Statement of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process during the Peace Media Forum, November 9, 2011

Statement of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles:

On the peace-process updates 

 [Released on November 9, 2011]

The past two weeks have been quite challenging for the peace process. The unfortunate incidents that have happened in the recent past have led some groups to question the peace framework and approach under the Aquino administration. Many of these questions were raised through and even by some of you, the members of the media.

As such, I, together with the Panel Chairs Dean Marvic Leonen and Undersecretary Alexander Padilla, would like to put recent events in its proper context, give updates on the different peace tracks, and enlist your help in reporting these developments accurately to the public.

Let me start by saying that there has been a major shift in perspective in making and building peace that came with the election of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, or PNoy. Such a paradigm shift did not come about by accident.

Even as a presidential candidate, PNoy was very much involved in crafting a peace and development agenda for Mindanao. The issue of peace in Mindanao was an integral part of the 16-point agenda – specifically, no. 14 – of his Social Contract with the Filipino People, which was published as a full-page ad when he and then-Senator Mar Roxas filed their certificates of candidacy for the May, 2010, elections.

On April 22, 2010, he delivered a speech at the Peace and Security Forum held at Mandarin Hotel in Makati, where he laid out his national security policy and articulated his commitment to the search for peace.  Let me quote some lines from his speech then:

He said: We must revive the peace process on the basis of a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of the conflict, under clear policies that pave and clear the way ahead, and driven by a genuine desire to attain a just and lasting peace.

He ended his speech with these words: We shall endeavor to restore confidence in a peace process that is transparent and participatory, and renew our faith in our shared vision of a peaceful, secure and prosperous future under one sovereign flag.

Today, that same vision and philosophy underpin the peace and security framework of the national government.  Chapter 9 of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2010-2016 is entitled “Peace and Security.”  (The entire PDP may be downloaded from the website of the National Economic Development Authority – www.neda.gov.ph)

As its title connotes, the Chapter covers two sections: the first, sub-titled “Winning the Peace,” and the second sub-titled “Ensuring National Security.”  Let me dwell only on the first part:

It reads: Promotion of the peace process shall be the centerpiece of the internal security program as a testament to government’s commitment to a policy of peace, reconciliation, and reunification.

I repeat, the PDP states that the peace process shall be the centerpiece—not a by-the-way not a sideline or side effect, but the centerpiece—of the internal security program.

Mahalagang balikan ito upang maintindihan natin ang matibay na paninindigan ng kasalukuyang administrasyon para sa kapayapaan at seguridad ng bawat mamamayan.

As contained in the PDP, this administration has emphasized the importance to win the peace, with the goal for the medium term to bring all armed conflicts to a permanent and peaceful closure.  There are no sinister schemes, no plans hatched in darkness. For those who wish to see shadows were none exist need only to revisit the PDP to see our roadmap. Under this administration, we intend for the peace process to flourish under broad daylight, with all stakeholders present and very much engaged as advocates for peace and progress.

Our peace agenda and development framework bears two major objectives:

First, the “negotiated political settlement of armed conflicts,” which we refer to as Track 1; and,

Second, “effectively addressing the causes of armed conflict and other issues that affect the peace process,” which is referred to in the Plan as Complementary Track.

Track 1 requires us to finish the critical aspects of all ongoing peace negotiations and to ensure a firm start of implementation of signed final peace agreements, within the six-year term of P.Noy. We are determined not to pass on unfinished business on the peace front to the next administration.

Under Track 1, we are engaged in six tables – not just one, not just two, but six tables.  Only two of the six tables constitute negotiations towards a final political settlement: that of the MILF and of the CPP/NPA/NDF, respectively.  The rest of the other tables are engaged in conversations – conversations that include some very hard talking – regarding the full implementation of agreements already concluded and signed.  These processes are ongoing with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA), and the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawang Pilipinas – Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP/RPA/ABB), a splinter group from the CPP/NPA/NDF, which, within the last five years further split into two – thus, six tables with five groups.

