There is a state of war in Sulu right now. Fear and insecurity prevail despite efforts to bring back the situation to normalcy. A collective insecurity persists despite renewed promises of rehabilitation of houses and construction of roads and bridges. There is a raging cry for justice, peace and respect for human rights. The fact finding mission that was held on March 28 – 30, 2005, found that the humanitarian crisis holds the number of IDPs up to 9,879 families or 57,900 persons as of March 24, 2005. At the height of the fighting in February, almost 15% of the total population fled their homes and farms towards safer grounds. From the above figure, DSWD revealed that at least 10,000 IDPs still remain unserved.

Triggering the armed conflict is the killing of four residents of Sitio Baunu Ice, Barangay Kapuk Punggul, Maimbung in the early morning of February 1, 2005. Tal Padiwa, his wife Nurshida, their son Aldasir (14) and Salip Faisal Salim died from the shooting. While Almujayyal (7) was shot in the hand, and their 10 and 3 years old sons who were also inside the house during the shooting. Two soldiers from the Charlie Company of the 53rd IB were also killed.

The Manila Lobby Mission is part of Sulu Peace and Solidarity Mission that try to publish the team’ finding to the decision-maker at Manila by considering the relationship of this case to the conflict in Sulu, and it is necessary to call for an independent probe to hold the perpetrators accountable while in the same time, would allow witnesses to surface. Therefore, during their fact finding’ presentation at the Office of Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP), they propose the following recommendations:

1. For the government and the MNLF under the chairman of Nur Misuari to hold talks on the status and implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement on the Misuari issue and on the Sulu situation, the latter discussion to include the key leaders of the MNLF Misuari group in Sulu. For the parties concerned to reactivate the tripartite (GRP-OIC-MNLF) mechanism, including the Joint Monitoring Committee
2. For the government and the MNLF under the chairman of Nur Misuari to declare at least a temporary SOMO (suspension of military operations) or SOMA (suspension of offensive military actions) in Sulu. For the parties, in their talks on the Sulu situation, to explore cooperation in the interdiction of the criminal elements
3. For all concerned parties, including international humanitarian organizations, to ensure the effective protection, adequate relief, voluntary return, and sustainable rehabilitation of the IDPs in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID)
4. Conduct of an independent and competent investigation of the 1st February incident which sparked the February hostilities in Sulu, including the consolidation of all existing and available fact-finding reports, testimonies and evidentiary material
5. Undertake corrective and preventive action on human rights violations, including whatever possible action on recently documented cases in Sulu. Establish an office of the Commission of Human Rights in Sulu. Reinforce the prosecutorial and judicial system in Sulu for the handling of HRs complaints and cases
6. Promote and institutionalize education on HRs, UNGPID, international humanitarian law esp. with the AFP, PNP, MNLF under the chairman of Nur Misuari group in Sulu tapping for this purpose the CHR, ICRC, PNRC, national IHL committee and various HRs and humanitarian NGOs
7. For the constitutional principle of the supremacy of the civilian authority over the military to be adhered to both at the national level and in Sulu esp. on questions of war and peace. Matters of the peace processes, the MNLF question and Sulu peace and development should not be mainly left in military hands or determined by military minds
8. Achieve coherence, consistency and continuity in national policies on the peace process in general and on the Sulu situation in particular. Review the “road map for Sulu”, particularly as it relates to the MNLF problem
9. Require the active presence of the town and barangay officials pf Sulu for their effective action for peace and development including local conflict resolution/mediation efforts and livelihood/business initiatives
10. Maximize CS participation in Sulu peace and development efforts, esp. in addressing the conflict between the GRP and MNLF under the chairman of Nur Misuari group and in responding to the provincial executive/legislative agenda to rebuild Sulu.

What I learned from this activity is how to address advocacy at the level of hidden power at the same time to the level of visible power . The dynamic of controlling between who gets to the decisionmaking table and what gets on the agenda, exclude and devalue the concerns and representation of other less powerful groups. The group itself defined their successful to meet high level people, such as Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles; key government agencies, such as Office of Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP), military key leader, and also the MILF leader (during the fact-finding mission) as the critical success factor of the Manila Lobby Mission.