The clashes between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) happening in Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Piang, Maguindanao Province since mid-January are dangerous fires that should be doused. Already, many civilians in those towns have started to pack up their belongings including their livestock and preparing for another uncertain life in the evacuation centers.
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This field report relates to civil society efforts to bring back the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the negotiating table. Among the obstacles to the resumption of formal peace talks this year is the reported links of the MILF to the terror group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), as alleged by the government. Another contentious issue is on the pull-out of government troops from Buliok, which the MILF cites as a “precondition” to the resumption of the talks.
In October 7-9, 2003, before the reported killing of Al-Ghozi, a “Bantay Ceasefire” field monitoring mission was conducted by the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC) along with local non-government organizations in areas in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. The mission looked into the pursuit operations against Al-Ghozi in relation to the July 19, 2003 GRP-MILF ceasefire, among others.
“Bantay Ceasefire 2” (an assessment of displaced communities) was held July 13-15 in fifteen villages in Pikit and Pagalungan. The assessments focused on the areas of security, human rights, education, livelihood and public health.There was special focus on assessing the impact of the declaration by Malacañang of Brgy. Inug-og, Pagalungan as a “sanctuary of peace” on 13 June 2003.
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.