Use “community-based approach” in peace-building – Sec. Dureza

DAVAO CITY—“Fire the gun only when it is necessary. But keep it quiet when there is a way to peacefully engage them.”

This was the challenge given by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza to the men and women of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 7th infantry Division, in his remarks during the commemoration of the unit’s 45th Founding Anniversary held at their headquarters here.

In referring to rebels who have expressed their desire to lay down their arms and live peaceful, productive lives, Sec. Dureza advised members of the 3rd ID to give the rebels a chance to reform themselves.

He pointed out that the main objective of the security sector is not to engage the insurgents in armed battles, but “to accept them” and help them make the transition to mainstream society.

Sec. Dureza said he had adopted this mindset after being instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte to “talk across the tables” in order to find a long-lasting solution to the armed conflict in the country.

As the national government’s top peace negotiator, he has told the leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), “You are only a small table. The bigger table is the general public.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has established various “peace tables” which aim to provide a venue for stakeholders to discuss pressing peace-related issues and come up with recommendations on how to best address them.

According to the presidential peace adviser, there is a need to use a “community-based approach” in dealing with the insurgency problem in the country.

During a recent visit he made in Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte to inaugurate a Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) bridge project, he was informed by tribal leaders that the event almost did not push through after they received threats from a rebel group operating there.

But what he found most touching was their assurance that no harm will come to him, as members of the Lumad community had secured the area themselves.

“Don’t worry, we will protect you,” one of the elders told him, as he pointed to village folk who were armed with native weapons.

From his conversations with the village folk, he could sense their strong desire to maintain peace and order and sustain the gains of economic growth in the community.

Sec. Dureza believes in the power of diplomacy in resolving situations of conflict.

He said that through diplomacy, he has been able to effectively carry out talks with the leaders of various rebels groups in the country.

“Use diplomacy,” Sec. Dureza told the members of the 3rd ID, as he urged them to continue being agents of peace and development in the communities they serve.




OPAPP inaugurates PAMANA projects in Surigao del Sur

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process with PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) implementing agencies, led the inauguration of three projects in Surigao Del Sur recently.

Connecting communities by enriching lives and strengthening ties

Representing Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza, PAMANA-National Program Management Office (NPMO) Head Dir. Sherwin Vizconde graced the turnover ceremony of the Maticdum-Mabuhay Road in Tandag City with representatives from Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Economic and Development Agency, Provincial Government of Surigao Del Sur and Local Government of Tandag.

In his remarks, Dir. Vizconde emphasized OPAPP’s vigorous efforts of implementing programs and reforms set to address root causes of conflict.

“In OPAPP, we don’t just build and connect roads and bridges, rather, we build and connect lives. Ito po ang pangarap namin sa OPAPP,” he stressed addressing the residents and officials of Barangay Mabuhay.

Dir. Vizconde shared his positive outlook of the program gearing towards peace-building by providing socio-economic projects in conflict-affected communities.

“Ang hangarin ng OPAPP na pinamumunuan ng kapwa ninyo Mindanaoan na si Sec. Jesus Dureza ay tagumpay at pag-usbong ng PAMANA hanggang sa panahong hindi na po ninyo ito kailangan dahil nakamit na ng masang Pilipino ang makatarungan at pangkalahatang kapayapaan dito sa ating bansa,” he said.

The project, which is part of the PAMANA multi-year implementation in 2013, will benefit the communities of Barangay Maticdum and Barangay Mabuhay that has a population of nearly 2000 people.

This equates to more efficient means of trading of farm produce, faster and more comfortable transportation, and accessibility to basic services that will usher economic development.

A total of PHP 45 million was allotted for the implementation of the project with the Department of the Interior and Local Government as the implementing partner.

Tandag City Mayor Alexander Pimentel underscored that the project is of great help not only in economic aspect but also in countering insurgency.

“There was a time that Barangay Mabuhay was turned into a camp of insurgents. In fact, several years ago, the army detachment based there that spent the night in barangay had been attacked. It resulted to several casualties. Today, it will be minimized as the people already trust the government. If people are on your side, insurgency can be avoided,” he expressed in a video presentation prepared by his office.

Series of development programs continue in Surigao Del Sur for 2018

A day after the turnover of concrete road in Tandag City, OPAPP led the inauguration of the construction of potable water supply system and installation of solar power system as included in the PAMANA projects for fiscal year 2017.

