Maguindanao community leaders now ‘barangay justice advocates’ PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 11:48

Officials are confident they can push forward with ease President Aquino’s Southern peace process and other domestic development initiatives with the help of hundreds of volunteers from Maguindanao’s 36 towns as barangay justice advocates (BJAs).

The Department of Interior and Local Government in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu already committed to help empower the BJAs in the province  to hasten their monitoring of government socio-economic activities in their villages, under the Barangay Justice for Peace Project (BJPP) of the vaunted Gerry Roxas Foundation.

Lawyer Makmod Mending, Jr., who is the regional secretary of DILG-ARMM, said the goal of the BJPP is to promote “community peace” by training community volunteers to become BJAs to enable them to effectively help address domestic security concerns.

Mending, however, said the BJAs in Maguindanao and other parts of the autonomous region would have to include in their volunteer missions “extra duties” such as monitoring projects designed to complement the Mindanao peace process.

Hundreds of BJAs, mostly incumbent barangay officials, converged in Cotabato City last week for a special brainstorming session on how they can help dispense a strong justice system in their respective turfs under the BJPP.

Hataman and Mangudadatu both helped organize the BJPP forum, convinced of its positive, long-term impact to the government’s peace-building thrusts in the province.

The Gerry Roxas Foundation, in coordination with local government units across the country, already trained and mobilized more than 15,000 BJAs in the last 15 years.

The roles of BJA volunteers include the peaceful resolution of domestic conflicts, in coordination with security authorities and LGUs; and educate people on the importance of the barangay justice system, as provided for by the Local Government Code.

The BJJP was first tested in Maguindanao from 2009-2012, according to Mending.

The initial batch of trained BJAs in the province achieved a 92 percent conflict resolution output; with 1,700 conflicts resolved amicably during the period.

Hataman and Mangudadatu both agreed it is important to expand the BJJP project and enlist more BJAs owing to the unique socio-economic and political settings of Maguindanao and other provinces of ARMM.

Hataman called on the BJAs present in the forum to see Mending anytime for their operational concerns.

“Apart from Secretary Mending, who is a lawyer, we have many other lawyers in the regional government and different civil society organizations helping us promote good governance in the ARMM that can help these BJAs pursue their peace-building missions in their barangays,” Hataman said.

Mending said the participants to their BJJP peace and development forum here last week readily acknowledged that apart from the regular justice advocacy thrusts they are to embark on as BJAs, they also need to focus attention on how they can help in furthering the government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The MILF has an on-going peace talks with the national government, which started January 7, 1997.

The rebel group has bastions in most of Maguindanao’s 36 towns.