QUEZON CITY—The Administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III will turn over to the next President a peace process that is better-positioned than it was six years ago, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles declared last week.
In her speech at the UP Public Lectures on Philippine Presidency and Administration held in UP Diliman last Thursday, April 28, Deles noted that despite the difficulties it encountered in the past six years in its efforts to forge peace with rebel groups, the Aquino Administration, through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the different government peace negotiating panels, scored major successes including the conclusion and signing of a major peace agreement to settle decades of conflict in Mindanao.
The Aquino government was also able to provide convergence under the Bangsamoro peace agreement for the two Moro peace tables, and provided closure to the peace table in the Cordilleras while it is close to completing another closure process to a Visayas-based peace table, Deles added.
“There will still be major unfinished business that we will have to pass on,” said Deles, “but we” will be able to turn over fewer and better-positioned peace tables to the next administration.”
Deles noted that the peace process “was in disarray” when President Aquino III took over from the previous administration in 2010.
The Aquino Administration had inherited a seven-year impasse with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF); a failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and a number of agreements pending further implementation, including the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)’s 1996 Final Peace Agreement; the sipat or ceasefire agreement with Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA) in 1986; and the interim agreement with the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB) signed in 2000.
Most of these challenges were hurdled in this administration’s six-year run, Deles stressed.
Closure processes for two peace tables
For instance, Deles cited the signing of the Closure Agreement with the CBA-CPLA last July 2012, which “as an armed group, no longer exists” as it has transformed itself into a legal, socio-economic group called the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development.
The OPAPP secretary noted that it was the first agreement under a peace table signed under the Aquino administration and the first such agreement completed in the entire history of the Philippine peace process, marking “one unfinished business that will not be passed on to the next administration.”
Under this closure agreement, the CPLA turned over 337 firearms while 27 explosives have been detonated; 69 of 81 projects committed by the government have been completed; 168 CPLA members have been integrated into the AFP; and the government has provided social protection services in the form of 885 PhilHealth membership and 227 CHED scholarship grants.
Similarly, the Visayas-based RPM-P/RPA/ABB converted itself into the Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress), a legitimate socio-economic and political organization pursuing social justice as a key to lasting peace and genuine progress.
While signing a closure agreement with the RPM-P/RPA/ABB, “has taken a bit more time,” Deles stressed this was because the government was determined to undertake due diligence in the terms of the agreement to avoid mistakes in previous peace agreements.
Some components of the agreement have, however, already proceeded, particularly putting in place implementing guidelines, mechanisms, and structures that will support the agreement with RPM-P/RPA/ABB once signed, she added.
Deles stressed the importance of the “closure process” with the CBA-CPLA and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB as these show that the “government can be trusted to do fulfil its pledge or commitment.”
“[The] government does not play around with peace agreements,” she declared. “It will hold these sacred and deliver on their promises.”
Difficult to handle
The peace adviser admitted that the most difficult table remains to be the one with the CPP/NPA/NDF.
She recalled that when the Aquino administration was able to break the impasse it inherited in 2010, the negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF “started off as well as the MILF peace process.”
Deles lamented that this early optimism in the peace table with the CPP/NPA/NDF was a “short-lived period, and by the middle of 2011, they (CPP/NPA/NDF) had suspended talks.”
Success in the Bangsamoro
The OPAPP Secretary said the Aquino Administration is proud of its achievements in the negotiations to end the conflict in the Bangsamoro, as it pursued a “framework of convergence” in the peace tables with the MILF and the MNLF.
She pointed out that the completion of the Tripartite Review of the implementation of the 1996 FPA with the MNLF early this year allowed the two peace tables to share a roadmap laid out under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government with the MILF in March 2014.
This convergence framework allowed the Aquino Administration to address the challenge brought by the fact that the two peace tables covered “the same core territory and the same people that are already the subject of a peace agreement.”
The government also achieved notable success in other aspects of the Bangsamoro peace process, particularly in the normalization process, which has been commended by the United Nations peace office in New York as “probably the most comprehensive normalization plan they have seen worldwide.”
Despite the “enormous challenges” faced by the Bangsamoro peace process in the past six years, Deles noted that “no one (in any of the negotiating panels) ever threatened to walk out on the process,” and “in the face of the direst difficulties, the parties always ended up saying: let’s fix this together, let’s find a solution,” attesting to the strength of the peace process and its architecture which “draws in the participation and engagement of so many, within the two parties to the conflict and beyond.”
“That is why, despite Mamasapano, despite the non-passage of the [Bangsamoro Basic Law], the peace process continues to stand, and those who invested so much in this process in the last three years, will be there standing and rooting when the next Congress convenes,” she stressed.
“Deep and strong foundations for a just and durable peace have been put into place,” Deles added. “We will continue to work and pray hard so that this moment will come sooner rather than later.”###