The fear that the global war on terrorism (GWOT), launched in reaction to 9/11’s regime of post-modern terrorism, would lead to repressions and suicidal entropy of democracies appear to be materializing, judging from the lament of CSOs. Al-Qaeda, some have said, is the new Communism whose real objective is the political apocalypse of Western societies, while hiding behind the cloak of religious protestations. A study noted that many terrorists are motivated not by economic poverty but a disgust with local political conditions that marginalize them.

“Many lives have been sacrificed in the altar of counterterrorism, destroyed democratic space, curtail basic human rights, and posed threats to development work among many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and CSOs,” Peace Presidential Adviser Jesus Dureza admitted in his speech at the start of the Davao conference. The government’s legal weapon against terrorism, the so-called Human Security Act of 2007, is seen as dangerously repressive and, in fact, has largely proven inutile. The government, Dureza said, is moving away from the GWOT approach, in favor of treating terrorism as not just a security problem but as an insurgency, and therefore political in nature.

Prof. George Lopez of the Notre Dame University of Indiana, USA, one of the resource persons in the conference, was quoted by Mindanews as saying “that even the US, the main proponent of the global war on terror, is slowly realizing that the military approach against terrorism ‘is failing’ and that Pentagon is considering applying a ‘new military doctrine because military responses are ill-advised.’”

“We must be aware that counterterrorism has deep cultural and religious undertones, especially when developed countries like the US deals with countries in the South,” Mindanews quoted Lopez, who urged that “participatory security and development for marginalized communities is the only defense against terrorism.”

“Our vision of national security must be people-centered”, Commission on Human Rights-IX Regional Director Atty. Jose Manuel Mamauag said in his talk at the conference. “The perennial need for national human rights institutions to work remains paramount to keep our government on the straight and narrow” path, he said, echoing the human rights paradigm that most CSOs in Mindanao favor in doing community development and peace-building work.

Philippine politicians, Atty. Mamauag said, will even stoop so low as to use national security as an excuse to violate human rights – like extra-judicial killings – for their vested interests or political survival. “The NGO’s role of government or international community watchdog is becoming increasingly difficult in the current hardened security climate”, said one of the conclusions reached in the Davao conference.

Among the other conference outcomes are that CTM is used for the abusive exploitation of natural resources for commercial purposes, and that funding by donor organizations are becoming more restrictive due to suspicions that their money could be used to support terrorism.

The conference was attended by 50 or so members of CSOs in Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Uganda and the Philippines as well as religious, academic, and international organization members. It was organized by the Western Mindanao State University, Mindanao Peaceweavers, Initiatives for International Dialogue (IDD), and a Dutch foundation called Cordaid.

How CTM is conceptualized or defined allow governments to conveniently use it for State repression, or to force CSOs to bow to the dictates of agencies or national agenda. In stead, they proposed, “CTMs need to be conceptualized and operationalized from a community and human security perspective.” Otherwise, they added, “CTMs cause delays and hinder addressing systematic structures of injustice and conflict”.

Binky Palm-Dallupan, who reported the case experiences of CSOs in Malaysia, said Mindanews, pointed out Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA) legitimizes state oppression against vocal CSOs while engaging in a state-sponsored propaganda aimed at suppressing democratic space.

Noting that CSOs in Southeast Asia share similar problems, Dallupan said CSOs need to come up with pro-active strategies to challenge the security paradigms of governments which include a “continuing dialogue with the military and possible training with them on CTMs.” A regional movement will also “enhance collective advocacy among nations needing international support and establish linkages and networking within the region,” Mindanews reported.

Such international support was voiced out by Peaceweavers convenor Fr. Angel Calvo to representatives of European embassies in a dialogue with them and Philippine government officials. The dialogue, held in Manila on May 29-30, formed the second part of the conference.

Fr. Calvo called on the European Union (EU) not to limit its intervention in Mindanao to economic and community development programs and human rights problems but to also take a more direct role in the stalled peace process. He asked the EU, he told PeaceWorks, not to leave the peace process all to the hands of the Organization of Islamic Conference, which has held a kind of franchise since 1972 to the effort to find a peaceful settlement to the Bangsamoro question. He noted that some European countries have had a record of recent successes in settling internecine disputes.

CTM and GWOT parties have on and off accused the Moro mujaheedins of involvement or responsibility in terroristic activities in Mindanao. The bombing last May 29 of the USAID-funded AMORE office in Zamboanga, in which two civilians were killed, was ascribed by the police to the MILF, who quickly issued a denial.

The CSOs’ in their dialogue with government officials in Manila presented several suggestions and policy proposals, including questions about the role of US soldiers in Mindanao. Fr. Calvo said he was disappointed by the mostly lame – almost zero – response of the officials to bold and clear-eyed recommendations that the conference produced.

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