About Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP is the office mandated to oversee, coordinate, and integrate the implementation of the comprehensive peace process. The agency was created through executive order no. 125, s. 1993 which was later amended in 2001 with the signing of executive order no. 3, s. 2001 as a reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to achieving just and lasting peace through a comprehensive peace process.

Statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF

I am announcing the cancellation of backchannel talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF originally set within the next few days in Europe due to recent developments involving attacks done by the NPAs.

The situation on the ground necessary to provide the desired enabling environment for the conduct of peace negotiations are still not present up to this time.

PRRD offers genuine political autonomy to the Bangsamoro people

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to support the creation of a genuine political entity for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

In a speech during the turn-over ceremony of the proposed draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Malacañang on Monday, President Duterte went beyond his prepared speech to express his commitment for the enactment of the bill as this will address historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

“I will support and husband this instrument as it goes in the legislation for its consideration,” Duterte, who hailed from Mindanao, said.

“There will be no objections of the provisions of all that is consistent with the constitution and aspirations of the Moro people.”

“I am for this, within the context of the Republic of the Philippines, there shall be a Bangsamoro country,” he vowed.

The President said the event “marks a new milestone in our history that stand as proof of our resolve to set aside our differences and stand united to achieve a common goal of peace.”

The BBL is part of the process to implement the political track of the peace deal – Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has formally submitted to the President the enhance draft of the basic law which aims to provide a genuine political power for the Bangsamoro to govern over their ancestral lands in Mindanao.

This is the second submission after the previous congress failed to pass the BBL.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel earlier said that they aim to enact the bill within the year.

The passage of the BBL will signal the creation of a new Bangsamoro government with a parliamentary-form structure to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will manage the new autonomous region.

President Duterte said the passage of the bill “is a significant step forward in our quest to end centuries of hatred, mistrust, and injustice that caused and affected the lives of millions of Filipinos.”

“The draft BBL embodies our shared aspiration of a peaceful, orderly and harmonious nation after decades of armed struggle and violence, we will come up with a constitutionally consistent legal instrument that will lay the foundation for establishing the real and lasting peace in Mindanao.”

The President emphasized that the government is mandated to establish a genuine autonomy for the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao under the current constitution.

“The proposed BBL puts into life and spirit the constitutional mandate provided in the 1987 constitution for the establishment of a truly autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao,” he said.

“This paves the way for meeting the just aspiration of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination, and that is consistent and reflective of the distinct historical cultural heritage and economic and social structures common to the people residing in the Bangsamoro,” he added.

“The draft bill jointly written by our Muslim, Christian, Lumad brothers and sisters shall give rise to a genuine autonomous region as well as to bring forth healing and reconciliation to the historical injustices commitment against the Bangsamoro people,” Duterte said.

“Indeed the entire country will benefit from it along with the region of the Bangsamoro people. May this new entity be marked by good governance, equitable sharing of wealth and generation of revenue, and normalize stable environment.”

For his part, presidential peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza urged the public to support the process “in realizing the aspirations of the Bangsamoro”

“Be with us still as we continue to surmount the more important challenges that we face in bringing peace and development in the land,” he said.

“We have gone this far, different governments in the past have built the foundations, layer upon layer, that has brought us today to where we are.”

MILF chairman Al Haj Ebrahim Murad expressed his appreciation to Dureza “for recommending to the President the certifying of the BBL as an urgent bill during his endorsement to congress.”

He said the MILF has high hopes for the President to “shepherd the passage of this law, and see through the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.”

“Mr. President, we hear you speak the historical injustice committed against our people and we marvel at the ease which you narrate the historical basis of our cause, today at a crucial moment in our history, you have been given the unique privilege of correcting that historical injustice by entrenching the aspiration of our people through the enactment of this Bangsamoro Basic Law.

BTC Chair Ghadzali Jaafar believed that under the Duterte administration, “we would see the dawning of the establishment of the government in Bangsamoro homeland, which they truly deserved.”

Murad bats that the BBL will serve as the antidote to the growing concerns over violent extremism, particularly in Mindanao.

