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. ###

Trust fund to continue dev’t projects in 6 MILF camps

Taguig City — The Mindanao Trust Fund (MTF) for Reconstruction and Development Program Phase II (MTF-RDPII) will begin implementation and continue the delivery of socio-economic interventions in the six previously acknowledged MILF Camps in the provinces of Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, following the signing of the Program Partnership Agreements in this city last April 10, 2018.

The MTF, co-chaired by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the World Bank (WB) and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), is a multi-donor trust fund facility established in 2005 to consolidate international development assistance for the socio-economic recovery of fragile communities in Mindanao.

The six identified camps are Abubakar-as-Siddique, Omar, Rajamuda, Badre, Bushra, and Bilal.

The MTF is administered by the WB with contributions from the European Union and the Governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, the United States, and Spain. Roughly US$ 4.5 million has been allocated for the implementation of the second phase of the program with Community and Family Services International (CFSI) as the Trust Fund Recipient and the BDA as the Implementing Partner.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza, in a message delivered by Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion, expressed gratitude to the MILF, WB, CFSI, BDA, the international development partners and other partners for peace for their “zealous dedication to ensure that the Normalization track will move forward.”

In 2014, the Government of the Philippines and the MILF agreed to undertake measures for the transformation of camps by signing the Annex on Normalization as provided by the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Since then, MTF has been proactively carrying out camp programs like livelihood, socio-economic, and infrastructure interventions as well as implementation of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Around 70,000 individuals in 31 communities in these fragile areas have benefitted from these initiatives.

For her part, WB Philippines Country Director Mara Warwick guaranteed that the WB together with partners under the MTF are “committed to continue supporting efforts that enhance the prospects for peace in Mindanao.”

“We look forward continuing to accompany the government, and especially OPAPP, as well as the MILF in the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao and the implementation of the peace agreements,” Warwick said in her remarks.

The signing ceremony was attended by OPAPP’s Donor Coordination and Partnership Unit (DCPU) Director Arvin Chua, Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga of the MILF, Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan of the BDA, Dr. Steven Muncy of CFSI, and the Spanish Agency for Development Cooperation Director General Juan Pita.

By | April 12th, 2018|MILF, MNLF|0 Comments

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.

Qualified teachers to stay under BBL

Marawi City – Appointed officials and qualified teachers of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “will continue to sit in their position and perform their duty” as the transition period takes place once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed and eventually ratified.

This was emphasized by Commisioner Jose Lorena of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) during the final leg of the Congressional hearing and public consultation on the BBL held in this city.

One of the concerns raised by the Department of Education (DepEd) Schools Division of Lanao del Sur during the consultation was the security of tenure of employees, especially the teachers.

Lorena assured the teachers that there is “no intention to remove them from their positions.”

“In fact you will be given more priority in the Bangsamoro because it will weed out the bureaucracy from those positions of personnel who are not qualified,” he said.

“Under the BBL, we would like to upgrade the quality of education in our region,” he added.

Meanwhile, those who will be separated from the service can avail themselves of separation packages as provided under the proposed measure drafted by the BTC.

“In compliance with the request of the ARMM employees association, we provided a provision that those who want to retire will be given the highest retirement package,” Lorena said.

Public consultations on the BBL were held to evaluate the pulse of the constituents, especially those who are included in the core area of the Bangsamoro.

The Senate and the House of Representatives are now eyeing to pass the proposed measure by the end of May 2018 upon the urging of President Rodrigo Duterte, a staunch supporter of the BBL. ###

GPH, MILF commit to sustain gains of the 4-year old CAB 

MANILA, March 27, 2018 – The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) affirmed their commitment to pursue the milestones gained since the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) during the celebration of the peace agreement’s 4th anniversary held today in Pasig City.

In his remarks, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Undersecretary Nabil Tan commended both parties for continuing the legacy of CAB through strengthened partnership for four years.

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law is not just a part of the implementation of the CAB but is meant to address the commitment of the government with the MILF and the Bangsamoro people. The milestones of the peace process are a reminder of how far we’ve come after the signing of CAB in 2014.” he said.

