Ex-judge to lead local peace talks with Reds in Davao

By Lilian Mellejor

September 21, 2017, 7:56 pm

DAVAO CITY – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio named a retired judge to lead the local peace talks with the communist armed group operating in the city.

Duterte-Carpio bared Wednesday she has asked retired judge Ridgway Tanjili to chair the Davao City Local Peace Committee (LCPC), which will be composed of City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) head Ma. Luisa Bermudo, Lawyer Eliza Lapeña from the City Legal Office, Captain Joselito Areja of Barangay Malabog, Davao City Archbishop Romulo Valles, representative from the private sector, and two other consultants.

Tanjili, who was appointed judge by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in early 2000, is a law graduate at the Ateneo de Davao University and a graduate of Master in Public Administration.

Tanjili headed the Public Attorney’s Office-Davao for 16 years before he headed the Regional Trial Court Branch 15.

The city mayor also said she has initially talked to the two consultants, but she begged off to name them at this time. She said both have experience in peace works.

Her offer to them, she said will be formalized before October 1 when the LCPC will start to buckle down to work.

The LCPC has one year (until November 18) to engage with the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the city. Davao City has known Red areas in Paquibato, Marilog, Baguio, and Calinan Districts. The NPA guerrilla fronts operating in the city are the Fronts 54, 56, and Pulang Bagani Command (PBC) 1, 2, and reportedly a newly-created PBC 3.

“They (members of the LCPC) will try their best to deliver unsay dapat mahitabo (what should be done),” the mayor said.

If nothing significant happens in November 2018, Duterte-Carpio said she will disband the committee.

Meantime, the mayor revealed she received feelers from a member of the NPA to surrender.

While she welcomed this a good development, Duterte-Carpio clarified her objective for the local peace talks is the NPA to work with government and lay down their arms.

“They (rebels) can work with us with their arms if they want. I will be very flexible just to attain that elusive dream of peace,” the mayor stressed.

She said she will find them jobs such as working as forest guards.

But if rebels surrender individually, the mayor said the can seek help from local officials and avail of programs already available for them like the CLIP (Comprehensive Local Integration Program) offered by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The mayor said the LCPC can still help facilitate for each surrenderer to avail programs but she hinted to broader work of the committee like tackling issues on amnesty for those facing charges in local courts, decommissioning of firearms, among others.

Duterte-Carpio confirmed there will be no military component in the LCPC.

Earlier, the military expressed support to the localized peace talks even if the peace negotiations with the communists at the national level had been suspended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Brig. Gen Bienvenido Datuin, Assistant Division Commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, lauded the mayor for initiating the local peace talks and other trailblazing activities like the recruitment of the Special Cafgu active auxiliary (SCAA).

“We will toe-the-line,” Datuin earlier said as he does not see any problem on the local peace talks even if the commander-in-chief (President Duterte) has “no talks” policy with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

He said the Philippine Army could even pursue its reintegration program, continue securing the people, and develop conflict-resilient communities.

“It is not about winning the war, but it is about winning the peace,” Datuin stressed, hoping that the other side will also respect the peace initiatives of the mayor.

“Let’s give it a try,” he said.

Duterte-Carpio is pursuing local peace talks as it is her duty as a local leader for the Dabawenyos to achieve just and lasting peace even if the national government already suspended peace negotiations with the NDF. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)