“We watched at the utter disgust over the distractions in Marawi City that violent extremism has inflicted,” he said.

“The danger of violent extremism is that it feeds over the frustration of our people and take over the narrative of historical injustices so that it can justify the violent ideology in which reality is never linked to aspiration of our people,” he said.

But because it exploits the narrative of historical injustice, it is important to address legitimate grievances and correct historical injustice so that it will be denied any semblance of legitimacy,” he added.###

CAR adopts Dureza as “Son of Cordillera”

BAGUIO CITY – Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza was honored as the “adopted son of Cordillera” by the Regional Development Council (RDC) and tribal leaders of Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) during the Gong Relay event in Baguio City Hall as part of the celebration of 30th anniversary of the region.

The RDC commended the secretary for his unparalleled support for Cordilleran autonomy and unwavering efforts to provide peace and development in the country, calling him as “Mansapit”, a Kankanaey word that means peace-maker or savior.

Aside from the certificate of adoption, Sec. Dureza was also given tokens, such as a gangsa (Cordillera type of Gong), spear, shield and loincloth.

In his speech, Sec. Dureza reiterated the importance of consulting the bigger table, the people’s peace table, in order for the Cordillerans’ goal of achieving full autonomy be realized.

“Cordillera is not only composed of officials that represent you in the same manner that when I talk to the rebels on our negotiation, I openly refer to them as small table. The bigger table is the public, they are the stakeholders.”

The Secretary also announced that after President Duterte receive the draft of Bangsamoro Enabling Bill on Monday, he will meet with the Cordilleran groups to discuss the draft of the House Bill 5343 “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of Cordillera” on Tuesday so they can voice out their aspirations to the President.

“I talked to the President before I went here. I said “we’re moving decisively on the Bangsamoro. Let us not leave the Cordillerans behind,” the secretary said.

“I told him, (President) in the same that you certify the bill to pass the BBL for the Bangsamoro, then equally, we must see to it that we certify the bill to create the Cordillera Autonomous Region.”

The passing of the Unity Gong from one CAR province to another symbolizes their unity, and calls for support for full autonomy and cultural preservation.The Gong Relay event also featured the ceremonial beating of Gong by local government officials, and its turn over from Baguio to Benguet. ###

Marawi residents overcoming difficulties amid crisis

MARAWI CITY – “Business is brisk,” said 29-year-old trader Samer Bauc, as he wrapped eggs for a buyer, who is also a fellow internally displaced individual (IDPs).

“This is the only way to forget the tragic incident that is besetting our city,” Bauc said, referring to the makeshift store he had set-up inside the building they call “Titanic” because of its sheer size.

The infrastructure has now turned into a massive evacuation camp at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol grounds, which Bauc, along with other 400 IDPs, has been staying in since the fighting erupted between government forces and radical Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups on May 23.

“When the fighting began, we did not immediately flee. We were hopeful that the crisis will end within two to three days.  But when the military started its bomb runs on the third day, that’s the time we realized we need to get out of our house,” he recalled.

“This is my first time to experience the brunt of war. My little store helps me overcome the trauma,” he said as he keeps himself busy day-in and day-out “or else I might go crazy.”

Several makeshift stores sprung up at the evacuation centers, which is a testament of the resiliency of the Maranaos. These stores also brought respite to the needs of the evacuees.

“There are personal things that are not part of the aid assistance being provided by the government and other humanitarian agencies,” said an evacuee, who only identified himself as Norman.

“We can easily buy some of the basic everyday necessities without the need to go out of the city,” he said.

One can find a variety of goods being sold at these makeshift stores, from fresh vegetables, eggs, bread, instant coffee, candies and other sweets for children, to kitchen wares and mats.

Another entrepreneur Aida Panginuma, 52, noted that trading has been in their culture.

“There is always a positive way to deal with every crisis,” she explained as she opened few cartons she bought at the nearby town of Baloi in Lanao del Norte to restock her goods at the evacuation site.

She said they are not taking advantage of the situation and the prices have remained affordable.

Panginuma said she is maintaining a stall inside Padian, the city’s main market, but only managed to bring some of her goods in the evacuation site.

