Organized by Focus on the Global
South, the Institute for Popular Democracy and Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party
In the aftermath of the
September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States declared an open season on
"terrorists", their supposed sympathizers and other perceived security
threats. It is in this context that the United States has deployed its troops
to Basilan, claiming that the Abu Sayyaf has links to the Al Qaeda network.
The Philippine government has been more than eager to arrange for joint military
"training" operations, its armed forces having failed to root out
a motley (though savage) gang of around 100 bandits.
While terrorism is indeed
a grave concern among all nations, the United States’ aggressive military stance
is also an alarming development that threatens global stability. Its openly
declared intentions to mount unilateral military actions against specific countries
(the "Axis of Evil", for example) have profound implications on the
global political climate and the internal security conditions of these target
In the Philippines, for
instance, American military involvement in the form of the Balikatan joint military
"training" exercise has already caused much upheaval due to the long
history of US intervention in this former American colony. The situation is
especially controversial because Mindanao is the site of long-running religious
conflicts among Moros and Christians. US military presence in a battle zone
seems to make direct combat operations by US troops almost inevitable despite
bilateral agreements setting the parameters for the "training" exercise.
US military intervention
in Basilan therefore threatens to 1) cause massive deaths and displacement of
civilians in an already devastated and impoverished region 2) exacerbate existing
religious conflicts in the whole of Mindanao and erode the gains of ongoing
peace processes and 3) undermine the country’s hard-won sovereignty and democratic
The war in Basilan, therefore,
is a critical international issue. First, because the rights and welfare of
all victims of war are the concern of all. Second, because Basilan is the prototype
of impending US operations in its "global war against terror" and
therefore warrants careful scrutiny by the international community.
The Peace Mission was conceived
in late 2001, just as the United States had embarked on "retaliatory attacks"
against Afghanistan. There was deep alarm among
civil society groups around the world regarding the massive human and social
costs of the indiscriminate air attacks. The initial plan was to send an independent
team of peace, development and human rights workers to document the aftermath
of the air bombardment in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan objective
had yet to achieve its supposed objectives (i.e., the arrest of Ossama bin Laden
and top Al Qaeda operatives) when the United States set its sights on the Philippines
as the "second front" in its global anti-terrorist offensive. In his
State of the Nation address last January 30, President Bush reiterated the US’
intention to conduct military offensives against "breeding grounds of terrorism".
This was immediately followed by the formalization of the Balikatan "joint
training exercise" agreement and the deployment of 660 US troops to southwestern
These developments ignited
the resolve of international social movements and peace organizations to inquire
into the Philippine situation. It was then decided that a Peace Mission comprising
of peace and human rights advocates, parliamentarians, conflict-resolution experts
and scholars be sent to the Philippines to make an independent assessment of
the social, political and economic consequences of the conflict in Basilan.
The objectives of the Peace
Mission to Basilan are:
1) to investigate reports
of civilian casualties, arbitrary arrests and displacement of affected communities
in Basilan, Zamboanga and central Mindanao
2) to assess the conduct
of joint US and Philippine military operations and their
impact on the Christian-Moro conflict and the Moro separatist struggle
3) to exchange information
and insights with local civil society organizations regarding security trends
and conflict situations in various regions of the world
4) to gather insights with
which to inform international initiatives towards peaceful conflict-resolution
Aijaz Ahmad is
an eminent Indian Muslim author and an expert on the cultural politics of Islam
in South and Southeast Asia. He holds the Rajiv Gandhi Professorial Chair at
the School of Social Sciences of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
and has published extensively on Islam and politics, Marxism and post-modern
discourse. He authored early pioneering works on the Moro struggle in the Philippines
and recently contributed to "Rebels, Warlords and Ulama", an analysis
of the interplay of religious and political forces in Mindanao (IPD-PCIJ 2000).
Walden Bello is
a professor of sociology and public administration at the University of the
Philippines, a prominent social activist and author of numerous works on the
Philippine economy, poverty and globalization. He is the director of Focus on
the Global South and the national chairperson of Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party.
is a journalist and former associate editor of The Guardian. She was a critical
voice in the British Platform against the Gulf War. She is currently conducting
a major report on women and conflict for the United Nations.
is the deputy director of Focus on the Global South. She holds advanced degrees
in international relations and development, education and urban sociology. She
is a former chair of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid Human Rights Commission.
Earl Martin is
a scholar on East Asia and an instructor at the Eastern Mennonite University
in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He lived in the Philippines for many years as the
Philippine representative of the Mennonite Church. He is the author of "Reaching
the Other Side: A Journal of Vietnam’s Postwar Transition" (Crown 1978)
and of various articles on peace struggles.
is a senior at the Focus on the Global South and a specialist in Islam in Southeast
Seiko Ohashi is
the international coordinator of the Asian Rural Alternatives, a network of
Asian rural women for food security and sustainable agriculture. She has spent
many years in the Philippines as the liaison officer for the Japan Committee
for the Negros Campaign, and is well versed in the history and dynamics of the
struggle for land in rural Philippines.
Lee Rhiannon is
a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council (Greens Party). Before being
elected into parliament, she worked in the social justice and environment movements
of Australia for nearly three decades. In 1998, she headed AID/WATCH, an organization
that monitors Australia’s overseas aid program. She has covered the labor beat
as a journalist and is a certified zoologist and botanist. A veteran campaigner
for a wide range of social issues, she still runs training workshops on advocacy
and campaign handling.
Bill Rolston is
a professor of sociology at the University of Ulster, Belfast, and a respected
commentator and activist in the Northern Ireland struggle. He participated in
the International Observers’ Mission for the first Cambodian elections and more
recently, in a similar mission to Bosnia.
Etta Rosales was
an educator and a pioneer of the human rights movement in the Philippines before
she entered the Philippine congress as the representative of Akbayan Citizens’
Action Party. Since her first term as a member of Congress, she has earned much
respect for her work as a progressive legislator and vocal critic of corruption
and patronage politics. She now chairs the congressional Committee on Human,
Civil and Political Rights.
is a member of the European Parliament and a prominent social activist. His
long involvement in international solidarity work has familiarized him with
various struggles for democracy, equity and peace worldwide.
is a professor of development studies and political economy at the University
of the Philippines, Manila and national chairperson of the Nuclear Free Philippines
Coalition. Over the last thirty years, he has been a leading figure in the struggle
against American military intervention and nuclear facilities. He has authored
four books on the US military facilities, Philippine-US security relations,
Philippine foreign policy and CIA operations in the Philippines.
Matti Wuori is
a member of the European Parliament (EP) and its standing committees on foreign
and legal affairs. He served as the Rapporteur of the EP’s Human Rights Commission
from 2000 to 2001 and as the vice president of the Joint Parliamentary Delegation
for Estonia. An expert on constitutional, human rights and environment law,
he is the president of Finland’s International Commission of Jurists, a former
president (1989-1992) of the Human Rights Committee of the Finnish Bar Association
and a founding member of the European Academy of Human Rights. At various times
during his distinguished career, he has been an advisor to South Africa’s Truth
and Reconciliation Commission, chairman of Greenpeace International and advisor
to various international organizations, including Amnesty International and
Doctors without Borders. He has lectured at a number of universities in Europe
and the US, among them the University of Helsinki and the George Washington
University. He has authored numerous studies and articles on human rights, governance,
environment and legal issues.