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Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace) Statement of Support on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (House Bill 6475 and as Senate Bill 1717) March 5, 2018

Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace)
Statement of Support on the Bangsamoro Basic Law
(House Bill 6475 and as Senate Bill 1717)
March 5, 2018

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Bangsamoro was an idea. It was an idea to resolve social injustices against Moros. It was an idea to stop the atrocities and armed conflict, to spare life and limb and livelihoods. It was an idea for the Bangsamoro children and youth to have better options and better lives.

The people of Mindanao – Moros, Christians, and Lumads – had suffered more than five decades of armed conflict. But now, we have a golden opportunity to end the historic violence against the children of Mindanao. We have the chance at building just and lasting peace, impartial to creed, color and identity.

The Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace), a nationwide network of young peace advocates, believes that these can be addressed by implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

GenPeace, together with the youth in Bangsamoro, believes that the passage of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, filed as House Bill 6475 and as Senate Bill 1717, will bring peace to the Bangsamoro people and aids in the resolution of the age-old armed conflict in Mindanao. This will institutionalize the politically-negotiated settlement between the Government of the Philippines Peace Negotiating Panel (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The BTC BBL will bring development and boost economic growth noting that the Bangsamoro has forty years to catch in terms of development. This will create opportunities for the youth to cultivate a just and peaceful society through education and participation in governance.

GenPeace supports the passage of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission Bangsamoro Basic Law and its provisions particularly:

  • Provisions on youth participation in governance and increasing representation of youth in decision-making at all levels.
  • Provisions on promoting and ensuring that the rights of the youth are respected and protected in a democratic society.
  • Provisions on creating an enabling environment that promotes lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation.
  • Provisions on strengthening support to educational institutions that positively contribute to the youth’s formation and institutionalizes a mechanism that promotes a culture of peace.
  • Provisions on rehabilitation and development that addresses the need of the youth affected by armed conflict.
  • Provisions on the recognition and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples.
  • Provisions on recognition and protection of the rights of women and the importance of women’s participation in decision-making.

Investing in the youth is investing in the future. It is an investment towards a diverse Philippine Republic, an investment to a more equitable sharing of power and resources, an investment towards democracy and rule of law. The peace we build is not for our generation now, nor the current Bangsamoro liberation leadership from both MILF and MNLF. The Bangsamoro future belongs to its children—Moros, Lumads, Christians, seculars, and all the youth.

Thank you. Salaam, Kapayapaan!

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Provisions on youth participation in governance and increasing representation of youth in decision-making at all levels

Article VI Section 5. Council of Leaders.

  • The Bangsamoro Council of Leaders shall consist of the Chief Minister, provincial governors, mayors of chartered cities, and representatives from traditional leaders, non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler communities, ulama, youth, Bangsamoro communities outside of the Bangsamoro territory, and other sectors.

Article VII Section 6. Classification and Allocation of Seats.

  • The seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament shall be classified and allocated as follows:(3) Reserved Seats; Sectoral
  • Sectoral representatives, constituting ten percent (10%) of the Members of Parliament, including two (2) reserved seats each for non-Moro indigenous people and settler Women, youth, traditional leaders, and the ulama shall also have one reserved seat each.

Article VII Section 14. Qualifications.

  • The Youth representative shall not be less than eighteen (18) years and not more than forty (40) years of age at the time of his/her election.

Article IX Section 12. Rights of the Youth.

  • Recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.
    Create the Commission on Youth Affairs and shall define its powers, functions, and composition.

Provisions on promoting and ensuring that the rights of the youth are respected and protected in a democratic society.

Article V Section 4. Other Exclusive Powers.

  • Adopt measures for the protection of the youth in the Bangsamoro and the promotion of their welfare, and to create the appropriate office and other mechanisms for the implementation of such measures;

Article VI Section 10. Assistance to Other Bangsamoro Communities.

  • Ensure the protection of the rights of the Bangsamoro people residing outside the territory of the Bangsamoro and undertake programs for the rehabilitation and development of their communities.

Article IX Section 6. Human Rights.

  • Guarantees full respect for human rights.All laws and policies, including customary laws, shall conform to international human rights and humanitarian standards. The rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and otherinternational human rights instruments shall be guaranteed by the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government.

Article IX Section 14. Rights of Children.

  • Respect, protect, and promote the rights of children, especially orphans of tender age. They shall be protected from exploitation, abuse, or discrimination. Their education and development, both physical and mental, shall be fully addressed.

Provisions on creating an enabling environment that promotes lasting peace and contributing to justice and reconciliation.

Article IX Section 3. Transitional Justice.

  • Create a transitional justice mechanism to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, including the indigenous peoples, such as historical injustices, human rights violations, marginalization through unjust dispossession of their territorial and proprietary rights and customary land tenure.
  • The report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) shall be taken into consideration in the creation of said mechanism.

Provisions on strengthening support to educational institutions that positively contribute to the youth’s formation and institutionalizes a mechanism that promotes a culture of peace.

Article IX Section 16. Integrated System of Quality Education.

  • Establish, maintain, and support, as a top priority, a complete and integrated system of quality education and adopt an educational framework that is relevant and responsive to the needs, ideals, and aspirations of the Bangsamoro people and the unity of all Filipinos.
  • Institutionalize peace education in all levels of education.

Article IX Section 18. Madaris Education, Islamic and Arabic Studies.

  • Establish and maintain madaris education within the Bangsamoro.
  • Integrate in its elementary and high school education curriculum the teaching of Islamic and Arabic studies for Muslim pupils and students in public schools.
  • Enact legislation for the strengthening and development of madaris educational system in the Bangsamoro.

Provisions on rehabilitation and development that addresses the need of the youth affected by armed conflict.

Article XIV Section 1. Rehabilitation and Development.

  • Intensify development efforts for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and development of the Bangsamoro as part of the normalization
  • Formulate and implement a program for rehabilitation and development that will address the needs of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)/Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Force (BIAF) members and its decommissioned women auxiliary force, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)/Bangsamoro Armed Forces (BAF) members, and address the needs of internally displaced persons, widows and orphans, and poverty-stricken communities.

Article XIV Section 2. Special Development Fund.

  • Provide for a Special Development Fund to the Bangsamoro for the rehabilitation and development of its conflict-affected communities.

Provisions on the recognition and protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples.

Article VII Section 7. Election for Reserved Seats for Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples.

  • Reserved seats for the non-Moro indigenous peoples, such as, but not limited to, Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo, B’laan and Higaonon, shall be pursuant to their customary laws and indigenous processes.

Article IX Section 4. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights.

  • Recognizes the rights of the indigenous peoples, and shall adopt measures for the promotion and protection of their rights, the right to their native titles and/or fusakainged, indigenous customs and traditions, justice systems and indigenous political structures, the right to an equitable share in revenues from the utilization of resources in their ancestral lands, the right to free and prior informed consent, the right to political participation in the Bangsamoro Government including reserved seats for the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro Parliament, the right to basic services, and the right to freedom of choice as to their identity consistent with the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and subsisting laws on indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro.