For Track 1, the President has issued clear Letter of Instructions to our negotiating Panels, which set the following parameters for the conduct of peace talks:

• The Constitution, inclusive of the flexibilities provided within its provisions – For certain, GPH Panels are bound to negotiate within the framework of the Philippine Constitution, while also recognizing that the Constitution itself provides ways of amending or revising it.

• The experience and lessons learned from past negotiations, and with the implementation of the peace agreement with the MNLF – Indeed there are very many lessons, many of them negative, but all are lessons that we must take to heart.

• Government’s ability to deliver—politically, economically, and socially—commitments that will be made and agreed upon—this administration will not sign any agreement that it cannot implement; or, another way of putting it is—we will implement every agreement that we sign, and follow through every commitment that we make.  This needs to be said because, very sadly, that has not been the case in the past.

• Inclusiveness and transparency with the sentiment of the general public to be considered as far as practicable, with the aim to restore full confidence and trust in the peace process—Thus, the GPH peace panels have been all over the place conducting consultations with civil society organizations, religious leaders, the academe, business, media, our security forces, members of Congress, and always-always, the LGUs.

Why do we need to still engage the groups who have signed peace agreements with the government? As you may have noticed from the names they continue to carry – Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army, Revolutionary Proletarian Army – they continue to frame the existence and operations of their organizations as armies.  They are no longer fighting government but they continue to bear arms, which they use for other purposes, ensuring that their areas of operation continue to be troubled and under-developed.  In Mindanao, there are conflict zones with the MILF certainly, but also with the NPA as well as with the MNLF, which signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 but continues to identify itself with camps, base commands, and full military ranks, and whose best known leader still likes to go around with armed formations and to issue threats of returning to war when he does not like what is happening.

For peace to become permanent, we need to continue to engage these groups and encourage them to fully embrace the mainstream and cross the threshold from the battlefield to community development work. We also need to take care of the affected communities and be zealous in planting the seeds of good governance and forward planning at the grassroots where hopefully a generation of bright young leaders shall bloom. These are not rewards or inducements but transitional and transformational requirements for lasting peace.

Let me now share some quick updates on the status of our different peace tables.

First, with the MILF:  Definitely, the peace talks with the MILF is on track. As you may all know, formal negotiations between government and the MILF resumed last February in Kuala Lumpur, with the conduct of the 20th formal exploratory meeting.  At that meeting, the MILF Panel submitted to the GPH Panel its new or revised proposal, which it called the Revised Comprehensive Compact. Nowhere in that proposal is a demand for independence nor secession from the Republic of the Philippines.  Rather, it proposes the cognition of a Bangsamoro identity while maintaining Filipino citizenship. I’m sure chief negotiator Marvic Leonen will have more to say about this matter.

Last August 22, during the 22nd formal exploratory talks between the GPH and the MILF held in Malaysia, the GPH Panel submitted its proposal, which it has labelled as the “Three for One Formula” to resolve the Bangsamoro Problem in Mindanao.  It consists of three components.  Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a member of the GPH Panel, describes the three components in an article published on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, from which I will liberally quote:

• Roadmap for Development and Socio-Economic Reconstruction in the Region:  “The President has pledged support to a roster of development projects that will employ multiple delivery systems, including the appointed ARMM government, LGUs and the national line agencies.  To the MILF, the GPH offers a partnership in the form of a proposed Joint Coordinating Committee on Development (JCCD) that will identify and implement socioeconomic projects complementary to the development plan for the region.”  This component “recognizes that economic development in the region which hosts the highest school dropout and lowest longevity rates is needed to reverse the neglect and meet human development goals.”

• The Peace Accord, which constitutes the GPH framework to achieve a political solution to the long-standing conflict:  The GPH proposes the creation of a Bangsamoro Commission that will be composed of 1/3 government, 1/3 MILF, and last 1/3 of other stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process to re-craft the Organic Act for “genuine autonomy” and supervise the implementation of the peace pact.  As Professor Ferrer explains in her article, “The GPH panel believes that many elements of the contemplated substate may be introduced within the parameters of regional autonomy, the 1987 Constitution and other existing progressive domestic and international laws.”  How so may be the focus of negotiations between the parties.

