A presentation to the
workshop titled: “Trends and State of Peace Education and Peace
Research in Asia”, during the AMAN Assembly and the Interfaith
Conference on “Multi-Culturalism and Global Peace” held at the Prince of Songkhla University, Pattani Campus, 26-28 January 2011
By Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig
Chairperson and President, Balay Mindanaw
Member, Action Asia
This paper seeks to share the
experiences and lessons from Balay Mindanaw’s peace education
efforts which is a key component of our Peacebuilding Programme. As
I reflect on the evolution of our peacebuilding strategies, I will
give particular attention to our work with the Armed Forces of the
Philippines in Mindanaw that began in 2005.
OP Kors! (Operation
Peace Course) is a comprehensive peace course designed for
peacebuilders in Mindanaw, first organized and run in 2005 by the
Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI). It aims at building peace
cadres coming from different sectors of society, and multiplying
peace constituency at the different levels of engagement. It
provides theoretical inputs with matching practical application
based on community-based experiences and other peace initiatives. A
customized course for the military has been developed and continues
to be implemented until today.
Balay Mindanaw Foundation,
Inc. (BMFI) is a
Mindanao-based, Mindanao-focused and Mindanaoan-led NGO founded on
May 8, 1996 focusing on land rights and advocacy for political
parity and economic equity. It began its work in as a small NGO
engaged in the pursuit of equity and development through agrarian
reform and sustainable integrated area development. The first six
years of its existence were also years of action and contemplation
as it continually tried to find a meaningful and comprehensive
realization of its vision of Equity,
Development and Peace in Mindanao, the Philippines and the World.
The first few years of Balay
Mindanaw’s journey were also a time of searching for real meaning
and concrete expression of its framework which basically states that
inequities cause underdevelopment and poverty, and that the root of
unpeace can be found in inequity and underdevelopment. This
framework further states that the work to address inequities and
injustice is indispensably connected to development work, and that
the work for peace is invariably connected to the work for equity
It is now also actively
involved in regional peacebuilding work through its active
participation in Action Asia.
is a network of individuals and organizations in the Asia continent
committed to action for conflict transformation through the sharing
of skills, knowledge, experiences and resources. Action Asia carries
a vision of a world of justice and peace, where basic needs are met
and dignity and human rights are respected.
Mindanaw is the second
largest of the Philippines‘ 7,107 islands. One out of every four
Filipinos is a Mindanaoan. One out of every three hectares of land
is in Mindanao.
Most of the Philippines’
earnings from agricultural and fisheries exports come from Mindanao.
One hundred percent (100%) of banana, pineapple and tuna exports
come from Mindanao. More than half of the country’s mineral and
forest resources are in Mindanao.
Despite the island's richness
and giftedness, Mindanao remains as the country's poorest region.
Its rural populace alone, despite their closeness to agricultural
resources are among the poorest, mainly because seventy percent
(70%) of those who work in agriculture do not own the land that they
till. Mindanao remains marginalized economically, politically and
culturally. Decisions concerning the lives of Mindanaoans
continue to be made by decision-makers in Manila, the Philippines'
seat of economic, political and socio-cultural powers.
Aside from being the poorest
(or perhaps more correctly, because it is the poorest), Mindanao is
also the most war-torn region. It continues to suffer from the
violent conflicts and the armed struggles being waged by the Moros
as they continue to fight for self-determination, the Maoists’
revolution for national liberation, and the local Marxists-Leninists’
struggle against landlessness, marginalization and poverty. In fact,
four of the six parallel peace processes are focused on Mindanao.
Mindanao has a history of
unrest due partly to the diverse character of its population,
encompassing indigenous peoples, the Moros – Muslim communities,
and Christian settlers. This diversity has somehow aggravated
the conflicts between and among these groups. The indigenous peoples
remain the least involved or consulted group of all. Fourteen (14)
of the country's 20 poorest provinces are in Mindanao. All the
Moro provinces belong to the 10 poorest.