Article IX Section 19. Tribal University System.

  • Create a tribal university system within the Bangsamoro to address the higher educational needs of the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro.
  • Pass a law recognizing and supporting the indigenous peoples’ educational system to be integrated in the educational system in the Bangsamoro.

Article XIII Section 12. Rights of Indigenous Peoples Over Natural Resources.

  • Recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro in relation to natural resources within the territories covered by a native title, including their share in revenues, as provided in this Basic Law, and preferential rights in the exploration, development and utilization of such natural resources within their area. The right of indigenous peoples to free and prior informed consent in relation to development initiatives shall be respected.

Provisions on recognition and protection of the rights of women and the importance of women’s participation in decision-making at all levels.

Article IX Section 11. Participation of Women in the Bangsamoro Government.

  • Enact a law that gives recognition to the important role of women in nation-building and regional development, and ensures representation of women in other decision-making and policy-determining bodies of the Bangsamoro Government.
  • Create the Bangsamoro Women Commission

Article IX Section 13. Protection of Women.

  • Uphold and protect the fundamental rights of women including the right to engage in lawful employment and to be protected from exploitation, abuse, or discrimination, as embodied in the Convention onthe Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Article XIII Section 6. Gender and Development.

  • Recognizes the role of women in governance and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. It shall guarantee full and direct participation of women in governance and in the development process and shall, further, ensure that women benefit equally in the implementation of development programs and projects.
  • Appropriation of at least five percent (5%) of the total budget of each ministry, office, and constituent local government unit of the Bangsamoro shall be set aside for gender-responsive programs, in accordance with a gender and development (GAD) plan.

Generation Peace Youth Network
c/o the National Secretariat – GZO Peace Institute
2/F Hoffner Building, Ateneo de Manila University
Loyola Heights, Quezon City 1108
Telefax +63.02.4266064


Full Text of the 2017 Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law


GenPeace Human Rights Playschool Game Kit


This GenPeace human rights education project is made possible through the Karapatan sa Malikhaing Paraan (KaSaMa) with support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila.

GenPeace Human Rights Playschool provides basic education on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) as well as providing fun to young people while learning. The educational offering of GenPeace Human Rights Playschool focuses on values, attitudes and beliefs about human rights and respect to dignity. Repackaging formal workshops into facilitated “playshops” highlights significant human rights issues experienced by the youth particularly discrimination based on social, cultural and religious differences.

The Human Rights Game Kit – The design of the interactive games and board game maximizes the use of structured and facilitated playshops. The creative use of structured experiences contributed significantly to create an exciting form of learning. GenPeace Human Rights Playschool focused on utilizing various forms of games to teach UDHR catering to the audience and the need for understanding the concept of human rights in a fun and creative way.

GenPeace Human Rights Playschool Game Kit are also available to partners at Php 1,000.00 for the sustainability of the program in conducting Human Rights Playshops in the communities and public schools.

10 Things: Why Should We Pursue the Bangsamoro Peace Talks?

 We are all brothers and sisters not by blood, but by our tears, our suffering, our mourning. I am enraged by the violence in Mamasapano, but will never call for an all-out war. Many who beat on their war drums know nothing about being in a war zone. It is easy to be a commando on Facebook or a Rambo with a signature espresso drink. But war is ugly. Very, very ugly. Uglier than how movies portray it. I’ve seen firsthand the aftermath of the MoA-AD in 2008.

While the BBL did not in any way trigger the senseless deaths in Mamasapano, it became the primary casualty of a botched military operation against terrorism. Make no mistake, terrorism in all forms should be condemned but having the BBL threatened after the Mamasapano clash loses sight of the opportune moment to build peace and turn swords into ploughshares. Here are some perspectives on why we should see the bigger picture and pursue peace along with our cries for justice.