“We were preparing for the holy month of Ramadan, when we’re struck by the fighting,” she recalled, noting she stockpiled more than P1-million worth of goods in her store.

“I’m hopeful that my store is still intact. I look forward that after this crisis, we can all move forward and rebuild this beautiful city again,” she said.

Panginuma admitted that life in the evacuation center is hard but “there’s nothing we could do but to carry on living.”

“At the end of the day, we need to rely on each other and help ourselves,” she said.

Aida said she saw some of the Maute members ransacked other stalls in the public market. “Although, they did not harm us, but the effects they brought to our city is devastating,” she said.

Another evacuee, Alexander Alaga, said the stores inside the evacuation camps also serve as their mini cafeterias where they share their stories and comfort each other.

“We kept on praying this crisis will end soon. We are preparing ourselves, emotionally, on how to confront the destructions left by this armed conflict,” he said. ###



10 Reds pardoned


President Rodrigo Duterte has granted pardon to 10 communist rebels, most of whom had been imprisoned for more than 10 years, just days after the head of the government peace panel (GRP) announced peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) will likely resume next month.

Labor Secretary and GRP panel head Silvestre Bello III said the latest batch of releases is part of the continuing commitment of the government to release detained rebels on humanitarian grounds.

“This is in accord with the process that will eventually lead to a general amnesty proclamation once we reach a final peace agreement with the communist rebels,” Bello said.

“We are continuing to work on the releases of the sick, elderly, those long detained and the women as the peace negotiations progress,” he added.

Among those ordered released through presidential pardon was NDF consultant Emeterio Antalan who is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).

The releases of two other JASIG-covered NDF consultants were withheld pending completion of their court documents. They are Eduardo Sarmiento and Leopoldo Caluza.

Those pardoned were convicted and serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa for common crimes ranging from illegal possession of firearms and explosives to homicide and murder. The NDF listed them as political offenders arrested and convicted on trumped up charges.

Lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad, GRP supervising panel member who oversees the JASIG implementation and releases of detained rebels, said the release of the rebels is pursuant to the JASIG and PCBREP resolutions originally covering 15.

PCBREP stands for Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Parole.

She added that it was also in pursuant to joint GRP-NDF statements during 3rd and 4th round of talks held in Rome, Italy and in The Netherlands respectively.

President Duterte had also pardoned 4 convicted rebels in December. He likewise ordered the release of at 18 NDF consultants in July last year as part of confidence building measures prior to the resumption of the peace talks.

This brings the total of released NDF leaders and members to 49 since Duterte assumed the presidency.

Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDF resumed in August last year in Oslo, Norway.

Aside from Antalan, who already served 9 years and six months in prison, also included in the recent batch of pardoned prisoners are Ricardo Solangon (17 yrs, 11 months), Joel Ramada (11 yrs), Apolonio Barado (15 yrs 10 mos), Generoso Rolida (13 yrs 9 mos), Manolito Matricio (18 yrs 4 mos), Josue Ungsod (18 yrs 7 mos), and Sonny Marbella (15 yrs 5mos). The period of detention of Jose Navarro and Arnulfo Boates were not available.

Three other communist rebels were listed among those for release. They are Raul Villar, Armando Vidar and Juanito Itaas.

Itaas, along with Donato Continente, was convicted for the murder of Col. James Rowe, an official of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) in April 1989 in Quezon City. He was allegedly a hitman of the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the erstwhile urban hit squad of the New People’s Army. ###

Humanitarian aid flows through Malabang ‘Peace Corridor’

RAMAIN, LANAO DEL SUR – Seven trucks filled with relief goods arrived at this lakeside community which has for the past month become a safe haven for civilians fleeing the armed conflict in Marawi City.

As the trucks pulled up inside the grounds of the municipal capitol that has been converted into an evacuation center, personnel of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) unloaded hundreds of boxes containing foldable jerrycans, mosquito nets, blankets, mats and kitchen ware.

The relief packages were systematically distributed to more than 2,600 families who have been displaced by the armed hostilities.

Despite the bristling heat of the noonday sun, the faces of the evacuees – majority of them women with children in tow – lit up, as they received the relief packs.

