We, the women leaders and representatives of the women in the Asia-Pacific region to the International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission to Basilan and Mindanao, express our solidarity to the people of Basilan especially the women, the children, and the elderly as the island province is facing the biggest challenge to their collective community life especially to their peace and security condition.

Statement of the International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission to Basilan and Mindanao, 10-14 August 2007

(1) We, the women leaders and representatives of the women in the Asia-Pacific region to the International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission to Basilan and Mindanao, express our solidarity to the people of Basilan especially the women, the children, and the elderly as the island province is facing the biggest challenge to their collective community life especially to their peace and security condition.

(2) The tragic incident last July 10, 2007 in Basilan, an island province south of Zamboanga City in Mindanao, that resulted in the killings of a Muslim cleric (imam) and 14 Marines soldiers, 10 of whom were beheaded and mutilated, following an encounter with forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has caused much alarm and concern over its dire implications to the peace and security condition in Basilan and to the over-all peace process in Mindanao.

(3) As the sabers of war rattle, with undetermined numbers of battle-ready Marine contingents deployed to the predominantly Muslim island province, thousands of civilians are now displaced while widows, sisters, daughters and orphans wallow in anguish. If war happens, the victims will again certainly be countless.

(4) Thus we express concern about the effect of armed conflicts on the women and their families, and at the same time affirm how women take care of their families and the community, and cope and survive in such situation.

(5) Relentless in our pursuit for just peace in the light of July 10 tragedy, we, the delegates to the International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission in Basilan and Mindanao, collectively call for the following:

(6) We call on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to immediately resume the stalled peace talks as the first significant step in resolving the Basilan crisis. The importance of the resumption of talks between the two parties cannot be over-emphasized as a normalizing and stabilizing factor on the ground, as both parties can effectively address and resolve contentious issues surrounding the July 10 Basilan tragedy at the negotiating table. At the same time, we also call for enhancement of the role of women in the peace process and of the need to highlight the women’s role in, but not limited to, health, education, and post-conflict reconstruction activities.

(7) We also call on the political personalities in the island province to help avert the renewed outbreak of hostilities, which will have dire consequences to the Mindanao peace process, by coming together in a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. It cannot be denied that issues related to politics are among the issues that contribute to the deterioration of the peace and security condition in the island province. It is time for all Basilenos, regardless of their political color and persuasion, to unite and set aside all political differences to save the island province from finally losing all it has gained during the years it has been peaceful.

(8) Fully aware of the need for the rule of law especially in crisis such as in Basilan, we call on the authorities in the judiciary to exercise prudence in producing the list of suspects to be arrested in order to be brought to the bar of justice. The passion for the rule of law must also be tempered with the desire to avoid miscarriage of justice in the process, for it is utterly dangerous to name suspects who are even dead or not around during the incident, as claimed by many of those we interviewed on the ground.

(9) As much as the people want to know the truth, we earnestly appeal to the media to help in averting the war and ease the tension by truth-telling, not just news-telling. Instead of painting the images of war, the media community must help project what the people are doing in order to address the conflict situation.

(10) Cognizant of our role in helping alleviate the situation in Basilan, we, the Mission delegates, commit to spread to our respective countries the real situation and its attendant issues on the ground, as we commend the non-government organizations in the island province led by women who are very visible in all peacebuilding initiatives, which effectively portray women not just as victims but as active participants in the resolution of the conflict.

(11) That as we conclude the Mission, we continue to hope that conflict will not escalate so that displaced people can return to their homes, pick up the piecesĀ  and resume their normal lives.

(12) We reiterate our unswerving commitment to the belief that in the face of raging armed conflicts peace remains the braver option.

International Women’s Peace and Solidarity Mission to Basilan and Mindanao
13 August 2007

Members of the Mission:

  1. Mary Ellen O’Conner, New Zealand
  2. Elizabeth de Araujo, Timor Leste
  3. Watchara Yindeelarp, Thailand
  4. K. Leeta Shobani Fernando, Sri Lanka
  5. Meredith Joyce, Peaceboat-Japan
  6. Anna Bowden, Australia
  7. Joji Felicitas B. Pantoja (Memmonite Central Committee Canada)
  8. Karen Tanada (GZO Peace Institute; Mindanao Solidarity Network)
  9. Sr. Vida Cordero SFIC (Franciscan Movement for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation)
  10. Atty. Raissa Jajurie (Saligan-Mindanao; Bangsamoro Lawyers Network)
  11. Baileng Mantawil (Mindanao Peoples Caucus)
  12. Fatmawati Salappudin (Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women Association)
  13. Fatima PirĀ  Allian (Nisa Ul Haqq fi Bangsamoro)
  14. Nida P. Dans ( Mindanao Commission on Women)
  15. Atty. Mary Ann Arnado (Bantay Ceasefire)
  16. Ruby Rose Lora (Initiatives for International Dialogue)
  17. Memen Lauzon-Gatmaytan (Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-SEA)