The people in the BARMM and the rest of the country all suffer from the disastrous effects of CORONA Virus. This health crisis has developed into monstrous development bottlenecks. Everyday people die or they get sick. Businesses are closed or reduced workloads. Many lost their joband their income. Education is affected. Adjusting to the new normal in the contents, modalities and delivery of education takes time and a lot of training and resources. Many parents are hesitant to send their children to school due to the virus. Communication has become difficult. Movements of people are restricted and the growth of the economy is stunted. Communities suffer and live under the mercy of government’s relief assistance.

Government development projects are delayed or put to halt and money to stimulate growth are spent for relief work. Legislative agenda are suspended and important measures to promote development-based policies are not addressed. Development programs are hardly implemented.

Violent conflicts happen in many parts of the BARMM and non-BARMM areas resulting in the deathsof innocent civilians including children. Houses of civilians are burned or destroyed and thousands of families are displaced. These unfortunate events are all underminingthe efforts for peace and the fight against the pandemic disease. The combined adverse effects of both the pandemic health crisis and the internal armed conflict and the slow pursuit of quick impact projects are creating miserable life to thousands of families in the region.

The crisis is taking its toll in the lives of the people. The future of many is at stake. Meantime, the pending anti-terror bill in congress is feared to be a hanging threat to human rights in the country, especially among Muslims whose identity has become a landmark for suspicion.

Under the new circumstances where the quarantine is relaxed and people’s movements are already allowed, the opportunity becomes available to offset the development gaps produced by early restrictions.

Anent the above, and considering further the imperatives and urgency of fighting the virus, ending violence and promoting the much-awaited development in the BARMM, we the CSOs in Sibugay Cluster (Zamboanga del norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Zamboanga del sur) based in Pagadian City as non-BARMM territory under the banner of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) take this opportunity to declare:

  1. We declare our appreciation to the efforts of government (BARMM and LGUs) in exerting their extra efforts in blending development initiatives and the fight against the pandemic COVID virus;
  2. We further declare our all-out support in the fight against the pandemic diseases and cooperation with all organizations and agencies of government in providing support to all sectors adversely affected by the pandemic virus;
  3. We make known our full support to all efforts aimed at ending all forms of violent conflicts that affect communities including RIDO, crime-based violence and military offenses and counter military actions;
  4. We show full support to the Peace Implementing Panel (PIP) in the pursuit of the normalization aspect of the peace agreement and in the implementation of the recommendations of the TJRC;
  5. We declare our unwavering support in building strong social-cohesion among the different faith and cultural groups in and outside of the BARMM to start the process of healing, cooperation and reconciliation through the process and modalities of transitional justice.

We also make the following calls:

  1. We call upon all authorities (civilian and military) in the BARMM and non- BARMM and local government units to strengthen their commitment to resolve the problem and fight against resurgence of violence such as those mentioned above even as they exert extra efforts in preventing the spread of COVID;
  2. We further call the authorities to settle conflict situation beyond mere management but towards conflict resolution and transformation to prevent recurrence of violence in the BARMM, non-BARMM and adjacent LGUs;
  3. We call upon the military authorities and the rebel groups to strictly observe and respect the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law and the universal declaration of human rights in the conduct of their military operations and counter-military actions to spare non-combatants in their conflict;
  4. We further call upon responsible authorities to provide justice to the victims of the bombing in Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan where 2 children-siblings were killed and the wounding of 14 others including the mother of the 2 dead siblings;
  5. We call upon all existing ground peace mechanisms such as the AHJAG, CCCH, IMT, JPST, CPC, etc. to provide quick response in case of emergency violent situation in order to prevent the escalation of violence;
  6. We further call authorities to adequately provide socio-economic support to all IDPs of latest violence in the BARMM and non-BARMM,
  7. We call upon our beloved president to defer the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and give enough time for consultation with all sectors of society.

Related to development in the BARMM:

  1. We urge the BTA to aggressively accomplish the drafting of the various codes that will govern the operation of the BARMM including other important legislative measures that will push development in the BARMM and non-BARMM;
  2. We also urge the BARMM authorities as mandated by the BOL to urgently organize the Council Of Leaders (COL) who can provide advisory support to the chief minister in his oversight task of the BARMM and non-BARMM;
  3. We further urge the BARMM authorities to consider the immediate organization of the Bangsamoro Economic Development Planning Board to involve the participation of important stakeholders in the planning process of the BARMM;
  4. We similarly urge the BARMM government to engage in dialogue with LGUs within its political territories on inter-governmental relations in order to define mutually beneficial coordination in the BARMM;
  5. We urge all line agencies of the BARMM to implement quick impact projects, especially those addressing the basic needs of the grassroots communities to cushion the impact of the crisis brought by the pandemic virus;
  6. We appeal to the BARMM authorities to take cognizant of the needs of the BANGSAMORO (BM) outside the core territories in their development programs.

To our fellow CSO practitioners:

  1. We call upon the CSOs to strengthen their cohesion in sustaining all initiated efforts towards the unity and solidarity and consensus building among the Bangsamoro leaders.
  2. We urge ourselves to continue our peace building and development-oriented activities even as we take part in preventing the spread of the pandemic disease and violence in the region.

We earnestly pray that these calls will merit favorable support from the concerned authorities.

Signed by the leaders and representatives of the members of the Sibugay Cluster CBCS Convener Group at Gift Pavilion, Raiza Bldg., Rizal Avenue, Pagadian City on June 24, 2020.

By Mohaiya S. Pua – Sibugay Cluster Area Coordinator