The ICRC is among the first international humanitarian organizations that have entered this remote, hinterland municipality since the crisis broke out on May 23.

Ramain is considered a military hotspot not only due to its proximity to Marawi, but also because it reportedly has been used as an escape route of members of the Maute group.

The ICRC was accompanied by members of the Joint Coordination, Monitoring and Action Center (JCMAC), who facilitated the safe passage of the humanitarian convoy across the 80-kilometer route from Malabang to Ramain.

Tomoku Matsuzawa, ICRC head of office, expressed her organization’s gratitude for the assistance provided by the JCMAC.

The JCMAC, which has two offices – one in Malabang and another in Marawi – was established under the Peace Corridor initiative of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro International Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panels.

The Peace Corridor, which opened on June 4, aims to provide a safe zone for civilians fleeing the conflict, and a secure avenue where humanitarian assistance can pass through.

To date, the Peace Corridor initiative has helped 277 trapped civilians escape from the conflict zone to safer ground.

“We appreciate the help given to us by JCMAC, particularly in advising us where to pass and in clearing the convoy’s route. Otherwise, we would be held up for hours at the various checkpoints along the way,” Matsuzawa explained.

She said that although the ICRC does not ask for military escorts due to protocols it must strictly observe, the group closely coordinates with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as provincial and municipal government units whenever its staff enter an area.

Aside from the relief packages, the ICRC has set up toilets and wash areas in Ramain and the neighboring municipality of Saguiaran, which also has a huge number of evacuees.

“We set up these facilities so people can take a bath and wash their clothes,” Matsuzawa said, adding that the ICRC regularly dispatches a fire truck capable of providing 10,000 liters of water a day to the evacuation sites.

The ICRC also helps family members who have been separated during the conflict to find and reunite with each other.

“On behalf of the evacuees, we communicate with their families and set up the reunification point,” Matsuzawa said.

This is what they have done for a number of evacuees from Marawi who were finally reunited with their loved ones in Iligan after weeks of separation.

Meanwhile, the ICRC official noted that the key in ensuring the success of ongoing relief operations is the “speed, timeliness and the ability of donor agencies to appropriately respond to the various needs of the people.”

“We are very happy to help the government in providing for the needs of the evacuees,” Matsuzawa said. “And if there are other needs we can support, we are very much willing to fill in that gap.” ###


Roses for peace on Eid’l Ftr

BURU-UN, LANAO DEL NORTE – Roses for Peace on Eid’l  Fitr as intense gun battles continued to erupt in the heart of Marawi City, a celebration was taking place in the open grounds of the Iligan City National School of FIsheries which served as an evacuation center for civilians who fled the armed conflict.

The mood was festive, as the more than 180 families who have been living in the evacuation center for a month commemorated Eid al-Fitr, or the end of the observance of Ramdhan.

But what struck a sensitive chord among the hundreds of people gathered at the site was the exchange of roses between the Christian and Muslim evacuees.

Muslim women broke down in tears, as their Christian counterparts embraced and handed them flowers, symbolizing love and the joyous and conciliatory atmosphere at the center.

In the meantime, children ran across the school’s grassy fields, as a group of men roasted a cow which would later on be shared among the evacuees.

In her remarks during a brief program at the site, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Diosita Andot who spoke on behalf of Secretary Jesus Dureza, underscored the importance of the celebrations in light of the ongoing crisis in Marawi.

“This event is very important for all of us, as it is an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to show their solidarity in the face of conflict,” Andot said.

She noted that there are forces that want to drive a wedge between Muslims and Chrisrians.

“Although there are those who say that the armed hostilities will pull Christians and Muslims apart, we believe that we shall remain united as brothers and sisters,” Andot said.

She cited numerous reports wherein Muslims helped Christians escape from the conflict zone.

“Our Muslim brothers were not afraid to put their lives on the line for the sake of friendship and unity,” Andot said.

On June 4, the Peace Corridor, a collaborative effort between the Implementing Panels of the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberarion Front (MILF), was opened in Marawi.

The Peace Corridor aims to provide safe passage for civilians fleeing the conflict, and secure area for humanitarian assistance to enter the conflict zone.