III. Balay Mindanaw’s
Peace Education Work with the Security Sector
Mindanaw’s usual image is
that of a war zone. It is where soldiers get their combat
experience. It is where the strength of military hardware is being
tested. It is from here where military generals get their stars. For
years, soldiers were seen by many local communities more as
occupation forces rather than allies. However, the military is not
monolithic. There are many progressive elements within the military
organization who seek to transform the image and mind set of the
soldiers. There are key officers and ordinary soldiers who want to
be allies and partners of the people and communities.
We decided to start
somewhere, modestly. One of Balay Mindanaw’s earliest efforts to
engage the military was to invite the soldiers and the para-military
assigned in the villages (where Balay Mindanaw was working) to its
community-based seminars and conferences. This effort came about as
result of the observation that the military and para-military were
actually watching (spying on) the community-based activities causing
fear among the local people. The military had to be convinced that
they did not have to watch (spy) as they are in fact an integral
part of the community. Eventually, a customized orientation peace
and development course was organized for the local army battalion.
This was among the earliest attempts to deliver the message that
they should begin looking at themselves as partners and allies
rather the occupation forces.
A major breakthrough came
when the then Executive Director of BMFI Ayi Hernandez met General
Raymundo Ferrer during the Bridging Leadership Training. Gen. Ferrer
at that time was beginning to gain recognition as a “peace general”.
He has gained the respect of the civil society by reaching out to
them and the communities, and even attending the Mindanao Peace
Institute, the first soldier to do so. The two began discussing
prospects for collaboration. They both agreed that there was need to
work hard to transform the mind sets of the soldiers.
At that time, Balay Mindanaw
had already gained extensive experience in conducting peace courses
for tribal and community leaders, local governments, NGOs and
peoples’ organizations, through Operation Peace Course (OP Kors!).
The two eventually decided to customize OP Kors! for the military’s
Thus, the conduct of Op Kors!
has expanded from NGOs, to communities, LGUs, indigenous peoples,
the Philippine Army, and even the Philippine National Police.
General Ferrer initially committed an entire infantry division to
undergo the peace course. As of December 2010, at least five
divisions have gone through the courses. An Army infantry division
is composed of at least three brigades. A brigade has at least three
The peace education work with
the military has evolved and expanded. It is beginning to generate
support from the government and the civil society. It is beginning
to show impact, not just on individual soldiers but on the policies
Instead of presenting a
narrative describing the OP Kors!, I have decided to share with you
a case study that tries to capture the real-life experience of a
group of military officers going through the peacebuilding course at
the Balay Mindanaw International Center for Peace in Mindanaw.
A Case Study: The
Peacebuilding Course called OP Kors!
(A shorter version of an
article by Marcos Mordeno in the book “Soldiers for Peace”
published by Balay Mindanaw)
All their lives as soldiers
revolved around hunting the “enemy” and dutifully reporting
statistics on casualties, rebels killed or captured, firearms
recovered and other stuff that readers usually find in the pages of
the morning papers. But for five days in October 2009, 25 officers
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao
Command and six police officers did what used to be unthinkable –
attend Operation Peace Course (OP Kors!), a training-workshop on
peacebuilding organized by Balay Mindanaw.
For the soldiers and
policemen, being in civvies was a welcome relief. The organizers
anticipated that the participants would need the physical comfort
that goes with being in civilian clothes. This course would likely
make them sweat, placing squarely for their consideration as it
would be the dilemma of trying to reconcile the concepts of peace
building with the nature of their profession. After all, these are
field-based officers who directly confront rebels and other armed
groups, and not always peaceably.
For most of them, it was
perhaps their first time, too, to listen to relatively radical
inputs – and from superior officers at that! These inputs would,
at first glance, seemingly contradict long-held institutional
practices and policies that the military and police organizations
The participants were also
scheduled for a crash course in Mindanaw history and conflict and
some updates on the stalled peace processes with rebel groups. These
are intended to stress the importance of peacefully resolving the
decades-old communist-led and Moro rebellions.