• Acknowledgment of Historical Causes of Conflict and Initiatives Towards Reconciliation, in which the GPH proposes to “officially retell the real history of Mindanao, acknowledging “a distinct identity and history of the Moros as part of the Philippine mosaic.”  This component “recognizes their legitimate grievances and provides, where possible, appropriate forms of reconciliation and restorative justice.”

While there has been public expression of MILF disappointment over the GPH proposal, the MILF Central Committee has not to date rejected the GPH proposal.

In September, the 3rd Party Facilitator to the talks conducted shuttle facilitation between the government and the MILF to determine ways of moving forward.

This shuttle facilitation resulted in the November 4 Informal Executive Meeting in Kuala Lumpur between the two parties where both sides (and this I paraphrase from Chair Marvic Leonen’s statement) cleared the air about pressing issues regarding the negotiations, leveled off on each other’s concepts and identified common grounds and differences to move the substantive agenda forward.

Regarding recent incidents particularly in Al-Barka, the two parties likewise agreed that investigations through the ceasefire mechanisms shall continue to be conducted. Such investigations will include those to be done by the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in coordination with the Join Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action group (AHJAG).

The MILF itself reaffirmed that it will cooperate with Government with respect to its efforts to interdict kidnap-for-random groups, criminal syndicates, and “lost commands” pursuant to the Joint Communique and Implementing Guidelines of the AHJAG. And make no mistake about it, we will hold them to their word.

We wish to learn from the lessons of the past. Under Dean Leonen’s leaderhip, the GPH Panel has conducted and will continue to conduct meetings, briefings, and consultations with civil society, area commands in Mindanao and in general headquarters, local government officials, religious leaders, legislators, former justices, Cabinet clusters, the business sector.   Since the installation of the current GPH panel, they have conducted or attended 48 consultations in Mindanao, including nine conducted since the August 22 talks in Kuala Lumpur.

What is clear to us is that the search for a lasting peace in Mindanao cannot just focus on the negotiations between government and the MILF.  The peace process with the MILF faces what is perhaps a unique challenge: the reality that current negotiations with the MILF involve the same core territory and the same people that are already the subject of a peace agreement with another group, the MNLF; the reality that the Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF has already put into place an ARMM Regional Government, which almost everyone today agrees badly needs to be reformed.

Thus, on the side of government, we have come to push for consensus on a “convergence framework” that will make sure that these three strands of peace are able to come together and work together: namely, (1) negotiations with the MILF, (2) completion of the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, and, (3) the proposed roadmap for ARMM governance reform.

We can’t have lasting peace in Mindanao if the MILF and the MNLF are at cross-purposes with each other.  We also believe that a progressive and more democratic ARMM will be a good building block for whatever new and significant changes may arise as a result of the ongoing peace talks. We see the transitional arrangement that will arise as a result of the synchronization of ARMM elections with national elections as an opportunity to democratize in ways never before seen thus giving birth to a new generation of leaders while empowering citizens to contribute freely to their region’s development.

Moving to the peace process with the MNLF, what is happening is no longer a negotiation, but a conversation – admittedly, an excessively contentious one – about completing the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.  The Organization of Islamic Conference – Peace Committee on Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP) has been facilitating the discussions between the two parties.  I should mention that there are two major factions on the side of the MNLF but, so far, the OIC has managed to keep the two factions on the same table with government.  The primary purpose of the Tripartite Process is to monitor and ensure full implementation of the 1996 peace accord.  It does not in any instance reopen negotiations, which were completed in 1996 as clearly expressed in the Totality Clause of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

The Ad Hoc High-Level (AHHL) Group of the two parties met in Indonesia last June 20-22 to discuss unresolved issues on the table.  In that meeting, the GPH and MNLF mutually recognized the possibilities for reform in light of the postponement of the ARMM elections and agreed that they should avail of the opportunity and use the period to work together with other concerned stakeholders to capacitate the ARMM as a complementary mechanism for the full implementation of the 1996 FPA.