The project will provide a sustainable water supply across 10 barangays in different municipalities and cities in Surigao Del Sur.

In the Municipality of Cortes, around 300 households are sharing four communal faucet systems in Barangay Burgos. This results to conflicts within the community as they endure long queues and stressful schedules for limited water supply.

In an interview, Madelyn Morante, one of Barangay Burgos’ officials, recalled how their situation led to rows and frustration among families.

“Ang ibang tao, nag-away na sila. Tapos iyong iba, nagmamadali kasi wala pang sinaing, iyong iba papuntang school. Hindi talaga natin maiwasang may magalit dahil gusto nila sila maunang makaigib ng tubig. Nag-aaway ang mga pamilya,” Morante said.

With the onset of the project, people have high hopes that such issues are bound to end.

“Minsan na-imagine namin kung sino talaga ang tutulong sa amin kasi kung sa barangay, maliit lang ang fund. Hindi masyadong makakabigay para sa sustainable water. Kaya nagkaroon kami ng pag-asa sa PAMANA. Pag dating ng PAMANA, talagang sobrang saya namin,” she added.

More than PHP 23 million has been shelled out for the funding of the potable water supply systems in 10 barangays across Surigao Del Sur from PAMANA. PHP 2 million of which was allocated to Barangay Burgos – an amount huge enough to provide 300 households with direct water supply.

Moreover, more than PHP 42 million was allotted for the installation of solar power system across 18 barangays in Surigao Del Sur.

Playing a vital role as a complementary track to peace negotiations, PAMANA was implemented by the government since 2012 to reduce vulnerabilities, improve governance, and empower fragile communities. This involves socio-economic interventions to isolated and conflict-affected areas not only to foster sustainable development but also to avoid recurrence of sources of conflict.

Behind the scenes and beyond means: construing the legacy of the peace process

Neither the swelling heat nor the crowded covered court can dampen the jovial mood of thousands of Laua-anons in Antique in celebration of their town’s 103rd founding anniversary and 13th Pahinis Festival. The buoyant cheers from students, teachers, elders and townsfolk were widely heard amidst the rhythmic beating of the drums, as they welcomed the arrival of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza for the first time.

However, in the middle of the applauding crowd was a frightened soul ready for a ceremonial offering: a wild pig bound by its legs, occasionally crying for mercy.

The soft clanks of metal signaled its verdict – a tribe elder raised his spear and bolo, chanted a prayer for good harvest and protection, and danced with the music as he slowly circled around the creature. From time to time, the elder will either strike his spear straight to the pig’s abdomen or slash with his bolo. The piercing screech of agony that came afterwards was undeniable.

The swine, drenched in its own blood, was hard to miss.

“I am sorry, Mayor – I know this is not part of the program. But may I intervene?”

Dureza stood up, politely asking to halt the ritual as well. The music faltered and the crowd waited in bated breath as the peace adviser addressed the town’s local chief.

“I can see the upset expressions of our audience here. So may I ask if we can compromise instead and beg for mercy on this pig’s life?”

Now addressing the tribal elder, Dureza continued, “I hope that we would not offend your tribe if we ask to postpone this ritual. First of all, I respect the culture that your tribe is practicing. However, I am also considering the beliefs of other people here, some of whom are Muslims.”

Dureza, repeating his request, said: “That is why I am asking you to postpone the ritual and just come up with an agreement – how about you take this pig to your home, take care of it until it grows, and then you can kill it when it’s healthier? Mayor will send me a kilo of this to Davao as a remembrance of our agreement. Is it okay with you?”

A warm round of applause ensued after Dureza’s proposition. Both the mayor and the tribe elder agreed, chuckling, and the spared pig was promptly removed out of the center stage.

To save, not to kill

The intervention that morning was a reflection of the work behind the peace process. Advocates envisioned a just and lasting peace that involves saving more lives, families and communities – not to decrease its number or to burn bridges.

“We have to work for peace together. ‘Wag niyo iiwan ang trabaho sa mayors, LGUs, o sa OPAPP because the real work to sustain peace lies in your communities,” Dureza remarked during his inspirational message at the festival’s program.

Dureza also reminded the Laua-anons that pursuing peace among their communities should start from within themselves, stressing that they cannot share what they don’t have.

New peace paradigm

Despite the armed conflicts between the government and insurgent groups, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on the other hand has been at the forefront in pursuing peace.

