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APPG on Women, Peace and Security: WPS in the Philippines – Examining the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for the Bangsamoro

Tuesday 26th April 2022– 2.30-3.45pm (UK summer time)

Baroness Fiona Hodgson introduced the event including the APPG.  She welcomed the focus on the comprehensive peace agreement for Bansamoro particularly as the Philippines is not an area the APPG have looked at before, partly because it is not a focus country for the UK NAP 1325.

Helen Rojas is the Chief of Staff of member of the Bangsamoro Parliament and Chair of the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission, Hadja Bainon Karon. Before that Ms. Rojas was the Head of the National Action Plan (NAP) Secretariat of the Office of the Presidential Advisor of the Peace Process and had helped to draft the Philippines NAP, the first action plan in Asia. As Chief of Staff Ms. Rojas led the team that co-ordinationed the first Bangsamoro regional action plan on WPS launched in October 2020 during the 20th anniversary of res 1325. This is the second cycle of the plan. The current report focusses on enhancing women in their position and enhancing the roles of women as well as addressing violence against women.  The Bangsamoro WPS has 4 pillars:

  1. Prevention and Protection- stops sexual violence against women and girls
  2. Empowerment and Participation
  3. Promotion and Mainstreaming- ensures the WPS agenda is mainstreamed and sustained in the budgets of different ministries including local gov
  4. Monitoring and Evaluation – seeks to document lessons learned, good practices, to ensure sustainability and to exact accountability of our duty bearer especially.

There is an implementation strategy of the plan to ensure it is implemented and translated into agency specific action plans. The plan has a budget of at least 5% of annual budget of each Ministry so the WPS commitments are integrated into the respective gender and development plan. The NAP is localized in the 5 provinces of the region and each has different plans on the main issues they have in their respective provinces. Their plan is being supported by international programme donors e.g. UN Women, UNFPA, Oxfam and IOM. Their other partners are civil society organizations implementing the agenda. The general action plan is from 2020-2022 so this is the last year of implementation of this plan and review is being prepared.   The next plan will last from 2023-2028.

In the Parliament there are 13 women MPs (out of 80) and the quality of their participation is very high. Various senior positions are held by women. There are gaps in implementation – the plan is a new political entity, employees are new, 90% employees have zero participation in WPS and they are still trying to raise awareness and understanding of agenda, which will take time.  In this third year of the report some progress has been made, so they are hopeful that in the next three years they will have success in advancing WPS in the region.

Judy Lubiano is a Programme Co-Ordinator for Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).   They started a programme in 2020 with two objectives – to offer their expertise and to ensure that commitments made are upheld.   There are two main components – the normalization and the political tracks. They are leading a programme supporting the delivery on the Bangsamoro Organic Law, funded through the UK Government’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). WFD’s work in the Bangsamoro addresses some of the most pressing areas of the transition, including:

  • Strengthening the Bangsamoro Parliament and developing the expertise of its members and staff;
  • Supporting the development of a political party system that first the new parliamentary frame and which allows for meaningful representation for all peoples of the Bangsamoro;
  • Supporting women political leaders in the Bangsamoro to work together to identify and influence policies and laws.

They focus on empowerment and participation.   The Bangsamoro government should support and implement gender –  and their plan has four pillars.

WFD Bangsamoro Programme (Phase 1)- May 2020 to March 2021- Bangsamoro Regional Action Plan on WPS (RAP_WPS), drafting and lobbying for the passage of the BARMM Gender and Development code, a women’s parliamentary caucus: a platform for elevating women’s security concerns in the legislature, support to review of Gender plans and budgets in the region.

WFD Bangsamoro Programme (Phase 2)- May 2021 to March 2022- From armed struggle to civic engagements: our work with the MILF’s Social Welfare Committee, the importance of involved women-led CSOs in the political transition, moving forwards sustainability: A Practical Guide to Drafting Gender Plans and Budgets for Bangsamoro Civil Servants

WFD work mainly focusses on the second pillar to ensure women are represented in the political sphere. This second phase, started last year, has engaged with the MILF which is the main party of the Bangsamoro peace process and they have also been working with women in civil society.  They have also commissioned a practical guide for a gender plan.

Phase 3 will look at the workplan with the MILF-SWC and work with the SWC safe spaces campaign.   It starts with a house to house campaign with different community leaders. The SWC are used to operating in the context of armed conflict. They ensure they are heard through the Bangsamoro. Through the different meetings they find there is some resistance with equality as women competing with men for government positions. They want the programme to be stake holder led. Even the most religiously conservative groups in the region agree women must have a voice.

Mavic Cabrera Balleza co-initiated the first National Action Plan (NAP)in Philippines. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GWNP)  collaborated to ensure women’s participation in peace negotiations as without the involvement of women almost half of post conflict situations lapse back into conflict within a decade. Guns are never silenced. In communities, young women and gender equality allies were leaders for peace.   The Bangsamoro ratification led to the formal institutionalization of the peace agreement into law.    Mavic’s first involvement in the Philippines was on the NAP, working with community elders, women’s organisations and youth organistions to provide the local perspective and  generating awareness about the the idea of a rebellion of transforming into a governance structure. One of the earlier concerns amongst municipalities is they would be marginalized in the sense that the funding they used to receive will be reduced in favor of the region. Fortunately, there was a lot of support from the Bangsamoro transition authority to ensure that the internal revenue allotment remained the same.   They are also confronted with other challenges – the Bangsamoro authority was about to work further but this was sidetracked by pandemic. They have supported local and youth organizations activities that promote social cohesion in their community and integrating support for participation of women. It is about generating awareness and conversation between local people and communities, not just having a piece of paper, and it needs investment from all.

Speakers took questions from the audience including: how are local women responding to the peace process? and what are women’s role in mobilization and how are women from minority communities supported in the BAN? Judy responded that generally, there was a lot of optimism at the start of the process. On the question of women in decommissioning, she added that in addition to those included in the decommissioning package, WFD also lent technical assistance to the drafting of a legislation for “Bangsamoro Veteran Mujahideen/Mujahidah Bill” which MP Aida Silongan (who is also the head of MILF-SWC) is pushing for in parliament. Mavic added that there is a serious concern as women and those in civil society are overlooked. Helen mentioned that participation has only increased from 106 to 150, which is still very low.

Baroness Fiona thanked everyone for their participation and closed the meeting.

*this meeting was not organised by GAPS.

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