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“Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now.  While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.” – Teresita Quintos Deles, PAPP
(Presented during the Panel Discussion on Mindanao at the 2013 Philippines Development Forum (PDF), held in Davao City on 4 February 2013
By Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)
This 2013 Philippines Development Forum comes at a most propitious time in the Mindanao peace process.  The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or the FAB, which was signed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October, 2012, has been hailed here and worldwide as a breakthrough in what has been a very long-drawn and protracted peace process.  Today, hope has returned that finally there will be peace in Mindanao.
The fragile peace in Mindanao, intermittently broken as it has been with serious outbreaks of violence between GPH and MILF forces, has been a major deterrent to the full development of Southern Philippines. As we enter a new phase of the peace process with the MILF, we welcome fresh opportunities to redraw the development paradigm to ensure sustainable peace and development in the troubled territory.  The challenges that lie ahead remain formidable, however, and there are dangers that we need to watch out and prepare for.
This morning, I have been asked to share the latest developments on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.  While there remain significant issues still being negotiated on the table, I hope to be able to provide you with a broad but extensive view of how the FAB may change the political, economic, and social landscape in this part of the country, which will, in turn, have a major impact on the development not only of Mindanao but of the entire Philippines.
While people’s interest and attention are surely focused on the GPH-MILF peace process, I hope towards the end of my presentation also to spend a few minutes to speak on our other peace table with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  In particular, I wish to draw your attention to the aftermath of the disaster caused by Pablo, which, in a different way, has also changed the landscape of another part of Mindanao.
Let me start with the update on what has happened since the FAB was signed in October, 2012, less than four months ago.
First, the government has a new Chair in the person of Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, or Iye to many of us.  Iye is a professor of Political Science of the University of the Philippines.  She has been a long time civil society peace advocate who has pursued different levels of engagement with various Philippine peace processes, particularly with the CPP/NPA/NDF, the MILF, and the CPLA.  She was appointed a member of the GPH Panel for talks with the MILF at the start of this administration, at the same time that now-Associate Justice Marvic Leonen was appointed Panel Chair.
Professor Ferrer is the first woman Chair for the peace process with the MILF.  From her background and practice in the academe, she brings with her a keen eye for detail, a capacity to sift through the many technical dimensions embedded in the annexes and put forward a clarity of understanding that serves the process well.  We are confident that Iye, who leads a line-up of other ground-breaking women on the peace table, will bring to a satisfactory conclusion to what Justice Leonen had started.
Since the FAB signing, three rounds of talks have been held in Kuala Lumpur, one meeting per month since November, 2012 – one while Justice Leonen was still chair and two under Professor Ferrer.  In all these rounds of talks, four joint Technical Working Groups or TWGs, which have equal representation from both parties, have been working simultaneously on four Annexes to the FAB.  As stated in the FAB, these are the Annexes on (1) Power-Sharing, on (2) Wealth-Sharing, on (3) Normalization, and on (4) Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.  It is the TWG’s task to draft the text of their respective Annexes for adoption by the Panels and eventual approval by the parties’ respective principals.
The parties’ joint work on the Annexes has been evolutionary.  In her closing remarks at the last round of talks last January 26, Professor Ferrer recounted: “When we organized our working groups, we had no TORs.  We had no rules except the basic ethic of respect and decency.  We evolved, round after round.  We explored together.  We adjusted.  We agreed and disagreed together.  We vetted ideas, words, paragraphs, even whole sheets, of draft formulations one after another to each other.”
At the end of the last round of talks, the two panel chairs jointly announced that they had reached a milestone.  The panels adopted and signed the draft Terms of Reference of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), which had been produced by the joint TWG on Transitional Arrangements.  The TPMT – I have to warn you that we may have to start another lexicon, born of the Filipinos’ love affair with verbal short-cuts and acronyms, to keep up with the peace process – is envisioned to be an independent body that is tasked to “monitor, review and assess the implementation of all signed agreements, primarily the (FAB) and its Annexes.”  It shall be chaired by an eminent international person and shall have two representatives from local NGOs and two representatives from international NGOs as members, one of each category to be nominated by each party.  The panels agreed to identify the TPMT chair and members within one month.  The TPMT shall exist and function until an Exit Agreement between the two parties has been reached.
Both sides had hoped that the four Annexes would be completed and signed by the end of 2012, as stated in the FAB.  Elaborating the Annexes to a mutually satisfactory level of detail has needed an extension of a few more months, however.  In negotiating these details, the President’s instructions to the GPH panel remain the same: We cannot agree to anything that we will not be able to deliver.  The government will deliver legally, politically, economically, and culturally everything that it signs.  It is taking a bit more time but we are confident that the FAB and all its Annexes, as carefully crafted as they are, will be able to pass the test and all provisions will be fully implemented.
While acknowledging that there are still very difficult issues to be negotiated, both sides have expressed optimism that the Annexes on Power-Sharing, Wealth-Sharing, and Transitional Arrangements will be completed by the end of February, 2013, while the Annex on Normalization may take up to March.  As our GPH chief negotiator has said:  “Flexibility has always been our trademark in this process.  There are difficult issues, but no issue is insurmountable.”
Once completed, the Annexes on Power Sharing and on Wealth Sharing will provide the parameters for the crafting of the Basic Law which, once passed by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite conducted in all covered areas, will establish the new autonomous political entity, the Bangsamoro, that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.
Crafting the Basic Law will require being able to imagine a different way of structuring the regional government in order to ensure true autonomy.  Other parts of the country may continue to question, and we will have to continue to explain why, in the words of Professor Ferrer, “it is important to realize self-governance in the envisioned Bangsamoro; why this Bangsamoro is different from local government units and administrative regions in actual terms and as envisioned in the Constitution when it provided in Article X for Autonomous Regions; and why therefore they deserve to have more powers, more support and institutional features that are different from the rest of the country, such as the plural administration of justice system and a ministerial form of government.”
And still again and again, we have had to explain and will continue to explain that these differences do not separate the Bangsamoro from the rest of the country.   The Bangsamoro, the MILF are Filipinos.
Provisions on Power-Sharing establish what government powers are reserved to National Government, which ones are exclusive or fully devolved to the autonomous government, and which powers are concurrent or shared between the two.  It requires a fine balancing act to determine such power-sharing, given the asymmetric relationship between the central and the regional governments and between the autonomous political entity and local government units.  Through the hard work of the joint TWG, good compromises have been reached on many of the provisions.  Only three unresolved items remain: on  jurisdiction over natural resources, on the sharing of powers related to transportation and communication, and on the new concept of “regional waters” or “water domain.”
Provisions on Wealth Sharing, on the other hand, seek to provide the new political entity with the sufficient level of fiscal autonomy that will allow it to effectively define its development path.  Clearly, the status quo embodied in the current ARMM is not acceptable.  Presently, ARMM relies solely on the budget it receives from national government, with negligible capacity to generate and retain its own revenue to finance its activities.
An important question is: When can the Bangsamoro attain such fiscal autonomy?  How much subsidy should national government provide for how long, and how much internal revenue from what source should it generate and retain?  At the same time, it is important to highlight that accountability measures are also an important component of fiscal autonomy and that, as part of the Philippines, the Bangsamoro also has an obligation to contribute to the national coffers.
The joint TWG has achieved consensus on a majority of the proposed provisions, with only three items left for resolution: these are on the devolution of taxing powers, on the automatic appropriation of annual block grants, and on the sharing ratio on revenues from natural resources.
The Annex on Normalization, the third Annex, provides for the process that will allow the combatants and their communities to return to or enter into conditions in which they can achieve their desired quality of life.  The process involves three major aspects: (1) Security, (2) Socio-economic Development, and (3) Transitional justice and reconciliation.  Four components fall under Security: (a) The phased and calibrated decommissioning of combatants and weapons until, in the words of the FAB, “they are put beyond use”; (b) Police reform, with the gradual transfer of law enforcement to the police force in the Bangsamoro; (c) Disbanding private armed groups and eradicating loose firearms; and (d) Maintenance of ceasefire and demilitarization.  Normalization will require an interfacing of concurrent actions where the police is reformed and strengthened, the AFP is repositioned for external defense, the MILF is decommissioned, other armed groups are disbanded, and loose firearms eradicated – all these processes timed with the delivery of the political commitments laid out in the FAB.
While many stakeholders are focused on the disarmament of the MILF, it is clear that effective normalization has to go beyond that.  One cannot just talk about the arms of the MILF but also of everyone else  How can we ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or families with which they may be in conflict continue to be armed?  We are looking towards a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to seriously address how to increase people’s sense of security over their lives and property and how to get citizens to trust that state forces can and will protect them from harm.
Of all the sections of the FAB, the provisions on Normalization, particularly on the aspect of the decommissioning of MILF fighters, is drawing the most questions from the public.  There is concern over certain statements from some MILF fighters that they will not give up their arms.  We should not be surprised if some members of the MILF, a movement which has been fighting for so long, would have a different perspective on decommissioning.  On our part, it is also about being able to assure combatants that there is life beyond fighting.  This has to be part of the discussion: What alternatives do we offer?
As the fighters see these developments on the ground – that the peace is real, the land can now be cultivated and crops can grow to full harvest, there is livelihood for me and a market for my products, my children can go to school, there are functional health facilities when a member of my family falls sick – then it will be a matter not just of me giving up something but of a better life I will be gaining for my family and my community, especially our children.
