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Dureza: Peacebuilding should be done ‘peace by piece’

DAVAO CITY, April 16, 2018 “We must work peace by piece.”

This was how Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza described government’s peacebuilding strategy, which has been the key in effectively dealing with the various rebel groups across the country.

“We can’t do this overnight. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past. We must learn to do things better,” Dureza said in his message during the Annual Plenary Session of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines held here on Monday.

He said inclusivity has been the guiding principle of the Duterte administration as it seeks to find a long-lasting solution to the armed conflict that has plagued the nation for decades.

Dureza said this has also been the mindset that has enabled the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to move forward in Congress.

“It is President Duterte’s commitment to pass the BBL,” the government’s top peace negotiator said, explaining that in order to make this promise a reality, President Rodrigo Duterte knew that the voices of other stakeholders had to be heard.

This inclusivity led to the expansion of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTC) original membership from 15 to 21, three of them members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Dureza said although the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will have a “first stake” in the establishment of the proposed Bangsamoro state and government, the MNLF will also be an integral part of “the bigger leadership.”

Meanwhile, Dureza said the Duterte administration has adopted a more realistic approach in dealing with the communist rebels.

He admitted that there is a “wide gap” that must be bridged between the two parties, with the government working “within the parameters of the Constitution.”

He said this is why there must be a “convergence point” in which both groups “can meet halfway.”

Dureza had announced on April 4 that the President had directed him and the government panel to work on the resumption of peace talks with Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), with specific instructions to forge a ceasefire agreement

Dureza stressed that proposals for capitulation or surrender should not be brought up during the negotiations, saying there are more “creative” ways of negotiating with the rebel organization.

“The key is to find an ‘alternative route,’” he said. “You can’t kill an idea. You have to address the root cause why they are rebelling,” he added.

Dureza cited the example of the GPH-MILF peace process in which the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) was established even while the peace negotiations between the government and the rebel group was ongoing.

“You have to make them feel that they are already benefitting,” he said. “There is also a need to take care of the bigger public who also feel they are being deprived,” he added.

Dureza also emphasized that the Duterte administration wants to carry out the negotiations at a “faster pace.”

“As President Duterte has said, this is already our last chance (to forge a peace agreement),” he said. ###

Dureza: Duterte determined to bring peace to the country

MANILA, April 12, 2018 —  President Rodrigo Duterte’s determination to end the decades-old insurgency in the country is the key factor in opening up the talks with the Reds, the presidential adviser on the peace process said.

In an interview with CNN Philippines this morning, Office the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Jesus Dureza said the resumption of talks is in line with the President’s “personal advocacy (and) ambition” as well as his “mission and vision.”

“He (President Duterte) would like to bring sustainable and just peace in the land,” Secretary Dureza said. “He understands very well coming from a place like Davao, where he dealt with them (New People’s Army) directly, and he would like to address the root cause of the problem.”

During the Cabinet meeting last April 4, President Duterte ordered Dureza and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is the chief government negotiator with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), to work on the resumption of talks with directives to forge a ceasefire agreement.

Dureza also pointed out that the President is taking into consideration the public’s desire to conclude the conflict.

“I’m sure it’s not only him (President Duterte) that is very anxious to have that conclusion, pati ang taong bayan nag-eexpect,” he said.

According to Dureza, the President has given a two-month timeline to reopen the talks, which stalled in November 2017 due to escalated violence on the ground.

“We’ll work on it definitely and the way you listen to the other side, (CPP Founder) Joma Sison says he welcome all this. I think they will be with us to start it early,” he said. ###

Dureza: Approach peace process with optimism

DAVAO CITY, April 10, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza yesterday underscored the importance of optimism in working on the peace process after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the resumption of talks with the communist rebels.

“I have always been optimistic; you have no other recourse but be optimistic if you’re working for peace,” the Secretary said in an interview aired by ANC on Monday night.

The talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) broke down in 2017 after four rounds of successful negotiations.

On April 4, Dureza announced that the President had directed him and the government panel to “work on the resumption of peace talks with CPP-NPA-NDF” with instructions to forge a ceasefire agreement.

Dureza attributed this to Duterte’s desire to bring about peace in the country as well as to the positive statements from top Communist leaders expressing willingness to continue negotiations.

“If somebody offers the hand of peace, of course, every right thinking Filipino will also accept it,” he said.

Dureza also explained his “peace by piece” approach in the peace process. “It is a brick-by-brick laying of the foundation for peace,” he said.

“Our work is to find a way to go around these roadblocks, look for alternative ways. Because eventually, we cannot do without having sustainable peace,” Dureza said. ###

Dureza promotes unity amidst Filipinos’ diversity

GUIMBAL, ILOILO, 06 April 2018 — Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza yesterday encouraged Guimbalanons to embrace the varying historical roots and cultures of the Filipinos as he gave the keynote message in this town’s annual Bantayan Festival.

“The Philippines is a diverse country. We have different beliefs from different sectors, but we must unite as one nation. Let us stop judging the other person based on our own standards,” he said.

One of the festival’s highlights, a reenactment of the Moro raids in the area during the Spanish colonial period, showed how the natives used the gimba — a hollowed trunk from a palm tree — as an instrument to warn the settlers of incoming Moro pirates.