Maj. (now Colonel)
Khrisnamurti Mortela, one of the trainers, told the participants
that the training, the thirteenth of its kind for EastMincom
officers, would give them another lens at understanding the Mindanaw
conflict and it would hopefully expand their outlook. He said it
forms part of the program to institutionalize peacebuilding in the
AFP and the local governments toward meaningful security sector
Col. Julieto Ando, (now
retired) chief of EastMincom’s Civil Military Operations, stressed
that officers should learn some tools in peacebuilding and conflict
management for them to become responsible fighters and
peacebuilders. “Peacebuilding teaches you to deal with community
and stakeholders because we need their help. They are our partners”
he admonished. He reminded the participants that the military could
not do it alone.
Indeed, speaker after speaker
emphasized the need for the military to shed off its messianic
complex and to treat the conflict as a problem that requires
coordination with government agencies and non-government
But it was Col. Lysander
Infantry Division Chief of Staff, who sort of stirred up the hornet’s
nest with his two papers – a candid assessment of the Philippine
situation and a policy paper that seeks to rectify the apparent
failure of successive governments to resolve the rebellions.
He opined that protracted
conflict, not insurgent victory, is the real threat. “If armed
conflict is not resolved 10 years from now, the Philippines will be
no more,” he warned. He observes that at present, armed conflict
seems to have been accepted as a given, a fact of life that is here
Suerte, who said he wrote the
papers not as a military official but as a Filipino, recommended
stopping the armed response, redefining security, and pushing for
peace processes, governance reforms and accelerated development.
Stopping the armed response
does not mean putting a stop to operations, he clarified. “But
operations should secure the communities and protect/enhance
economic activities. Soldiers should stop looking for imagined
enemies and relying on the number of enemies killed as killing is a
symptom of failure. Body counts increase the measurement of failure,”
The colonel further noted
that ISO (internal security operation) has become the soldier’s
life but that the increase in the number of rebels puts a question
on the government’s strategy. He wondered why the government has
to preoccupy itself with the armed group that represents only about
0.0005 percent of the country’s population.
“Why not attend to the many
others? Are they (rebels) really a threat to our security or we just
want (to keep) our jobs?” he posed to the participants.
“We send men to war. Why
not send men for peace. Peace is a condition that can be imposed.
War, on the other hand, we wait for to end. Why are there no peace
warriors? If we put the rebels in a dilemma (by not engaging in
armed response), they have to explain (their) continued armed
struggle,” he argued.
He added that security should
mean seven elements – economic, food, health, environmental,
personal, community and political security.
Aside from engaging the
participants in critical discussions about policies governing the
security sector and imparting skills in conflict management, the
training also touched on philosophical themes. For instance, Chris
Sumajit, of the Theosophical Society of the Philippines, took the
participants to the necessary yet rare journey toward inner peace.
His input combined the psychological, physiological and experiential
ways of attaining peace at the level of self, including managing
stress, controlling anger and getting rid of emotional baggage.
“Anger is poison. Find the
source of your anger,” he said.
One participant could not
help asking Sumajit if the things he said did not contradict their
work as soldiers. “Most of us here are in the military. Will this
actually help us in actual situations? Is it possible not to have
baggage after you kill an enemy in combat?”, he asked.
“If you shoot the enemy
with anger in your heart, you will carry it to your death. You can
do it without hatred, just for the sake of duty. There is no emotion
involved so there is no baggage,” Sumajit replied.
Yet for all the seriousness
of the whole thing, there were light moments too. The participants
enjoyed the simulation exercise where each of them played a role in
a fictitious town marred by political squabble, social unrest,
non-delivery of basic services, and other problems. They also had
fun together the night before the last day of the training, in an
after-dinner socials where everybody had a chance to sing a song or
two. After the last bottle of beer has been emptied, they huddled
for the closing prayers after belting out John Lennon’s “Imagine”.