Manila, August 1– The closure agreement with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB) has been gaining regional support, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo.
“The peace and order councils of Region VI; the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Aklan, Antique and Iloilo; the cities of San Carlos and Cadiz; and the municipality of Amlan, Negros Oriental have all issued their resolutions supporting the closure track,” he said.
Part of the resolutions of support from various local legislative bodies include affirmations that "the signing of the Closure Agreement between the GPH (Government of the Philippines) and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB Tabara Paduano Group (TPG) will not only contribute to the peace and order situation of the province, but most importantly, to the entire region of Western Visayas and the country as a whole" (as cited in Resolution No. 12-03, s. 2012, PPOC Negros Occidental).
A former rebel group that signed a peace agreement with the government in 2000, the RPM-P/RPA/ABB is set to transform into an unarmed, socio-economic organization with the signing of a closure agreement.
Montalbo has been consulting with local stakeholders, and attending provincial and regional council meetings to make sure the proposed closure agreement will capture and reflect the sentiments and aspirations of the populace. The consultations are also in line with efforts to make the proposed agreement transparent and inclusive.
The earliest support that the closure track received came in November 2011, when the legislative body or Sanggunian of the Province of Negros Occidental issued Resolution No. 1004 series of 2011. During the same month, the Negros Association of Chief Executives, Inc. headed by Enrique B. Magalona Mayor David Albert Lacson had likewise manifested support.
At present, the closure track has managed to receive widespread support down to the barangay level in the Visayas region. To quote a resolution passed by the Barangay Council of Bagonbon in San Carlos City -- "the peace process between the Philippine Government and the RPM-P/RPA/ABB (TPG) and the establishment of settlement and livelihood area for the RPM-P/RPA/ABB (TPG) will contribute to the socio-economic growth of the community and the City of San Carlos."
All the resolutions are available for download at the OPAPP website (www.opapp.gov.ph).
Montalbo noted that based on his engagements with political leaders and civil society representatives in the Visayas, sentiments lean on wanting a proper closure to the operations of the former rebel group.
“The people wanted this chapter closed. The regional, provincial, municipal and down to the barangay councils – they all have spoken. The clamor from the ground has been very palpable,” he stated.
However, Montalbo is careful not to be complacent even with the mounting grassroots support.
“Implementing this closure track will not be easy as we expect it to be a process that would require a lot of re-imagining and reviewing of damaged trusts and social relations,” he said, referring to a history of mistrust and allegations of illegal acts allegedly committed by the RPM-P/RPA/ABB.
The undersecretary is also quick to respond to concerns of various sectors that the closure track will be used as a shield by those with accountabilities to the law.
"We have emphasized to the RPM-P/RPA/ABB leadership from the start, that they have to make sure that there should be no transgressions against the law. We have been firm that no peace table will give immunity to any individual with criminal liabilities. We will let the rule of law take its course, regardless of whether RPA members are involved or not, and independent from the peace process."
“We are calling on everyone’s participation and patience in making sure the group can transition as smoothly as possible back into the mainstream society. Communities and relationships need to heal. The time for peace is now,” Montalbo concluded. #