Many provisions of the Annex on Normalization will not need to be enacted into law but can be directly accomplished by the act of the two parties.
Some aspects of the Annex on Transitional Arrangements may also proceed without need of the law.  To begin with, Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission was signed by the President last December 17, 2012.  Immediately on the following day, on their last working day of the year, both Houses of Congress passed their respective Resolutions expressing support for the FAB and the creation of the Transition Commission.
The TC is the body tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will be certified by the President for enactment by Congress and, thereafter, ratification through plebiscite.  It will be composed of 15 members of which eight, including the chair, are selected by the MILF and seven by government. The MILF has submitted their list of eight, while nominees for the GPH side have been short-listed.  The necessary documentation, including clearances from the appropriate bodies, is now being completed for submission to the President.  We are looking towards the presidential appointment of the TC chair and members by mid-February.
In accordance with the provisions of the FAB, EO 120 provides a mechanism for authentic democratic collaboration in the crafting of a proposed law by the affected people themselves.  The aim is to install the Bangsamoro through a new organic act as soon as possible in order to ensure that an elected Bangsamoro government is in place by 2016, simultaneous with the entry of the next administration.  The issuance of the Executive Order creating the Transition Commission marked the delivery of the first political commitment under the FAB.  Once the TC is operational with the appointment of its full membership, we will be able to say that the road map set by the FAB is firmly on the move.
This leads us to the provisions of the FAB on the reconstruction of communities in the Bangsamoro that had been affected by the armed conflict.  We all know that the areas of the ARMM remain to be the most underdeveloped communities in the country.  Almost all MDG indicators, from health to education to maternal and infant mortality and women’s participation, are lowest in ARMM.  With the signing and implementation of the FAB, there are high expectations that the peace that the FAB promises will bring accelerated development in the area.
Indeed, government is committed to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of conflict-affected areas and to fast-track socio-economic development in the region. This will be accomplished in a large part by empowering the Bangsamoro themselves through their participation in transforming their own communities.  According to the FAB and EO 120, the Transition Commission shall assist in identifying development programs together with the Bangsamoro Development Agency and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute – two institutions initiated by and affiliated with the MILF.
We see two tracks to development for the Bangsamoro.  The first one involves the MILF combatants, their immediate families and communities, and those most vulnerable to conflict, particularly IDPs, women, and children.  Programs for these beneficiaries will require strong partnership with and leadership from the MILF.  Both parties are determined to ensure that the organizational leadership of the MILF takes a leading role in shaping the programs for their internal constituencies.  This is imperative for the success of the peace process.
Already, there is a list of projects on health, education, and livelihood that has been drawn up and agreed upon by the GPH and the MILF for implementation in the next twelve months.  Tentatively called Sajahatra Bangsamoro (which I understand means the welfare or state of happiness of the Bangsamoro), the program is part of the continuing confidence-building efforts between the two parties as well as assuring the communities that they do not need to wait until 2016 to experience the benefits of the FAB.  The program is set to be launched on February 11, 2013, in Maguindanao in the presence of the President and Chair Murad.  Sajahatra may be a precursor of more basic services and livelihood programs for the MILF and their communities, and we can anticipate that this program will play an important part of the normalization process under the FAB.
The second track involves the more massive and longterm reconstruction and rehabilitation of the entire Bangsamoro region.  For this track, the national government is prepared to do its part to the utmost of its capability and in accordance with the spirit of partnership that it is seeking to forge and strengthen with the MILF.  How exactly this will play out requires more discussion, coupled with mutual discernment and discretion, also confidence- and trust-building between the government and MILF, as well as strengthened and appropriate capacity-building for those who will play key planning and implementation roles in whatever programs and projects will be put in place.
Given the healthy financial situation of the Philippine Government due to Daang Matwid, we have been assured by both Secretaries Purisima and Abad that we stand ready to bankroll the costs of the initial and substantial phases of reconstruction and rehabilitation.  Through several conduits and directly from Chair Murad himself, we have received information that MILF is embarking on processes to come up with a Bangsamoro Development Plan.  We look forward to seeing these processes move forward, even as government continues to maintain and update its own data bases for appropriate future use.  We hope that the MILF’s first engagement in the PDF will bear fruit in spurring the process forward.
In the meantime, in the short-term, given that the ARMM remains to be the government entity operating in the area, OIC Regional Governor Hataman will be relied upon in the planning and programming of socio-economic programs and projects for the territory.  Governance reforms initiated when he took office in 2012 need to continue and be strengthened.  Delivery of basic services needs to be accelerated and improved to facilitate a catch-up on MDG targets.  Access, connectivity and markets need to be pursued if livelihood opportunities are to be sustained.  Threats from climate change need to be addressed.  The current ARMM government needs to accomplish all these not to pre-empt the powers and prerogatives of the prospective new political entity but to provide for a better baseline of governance and development once the new Basic Law on the Bangsamoro becomes a reality.
If all that is needed is infrastructure, much will need to be done, but it will not be that difficult.  The task becomes more complex when one sees how development should in turn build and strengthen legitimate institutions within the Bangsamoro territory.  We all acknowledge that despite the level of development assistance poured into the area over the past many years, the state of underdevelopment has prevailed.  I do not know whether there are estimates on how much has been lost to corruption, inefficiency and poor planning, but it may be safe to say it has been considerable.  Just anecdotal conversations in the field indicate that as much as 50 to 70% of budget covers do not reach the intended beneficiaries in many areas in ARMM.  While Governor Hataman has been earnest in instituting reforms, much remains to be done.
This means that as we plan and do reconstruction and rehabilitation in the area, we will also need to build legitimate institutions that will guarantee inclusive growth, increase participation in the political and economic decision making, as well as guard against interests that are inimical to social, political and economic empowerment.
The Basic Law for the Bangsamoro will be instrumental in shaping these institutions.  Those who will craft the Basic Law should learn from what went wrong before and incorporate into the provisions sufficient guarantees that the institutions to be established in the autonomous region will bring about inclusive, participatory and empowering social and political processes.
Flashed before you is the roadmap to 2016.  Important milestones include the completion of the draft Organic Law that will create the Bangsamoro, its passage by Congress, the plebiscite that would ratify the law, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority that would ensure the continuing functioning of government in the territory, and, fully anticipating that all the earlier milestones happen, then the elections of officials for the Bangsamoro government in 2016.
It is easy to see that the process laid out in the FAB leading to 2016 is not an easy one.  Many things can go wrong.  Those who prefer the status quo, which the FAB rejected, are determined to find ways to derail this process.  The traditional powerbrokers are still very much entrenched, and it will be a challenge how to engage them rather than totally reject them.
But the roadmap leading to the creation of the Bangsamoro should also be seen as an opportunity to help those who have been working for reform all this time to gain the platform to engage the political arena, and even win in that arena.  The ministerial form of government is promising in that it is anchored on a multi-party system, allowing for a multitude of voices aiming to garner the necessary votes to gain power.   It will be necessary to increase the voice of those among the Bangsamoro who have been champions of reforms but have not been able to engage the politics of reform.  These people need to be capacitated and provided with a platform that will allow them to compete for space in the formal political arena, to not be fearful or embarrassed to deal with the world of politics.  This is an important challenge that MILF must become ready to confront.
Reformists need to engage the state and the government if we want to entrench systems and mechanisms for long term reform. If not, we leave these same systems and mechanisms to those whose only desire is to maintain the status quo.
What I have said about institutional reform is very much tied to the whole effort of development in the Bangsamoro.  One without the other will not bring us to sustainable just and lasting peace and development, the Framework Agreement notwithstanding.  We will need to build inclusive social and political institutions if development is to make a difference in the lives of people in Mindanao.  This is an imperative that underlies all of our work.
Before I end, please allow me to make a short detour to look into areas, this time in northeastern Mindanao, that have been affected by the armed conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  Those who have been patiently monitoring this peace process know that it has remained at a standstill for several years now.  While there was movement in the informal exchanges that happened late last year, leading to the joint declaration of the longest Christmas ceasefire from December 20, 2012, to January 15, 2013, the prospects of truly moving forward on this peace table remains uncertain.
But, here in Mindanao, the recent disaster brought about by Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Sur presents a unique opportunity for partners of peace and development.  Not too many people realize that practically all of the areas affected by Pablo are also areas affected by the conflict with the CPP/NPA/NDF.  The map shown provides the overlay of Pablo-affected and conflict-affected areas.
As government and its partners begin the difficult work of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Pablo-affected areas, it might be worthwhile to consider a reconstruction philosophy that will guarantee that the re-established communities will not only be more resilient to climate change, but also be free from the armed conflicts that have prevented sustainable development to happen in the area.  We are calling on the New People’s Army operating in these areas to truly show they care for these communities by taking this historic opportunity in partnering with us in healing and reconstructing communities badly affected by Pablo.
Every moment provides us with an opportunity to bring peace in our country.  With the Framework Agreement for the Bangsamoro, the partnership between the GPH and the MILF allows us to break through decades of conflict and violence. The Pablo disaster likewise is an invitation to help each other rebuild communities of peace and development.
We are at the dawn of a new era of peace and development in Mindanao. But, as I hope I have laid out for you, much remains to be done.  As always, we will need to depend on each other.  As always, we will need to have a resolve that will carry us through the challenging times, a spirit that allows us to imagine a future different from the past, and the courage to believe that peace is truly within our reach.
Maraming salamat po.  Daghang salamat.  Shukran. 