The CAB is the political settlement between the government and the MILF that signaled the end of 17 years of intensive negotiation and started the normalization phase towards achieving peace in this war-torn part of the country.

Since its conception, CAB has been instrumental in maintaining a peaceful relationship with the Moro rebels, with socio-economic programs and security mechanisms put in place to ensure former combatants can get back to their normal civilian lives.

In a landmark event in the Bangsamoro Peace Process, 75 high-powered and crew-served weapons from 145 MILF combatants were ceremoniously turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) on June 16, 2015.

Another landmark in the cooperation between both parties was the creation of the Peace Corridor during the Marawi siege, paving the way for the retrieval of 255 civilians trapped in the war zone and allowing access of humanitarian aid to the displaced civilians.

In his message during the celebration, MILF Implementing Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal urged both parties to continue banking on the gains of peace process, asking the stakeholders to continue supporting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“The CAB, BBL, and the comprehensive peace process is not for the benefit of the MILF but about addressing the historical injustices suffered by the Bangsamoro communities. The peace process hopes to achieve the contribution to the prosperity and resilience in Mindanao such as job opportunities for the youth, education for our children, infrastructures, incomes for home-grown businesses, and delivery of primary services especially to conflict-affected areas.” he said.

The proposed BBL is a legal document which will operationalize the final peace agreement with the MILF. The Senate and House of Representatives are expected to pass the law in May.

“This long-awaited legislation (BBL) will serve as the core of a regional government, one that is stronger than ARMM,” ANAK Mindanao Party List Representative Amhilda Sangcopan said during the celebration.

“ANAK Mindanao believes that the true spirit of law-making is drafting the laws that address the needs and aspirations of the most-pressing interests of the Bangsamoro people,” she added.

By | March 27th, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Imams, youth sector, CSOs in Lanao del Norte support BBL passage

Tubod, Lanao del Norte — Representatives of the youth sector, religious sector, and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Lanao del Norte urged the House of Representatives to pass the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The groups made the appeal during the 3rd leg of the out-of-town public consultations spearheaded by the Joint Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity of the Lower House held here on Thursday, March 15.

Acmad Guro, representative of Imams in the Municipality of Matungao, said the BBL is the “win-win solution to the Bangsamoro problem.”

He also said the passage of the proposed measure is not tantamount to establishing a separate government.

“Hindi ho kami hihiwalay sa ating republika. Ibalik lang sana sa ang nawala sa amin sa pamamagitan ng BBL,” he said.

One of the issues the proposed BBL seeks to address is the forced acquisition of land properties of Muslims and Lumads dating back to the Philippine colonial era.

Aliodin Mica, youth organization leader from the Municipality of Munai, lauded the BTC version of the proposed bill for recognizing the rights of the youth.

“Nakalagay dito iyong kailangan ng mga kabataan ngayon,” he said while raising a copy of the draft bill.

The League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO), a network of more than 60 civil society organizations accross Mindanao, said it regards the BTC version as “the concrete roadmap to pave way for genuine and lasting prosperity in the Bangsamoro.”

“This will give justice to the people who have long been suffering the bitter pill of the decades-old armed conflict in Mindanao,” Emram Mohamad said on behalf of the LBO.

The proposed BBL, which was drafted by the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, seeks genuine autonomy and is set to address the political marginalization and historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. This version has been adopted by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez when he sponsored this as House Bill No. 6475.

The Joint Committees of the Joint Committees on Local Government, Muslim Affairs, and Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity are now holding committee meetings to finalize a substitute bill considering the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro entered into by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014 and the results of the public consultations and hearings. ###

By | March 23rd, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

GPH-MILF peace implementation panels gear up for BBL passage

DAVAO CITY — Representatives of the various normalization bodies under the Government of the Philippines–Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) Peace Panel gathered here early this week to discuss ways to strengthen existing peace mechanisms and reaffirm their commitment to the peace process.

In a two-day workshop spearheaded by the World Bank and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the normalization bodies recommended key activities they can jointly carry out, particularly in preparation for the passage and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The normalization bodies have been instrumental in sustaining the gains of peace in Mindanao, particularly after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the GPH and MILF in 2014.

