Davao OURmindaNOW messaging hub host leads Pakighinabi online forum on ‘Moro killings in South Cotabato’

As a response to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Resolution No. 80, Davao Messaging Hub host, Ateneo de Davao State University’s (ADDU) Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia and its partners, gathered more than 200 individuals to a forum dubbed as Pakighinabi, a multi-sectoral dialogue on the series of Moro killings in South Cotabato, held on June 30, 2021.

Passed in July 2020, Resolution No. 80 expresses a deep concern of the Moro killings outside BARMM communities, particularly in Polomolok and South Tupi municipalities. One year after its passage, additional cases of alleged killings were recorded, all of which were either reported as linked to illegal drugs or to violent extremism or terrorism by authorities, which had consequently raised alarm among concerned communities and sectors about what may potentially be a series of human rights violations and a systematic attack on the Moro residents in South Cotabato. This situation might trigger new extremist sentiments, which may set back the gains of peace work in Mindanao, according to several peace experts and practitioners who had attended the event.

In an opening statement by Al Qalam Executive Director and BTA Member of Parliament Datu Mussolini Lidasan, he said, “Our government has a duty to protect all individuals within their jurisdictions from terrorism as part of their human rights obligation to guarantee the right to life and the right to security. Thus, we need to work together to adopt a comprehensive approach to preventing and transforming violent extremism and radicalization while upholding human rights and the rule of law.”

The recent Pakighinabi forum was a safe and inclusive platform to discuss initial steps towards a collective action to resolve the issue. The three-hour dialogue was divided into four main layers with panels from the different sectors. Among the discussants and panelists were representatives from the victims’ immediate families, government agencies, security sectors, civil society organizations and academe.

Families of the victims called for a reinvestigation of alleged crimes involving victims tagged as terrorists or being involved in illegal drugs. They plead that justice will soon be realized and that killings must stop. Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has also advised concerned individuals to submit official documentation on these alleged human rights violations as only few cases of these ‘Moro killings’ are being forwarded to the agency. The Philippine National Police (PNP), on the other hand, expressed their cooperation regarding the matter and urged concerned individuals to step forward and put their trust to the authorities who are willing to help solve these cases.

Responding also from the panel during the forum was Dr. Jovar Pantao, OIC Director of the Institute for Peace and Development (IPDM) in Mindanao of the Mindanao State University-General Santos, the host organization of the SOX (SOCCSKSARGEN) Messaging Hub. He urged all sectors highly involved to acknowledge that the ongoing problem and conflict at hand.

“The very first step that we need to do is to acknowledge the existence of the problem, that there is a conflict going on.  We need to work together- the authorities, the academe, the CSOs, the (Moro and Christian) communities to dialogue and document everything about these allegations. From this, we can map out the causes and the effects of this conflict and respond to it in an appropriate and peaceful way. We are here to preserve human dignity and human rights,” Dr. Pantao shared.

Before the open forum, Mr. Joel Dizon, Program Manager of Equal Access International-Philippines (EAI-PH), read the proposed conference statement as a call of affirmation for those present in the Pakighinabi. The statement will be instrumental in the proposition to elevate the issue into a national concern and will direct proper authorities in observing the rule of law and maintaining peace in Mindanao communities.

In conclusion, the statement said, “Having faith in humanity, all of us must also be an instrument of peace by condemning the growing culture of death in the country. Hence, if we are to secure the peace in Mindanao, the spate of Moro killings outside of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), particularly in the municipalities of Polomolok and Tupi in South Cotabato, must stop!”

Pakighinabi attendees shared their sentiments during the open forum and in response asked follow-up questions to the panel. One attendee expressed the need to emphasize inter and intra religious dialogues and another attendee showed support and shared, “As Christians, we offer our solidarity to the Bangsamoro and the IPs in Mindanao. Peace cannot be incurred by violence.”

The Pakighinabi was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council together with the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast and Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center (APILA), and in the name of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS), MSU-General Santos IPDM and EAI-PH. Prior to the forum, a series of perparatory meetings were held among Davao and SOX Messaging Hub Technical Working Group members and parallel networks to detail important action points of the Pakighinabi Forum.

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