Peace challenge II to the GPH and NDFP: Just drop the charade of peace talks, focus on the doable especially for human rights and IHL


By Soliman M. Santos, Jr.

Naga City, 8 October 2012


[Author’s note:  This article started to be written several days before the presidential announcement of a new GPH-MILF framework agreement on 7 October 2012 but was finished the day after that announcement.  The announced development  is relevant to this article’s making some key comparisons or contrasts between the GPH-NDFP and GPH-MILF fronts of war and peace. Ironically, the new substantive progress on the GPH-MILF peace front does not change, and on the contrary reinforces, this article’s loss of hope in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.]


More than one year and seven months after the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Oslo Joint Statement (OJS) of 21 February 2011 when they had resumed their formal peace negotiations under the current Aquino administration after an impasse of almost seven years under the Arroyo administration, it is clear from both the verbal and body language of both parties that those supposedly resumed negotiations are going nowhere.  In fact, it is probably long overdue to call a spade a spade, to say that the Emperor has no clothes:  that the GRP/GPH-NDFP peace talks have long become a charade, that the parties have no real political will to earnestly see the talks through in an honest to goodness peace process.


Better then to just stop the charade or pretense, so as to not continue to raise any illusions or false expectations (if still any) about it among the people.  Better to then be guided accordingly and redirect the main effort to something truly feasible and still desirable, even if it is not the most ideal result of “resolving the armed conflict” and “attaining a just and lasting peace.”  The way things stand, one important thing which is still doable and desirable, even in the face of continuing armed hostilities and precisely because of this, is achieving the best possible “respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL)” in order “to ensure the protection of non-combatants and reduce the impact of the armed conflict on communities found in conflict areas.” But even this has to break out of the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations, and all concerned, not just the two warring parties, have to find new and better ways of civilian protection.


Low-Intensity Effort and Dedma


It is evident that both parties to this armed conflict, but more so the NDFP to be fair about it, do not have their hearts into their peace negotiations.  They show only low-intensity effort to follow through on the supposed resumption way back February 2011 after an already long impasse since 2004.  They do not try hard enough to effectively, practicably and flexibly deal with and dispose of real and imagined obstacles in order to be able to proceed from that breakthrough resumption.  Worst of all, they imagine or themselves place the obstacles when there really should be none. Theirs is a clear negative example of the recent-day vernacular saying that kung gusto, ay may paraan; kung ayaw, ay maraming dahilan (which may be roughly translated as “if they want it, there are many ways to get it going;  if they don’t want it, there are many reasons to avoid getting down to it”).


Up to now, the impasse since February 2011 is ostensibly due to the main non-substantive issue of the GPH release or non-release of claimed NDFP consultants who are detained.  The parties cannot seem to find a way to, as we said, effectively, practicably and flexibly deal with and dispose of this so-called obstacle, notwithstanding various proposals of how to go about or around it.  This independent peace advocate made his own specific and fully argued proposal relayed to both peace panels as a “Peace challenge” way back December 2011:  [1] to just proceed forthwith to the peace negotiations on the three remaining substantive agenda headings (of socio-economic reforms, of political and constitutional reforms, and of end of hostilities and disposition of forces) for completion with comprehensive agreements over an already agreed time frame of 18 months (e.g. January 2012 to June 2013), [2] accompanied by a “unilateral, concurrent and reciprocal ceasefire” to build confidence and create a favorable atmosphere during the same 18-month period of peace negotiations, and [3] with the secondary non-substantive issues like the release of claimed NDFP consultants to be initially addressed or processed simultaneously or in parallel, not as “prejudicial issues,” at a committee level lower than the panels, like the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), so that these do not unduly draw away the panels’ attention from the more important substantive talks.


This specific proposal has not been responded to adequately by both panels, other than a thank you letter of acknowledgement from the GPH Panel Chairperson Alexander A. Padilla of our suggestions as “valuable inputs,” but that’s about it.  The response or more precisely non-response from the NDFP panel side was simple dedma (feigned non-notice), apparently calculated so as not to give any importance or status to certain independent peace advocates (and advocacies) not in their comfort zone.  Both sides clearly cannot find it in themselves, cannot find enough will and ways, to just proceed forthwith to the more important substantive talks, as a number of concerned quarters like the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the Waging Peace Convenors (with last Easter Proposals) and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) have called for over the past months at least since the Christmas season last year.  But all we get is dedma.


Strategy and Tactics


Our “Peace challenge” paper of December 2011 already attributed the lukewarm attitude of both sides to earnest peace negotiations to the greater importance they give to their respective current war strategies — whether it be the relatively new and more sophisticated Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the old protracted people’s war (PPW) strategy of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) with its current drive towards a strategic (military) stalemate within the five years or so.


