Speech of Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles at the AFP Program for the Completion of the Integration Component under EO 49 of the 1986 Peace Accord

Date: 
Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 08:00

 

KEYNOTE SPEECH
At the AFP Program for the Completion of the Integration Component under
   EO 49 of the 1986 Peace Accord held at the 5th Infantry Division, Camp
   Melchor F. Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela
By Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
9 November 2015

 

 

This work can only proceed as a partnership, so it’s very important—their presence here is truly essential. Because they have not been mentioned, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the representatives of the Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board—Ms. Milagros Rimando, Mr. Antonio Valencia, Ms. Fatima Matrillejos, and Dr. Alec. Mammoag, representing Atty. Romano Tamayo. I mentioned this because the Multi-Sectoral Advisory Board is a very important feature of the reformed structure and governance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And special mention to Ms. Ani Baltar, our faithful partner from the CCAGG which sits at the CSO representative in the Joint Committee and therefore has carried a heavy load in this undertaking.

So again, good morning, greetings of peace on this beautiful morning.

Under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, the Philippine Government has committed to the objective of bringing all Philippine internal armed conflict to a just and peaceful closure.

Though it is the Bangsamoro peace process that is at the center of national and worldwide concern today, the reality is that the Philippine Government continues to work to bring about the end of all internal armed conflicts in the country.  

The imperative is to complete the critical aspects of all existing peace processes and to ensure a firm start of and, if possible, finish the implementation of all peace agreements that have been signed by government, including those completed under previous presidencies, within the window of the current administration.

Certainly now that we are embarking on the series of events that will mark the completion of different components of this particular peace accord, the 2011 MOA, because there are other events that will be coming up in the coming months. The way is cleared for the parties to discuss whatever components are still left hanging. I repeat, especially to Manang Marcy, that on this table, the GPH--CBA-CPLA we are determined not to pass on any more unfinished business to the next administration.

The signing of the final peace agreement with the CBA-CPLA proceeded under a cloud of doubt and controversy – with questions about the capacity of CPLA as an armed force and persisting problems of its internal splits and splinters hounding us, from the day of its signing, throughout four years of its implementation, and up to this day.

These have not blinded us to the fact that, in many areas in the Cordillera, the CPLA has existed as cohesive communities with combatants that continue to be armed.  Many are still impoverished, still neglected, earnestly hoping that their future generation will experience a better and more peaceful life than the one they had.

The ceasefire agreement that the government signed with the CBA-CPLA under Fr. Conrado Balweg over 25 years ago was a turning point in the history of the Cordillera.  Under the leadership of former President Corazon Aquino, the government changed regime from dictatorship to democracy.  With it came the acknowledgement – from the mother of our current President, P.Noy – that the struggle of the Cordillerans as represented by CPLA was real, genuine, and legitimate.

With the signing of the SIPAT or a ceasefire agreement, the Mt. Data Peace Accord in September 1986, the Cordillera elders signified a renewed pursuit of their ideals under a political climate where they no longer saw the need for arms. They have engaged the government from one administration to the next under a democratic setting, hoping more and more that each challenge and each failure will bring them closer to their dream of self-determination.

By all intents and purposes, the CPLA is no longer at war with government.  However, it has not had a proper closure as an armed group.  Due to this and over time, it has somehow degenerated from its original and ideal cohesive state, with some of its elements moving towards lawlessness and banditry, as is prone to all armed groups after some years of uncertain existence.

This situation does not do justice to Cordillera’s proud history.  And so, it has been duly acknowledged that, while the political struggle continues, the armed group which is the CPLA must be put to a proper close and transformed.

We must do this to remember them well, to remember them for the dignity and honor of their contribution to history.  CPLA was the first and the largest group to have ever split from the NPA movement and their struggle brought the aspiration for Cordillera self-governance to the national consciousness and to become embodied in the 1987 Philippine Constitution together with Muslim Mindanao.  Their historical significance as an armed group must be duly acknowledged and respected by generations of Cordillerans for its real and unique importance and value.

