One of the most promising developments in peacemaking recently has been the exploration of the use of the eight pillars model of positive peace, as developed by IEP, in an increasing number of areas where violent conflict has prevailed. In this case study of the district of Paquibato in Davao City, the regional capital of Mindanao, Irene Santiago describes the successful application of the pillars model in the innovative project called Peace 911.
Paquibato covers almost a third of the area of Davao City. The ancestral domain of the Ata tribe covers 67,00 hectares. Many adults talk about not knowing anything else but violent conflict since the 60s under the Marcos martial law with atrocities committed by both the military and the New People’s Army (NPA). Concerned about lives and opportunities lost, the Mayor formed the Davao City Advisory Committee on Peace and Development (DC PEACE-DEV) to engage in local peacebuilding.
Earlier this year, the Mayor of Davao City, Philippines, Sara Duterte Carpio, took the hands of four children and together they pressed the switches that sent the siren wailing. It signaled the end of the emergency in Paquibato district, an area that for more than 40 years had been wracked by violent conflict. The ceremony on May 25, 2019 celebrated one year of “Peace 911”, the local peacebuilding process initiated by the city covering 14 villages called barangays.
At local consultations, people in Paquibato spoke of fear and hunger as their most immediate concerns. Peace 911 addressed these by bringing in basic services long deprived Paquibato because of the violence. City agencies for agriculture, education, health, infrastructure, and others worked actively with the local officials. The military engaged in community activities such as feeding programs in schools and youth training seminars. Women’s groups were provided training on vegetable growing through container gardening.
A hotline that anybody could call for assistance, request or information was opened. Slowly, there were calls from rebels. Eventually 92 men and women surrendered, many bringing their firearms with them. Within nine months, the military declared Paquibato “clear” of the communist insurgency.
Having stopped the violence, a phase called “negative peace”, the barangays are now poised to begin building the “House of Peace”, depicted as a house with eight pillars. The eight pillars were translated into the local language Cebauno/Bisaya. At the first anniversary program, representatives of the different sectors and groups took turns to describe the “Eight Pillars of Peace,” the framework that would guide their initiatives in the next three years. These pillars, as identified by the Institute for Economics and Peace, are the following: a well-functioning government, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbors, sound business environment, high levels of human capital, equitable distribution of resources, and free flow of information. To show that gender equality is mainstreamed in all the pillars, it is depicted as the floor of the House of Peace.
All barangay halls will display the “Walo Ka Haligi sa Kalinaw” (8 Pillars of Peace) prominently. Using the “whole-of-city” approach, academic institutions, cooperatives, social enterprises, civic and professional clubs, and public campaigns are pitching in to engage in peacebuilding. In the meantime, Mayor Sara announced that Peace 911 will now expand to another 18 barangays in five districts of the city, bringing the total to 32 barangays.