But, without negating the root causes of the armed conflict, government responses are also, if not largely, shaped by the main form of struggle adopted by the revolutionary forces challenging it.  The CPP-NPA-NDFP has long waged and continues to wage armed struggle as its main form of struggle to overthrow the ruling “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” system and replace it with a “national-democratic” one.  Thus, even as it engages in peace negotiations, it does so as a tertiary form of struggle that is subsumed under and must serve the PPW strategy with armed struggle as the main form of struggle.  This is why the NDFP is “allergic” or averse to any prolonged ceasefire to accompany peace negotiations.  Thus, for the NDFP, “ceasefire” seems to be the hardest word.  It’s almost like don’t even think of proposing to them any ceasefire longer than one week or at most one month.


In the contrary case of the NDFP’s tactical ally, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a general ceasefire was one of its first significant agreements with the government in 1997.  More importantly, the MILF has long shifted from armed struggle to peace negotiations as its main form of struggle and strategy to achieve its desired Bangsamoro self-determination.  The government response has been to constructively engage the MILF (actually itself also constructively engaging the government) mainly in peace negotiations. This engagement, at least on the part of the MILF, is strategic, and not just tactical – as  has long been  the case in the NDFP’s engagement in peace negotiations with the government.


Historically, the NDFP has had only tactical objectives for the negotiations:  international diplomatic recognition of so-called status of belligerency (SOB);  propaganda;  prisoner releases;  and more recently to help secure the legitimacy of the CPP, NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison internationally in view of their “terrorist” listing.  There has been no strategic decision (unlike the case of the MILF) to give peace negotiations a real chance for a negotiated political settlement.  This is why we said earlier that it is more so the NDFP than the GPH that does not have their hearts into their peace negotiations.  Otherwise, the GPH could also constructively engage the NDFP in serious strategic, not just tactical, peace negotiations just like the case is with the MILF in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations.


As for the CPP’s contention that the Aquino regime is “using peace negotiations to hoodwink” the MILF, let it be the best judge of that. For the MILF itself to persist in this particular peace process engagement, notwithstanding its tactical ally’s (NDFP’s) kibitzing, speaks for itself as to the seriousness of those negotiations.  And so can it be with the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations – IF these are strategic, not just tactical, and IF the parties will allow it or treat it so.  It is the NDFP however that has articulated more calculatedly a certain political or propaganda line about these negotiations.  This line we shall now proceed to engage or deconstruct, as must be done as part of supporting the main thesis of this article to just stop this charade of negotiations and do something sincere/honest instead, with doable concrete benefits even if not of that high policy level of a negotiated political settlement.


High Peace Policy Statements


In the CPP highest policy statement on its 43rd anniversary on 26 December 2011, it said “The Aquino regime has simply shown its lack of sincerity and seriousness in peace negotiations with the NDFP.  We should dispel any illusion that the regime is interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and forging agreements with the NDFP on social, economic and political reforms.  Clearly, it is hell bent on destroying the Party and the revolutionary movement.”


And in another CPP high policy message on the 43rd anniversary of the NPA on 29 March 2012, it followed through on this by saying:  “The Aquino regime is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP.  Within the framework of its Oplan Bayanihan, it considers peace negotiations only as a means to divide and weaken the revolutionary forces while it escalates brutal military campaigns of suppression to ‘decimate’ the armed revolution and suppress the people’s resistance.  Unwittingly, it is inciting the people and the revolutionary forces to intensify their armed resistance and to advance the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”  And there the CPP-NPA shows its slip, as it were, on what their hearts, minds and hands are really into.


If what the CPP saying is true, or if it believes its own propaganda line that “The Aquino regime is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP,” then the logical, honest or even honorable thing to do is to pull out from those negotiations.  But no, instead the afore-cited CPP anniversary statement says:  “However, we continue to express our desire for peace negotiations in order to prevent the enemy from claiming falsely that we are not interested in a just and lasting peace and also to keep open the possibility that the enemy regime would be compelled by the crisis and/or by our significant victories in people’s war to seriously seek negotiations.  Indeed, the only way to compel the enemy to engage in serious  negotiations is to inflict major defeats on it and make it realize the futility of its attempt to destroy the revolutionary movement, especially the people’s army.”  (underscoring supplied)


The CPP is in effect saying that it/we must continue this charade of peace negotiations if only for the propaganda measure of countering whatever anti-peace image unfavorable to it.  But because its heart is not really into it, the CPP then makes its “maraming dahilan” (many reasons) not to proceed with the negotiations:  “The formal meetings in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations cannot be held unless the GPH addresses the prejudicial issues [esp. the release of claimed NDFP consultants] being raised by the NDFP and makes amends.”  And so it becomes like a self-fulfilling prophecy on the futility of negotiations with the enemy regime that is said to be not serious about it (in fairness to the CPP, there is also some basis for saying this).


Militarist View and Weapons-Driven Approach


The above underscored CPP statement also reveals its rather militarist view of and approach to peace negotiations, as in “compel the enemy” through military pressure to seriously negotiate and grant concessions.    This view/approach, aside from the primacy of armed struggle in the CPP-NPA’s PPW strategy, accounts for its aversion to ceasefires to accompany peace negotiations.  It is extremely hard to see how continued tactical military offensives, rather than a general ceasefire (the case with the MILF), might constitute “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations.” The said view/approach also indicates that the CPP-NPA does not really expect anything significant such as in terms of substantive reforms, and much less a negotiated political settlement, to come out of the negotiations.  Otherwise, why invest so many precious lives of its Red fighters?


On the other hand, is the CPP in effect saying that its tactical ally MILF’s peace negotiations with the GPH are not serious because of the accompanying ceasefire there which naturally does not “inflict major defeats” on the AFP?  Tell that to the MILF.  A perusal of the afore-cited CPP-NPA high policy level anniversary statements, particularly the sections on “Urgent fighting tasks,” show that there is nothing in terms of urgent tasks for the peace negotiations while there is very much on inflicting major military defeats on the enemy regime in order “to advance the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”


For example, in terms of “intensifying the people’s war,’ the afore-cited CPP anniversary statement contains quite specific military instructions or guidance such as this:  “We must hamper and prevent enemy intrusions into the guerrilla fronts through ambushes and other actions, including sniper fire, grenade attacks, mortar and land mines.  We must destroy the transport and supply lines and depots of the enemy.  We must give the enemy forces no rest by launching attacks on their camps and detachments whenever possible, even at night.  When enemy personnel hide in fortifications, we can wait for them to take the road and expose themselves to our attacks.”


