I am so inspired by the positive response of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the incoming administration and their faith that the decades-long peace process can be accelerated under the leadership of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Suddenly talking about peace is exciting again and ending war once and for all in this country is no longer that remote a possibility.
We need to sustain this renewed interest in talking peace by engaging the new generation of Filipinos and building their capacities to become effective peacebuilders. We have spent too much time, money, energy and lives already on waging war. We have trained countless of young men and women through the years to do battle and to resolve conflicts through violence. It is time that we shift our investments as a nation from waging war to building peace.
As part of the Board of Directors of the Kahayag Foundation for Development Support Communications, Inc., a Davao-based non-government organization established in 1976, I helped develop an innovative peace project engaging young people, ages 15 to 35 — PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC. I am very proud to be part of a board that include two of the most influential people in our country’s peace process – Ms. Irene M. Santiago, who is one of only eight percent of women in the world who have been formal peace negotiators, and incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and my Mindanao Times publisher, Atty. Jesus Dureza.
So what is PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC?
PeaceTOC – inspired by “peace talk,” referring to formal peace negotiations – is an acronym that stands for the three components of the strategy for engaging young peacebuilders: Teach, Organize, and Connect.
Through PeaceTOC, a new generation of peacebuilders will challenge the traditional concepts of masculinities exhibited through violent or dominating relations with others, and provide alternative narratives, definitions, and scripts that promote non-violence and empathy.
Under “Teach,” young people will learn new strategies, conflict resolution skills and practical tools for building peace that they can use personally and politically. Going to war and being a combatant needs a lot of training. If we are serious about peace, we must also train people how to become effective peacebuilders.
Under “Organize,” young people will create peace circles in schools, workplaces, churches, and communities as well as in existing organizations, social clubs, and political parties. These peace circles will serve as a more attractive alternative to violent extremism (street gangs, terrorist cells, and the like) for young people who feel disengaged, marginalized, and angry. These peace circles will implement creative activities that promote nonviolence and a culture of peace and make the youth feel that they are connected and they belong to something meaningful and bigger than themselves.
Under “Connect,” young peace advocates and activists will be connected to one another via social media through PeaceBOC (sounds like “Facebook”), a hip app for young peacebuilders. This will link all the peace circles as well as their individual members to one another.
Capitalizing on the popularity of Facebook among Filipino youth, PeaceBOC is also an acronym that stands for Peace Buddies Organizing for Change. Inspired by the traditional “barkadahan” or buddy culture, members of the social network (online or offline) will call themselves “peace buddies” or “peace bok” (“bok” is a Filipino slang for “buddy” or “dude” which originated from the Philippine Military Academy’s term for one’s bunkmate or “mistah.”
PeaceBOC will provide a readily accessible platform for showcasing and developing youth involvement in peacebuilding through various multimedia content (short films, music videos, podcasts, toolkits, computer games, online store, e-books, etc.). It will provide a vehicle for youth participation and a safe space for them to exchange ideas, thoughts and feelings as well as launch initiatives, projects, and activities, and even blogs. It will create an online community of young Filipino peacebuilders within the country as well as overseas who can be harnessed for collective action, which could lead to the formation of a social movement that can be a powerful lobby group to promote youth engagement in peace and governance.
As the slogan of the first and original RODY (Recognizing Outstanding Davao Youth) Project, President Duterte’s flagship youth development program, which I developed and created when he was mayor of Davao, goes: “No more waiting, the youth must lead now!”
So it is my honor to humbly propose to Secretary Dureza and Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III, that we upscale and mainstream PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC nationwide. It is another innovative project that was created and piloted in Davao City that could be adopted in the entire country in support of the peace process.
An investment in young people ensures sustainable peace. After all, they are not just a sector, they are already the majority.