In his remarks during the event, Deputy Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Nabil Tan said there is “a very good chance” the BBL will be passed.

Undersecretary Tan, who also chairs the GPH Peace Implementing Panel, called on the various normalization bodies to focus on strengthening security and confidence-building measures.

As a resource person during the Senate and Congressional public consultations on the BBL held in selected areas in Mindanao, Tan witnessed the outpouring of public support for the proposed law, which seeks to establish an autonomous Bangsamoro government and territory.

Undersecretary Tan emphasized the need for the normalization bodies to establish time frames for the implementation of joint activities, saying the GPH-MILF peace process is now in the “intensified phase of the implementing stage.”

“Let us persevere. Let us not give up. Let us continue to advocate that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed,” he said.

For his part, MILF Panel Implementing Chair Mohagher Iqbal, who was himself a resource person during the Senate and Congressional public consultations, said he remains optimistic the proposed law will be approved by Congress.

“All directions point to the positive outcome of the BBL,” he said.

Iqbal said this is the reason the conduct of the workshop was timely as it will help concretize what to expect when Congress passes the BBL.

Iqbal also said the MILF can be a more reliable partner “when everything is settled” through the passage of the BBL.

“We are in partnership mode,” the MILF leader said. ###

By | March 22nd, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

BBL will boost economic growth

BONGAO, Tawi-tawi – The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will boost economic opportunities to the southernmost island province as it will improve infrastructures and strengthen peace and security leading to a more business-friendly environment.

Rep. Ruby Sahali (Lone District, Tawi-Tawi), chairperson of the special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, said the island province has been suffering from negative publicity due to peace and order issues.

“Tawi-tawi has a lot of assets in terms of tourism, fishery and minerals. The BBL will bring progress as this will address the stigma brought about by negative perceptions on peace and order,” Sahali said.

Tawi-tawi is known for its tourism spots such as the scenic Bud Bongao Peak and diving spots. This is on top of the island province being one of the country’s major producers of fresh seafood and seaweed, which is mainly being used for food and beauty products.

“The BBL will bring a climate of stability,” said Sahali, who led the public hearings on Thursday and in Zamboanga City on Friday.

Not only Tawi-tawi will greatly benefit from the windfall of investment and development but the entire territories under the BBL, she said.

Sahali also emphasized provisions of the BBL will strengthen Tawi-tawi since they project the island as the gateway for the ASEAN economic initiative.

Tawi-tawi is one of the three of the five provinces of the present ARMM adjacent to the ASEAN member nations of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei–sharing with them close cultural and Muslim-religious affinity.

Both houses of Congress are set to enact the BBL later this March.

The BBL is the legal document that operationalize the peace agreements between the government and the Moro fronts in Mindanao. ###

ARMM employees to stay once BBL is passed

Government employees of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will continue to hold their positions once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is enacted, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) assured.

Commissioner Maisara Dandamun-Latiph made it clear that through a transition plan which would span for four years, government offices will not be automatically dissolved.

“There will be no abrupt disruption in services. The employees will continue to hold positions and deliver public services,” she stated.

Under the Section 10, Article 16 of the palace-endorsed BTC version of BBL, “officials holding appointive positions shall continue to perform their functions in accordance with schedule” under the plan to be crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

The BTA will be the governing body tasked to create the plan during the transition period. It shall be consisted of 80 members representing different sectors including indigenous communities, youth, women, settler communities, traditional leaders, and other sectors.

To ensure fairness, representatives from the ARMM itself, Civil Service Commission, and Department of Budget and Management will conduct inventory of liabilities, contracts and employees prior to turn-over to BTA.

Dandamun – Latiph, who is part of the 21-member commission tasked to craft a Bangsamoro law that is inclusive and in step with the Constitution, also guaranteed that the rehiring process of employees shall be impartial and free from irregularities.

“The BTA shall institute an independent strictly merit based and credible placement and hiring process and shall consider gender and ethnic balance,” she quoted from the BTC draft.