The afore-cited NPA anniversary message follows through on this sort of guidance thus:  “Small teams can be trained and employed to use AMFO (ammonium nitrate fuel oil) bombs, plastic bombs, TNT and incendiaries, including modest cigarette lighter, to destroy target objects such as military vehicles, facilities, fortifications and other fixed structures.  Land mines, sniping and grenade throwing can be employed to impede enemy troop movement or harass any encamped force [author’s insertion:  like the one on 1 September 2012 in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District, Davao City which resulted in shrapnel injuries to 48 civilians, 18 of whom were minors] and gasoline bombs to destroy fuel depots, motor pools and military planes and helicopters.  Units of people’s militias and self-defense forces are also encouraged to employ indigenous weaponry such as punji-spiked booby-traps, produce explosives from unexploded munitions of the enemy and make use of local tactics in combination and coordination with the full-time formations of the NPA.”


The afore-cited NPA anniversary message is titled “Strengthen the people’s army and intensify the people’s war.”  The message explains that accent on the NPA:  “The Party considers the NPA as the key force for advancing the people’s war from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate…. It is responsible for annihilating the enemy military forces and laying the ground for establishing Red political power…. The main objective is to wipe out enemy units and seize weapons so that more units of the people’s army can be formed.  The people’s army must seize several thousand more high-powered rifles and other weapons from the enemy.”  (underscoring supplied)


In other words, the key force which is the NPA is designed such that it must engage regularly in combat, otherwise it will wither away. That is the way it survives and replenishes itself, by paying special attention to seizing enemy weapons that allow it to form more units of the NPA.  This seems to be an inordinately weapons-driven approach.  And to seize those weapons, the enemy units carrying them must be annihilated or wiped out (the context of course is legitimate combat but it smacks almost of killing primarily for the weapons). There can thus be no ceasefire, particularly one that is unduly long from the NPA perspective. And the peace negotiations cannot be allowed to dilute or distract away from the “Urgent fighting tasks.”


Social Costs and Root Causes 

But the price for this approach is very costly in terms of precious lives irreplaceably lost, including of the best and the brightest sons and daughters of the people — on both sides and among the civilians caught in the crossfire.  One must ask, is it worth it, even from the revolutionary perspective, after more than four decades of protracted people’s war and still in the strategic defensive stage?  Of course, Sison has his own sophisticated answer by way of saying that “The costs of keeping the reactionary ruling system are far higher than the costs of waging armed revolution.  Exploitation and oppression exact a terrible toll on the people and are precisely what drive people to wage armed revolution.  We should be able to see the high cost of the violence of daily exploitation to recognize the necessity and lower cost of armed revolution.”

There are of course social root causes of the armed conflict, and they can be addressed through the peace process.  NDFP-Bicol spokesperson Greg Bañares says “We all dream of a real and long-lasting peace founded on social justice.  It can be borne out of the success of the peace talks that leans on agreements that will solve the ills of our society.”  But, and here is the catch, he says that “peace could also be achieved through the success of the revolutionary war… While the peace negotiation has no clear direction, it is better to go on with the armed struggle.”  (underscoring supplied)   The peace negotiations actually have a clear general direction, which is found in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1 September 1992, the 20-year old framework agreement between the GPH and the NDFP for their peace negotiations.   But for the most part of those past 20 years, the peace talks have been going nowhere, especially nowhere in that clear general direction.  The parties have only themselves to blame for this, for squandering most of 20 years.

The CPP points the finger of blame at the Aquino regime which it says is not “interested in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and forging agreements with the NDFP on social, economic and political reforms.”  That may be true but, to be sure, one can only really say that definitively after it has been shown to be such in the practical course of peace negotiations on those reforms.  The proof of the pudding would be actual substantive negotiations.  But precisely the substantive negotiations on reforms have yet to be conducted.  As we said in our “Peace challenge” paper of December 2011, let the substantive talks on specific reforms – not issues like release of claimed NDFP consultants or removal of “terrorist” listing or even the use of landmines – be the litmus test on the sincerity and seriousness of the parties, on who is interested or not in key reforms, and on the viability of their peace negotiations.


“Special Track” for “Immediate Just Peace” 


The problem is that the parties do not have the requisite will to even just bring it to the test of actual substantive negotiations.  Perhaps this is already indicative of a sense or calculation that nothing would come out of it or, worse, of a policy decision preferring another mode like military victory to resolve the armed conflict.  Possibly instructive in this regard is the NDFP proposal on a “special track of immediate truce and alliance on the basis of a general declaration of common intent” which would purportedly “accelerate addressing the roots of the armed conflict.”  The NDFP “special track” proposal includes a 10-Point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace (CAIJP) which could be described as a capsulized version of the 10-Point or 12-Point NDFP political program in terms of its basic national-democratic program planks.


Significantly imbedded in the CAIJP, and found in three of its 10 Points, is having a “coalition government.”  This would presumably include the NDFP which proposes it and which “coalition government” features, among others, “significant representation” of “the toiling masses of workers and peasants” – precisely the basic sectors which the NDFP claims to mainly represent.  In addition, “alliance and truce become the modus vivendi of the GPH and NDFP.”  As a come-on, “The civil war between the GPH and the NDFP shall cease and a just peace shall ensue” as soon as they co-sign the CAIJP.


Ano ang NDFP, sinuswerte?  (How lucky can the NDFP be?)  Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH would deliver to it on a silver platter the core NDFP political program and seats in a “coalition government”?  The GPH Panel Chair Padilla has already stated that “the GPH had already rejected this” and that “the GPH will never agree to establish a coalition government or a power-sharing arrangement with the NDFP-CPP-NPA.”  [On the other hand, it must be noted at this point that the GPH and the MILF have agreed at least in principle and framework, if not also on key arrangements, on power-sharing and even wealth-sharing between the Central Government and a “new autonomous political entity” for the Bangsamoroand called “Bangsamoro.”]  Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH would agree to “alliance and truce” with a force that refers to it as the “U.S-Aquino regime” and is hell bent on inflicting major military defeats on it, if not overthrowing it?


Does the NDFP honestly believe that the GPH will find “common political ground” in the CAIJP’s nat-dem catch-phrase flagship programs like “national industrialization and (genuine or revolutionary) land reform,” “a patriotic, scientific and pro-people culture,” “cancellation of the foreign debt,” “reduction of the appropriations for the military and other armed organizations of the GPH,” “a truly independent foreign policy” and so on?  As it is, the GPH and the NDFP already have differing perceptions or understandings of the “mutually acceptable principles” of  “national sovereignty, democracy and social justice” in The Hague Joint Declaration.  They are not on the same page, as it turns out, even on these general concepts and principles in their framework agreement.  How much more when it comes to nat-dem catch-phrase flagship programs?