“The Moros today are different from the Moros that we know of before. Instead of the fighting, the locals should also represent (in the performance) how we embrace the Moros as they are now,” Dureza said.

He also noted the shift in the relationship with the Moro people over the years. He cited how the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) greatly helped the government during the Marawi siege last year through the establishment of the Peace Corridor, which was instrumental in the rescue of 255 civilians.

The Peace Corridor was a safe and secure route jointly established by the government and the MILF for civilians who were fleeing the crisis. Two Peace Corridors were created: one in Marawi used for the retrieval of trapped locals, and one in Malabang used for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance.

“Let us forget the past, embrace our Moro brothers and sisters, and move forward for peace. We have to celebrate all Filipinos — Moros man sila, Christians, or IPs (indigenous peoples) alike,” Dureza said.

Dureza optimistic Reds will reciprocate offer of peace talks

ILOILO CITY, APRIL 5, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza today expressed confidence that communist rebels will agree to the resumption of peace talks after President Rodrigo Duterte offered “another last chance” to forge a peace settlement.

In an interview on Super Radyo DZBB, Dureza said he believes both the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) have learned from the previous rounds of talks, which broke down after the failure to maintain an enabling environment for negotiations.

“There is really an intention of both sides to put an end to this problem, this tragedy of Filipinos killing fellow Filipinos. I’m confident that both sides will grab the last chance to work toward a final settlement,” he said.

The peace adviser emphasized that peace negotiations are essential in ending the decades-old communist insurgency.

Hindi kasi natin pwedeng tapusin itong problema ng insurgency sa bakbakan lamang (We cannot end the problem of insurgency just by fighting). We need to address the root causes,” he said.

Dureza also reiterated the importance of a ceasefire agreement for talks to move forward.

Kailangan wala munang insidente ng pag-atake para nakikita ng taumbayan ang (There should be no more incidents of attacks so that the people can see the) sincerity on both sides,” he said.

During the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the President instructed Dureza to work on the resumption of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army–National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), with the order to work out a ceasefire agreement.

The President is also “committed to provide support, if necessary, in replacement of the revolutionary tax that he asked to be stopped.”

The government and CPP-NPA-NDF have conducted four rounds of talks from 2016, resulting in the signing of several agreements.

These include the supplemental guidelines for the Joint Monitoring Committee for the observance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the reaffirmation of previously signed agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. ###




Dureza pushes for resolution of IPs’ ancestral domain issues

BUTUAN CITY, March 26, 2018 — Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza today urged concerned government agencies to work closely together and address issues related to the approved Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) within the CARAGA Region.

The move was Dureza’s immediate response to a resolution submitted by delegates to the Indigenous People’s Summit held here today requesting the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to provide technical assistance to the six ethnolinguistic tribes in the area.

Dureza said that although these CADTs have already been approved by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), they have been held for some time pending registration by the Land Registration Administration (LRA).

CADTs are issued by the NCIP pursuant to the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) Law or RA 8371 which recognizes the native titles of indigenous peoples over their lands and domain.

During the summit, Dureza called on the representatives of the NCIP, LRA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department Agrarian Reform (DAR) to come forward and asked them to manifest their commitment to resolve all CADT-related concerns, utilizing the resources of their respective agencies for the purpose.

“There has to be a convergence of efforts. This has been the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte,” the peace adviser said as he addressed more than 400 Lumad delegates from across the region who attended the summit to discuss pressing concerns confronting them, particularly with their ancestral domain claims.

In the meantime, Dureza pointed out that the identity of the region’s IPs make them distinct as a people and therefore should be respected by all.

“It is wrong for us to say that we need to ‘convert’ the Lumads [to our ways]. We need to preserve their traditional way of doing things,” he said.

Dureza cited the traditional methods that Lumads have utilized over the years to effectively resolve situations of conflict in their communities.

The country’s top peace negotiator called on the region’s IPs to play a more active role in peace-building, asking them not to rely solely on the government or the military to address the peace and security situation in their area.

He said this mindset will be crucial as he revealed that almost 70 percent of the fighters that were recruited by rebel groups are Lumads.

“You have now awakened. You can do something for yourselves,” he said.

Dureza also emphasized the need for the region’s Lumads to “take ownership” of the peace and development projects being implemented in their communities.

“The proposals should come from the tribes. You (Lumads) should therefore find a way to develop and protect these projects,” he said.

In a separate interview with members of the media, Secretary Dureza underscored the importance of engaging IPs in the development process.

“It is very important to engage them (Lumads) so that we tell them what government plans and what it is doing. But more importantly, to listen what they have to say to government,” he said.

Dureza pointed out that the people and the local government officials “should not wait until someone like me from Manila will come in tell them [what to do].”

“There must be continuity to [enable] work on the ground,” he said.

Dureza stressed that Lumads need more understanding and more capacity-building.

“I call on the concerned agencies to continue what they’re doing and resonate all of these messages,” he said.

The two-day IP Summit was organized by the CARAGA Regional Peace and Order Council, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Provincial Government of CARAGA, and the City Government of Butuan.  ###

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. ###

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