To date, the initiative has facilitated the escape of 277 residents who have been trapped in the conflict zone for weeks.

Andot quoted Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza who earlier said that people, regardless of their religious beliefs, must not allow fear and hatred to cloud their good judgement.

“If we let this to happen, our enemies would succeed in their goal of destroying the good relations that have been established between Muslim and Christians,” she said.

Andot stresed that Muslims and Christians must therefore work hand in hand in further strenghening the bonds of unity and friendship, and pushing forward the national government’s peace agenda.

The OPAPP is currently conduting a series of “social healing” activities in Lanao del Norte that aim to restore trust and respect among the different ethno-religious groups in the affected areas.

A key feature of these healing efforts are informal conversations that would be conducted in clusters or small groups to be facilitated by imams, ulamas and other Muslim leaders and volunteers. ###

OPAPP statement on recent NPA attacks in Mindanao

There were several recent serious offensives in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country allegedly done by CPP/NPA/NDF forces that further fuel the public’s doubt on whether it is still worthwhile to continue the peace negotiations with them.

Targets of the intensified offensive were not only government forces, but the civilian populace and private property. This is a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHR-IHL), which the CPP/NPA/NDF committed to uphold and respect.

More disturbing is the fact that the communist leaders, while in Europe, issued recently a statement condemning terrorist groups wreaking havoc in Lanao. These communist leaders even offered to refrain from undertaking offensive operations in Mindanao to enable our government to focus manpower and resources in the fight against terrorists.

Now this.

To us and the public as well, this is not only disturbing. This disrupts the conducive and enabling environment in peace making and peace building.

In the meantime, we will await further validation of these recent incidents and will undertake corresponding and appropriate steps to deal decisively with this situation.

Rebels in the list immune from arrest, surveillance

MANILA (21 June) – The updated list of National Democratic Front (NDF) rebels and consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) was recently deposited in The Netherlands, according to Philippine government (GRP) peace panel member concurrently supervising the Committee on JASIG and releases, Angela Librado-Trinidad.

The list, encrypted in USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash disks and a back up security drive (sd) and locked in a safety deposit box, contains photographs and real identities of rebel consultants who are still underground.

The rebel leaders included in the JASIG list as well as other persons directly participating in the peace negotiations are guaranteed free movement and freedom from arrest, surveillance, interrogation and similar actions in connection with their involvement or participation in the peace negotiations for the duration of the peace talks.

Immunities cover acts, statements, materials, information and data made during or resulting from the peace negotiations.

Also included in are rebel leaders who have already surfaced and are physically participating in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government (GRP) and the NDF. The JASIG-covered rebel consultants were issued letters of authority (LAs) by GRP panel chair Silvestre Bello, which they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The deposit is in line with the mandatory provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and supplemental guidelines, which the GRP and the NDF panels signed in 1995 and 1998, respectively and affirmed by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as the August 26, 2016 Joint Statement as a necessary component of the peace negotiations with the communist rebels.

On hand during the depositing of the USB and the back up sd in the safety deposit box were GRP peace panel members lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza from the GRP Panel, Fidel Agcaoili and adviser Luis Jalandoni from the NDF Panel.

This was witnessed by Archbishop Joris August Odilius Ludovicus Vercammen of the Old Catholic Church of the Netherlands, the Third Party Depository, and Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Jamie Ledda.

Braganza explained that the deposit is part of JASIG verification and process of validating the identities of persons using aliases in the list of JASIG-covered Document of Identification (DI) Holders.

“We have to be strict this time as we do not want a repeat of the July 2011 verification incident that almost resulted to the collapse of the peace negotiation,” he pointed out.

It could be recalled that in July 2011, the GRP and NDF panel members conducted the JASIG verification process after an alleged rebel consultant was arrested. Upon verification, the encrypted diskettes containing the photographs of NDF consultants could not be opened due to faulty decryption diskettes provided by the NDF panel.

The NDF panel claimed that the decryption diskettes could have been corrupted when Dutch authorities seized the diskettes and other materials during a raid at their Utrecht headquarters.