On July 4, 2011, barely completing the first year of this administration, the Philippine Government signed with the CBA-CPLA the Memorandum of Agreement Towards the CPLA’s Final Disposition of Arms and Forces and its Transformation into a Potent Socio-Economic Unarmed Force.

For its intention to put a close to CPLA as an armed group, the 2011 MOA was called the Closure Agreement.  For the nth time, we would like to clarify that the Closure Agreement does not put an end to SIPAT.  It does not put an end to the dream of autonomy. On the contrary, it seeks to fulfill SIPAT.  What it puts an end to is the existence of CPLA as an armed group.

This has entailed an essential shift in the way the CPLA views itself: no longer as an armed group with a command structure that has commanders as leaders and combatants as members, but as a potent, socio-economic unarmed force that can directly improve the lives of their families and communities and influence the pace and direction of development as well as the state of democratic governance in the Cordillera, a region that, despite its apparent and positive development indicators, continues to hold pockets of extreme poverty, constituting areas of difficult and dangerous access.  With this agreement, our partners in CPLA commit to replace their weapons of war with instruments for development and peace.  

The 2011 MOA, the Closure Agreement, is composed of six components each of which is intended to contribute to the closure of CPLA as an army.  

As of today, the CPLA has organized into the Cordillera Forum for People’s Development or CFPD, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, with its members at the local level either organized into people’s organizations, or employed as forest guards, or integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

This was the first peace agreement we signed to implement under the Aquino administration, where we have learned and continue to learn many lessons.  There have been extremely challenging times, but not challenging enough to make us decide to stop and quit.

We had wanted – like you did – for the completion of the Closure Agreement to have been faster, but peace agreements are agreements between two parties that fought each other for very long, that need to flourish depending on the kind of partnership they sustain.

In the past four years, we have been slowed down by leadership splits and splinters, with disgruntled personalities filling the environment with negativity and a lot of blaming – during dialogues and meetings, in the media, and in every forum possible.  This has had a disheartening effect, certainly on communities affected by the slowdown but also on the field workers of agencies and local government units who only meant to do their jobs.

But such is the nature of a peace process – it is never an easy job and it was important to persist and see how things can still work with the people who are still very much determined to make it happen.

For this peace table, I have been fully aware of the help and commitment of so many individual Cordillerans, including those from the security sector led by the 5th ID and the AFP, all of the provincial governors and officials, the regional directors of line agencies, the civil society organizations, the elders and leaders of communities without whose support none of this conclusion would have been possible.

The significance of our collective accomplishment is magnified by the extent of trials and challenges we have had to overcome together.

For, in the end, what do all of these mean to the people whom we meant to serve, to our children, and to our elders whose wisdom have helped to save us from our pains?

Indeed, the implementation of the Closure Agreement has been far from perfect, with so many complicated factors impinging on it. But, to the best of our abilities and to the limits of our human capacities, the government – and I am referring, in addition to our national leadership, to the Governors of all six provinces, to the mayors of local governments, the regional directors, all officers and employees of the regional line agencies,  and the security sector who have stayed with this process – all have remained faithful to their sworn duties and purposeful in demonstrating fidelity to the commitment of this Administration to honor the lives and futures lost in past struggles. 

The process, although thought of as a means for economic empowerment of former CPLA and their families, is a way for the gains of peace to live on through the sons and daughters of the generation that started the struggle.  As illustrated by the Completion Ceremonies today, we have tried to reach out to all who have participated in the struggle regardless of associations; and recognize that the factions and the work on this peace table has been preceded by the efforts of the 5th ID before the Closure Agreement and by all of the peace workers from the different sectors and agencies here in Cordillera over the past twenty six years. We have been able to build on what they have pursued and completed. 

We continue to call on parties opposed to recognizing that the integration process has been inclusive to set aside pride and self-interest.  Everyone has a place and contribution to Cordillera’s peace history – no one has exclusive entitlement to it. Peace is not about entitlements but about ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance at leading peaceful lives – na walang napag-iiwanan, hangga’t maari lahat tayo sabay-sabay uunlad.

