Bukidnon town cited for local peace efforts

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News Dispatch / January 13, 2012) – The Bukidnon Provincial Government cited the Municipality of Damulog, along Bukidnon’s boundary with North Cotabato, for its unique peace-building initiatives in 2011.

The award was given to Damulog Mayor Romeo Tiongco recently during the
January convocation program of the Capitol. The award was facilitated
by the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Damulog town also won as the “grand winner” in the smaller towns’
category for outstanding peace and order council in the province. The
provincial government gave P50,000 and a plaque to the winner.

Ronelo Alvarez, DILG provincial director, told MindaNews that Tiongco
initiated local peace efforts with local commanders of the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front when he assumed into office in 2007.
He added that the initiative brought peace in barangays in Damulog in
Bukidnon and barangays in President Roxas and Carmen, both in North
Cotabato.

Before, residents in Damulog and in the villages of Libpas, Muleta,
Kialom, and Pasorubio, experienced harassments from the rebels.

For decades residents in those barangays felt they were not reached by
government, Tiongco said via telephone.

He said he treated the peace and order problem in the area not as a
military problem but a political and social problem. He said he pushed
ahead with a peace plan that did not rely with military and instead
did creative dialogue. He said this meant going to the villages
unarmed espousing peace talks informally.

“We agreed in the talks that to address the peace and order problem we
don’t’ need to use arms, we will talk about whatever the problems
were,” he added.

He said they promoted “the new soldiers for peace” in his dialogue. He
added that his government agenda amid the peace and order problem
became “feeding the hungry,” “heal the sick,” “educate the
illiterate,” and build infrastructure projects” connecting villages.

“We did this without choosing people or geographical boundaries,” he added.
Tiongco have been selected among 21 fellows for the Mindanao Bridging
Leaders Program (MBLP), under the Bridging Leadership Fellows Program
of the Asian Institute of Management.

Alvarez said choosing to serve even beyond Damulog was one reason why
the town’s peace and order council was cited. He said because the
mayor “went beyond the boundary”, they were able to build peace in the
area.

He added that Tiongco, in 2007, extended services to the barangays,
which did not belong to Damulog anymore just so there will be peace in
the boundary.

Tiongco attributed the peace in the area today to the dialogue they started.
“If we are committed to peace, the MILF in the area is 10 times more
committed to peace,” he added.

He cited the efforts of both Maguindanao and Dungoanon-Manobo people
in the Muleta-Pulangi area to keep the peace despite three instances
when the situation could have escalated to hostilities. (Walter I.
Balane/Bukidnon News)

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