Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. at the Duterte Legcy Summit (Photo by Avito Dalan)

MANILA – The comprehensive Philippine peace process got into full swing under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, reported the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) at the Duterte Legacy Summit on Tuesday.

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. recalled Duterte’s remarks in his 2016 inaugural address that the administration will implement all signed peace agreements.

“The peace process flourished under the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. At sa gitna po ng maraming hamon na dulot ng pandemya, ay tuluy-tuloy ang pagsulong sa komprehensibong prosesong pangkapayapaan sa bansa sa pamamagitan ng (In the midst of many challenges brought by the pandemic, the push for comprehensive peace process in the country has continued through the) six-point peace and development agenda,” Galvez said at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

The OPAPRU programs, in collaboration with peace partners, contributed to the country’s “relative peace”, specifically in Mindanao and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“The absence of major conflicts, since the Marawi siege [in 2017], has facilitated an increase in economic activity and growth,” he added.

Galvez said the gains of the peace process under the Duterte administration are evident in the economic performance of the BARMM, which increased by 7.5 percent its economic growth -- the second-fastest growth among all regions in 2021.

“The gains in peace have facilitated private sector confidence as evidenced by the increase in investment generation, and socioeconomic improvement as seen in the decrease in poverty incidence, which is at its lowest in BARMM,” he said.

Peace process

As the first Mindanaon president, Galvez said the Davao native President has a deep understanding of the peace process.

“He knew what had to be done to sustain the gains of peace,” Galvez said.

The implementation of the political and normalization tracks of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were carried out under the Duterte administration.

Under the political track, Galvez said Duterte effectively led the passage and ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), an enabling law of the CAB; formation of BARMM; institutionalization of intergovernmental relations; and extension of the BARMM transition period until 2025.

“This embodies the dreams and aspirations not only by the Moro people but the entire Filipino nation,” Galvez said.

The normalization track allowed the decommissioning of 19,200 former MILF combatants and 2,100 weapons, with their battle camps transformed into progressive communities.

Government efforts also opened up opportunities and accessible socio-economic programs to decommissioned combatants and their families.

Former fighters are living under normal times again as productive civilians, partnering with the government to become catalysts for peace and good governance.

Galvez said another 7,000 combatants are set for decommissioning this year.

Tinalikuran na po ng mga dating mandirigma ang buhay ng karahasan at ngayon ay tumutulong na sa pamahalaan upang isulong ang kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa kanilang mga lugar (Former combatants already gave up their violent lives and are now helping the government to promote peace and development in their areas),” he added.

The inter-cabinet cluster mechanism on normalization was also created to harmonize the initiatives and interventions of national agencies for the decommissioned combatants, including the provision of socio-economic and development programs; security, and confidence-building measures; as well as the push for transitional justice and reconciliation. 

Other gains

The government has likewise disbanded 15 private armed groups, with a total of 542 loose firearms surrendered and 3,911 stenciled for accounting under the program on the small arms and light weapons.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command accounted for 1,337 loose firearms from January 1 to April 1, 2018.

In exchange for giving up their weapons, former fighters received livelihood opportunities.

Ang ating mga tagumpay sa ilalim ng security component ng normalisasyon ay bahagi ng ating pagtiyak na ang lahat ng mga nakapaloob sa kasunduang pangkapayapaan ay ma-isakatuparan (Our triumph under security component on normalization is part of our commitment to ensure that all the contents of the peace agreements are implemented),” he added.

The Duterte administration likewise demonstrated its sincerity to fulfill all commitments made with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the 1996 Final peace agreement.

Two peace coordinating committees were established to engage with MNLF leaders Nur Misuari and Muslimin Sema in pursuit of strengthening the peace process.

Galvez said the MNLF has become an integral part of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, with 10 out of 80 parliament members representing the group.

Galvez said the appointment of Misuari as the special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “played a crucial role to this administration and to the next administration”.

“This would ensure the continuity of MNLF’s support to the peace and development agenda of the administration,” he added.

As part of the harmonization, convergence, and transformation, 10,957 MILF and MNLF combatants took the examination for the special qualifying eligibility examination of the National Police Commission on Sunday.

Anti-insurgency programs

Adamant to end insurgency, localized peace engagements through community consultation and peace dialogues with the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) were continuously implemented to convince rebels to return to the fold of the law.

Galvez highlighted the historic signing of the classificatory implementing document with Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPMP-RPA-ABB TPG) or Kapatiran on July 19, 2019.

At least 727 Kapatiran members were given livelihood settlement grants amounting to PHP50,000 each.

Galvez noted that the peace process with the Cordillera Bodong Administration – Cordillera People's Liberation Army continues to move forward, with 232 villages in Cordillera covered by the normalization program of the government.

“Aside from implementing the peace agreements, we created the social healing and peace-building program to promote social cohesion, mutual understanding, and reconciliation across the country and to provide viable platforms for the meaningful participation and involvement of the women, youth, and other vulnerable sectors,” Galvez said. “Currently, this initiative is being utilized in the ongoing Marawi rehabilitation.”

Additionally, the government is strengthening the roles of women and the youth in the peace process, conflict transformations, and the protection of human rights.

PAMANA program

The administration continues the implementation of the "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan" (Peaceful and Abundant Communities or Pamana) that features socio-economic interventions in conflict-affected communities.

On May 21 to 27, OPAPRU and Army’s 7th Infantry Division facilitated a training and reintegration activities for 48 former members of communist terrorist groups under the Pamana program.

OPAPRU executive director Cesar De Mesa, head of Pamana, assured the former rebels of continued support from the government until their full transition.

Lahat po ng inyong hinaing at pangangailangan ay matutugunan po ng gobyerno. Marami pong ahensya ang magtutulungan para matugunan dahil iyan po ay order mismo ng Presidente (The government will address of your grievances and needs. There are a lot of agencies will assist you because that’s the order of the President),” De Mesa told the rebels.

Other activities in the coming weeks are religious and moral recovery programs, psychological exercises, and social healing interventions.

Former rebel alias Pablo, 58, said he has regained his self-esteem after surrendering to the government.

“Hindi ko po ito naramdaman ‘nung nasa loob ako. Low morale po kami ‘dun kasi inuutus-utusan lang kami. Hindi po kami pinapakinggan (I haven’t felt this way when I was in the movement. We have low morale because they were just ordering us around. They won’t listen to us),” Pablo shared with OPAPRU.

Pablo spent 22 years as an intelligence officer of a CPP faction in San Jose, Nueva Ecija.

He regretted joining the NPA because it destroyed his family.

“Hiniwalayan po ako ng asawa ko, namatayan ng anak at ‘yung panganay na anak ko, sumama sa Anakbayan at Gabriela. ‘Yung pangarap ko po na makapagtapos siya, hindi po natupad. ‘Yun na siguro ang malaking kabiguan  ko (My wife left me, my child died, and my eldest child joined Anakbayan and Gabriela. My dream for my child to graduate did not come true. That is probably my biggest failure),” he said.

As he laid down his arms, Pablo promised he will succeed with the assistance he received from the government.

The national government allocated PHP55.1 billion to implement 4,000 Pamana projects from 2017 to 2021, supporting the government's vision of building peaceful, progressive, and conflict-resilient communities.

“These are the results of our collective efforts and continuing commitment to work together in pursuing a just and lasting peace and sustainable development,” Galvez said. (PNA)