During his message in the Liga ng mga Barangay – ARMM Chapter Regional Convention, Deputy Presidential Peace Adviser Nabil S. Tan also ascertained barangay leaders that qualified employees will stay under the Bangsamoro government.

“The new political entity cannot afford to forego the people who have the competence and skills to run the government bureaucracy,” he said.

The passage of BBL is part of the political track of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed in 2014 between the government and the MILF. The BTC draft version of the law has received overwhelming support from President Rodrigo Duterte and leaders from both the upper and lower chambers of the Congress.



By | February 28th, 2018|MILF, MNLF, News|0 Comments

Bridging hope and unity for the Lumads

BRGY. GUPITAN, KAPALONG, DAVAO DEL NORTE—At first glance, the situation seemed tense as an “encounter” was about to occur.

On one side of the bridge were hundreds of Lumads holding bladed weapons and bearing strongly-worded placards urging local rebel forces to stop their illicit activities and let them live in peace.

At the other side were representatives of government led by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza who came from Davao City to visit this remote, hinterland community.

But the encounter turned out to be a meeting of the minds and hearts, as both groups walked towards each other and shook hands in a symbolic gesture of peace, understanding and solidarity.

Sec. Dureza and local officials of Kapalong then lighted candles and recited a prayer before cutting the ceremonial ribbon to inaugurate the Patel Bridge, which was built under the Pamana at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

PAMANA is under the oversight of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). It is the national government’s convergence program that provides development assistance to isolated, hard-to-reach, conflict-affected communities across the country.

In his remarks, Sec. Dureza stressed the need to understand the reasons why some have decided to take up arms and are now waging a guerrilla war against the government.

He noted that these individuals are “angry at the national leadership” because they feel left out from the mainstream of development.

The peace adviser said this is why he wants to engage people in meaningful discussions and find out how their concerns can be best addressed.

“Dialogue is only half of the work of peace-building,” he said in the vernacular, adding that the “other half is carrying out programs” that would help uplift the lives of residents.

Sec. Dureza pointed out that the implementation of projects such as the Patel Bridge is a concrete manifestation of the government’s desire to make economic growth more inclusive by bringing development to the countryside.

Citing the “chicken and egg” analogy, he emphasized that peace and development should not come one after the other but instead “should come hand in hand.”

In the case of Kapalong, Sec. Dureza revealed that there a lot of prospective investors who are interested to do business in the area but are concerned over their safety.

He said that it is therefore the role of government to create an enabling environment where trade and investment can flourish.

“It is good to talk [about peace] but we also need to bring in investments,” Sec. Dureza said, as he introduced Board of Investments Governor Napoleon Concepcion who was part of his contingent.

According to the government’s top peace negotiator, a number of investors have already expressed interest in establishing palm oil and coffee plantations in the municipality.

Citing the “Datu Paglas experience,” Sec. Dureza said that it is very much possible to transform conflict-affected areas into peaceful, progressive communities.

“In Datu Paglas, the residents decided to lay down their rifles and use ploughshares instead,” he said.

Sec. Dureza said that maintaining peace in the community is not only the responsibility of the security sector, as he urged the residents of Kapalong to be more pro-active and become agents of peace.

“You are the first line of defense. You should be the first to tell others to stop fighting government and turn a new leaf,” he said.

“You can’t bring peace if you don’t have peace within yourself,” Sec. Dureza added.

At the same event, tribal leader Datu Larry Masaluon declared that he and his fellow Lumads were very pleased with the recently completed infrastructure projects in the community.

“These roads and bridges,..These would put an end to our poverty,” Masuluon said.

“We are very happy with the support given to us by government,” he said. “We are all united in our quest for peace.”

For her part, Kapalong Mayor Karen Theresa Timbol said that with the completion of the Patel Bridge, their long-held dream has finally become a reality.

“Our dream has been realized because of our unity as a people,” she said.

Mayor Timbol said that there are those who are saying the government is not doing its job of providing for the needs of its people.

“That is untrue,” she stressed, saying “We need to show them that all we want is development and to provide a better life or our people.”