I would like to take this chance to thank the leadership of the Department of National Defense, Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; the AFP Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri; Chief of the Philippine Army, Major General Eduardo Año; 5th ID Philippine Army Commander Gen. Lysander Suerte, who ensured that this Completion Ceremony should proceed for all its worth.   As well, we thank the former 5th ID Philippine Army Commanders, particularly Major General Joel Ibañez who presided over the integration process and Major General Benito Antonio de Leon who ensured its full completion; all of your officers at the 5th ID and all of its staff and employees who have welcomed the CPLA integrees into their family of committed servants and competent soldiers of the country.  I would also like to express our appreciation to Col. Dickson Hermoso for his constant assistance and accompaniment during the early stage of the MOA’s implementation when he was still chief of the AFP Peace Process Office.

I would like to take this chance to extend our very special thanks to Ifugao Governor and current Chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council Dennis Habawel, Abra Governor Eustaquio Bersamin, Apayao Governor Elias Bulut, Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac, and Mt. Province Governor Leonard Mayaen, without whose invaluable help and support we wouldn’t have known how to move processes forward in times when they stalled.  We are sincerely grateful for your leadership in helping us through.

I would also like to acknowledge the untiring support of DILG Regional Director John Castañeda, the late former Regional Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina, the various regional directors of DSWD CAR, Director Helen Tibaldo of PIA CAR, the former chief of PNP Regional Office of the Cordillera (PROCOR) and now CIDG Chief General Benjamin Magalong, former  chief of PROCOR Police Chief Isagani Nerez, and the current PROCOR Chief  Ulysses Abellera who is now charged with overseeing the process of demilitarization and disposal of the firearms turned in by the CPLA.

For the untiring work they have provided, I would like to thank the PAMANA Focal Persons of the different regional line agencies who were most familiar with and committed to on-the-ground implementation of the various components of the Closure Agreement, as well as the CDED coordinators and facilitators of DSWD who facilitated capability-building support for the people’s organizations availing of the livelihood component in coordination with the Offices of the Governors.

I would like to thank the civil society groups especially Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG) and the People’s Organization for Social Change (POST) and all the other civil society groups and individuals and groups who provided accompaniment to this process as third party monitors, the media, the academe and the civic groups who exacted accountability and transparency from our processes.

And very specially, I would like to thank our partners in this agreement, the Cordillera Bodong Administration led by Mrs. Marcelina Bahatan and Secretary General Gabino Ganggangan, former chief of CPLA now the head of CFPD, Mr. Arsenio Humiding, and all of your leaders and members who worked with us with much patience and understanding in order to achieve our common goal.

This effort has been driven on the wings of true partnership consisting in large part of the communities of CBA Bodong areas, and former CPLA areas who equally put in their stakeholdership and counterpart for the success of this Closure Agreement.

And finally – payagan nyo hong pasalamatan kong lubos and mga elders, at mga magulang ng mga integrees na kasama ho natin ngayong umaga. Napakalayo and iyong pinaggalingan – adayo unay. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for entrusting your children to serve in the AFP.

This day marks the day when CPLA as an armed group ceases to exist, and, henceforth, all the other groups claiming to still be active members of CPLA as still an armed group shall be dealt with as police matter subject to the full force of the law.

As we move forward, we continue with a list of things to still continue and finish in the service of our people, a list of partnerships to sustain and to nourish, a list relationships and to mend and to heal, a list of people to understand and to forgive.

In behalf of our dear President, Benigno Simeon Aquino III, I extend a heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all of you who have made this possible.  I call on the integrees who are now members of our Armed Forces to live up to the legacy of your parents and serve this country with pride and dignity. We know you will be as brave and gallant as your forbearers in the CPLA and we thank and salute you for what we know will be faithful service to our country.

Maraming salamat, magandang buhay, mapayapang bukas para sa ating lahat! I bid you – kapya kadatayo amin! Dios ti agngina.