Updates Per Peace Table

milf

Opening Statement of Ms. Irene M. Santiago Chair, GPH Implementing Panel for the Bangsamoro Accords 13 August 2016, Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Assalamu alaikum.

We are here to implement agreements already made.  It is a different phase of the long peace process. As I look across the room, I see that many of us have been on this road together. It is good to be among friends and fellow travellers to discuss how to bring peace in our land. 

I will be remiss if I do not say thank you to one man who has helped so much to bring us and the peace process to where we are today.  On behalf of the Government of the Philippines, I would like to express our sincerest gratitude to you, Tengku for, staying the course with us.  During the good times and the bad, you were there for us and with us. We have learned from you. Your kind and wise words have invariably helped us through. Thank you for your offer to be available in this new phase of the process.

For, indeed, we are at a very important juncture in the Philippines. We have a new President who, for the first time, comes from Mindanao, in fact from Davao. He was the only presidential candidate who understood what we really needed, who talked about rectifying historical injustice at the root of the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. President Rodrigo Duterte’s deep understanding of the problem, his strong political will, and unprecedented popularity mean that the conditions are most favourable to achieving peace in Mindanao, finally.  We do have our work cut out for us.

To show that government is very serious in this phase of implementing the peace agreement not only with the MILF but also with the MNLF, the composition of the panel is such that the highest executives of OPAPP have been appointed to sit in the panel. The members of the government panel are all undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of OPAPP.

On my right is Undersecretary Diosita “Jojo” Andot. Jojo headed the negotiating panel secretariat that was then headed by Secretary Dureza from 2001 – 2004. Then she was project director of Act for Peace, a UNDP project that worked with grassroots communities to develop and strengthen local capacities for peace. So Jojo has a lot of experience not only in peace talks, but also on the ground. Currently, she is the Chief of Staff of the Office of the Secretary at OPAPP and in charge of the peace and development program. So you have here a person who is in a strategic position to ensure the effective implementation of the peace agreement.

Then we have Undersecretary Nabil Tan who comes from Sulu.  We rely on his wide experience in the peace process as he was involved in the MNLF negotiations, and now in the MILF process. Nabil is the Undersecretary for the Peace Accords. Again, at the executive level, here is someone who has direct responsibility for the implementation of the agreement.

Rolly Asuncion is Assistant Secretary for Peace and Development.  He is responsible that all our development programs are peace-promoting and we are building a strong constituency for peace.  He comes with a strong and wide experience in community organizing.

And, finally, General Dickson Hermoso, who had been the head of the secretariat of the CCCH. Dick has been involved in getting the CCCH, AHJAG and IMT—all of these security mechanisms –off the ground and running well. In Dick, we have a military man who has been strongly committed to the primacy of the peace process. In fact, Gen. Hermoso is one of the people in the military who has convinced the others in the armed forces to make that a real commitment.

The composition of this panel shows the seriousness of the resolve of President Duterte to end the destructive conflict in Mindanao.

We would like to propose that, at this implementing stage, we go to a problem-solving mode. This means that if we have a problem, we will look at it, just as Kagi Murad said, jointly and collaboratively. I was happy to hear those words from him today because that is what exactly what will make our implementation effective and efficient. 

I am reminded of what Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting to get different results. We must bring imagination and creativity to the work before us. Why should we not be imaginative and creative? We are facing what is probably the greatest challenge of our lives: to make sure that we end the years of fighting in Mindanao as fast as we can. Jun Mantawil just told me: “Let us do it in two years.”  Yes. Let’s!

It will take all of our imagination and creativity.   It will also take all of the goodwill and solidarity of our peace partners from around the world. Those who had been with us in the peace process, especially Malaysia, those who are in the International Contact Group (ICG), Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), and all other mechanisms:  you have been part of this process and you will continue be part of the process. The roles might change because the phase has changed.  But it gives us comfort that you will be there. 

With solidarity of everyone, peace becomes a global endeavour, rather than an endeavour of one small group or groups in one small country.

So with that, I would like to commit our Panel to listening to all voices, especially those that have been voiceless, and to work collaboratively and creatively with the MILF and other stakeholders in our journey to a new imagined future for the Bangsamoro. We are looking forward to this implementation stage. We are happy to be working with the MILF Panel. We thank the peace negotiators who came before us.  And thank you once again, Tengku.