As we all know, Republic Act 10153 postponing the ARMM elections was placed under a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by the Supreme Court in a decision it promulgated last September 13.  The TRO specifically covered the appointment by the President of officers in charge (OICs) in the ARMM.  The Office of the President through the Office of the Solicitor-General, in turn, filed a motion for the lifting of the TRO. On October 18, the Supreme Court ruled that RA 10153 is constitutional, elections in the ARMM is hereby synchronized with national elections, and the President is allowed to appoint OIC officials to fill all elective vacancies in the ARMM Regional Government.  Last week, the opposition filed Motions for Reconsideration of the Supreme Court ruling.  A final ruling by the Supreme Court is now being awaited.

In the meantime, the selection committee established by law has completed its task of short-listing nominees for consideration and appointment by the President once the TRO is lifted. The short list has been submitted to the President. PNoy has reiterated this commitment: Sinisiguro naming sa loob ng 21 buwan na panunungkulan ng mga OIC, magkakaroon ng radikal na pagbabago na magbibigay ng tunay na serbisyo sa mga mamamayan ng ARMM.

What about the negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF?  We know that areas in Mindanao, most notably the ComVal-CARAGA corridor, are more troubled by the conflict with the NPA rather than with either of the Moro Fronts.  Other parts of the country, particularly the Southern Tagalog-Bicol corridor and Samar Island are considered major NPA conflict zones.

Formal negotiations between government and the communist forces resumed in February 2011, in Oslo, Norway. The talks were off to a good start – the longest Christmas ceasefire last December and, for the first time, a ceasefire for the duration of the talks in February.  There were many bumps on the table in Oslo in February but, in the end, an agreement on an accelerated time frame, the convening of reciprocal working committees and thematic working groups, the determination to conduct consultations and complete working drafts. Since February, members of the NDF panel have been travelling back and forth between Utrecht and Manila.

In February, the two panels agreed that the next round of talks would be held in June 2011, primarily focused on the meetings of the Reciprocal Working Committees and working groups.  Two weeks before the scheduled talks, however, the NDF unilaterally cancelled all meetings in Oslo, allegedly on the grounds that the GPH had not complied with the condition of releasing alleged JASIG-protected detainees.  JASIG refers to the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which provides free movement for members of the CPP/NPA/NDF who are engaged in peace talks.  GPH Chair Alex Padilla has replied that the government did not commit unconditionally to release the 17 alleged NDF peace consultants contained in a list submitted by the NDF panel to government.  What was stated in the Oslo Statement last February is that the government will work for the releases, meaning “subject to verification and after undergoing due process.”

In the last few months, through the proper court proceedings, five of the listed detainees have been released.  In the meantime also, the verification process under JASIG has failed. When the sealed envelope stored in a safety deposit box in a bank, under the custody of a bishop, in the Netherlands was opened in the presence of the two parties and the third-party facilitator last July, the first time since the envelope was placed in the safety box in 2001, it was found out that, contrary to the agreed procedure that the envelope would contain pictures of the listed NDF consultants who were carrying pseudonyms, the envelope did not contain pictures but rather two diskettes – more accurately, floppy discs – which had been corrupted and could no longer be opened.  Thus, there is no way to verify whether the list submitted by the NDF panel is truly JASIG-protected.  I am sure that Chair Padilla will have more to say about this matter.

Unfortunately, while they are talking peace with government, the NPA has escalated its attacks and other acts of violence, including attacks on remote police outposts, abductions, the use of landmines, not to mention extortion going by the label of “revolutionary taxation.”  The biggest attack to date was the coordinated raids on three mines operating in Claver, Surigao del Norte which resulted to hundreds of million pesos in destroyed property. These acts of violence were preceded by the abduction of mattress makers in Initao, Misamis Oriental, the abduction of four BJMP guards and Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Dano, who have all been released following the Claver attack.

We condemn in the strongest words possible these senseless acts of violence.

We reiterate our call to the CPP/NPA/NDF to seriously talk peace with government –and wage peace on the ground.

Finally, we are pursuing the closure of peace track with the CPLA and the RPMP/RPA/ABB, with whom the government has already signed peace agreements – that is, eleven years ago for the RPMP/RPA/ABB and 25 years ago with the CPLA.  The CPLA, with whom we signed a Memorandum of Agreement last July 4 towards their final disposition of arms and forces, aims to transform itself into a potent, unarmed socio-economic force, which will carry a new name, registered with the Security Exchange Commission, which will not include the word Army.  The RPMP/RPA/ABB, with its two wings separately, is intent on becoming a part of the Philippine mainstream, and to be politically and socially relevant without the use of arms.

