What business does a civil society organization have to dip its fingers in the inherently complex, usually frustrating but definitely challenging endeavor of communal security and crime-fighting?
If that do-gooder exists in a turbulent city like Zamboanga, the imperatives are overwhelming: the jails are overflowing with illegal drug pushers and users, several thousand remain displaced by a recent war from their homes and communities contributing to social cancer and criminalities in the streets, a large number of loose firearms lead to frequent homicides and murders many of which are unsolved, anyone can get kidnapped in a flash, and the public discourse about the Bangsamoro peace process are fast, loose and dangerously emotional rather than rational.
In the face of such unbearable state of being, the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) invited the local police and military authorities to a meeting held last Tuesday, June 16, to explore the feasibility of initiating a forum for continuing consultation and the setting of tactical responses to emerging security and peace problems and issues. The police regional office and city directorate and Western Mindanao Command-AFP and Task Force Zamboanga sent representatives to the meeting, which was also attended by members of the Golden Crescent Consortium of Peace-Builders and Affiliates led by Prof. Ali Yacub, Al Haj.
ZABIDA president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF opened the meeting by reiterating the fact that the NGO has been a regional convenor of the AFP’s Integrated Peace and Security Program (IPSP) through its leadership role in the work of IPSP’s Bantay Bayanihan security reform and monitoring component. Through its consortium partner Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), ZABIDA is also doing intensive projects in peace advocacy including the Mindanao peace process, good governance and other related peace-building. PAZ serves as the secretariat of the years-old Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP), which is into communal peace-making through interfaith action.
Fr. Calvo explained that over and above the problems of drug-related crimes and other law and order challenges, the forum will seek to address the need for well-rounded human security of displaced and neglected families. ZABIDA has been helping the 2013 war victims through several projects and activities. The attack is also symptomatic of the critical role of the city in the complicated and far-ranging Bangsamoro peace process.
The police and military participants discussed what their respective units are doing to fight crime and protect the city, which has been continuously under a red alert status for almost two years running. The police said crime-fighting is hindered by a lack of cooperation on the part of civilians.
Fr. Calvo pointed out that the normalization program under the GPH-MILF peace agreement will have a major effect on the city, partly because the program’s demobilization will also depend on the reduction of armed threats in the region, such as that which springs from the situation of loose firearms. The grievance of city residents caused by the violence of the war should also be in the agenda of the restorative justice that forms one of the agreement’s normalization plans, Fr. Calvo said. Also, the city being the regional business hub will play an important gateway role in the fast-approaching ASEAN economic market integration starting next year. But geographically lying between the city and its nearest ASEAN neighbors of Indonesia and Malaysia are the Bangsamoro provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The city would miss the integration’s full windfall if it continues to be ambivalent and distrustful towards the peace process. Moreover, Dr. Grace Rebollos pointed out that the ASEAN integration will make the city not only easily accessible to tariffless imports of commercial goods but also to people who may include agents of violence. That surely will add another security threat to the city.
The confreres agreed to establish the forum through the necessary memoranda of agreement. The forum is also seen to eventually link up with other bodies and agencies that directly do peace and security jobs.
“We are not messiahs”, Dr. Rebollos remarked during the meeting. But, beloved Gotham City here we come. (ZABIDA)