In the course of the peace process, the approach in handling it was also evolving. During his speech, Dureza introduced the agency’s paradigm shift that underscored how the negotiations should be a simultaneous action along with the execution of peace promoting development projects.

One example of this was the projects under the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program. These PAMANA projects were amongst the highlighted agenda during Dureza’s meeting with 47 local chiefs of Panay Island, in which he underlined the importance of fostering conflict sensitive and peace promoting initiatives in their own communities.

PAMANA is the government’s convergence initiative that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-vulnerable communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

Settling for peace

Throughout the years, peace advocates have come to learn that settlements were somehow necessary when it comes to the peace process. Both parties can present their varying priorities, but negotiations mean that the people involved should also arrive on a common ground – thus comes peace.

The process may have been long and arduous, but the little steps taken by each administration marked progress towards what the nation has been attaining for – a legacy for peace, not war. ###

Caraga peace advocates renew calls for lasting peace in the region

BUTUAN CITY – Peace advocates from Caraga culminated the Mindanao Week of Peace with renewed calls for peace despite the intensified communist aggression and the looming threat of violent extremism in the region at Big Daddy’s Hotel and Convention Center in Butuan City yesterday.

Spearheaded by the Caraga Conference for Peace and Development and Caraga Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace celebration focuses on resolving four conflict lines – Criminality, Insurgency, Resource-Based Conflicts and issues and challenges of the Indigenous Peoples (IP), which are identified in the Caraga Roadmap for Peace.

With the theme, “Owning Mindanao History for Peace and Development”, the week-long celebration which started on December 1 featured several activities such as peace forum on countering violent extremism, ecumenical gathering in commemoration of 500-year anniversary of Protestant reformation, IP dialogue, youth summit, and forum on extortion and revolutionary tax.

In her speech, Agusan Del Norte Governor and RPOC-13 Chairman Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba emphasized the importance of unity in combatting insurgency in the region.

“We in Caraga region are pieces of a puzzle. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Agusan Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte or Dinagat Islands … We belong to one region. If we fit the (pieces of the) puzzle, we will be able to create a picture of true peace through cooperation and tolerance,” she said. “Peace has a chance to be achieved. We just need to love our region.”

Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion stressed the importance of inclusivity in the peace process in his keynote message.

“We at OPAPP recognize the diverseness of the people in Caraga region. We have Muslims, Christians and Lumads coexisting in this melting pot of culture and religion. It is important for us to recognize that our identity as Filipino goes beyond diversity. There are no barriers if we are working for the common good of our nation,” he said.

Asec. Asuncion also echoed Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza’s pronouncement on laying the foundation of social infrastructures to combat violent extremism.

“The prevention of another Marawi begins with social healing and reconciliation. As Secretary Dureza said, ‘build relationships, bring back social cohesion, and mend the torn social fabric brought about by the armed conflict.’

Lastly, the assistant secretary called for Caraganons to bolster the gains of the peace process.

“This year, we have gained so much in our endeavors for peace in Mindanao. Let us all hope to sustain these gains for the incoming year through unity, compassion and inclusivity,” he concluded.

The Mindanao Week of Peace is an annual celebration which started on 2001 through the Proclamation Order No. 127 issued by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to “recognize the common aspirations of Mindanaoans to live in peace, unity and harmony with each other regardless of status in life, religion or culture”.  It is held every last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December of every year.

Statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza on the declaration of CPP-NPA as “terrorists”

President Duterte has spoken.

A proclamation declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorists” by no less than the President himself has just been announced.

The next step is for the Secretary of Justice to file a petition in court under the provisions of the Human Security Act for a judicial affirmation.

Let’s await its outcome.

Sec. Dureza: Inclusivity, key in PAMANA project implementation

SEDA HOTEL, QUEZON CITY – Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza challenged members of the security sector here to observe the principle of “inclusivity” in carrying out development projects within their respective areas of coverage.

“There must be inclusivity in your projects,” Sec. Dureza said, as he addressed top military and police officers attending the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) cluster meeting organized by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The PAMANA is the national government’s convergence program that carries out various development initiatives in remote, conflict-affected communities across the country, ensuring that the needs of the marginalized and underserved sectors are addressed.

Since its implementation in 2011, the program has undertaken about P50 billion worth of development projects across the nation’s conflict-prone areas.

Sec. Dureza emphasized that PAMANA projects, which are implemented in partnership with local government units and other concerned national government agencies, should benefit all sectors of the community and not only a select few.

