MedNet Celebrates 19 Years
•Pamitinan: Fighting over Protected Land• Reflections on Mediation•
This issue of The Mediator highlights the experiences of mediation trainees and MedNet’s 19 years of work advocating empowering dispute resolution/management processes in addressing community conflicts. Lessons learned in the application of mediation in various public disputes concerning resource uses, among others, encountered by our trainees are shared in this issue.
Mediation is inherent in our culture as Filipinos and as Asians. We always have “bridge builders” even in our families when conflicts arise. However, the systematization of its processes and approaches were developed in other advanced countries. MedNet’s pioneer trainers were trained in the U.S. over the years of MedNet’s work, the concepts and approaches were enriched by the practices and innovations of our trainees from different community and faith-based organizations who have been working in various advocacies-land, ancestral domain, fishery and marine resources, and urban housing – and in various contexts, as women and men who are farmers, fisherfolks, indigenous people, Moro, lay leaders, victims of disasters, among others.
This issue will have two main themes: reflections of the current batch of trainees within 2016 to 2019 Misereor-funded projects and those of some MedNet pioneer members who are animating the organization in their various capacities over the years.
Having worked as project coordinator of its first Misereor-funded project when MedNet started building its institutional work in 2003, until I left in mid-2012 as mediation specialist and then returned in March 2016 as its executive director, I am humbled by the gems of wisdom shared by various trainees and their contributions to the enrichment of our knowledge in community mediation. This experience inspired me to focus my dissertation on the involvement of women mediators in agrarian conflicts. But this is another story in the making.
Let me share with you the highlights of MedNet’s work in mainstreaming the use of mediation in community disputes.
In April 2003, my task as project coordinator was to establish partnerships with the Catholic Church in selected dioceses in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao through mediation training. I met with the bishops of the Diocese of Mati, Davao, Bukidnon, and Dipolog, and the Prelature of Ipil in Mindanao; the Diocese of Tagbilaran and the Archdiocese of Cebu in Visayas; and the Diocese of Lucena and Prelature of Infanta in Luzon.
The partnership with the Social Action Center of Infanta resulted in the conceptualization of a project that competed for funding in the first World Bank “Panibagong Paraan” Innovative Ideas competition. Of the 1,800 entries, MedNet’s was chosen among the 61 that were chosen and given a grant by Australian Aid. The project resulted in the resolution of an inter-municipal tricycle dispute between the towns of Infanta and Gen. Nakar, conflicts among poultry contract – growing projects in Infanta after the killer flood of 2004, and the creation of an inter-municipal dispute resolution mechanism called STAR REINA, which stands for Samahan ng mga Tagapamagitan ng Real, Infanta and Nakar.
In the Prelature of Ipil, the partnership resulted in the mentoring of the Interfaith Religious Leaders of R.T. Lim town, where they were able to resolve a dispute between the Department of Public Works and Highways and owners of a lot affected by a road project. This experience caught the interest of Chinese mediators from Xinjiang province of China who flew to R.T. Lim and met with the trained Interfaith Religious leaders and visited the disputed highway.
By the way, coordinating their exposure to Zamboanga Sibugay was a challenging job because aside from security concerns, all of them, except for their program coordinator, did not know how to speak English and many of them were Muslims who only eat Halal food (I ended up buying these from carenderias owned by Muslims). The trainees were accompanied by MedNet member Emeritus and former Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Dinky Soliman, who had a project with them.
In the Diocese of Bukidnon, the partnership resulted in the training of lay leaders from the basic ecclesial communities and expanded to the training of Barangay Lupon members of 11 barangays of Manolo Fortich town.
Trained mediators from the church were able to resolve a conflict related to water that involved the Sumilao farmers’ cooperative and a barangay. When a proposed 300-MV dam project threatened to affect 26 barangays in four towns of Bukidnon, the Diocese and MedNet partnered in the conduct of conflict mapping that ultimately led to an initial mediation of data-related conflicts. Some trainees from the area did share their mediation knowledge and increased their flock.
In these three areas, the trainees employed both their faith perspective and knowledge of mediation.
In Metro Manila and Rizal province, MedNet’s partnership with the groups of informal settlers enabled MedNet to facilitate intra-organizational conflicts between and among organizations of informal settlers living along the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) road in Quezon City and in Pagri Hills, Mayamot, Antipolo City, while recent partnerships enabled MedNet to understand that it is possible for communities to embark on a people’s plan to build in city relocations, with the challenge now shifting to conflicts in the management of the estate, in this case a medium rise building. This is an exciting development, although many of them still face eviction, and the anxieties of displacement and uncertainties of relocation breed many conflicts among them as well as between them and government agencies.
In 2008, MedNet started training members of the Lupong Tagapamayapa (village justice committees), the Philippines’ community-based access to justice mechanism most accessed by the poor. Trainings were given to the Lupon members of Mercedes in Daet, Camarines Sur. In Quezon City, Lupon members in Barangay UP Campus in Quezon City, Sauyo and Krus na Ligas underwent training and continuing capacity building through case sharing.
Partnerships with the Department of Interior and Local Government in these areas were also established.
It is also noteworthy to share that MedNet, emboldened to explore new avenues of community mediation, volunteered itself to facilitate the conflict between a barangay (San Lorenzo, Norzagaray) within Angat watershed and the National Power Corporation. I was part of the team that worked on this case, and it was a relief to see them eventually become partners in joint forest protection.
In the areas cited above where indigenous peoples were involved, partnerships between their respective organizations and the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples were forged.
In areas affected by armed conflict, MedNet has been cautious in assisting, but the opportunities were opened through partners from the CO Multiveristy in Mindanao. In 2010 onwards, MedNet members were involved as coaches and in some instances as mediators in some cases related to rido or clan feuds. Later on, trainees from Sulu, in partnership with the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, were able to help address rido conflicts in their area. In a chance meeting with two of the key leaders, they were so thankful to MedNet.
This year, MedNet through its partnership with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has already trained about 200 members of local government units at the barangay and municipal levels, community leaders including some religious leaders, and scholars in Marawi City, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao.
In 2017, MedNet explored new areas to understand how disaster-related conflicts are addressed, thus it partnered with survivors of Yolanda in Tacloban and the respective affected barangays; and in the Cordillera Autonomous Region, to understand how tribe-related conflicts are addressed in areas where indigenous justice mechanisms still work. We shall be sharing the experiences of our trainees from these areas in succeeding issues of The Mediator.
MedNet has spread its wings slowly and gradually. The challenge is to continuously harvest the lessons learned and elevate these to new learnings, thus contributing to new theories in mediation in the Philippine context. In 2013, MedNet expanded its understanding of mediation to other frameworks and approaches to help communities in finding solutions to their conflicts which are culturally appropriate, gender sensitive and above all, empowering to all of them.
MedNet thanks MISEREOR, the German Catholic Bishops’ Organization for Development Cooperation and KZE Katholische Zentralstelle Fur Entwicklunghilfe E.V (KZE) (Catholic Central Agency for Development Aid) for its continued trust in the work of MedNet in promoting community mediation as a means to access justice.
Lastly, to you dear readers, help us spread the news that an empowering mediation and other conflict intervention process work!