consciousness of the MRT and LRT commuters, into mainstream news and talks shows and reflected even in the themes of soap operas and in the tills at the box office and into dinner and luncheon meetings and perchance flagship projects of Rotary clubs.
Today’s dialogue is opportune as continuing events in our midst, particulary in our seas have been ratcheting up with our governments becoming more bellicose by the day in their respective assertions to sovereignty over overlapping claims to islands, islets, reefs, fishing grounds, nay, even entire seas that surround us.
There was a time that His Excellency, Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of Timor-Leste and Nobel laureate– was simply Jose to me.
I first met him over breakfast at a quaint hotel in Bangkok sometime in 1992. We were both attending a conference called “Peoples Plan for the 21st Century” that, well, wanted to chart a common framework for the broad social movement in the region at the dawn of the new millennium . He was there to speak on behalf of his forgotten people- some 600,000 East Timorese who were under the yoke of a then occupying force- Indonesia. A third of his people – around 200,000 – had been slaughtered, starved, killed or impaled by the military and police of the dictator Suharto who in 1975 sent in a Catholic army general to lead the invasion of this puny, gentle, territory.
Midsayap is one of the most progressive towns in Cotabato and for years now had been bidding to become a city. Hosting a big portion of the Ligawasan Marsh which has a commercially-viable deposit of natural gas, Midsayap, erstwhile peaceful and progressive, has turned into a hotly contested area. Like in many parts of Mindanao, competition over natural resources such as mining is not immediately apparent to the people as what is more pressing is the armed conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) is a Philippines-based advocacy institution promoting human security, democratization and people-to-people solidarity.
IID conducts policy advocacy and campaign programs on Burma, Mindanao, Southern Thailand, West Papua, and East Timor.