“Don’t give them the exclusivity,” he said, referring to certain groups or sectors who are usually at the receiving end of most development projects.

Sec. Dureza said that there is a need to break away from this culture of exclusivity, which breeds corruption and creates an environment of “unpeace” in communities.

“Corruptions is a very big concern for us,” the peace adviser said, as he called on members of the security sector to help the national government address this pressing issue.

Sec. Dureza pointed out that corrupt practices are the bane of development work and must therefore be eradicated at all costs.

“You are the frontliners. We will not succeed unless we get the support of the communities,” he said.

According to him, project implementers must always use a “peace lens” to ensure the sustainability of their initiatives, while eliminating corruption at all levels of the bureaucracy.

“If there is that sense of integrity … It will pay back,” Sec. Dureza said.

He likewise stressed the value of a “buttom-up” approach in project implementation, saying that proposals “must come from below…from the people [themselves].”

“They (projects) must be processed from the bottom. It will take time but this is the way to go,” Sec. Dureza said.

In the meantime, OPAPP Undersecretary Ronald Flores explained that PAMANA is not only focused on building high-impact infrastructure projects, but is also carrying out various socio-economic initiatives as well.

“[We can do] anything under the sun that can uplift the lives of people,” Usec Flores said.

However, he lamented that there are some LGUs who are hesitant in implementing development projects in their respective communities.

Usec. Flores explained that a possible reason for this could be the belief of some local officials that as long as their towns remain remote and underdeveloped, they would continue to be on the list of donor agencies.

With this mindset, he said it would be difficult to break the cycle of violence, poverty and underdevelopment.

To address this concern, he raised the suggestion made by some sectors that the coverage areas of PAMANA projects be expanded to include other “vulnerable” communities.

Usec. Flores was referring to areas that are now being used by rebel groups to bring in new members into their fold.

The PAMANA cluster meeting today will also feature a series of workshop that aim to draw out suggestions on how the security sector can better help in the implementation of PAMANA projects, as well as identify new initiatives that would sustain the gains of peace throughout the country. ###

OPAPP, CHED recognize graduates of study grant for Bangsamoro

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Moro graduates from batches 2013-2017 were acknowledged during the recently held Bangsamoro Graduates’ Assembly on 28 to 29 November 2017.

The ceremony is in line with the government’s extended financial support to former rebels or members of their families and communities who express their desire to enroll in college.

Through the joint grant programs created between the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), beneficiaries under the OPAPP-CHED and the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA)-CHED Study Grant Program received a total of PHP 10,000 per year. Meanwhile, graduates under the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Study Grant Program received a maximum of PHP 20,000 annually in the course of their grant entitlements.

“Education daw is a right but at the same time, ‘yong tulong na natanggap natin habang tayo’y naga- aral ay isang biyaya. Hindi lahat ay nagkakaroon ng ganitong pagkakataon. Kaya kasabay ng ganitong biyaya, kailangan ay may kaakibat itong responsibilidad,” reminded OPAPP Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion during his inspirational message delivered to the graduates.

“Pero tingin ko, isa rin sa mga pinaka-malaking responsibilidad niyo bilang graduates ng OPAPP-Study Grant Program ay ‘yong responsibilidad sa bayan. The opportunity that you were able to receive is a fruit of a bloody struggle – produkto ng pakikipag-laban ng inyong mga tatay, tito, nanay, lolo at lola para sa isang mas maunlad na Bangsamoro,” Asec. Asuncion said.

In addition to the recognition and awarding of the graduates, the assembly also provided career orientation and consultations for current job openings in the government, private sector and abroad.

“Marami sa aming Bangsamoro ang kapos at gusto makapag-aral. We would like to commend OPAPP and CHED – ‘yong word na thank you, hindi siya sapat para bayaran ‘yong effort ng agency para ma- push through ‘yong study grant,” said Jamadee Amat, a grantee from the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Study Grant Program who graduated cum laude at Mindanao State University.

“Sana mas ma-expand pa ‘yong programa na ‘to kasi marami pang mga bata na gusto talagang makapag-aral. Para rin ma-eradicate ‘yong discrimination sa Bangsamoro na puro sila warrior and fighter. But we will take that in a positive way. We are warriors and fighters because we are fighting for our rights and we are warriors of peace. Gusto nating makapag-aral kasi gusto natin mapatunayan sa buong mundo na kaya rin natin [Bangsamoro] makipag-compete not just locally, but globally,” Amat concluded during his speech.

