Efforts in fostering peace in Muslim Mindanao continue to reverberate through the European Union-funded project Democratic Party Development (DEPAdev) as participating organizers Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) address that a genuine political party system is the most diplomatic path to aid the conflict-affected areas.
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With the project consortium’s support in civil groups, the peace-advocacy entities believe that the indigenous communities must also be given power and be included in the decision-making in the future Bangsamoro entity.
Hendrik Mollenhauer, DEPAdev project head, said that this project is also meant to empower underrepresented groups like the indigenous people (IP).
“We would like to include all the groups which have the rights to getting involved in politics, might it be religious groups or indigenous communities that we feel should also be represented in the future Bangsamoro,” Mollenhauer said.
The KAS team, along with its longtime partner organization IAG, was already involved in projects with marginalized groups in Mindanao, even before DEPAdev came into the picture.
The development project follows an inclusive approach in supporting their partner organizations, including IP-led beneficiaries such as the Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference (OTLAC) and the Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Organization (TLWO), enabling them to pursue their own advocacies with the tools that DEPAdev provide that are in line with their interests and demands.
However, with DEPAdev project’s initiatives to empower civil and marginalized communities in the Southern Philippines, the project itself can give no guarantee for people to “start” a party or to run in elections.
“It’s a process of things you can learn. You can be a marginalized group, but if you’re willing to learn, then we’ll require the tools that take to be your own advocate in public life,” said KAS Philippines Representative Benedikt Seemann.
In stressing the advantages of a political party system, Seemann added it’s the quality of political parties that is a good indicator for democracy, in which even smaller local groups such as OTLAC and TLWO have the chance to contribute to the region’s progress.
“If you’ve ever come to a point where you see that the most important interests in public life are being represented by real parties, whether that is five, ten or 20, it doesn’t matter,” Seemann said.
With operations beginning in February 2016, the DEPAdev project team has also reached out to various groups and movements like political parties United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) and Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) as well as the youth sector represented by Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) to be included in their political training activities.