The pursuit of Track 1 of our peace strategy  – to negotiate peace across six tables with five groups — is crucial but government also firmly believes that true peace must be won not only on the negotiating tables but also just as vigorously on the ground.

Thus, Track 1 requires a Complementary Track, mainly through PAMANA.

PAMANA is government’s framework and program to bring development and good governance to conflict-affected areas.  It stands on three pillars:

(1) address policy issues which create conditions of unpeace,

(2) bring convergent and community-driven socio-economic services into identified barangays, and,

(3) address regional development needs to connect these communities to larger economies and markets so that no community is left behind.

PAMANA, as we all know, means “legacy.”  PAMANA seeks to empower and develop communities in seven conflict-zones all over the country, which will be covered up to 2013/2014.  These communities are the ones affected the most by continuing armed conflicts and in the case of the CPLA and the RPMP/RPA/ABB, are covered by the existing peace agreements. To provide hope and build trust and confidence in the peace process – the government must deliver basic services, as soon as possible, in areas that in the past were inaccessible due to intermittent sparks of violence.

In 2012, PAMANA will be implemented in 1,921 barangays in 35 provinces, from 516 barangays in 80 municipalities this year. Within the lifespan of the current administration, an estimated total of 41 B pesos worth of inter-agency programs will be converged in conflict areas in seven conflict zones. The zones cover clusters of barangays in: (1) the Cordillera Administrative Region; (2) Negros Panay, Region VI, VII; (3) Bicol, Quezon, Mindoro; (4) Samar; (5) ComVal-Caraga Corridor; (6) ZamBaSulTa; and (7) Central Mindanao, centered on mainland ARMM and contiguous provinces in Regions X and XII.  In each region, we are working with national agencies, local governments, the ARMM regional government, and civil society organizations.  Part of the consultation processes undertaken for PAMANA is a road-mapping workshop to develop a shared analysis of the roots of conflicts in the areas, which will guide in identification of the interventions for PAMANA, and the identification of priority projects to be supported by the national government.

Despite the difficult challenges, there are converging motivations for peace that offers hope.  First, on the personal level:  People are getting old, and one gets a real sense that people are rooting for a legacy of peace, and I have to say that is on all sides of our many peace table.  Many of those that have been involved in the processes have not so many years left to accomplish what must have to be accomplished, to bring a closure to the issues that had been tossed on the wayside all these years.  Thus, the shared desire for less ambiguity, a less polarized mindset, a less viewing the other as enemy, and a more open attitude for a straightforward dialogue that will raise and address the hard questions once and for all.

I see it as an opportunity that people are aware how we are left behind in our region of the world – not because we do not have talented people, not because we do not have natural resources for development, but because we have been – between and among ourselves – difficult and untrusting of each other.

So despite present challenges, let me still say that the prospect for peace is better than it has been in a very long time.  It is better than it has been, mainly because of the political climate under a new political leadership: a leadership that has pledged to forge and follow the daang matuwid, a leadership that has committed to transparency and people’s participation, a leadership that will not make promises it cannot deliver. And I do believe – I persist in believing – that on the peace table are miracles waiting to happen.

Hence our personal appeal to the media – please bring as much context, texture and details in your reports about our fervent quest for peace in Mindanao and throughout the archipelago. I know this is difficult given pressing deadlines and competing stories. But every conflict comes with its share of historical footnotes; and every negotiation bears the full weight of history.

Sometimes, in the race for deadlines, the quickest and juiciest soundbite makes its way to the top. We in OPAPP and the government peace panels can’t be as glib, because in the art of negotiations every word, every gesture counts. What we strive to do is to be as open and accessible as much as we can to members of media; by doing so, we hope that other sectors shall be encouraged to freely engage and voice their thoughts and be as thoughtful about the peace process as PNoy was, even way before he became President.

Maraming salamat po and good morning to everyone.