Furthermore, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) provided briefings to graduates such as resume preparations, tips on job interviews, and work opportunities that they can explore on the professional field.

“Mayaman ka man o pobre ka, when we have education, we have the equal opportunity to compete with other people. Have the courage to meet people. Face your fears. Have the courage to help our country in your own little way – these are your passports for employment,” expressed CHED Region XII representative Genaro Andres.

The study grant’s sub-programs are the results from decades-old peace negotiations between the government and insurgent groups. The OPAPP-CHED and PAMANA-CHED programs are for members — including their families — of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP/RPA/ABB).

On the other hand, the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Study Grant program solely accommodates grantees from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The said activity is the first of three legs from all the 656 graduates that the study grant programs had produced for the last four years. The next leg would be in Cagayan de Oro City while the final leg would be in Zamboanga City respectively.

Statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza on Peace Talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF

(22 November 2017)

We are hereby announcing today the cancellation of all planned meetings with the CPP/NPA/NDF in line with President Duterte’s directive that there will be no more peace talks with them.

Recent tragic and violent incidents all over the country committed by the communist rebels left the President with no other choice but to arrive at this decision. We take guidance from the President’s recent announcements and declarations.

This is an unfortunate development in our work for peace. Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations with them.

President Duterte has taken unprecedented steps and has walked the so-called extra mile to bring peace. However, the Communist Party and its armed elements have not shown reciprocity.

There will be no peace negotiations anymore with the CPP/NPA/NDF until such time as the desired enabling environment conducive to a change in the government’s position becomes evident.

We will closely watch the developments.

We have expressed our deep gratitude to the Royal Norwegian Government for its strong support as we also expressed to their officials our regrets for this turn of events.

Despite this setback (hopefully only temporary), we remain steadfast and undeterred in our unrelenting journey for sustainable and just peace.

I now call on everyone: “Let’s all stay the course together.”

GRP unveils CARHRIHL monitoring station

Secretary Jesus Dureza led government officials in unveiling the marker of the first GRP compliance monitoring station under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRHIL).

“Respect for human rights is something we will always have to adhere to and strengthen,” said Dureza in his message.

Dureza is head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“Today’s launching of the GRP Monitoring Committee’s Mindanao Station is yet another important milestone in the government’s earnest efforts to actualize this manifestation,” GRP Panel Chair and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III also said in a message read by panel member Antonio Arellano.

The monitoring station is the first to be established by the Philippine government since it signed the CARHRIHL with the National Democratic Front NDF) in March 1998.

It will receive reports and complaints of “non-compliance” of the provisions of CARHRIHL in the 10 conflict-affected regions where the monitoring stations will be established and endorse it to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

CARHRIHL is by far the first and only agreement signed among the five substantive agenda in the GRP-NDF peace negotiations.

“Today’s launching is clear evidence of the government’s commitment to abide by its duties and responsibilities in the pursuit of lasting peace in our country and a display of this administration’s willingness to go the extra mile despite the serious difficulties that we have been facing along the way,” Bello explained.

The GRP panel chair is in Kuwait and was not able to attend the launching.

Dureza said the government would like to see the mechanism of the monitoring committee already working on the ground.

“We will test its (JMC) functionality,” Dureza added.

Although CARHRIHL was signed in 1998, the JMC was not formally constituted until the Rome 3rd Round of Talks under the Duterte administration in January this year.

“Perhaps this will encourage our counterpart across the table to also set their own,” the OPAPP secretary added.

Peace talks between the Philippine government and NDF has been suspended over continued rebel attacks that included the ambush of the convoy of Presidential Security Guards in Carmen, Cotabato Province on July 19 this year.

But Dureza said he is confident both parties will be able to hurdle the impasse and that both panels will soon resume negotiations.

He declined to further elaborate.

GRP Panel Member Antonio Arellano said the setting up of monitoring stations is a “unilateral action” on the part of the Philippine government.

“The document (CARHRIHL) promotes the rights of the Filipino people.  It humanizes the ongoing armed conflict.  It seeks to protect both combatants and civilians against violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Arellano explained.

The pilot GRP monitoring station will be housed at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines building inside the Hall of Justice Compound in Davao City.

Former Iligan City mayor and lawyer Franklin Quijano is the chair of the GRP Joint Monitoring Committee.

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