There is a sense that the NDFP “special track” proposal was made with the full expectation that it would be rejected as the kind of proposal that any Philippine government cannot but refuse.  And so, why propose it in the first place?  The answer is found at the end of the CAIJP document:  “Otherwise [i.e. if not co-signed by the GPH], the Filipino people and revolutionary forces are more than ever justified to continue the new democratic revolution through people’s war…”   It all goes back to the PPW strategy.  But for the NDFP to say on the other extreme that, upon the co-signing by the GPH of the CAIJP, “the civil war ends and a just peace is achieved immediately,” is also to raise false expectations about achieving peace.  Institutional peace-building just doesn’t happen that way.  It begins (or should begin) not with the signing of a peace agreement but even long before that, during the process surrounding the peace negotiations.


Thus far, we have engaged or deconstructed largely the NDFP’s political or propaganda line about the peace negotiations, in order to argue the thesis of this article that the negotiations have become a charade.  This purposive engagement is because the NDFP has articulated that line more calculatedly, consciously and prominently.  In contrast, the GPH has not been as voluble.  But actions (or more precisely lack of action) can speak louder than words.  The inaction of not trying, or of not trying hard enough, can belie whatever spoken words or intentions.  One might say this, for example, about the published statement of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)  that “Amidst roadblocks in the GPH-NDFP peace process, the government remains firm on its commitment to attain a final negotiated political settlement with the NDFP.”   How can the OPAPP even talk about “a final negotiated political settlement” (and raise false hopes like the NDFP does with the CAIJP) when the parties have not been able, for a considerable length of time already, to resume their formal peace talks that still have to cover three major substantive agenda headings?


The parties agreed in an informal meeting initiated by the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) in Oslo last June 2012 “to continue meaningful discussions of concerns and issues raised by both sides” (mainly about the level of violence and landmine use raised by the GPH, and about claimed political detainees and consultants raised by the NDFP).  It is the RNG Third Party Facilitator, rather than the parties themselves, that has been exerting extra effort “to revive the lagging peace process.”  And yet more than three months have passed, including the European summer vacation season (the NDFP peace panel is based in Europe), without any follow-up meeting on even these non-substantive “prejudicial issues,” but there has been no vacation or break on the war front.


“Strategic Stalemate”:  What is to be done?      


And so, all told, there has been for some time already a “strategic stalemate,” not in the military situation but in the more-off-than-on peace negotiations.  It is about time that these, just like the ARMM, be declared to be a “failed experiment.”  What is to be done then after just dropping the charade of peace talks?  The answer to this question deserves a separate fuller treatment.  We will for now, however, outline here some thoughts about just one important particular area of concern and work.  Since the parties, especially the NDFP, have their hearts more into pursuing their respective deadly wars against each other, it is also in their respective interest, and more so of the civilian population in the war zones, that the war is conducted in accordance with the rules, basically the rules of human rights and IHL.  Proof, though not necessarily the best evidence, of this common interest is their 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), considered a substantive agreement, the first one and likely the only one. In a manner of speaking, respect for human rights and IHL may be “the only game in town” on the GPH-NDFP front, certainly better than “playing our charade” of peace talks.


Unfortunately, the CARHRIHL’s  implementation has also been stalemated not only by the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations under which such implementation has been subsumed, but also by its stalemate-prone Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) mechanism with certain consensus rules.  This is further complicated by each party asserting their respective justice systems in another game of “two governments,” and raising again the specters of unconstitutionality and belligerency status. Perhaps the parties may want to consider at least “uncoupling” the JMC mechanism from the peace negotiations, so that the operationalization of the JMC is not dependent or contingent on the state of progress (or lack of it) of the formal peace talks.


Human rights and IHL are ultimately too important to be left at the mercy of the JMC mechanism.  As we said early on above, we to break out of the stalemated dynamics of the peace negotiations, and all concerned, not just the two warring parties, have to find new and better ways of civilian protection.  The NDFP proposal for a “special track” for “immediate just peace,” no matter how politically unrealistic, at least shows that there can be some “thinking out of the box” of the “regular track” of four sequential substantive agenda stages in the peace negotiations outlined in The Hague Joint Declaration and its 1995 implementing agreement on Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs).  Let this kind of “thinking out of the box,” creativity and flexibility manifest itself more in the direction of humanitarian protection.


For one, the CPP-NPA-NDFP national leadership should no longer discourage or prohibit its local commands from local-level talks (not local peace talks) that would more expeditiously and effectively address humanitarian concerns arising from armed hostilities at that level. This kind of local-level talks should no longer be proscribed by that leadership as necessarily a counter-insurgency trap to pacify, divide and induce the capitulation of the revolutionary forces.  Relatedly, local-level talks initiated by conflict-affected local communities, that seek respect for their own genuine declarations of their communities as “peace zones” that are off-limits to armed hostilities, should not be treated as necessarily a counter-insurgency measure to cramp or limit the areas for NPA tactical offensives.  The whole countryside is vast enough for that.


Civil society peace groups like notably Sulong CARHRIHL (Advance CARHRIHL) have tried to make CARHRIHL work even without the stalemated JMC mechanism, albeit Sulong CARHRIHL has focused mainly on work at the local community level, where after all the work is most needed.  But of course the broad work of advancing human rights and IHL is not limited to and by the CARHRIHL.  The broad array of IHL (and also human rights) advocates who had gathered around the first National Summit on  IHL in 2009 have significantly since then taken on and stepped up the work to address the relevant main challenges of:  [1] humanitarian intervention especially during massive internal displacement due to armed hostilities; [2] education, information and communications on IHL (and human rights); and [3] monitoring, investigation and prosecution of IHL (and human rights) violations in the context of the armed conflict.


In terms of exploring alternative institutional mechanisms for that last most difficult challenge monitoring/investigation of and accountability for IHL (and human rights) violations, the 2009 IHL Summit for one called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to develop its own complementary or fallback mechanism to the JMC. It is good that an independent constitutional commission mandated for human rights concerns, with a nationwide offices, and with international links, is giving attention also to the related but distinct field of IHL and to HR-IHL violations not only of the state armed forces but also of non-state armed groups.  Seeking rebel accountability is a special challenge in itself due to various conceptual and practical reasons, including “no permanent address.”


Conceptually, there is the traditional notion that human rights and their violations pertain only to state agents, not to non-state actors.  One of the best evidences and arguments against this traditional concept is the CARHRIHL itself which holds a non-state armed group in the NDFP to standards of human rights and a measure, albeit limited, of accountability therefor. And yet the existing and pending legislation on torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings are by definition limited to only those perpetrated by state agents.  Again, perhaps the best evidence and argument against that narrow(-minded) definition is the experience of the CPP-NPA anti-infiltration campaigns of the 1980s where all three crimes were admittedly committed.


There is a CPP-NPA organizational “plea of guilty” to these purge violations but there has been inadequate accountability and redress.  It is about time that those collective as well as individual human rights and IHL violations be given a more effective institutional redress in terms of truth, justice and healing for the purge victims and survivors and their families before the moment and memories are lost.  Given the passage of time (with the legal rules on prescription, albeit only for prescriptible common crimes, but not for war crimes and crimes against humanity, among others), there should be exaction of at least historical and moral accountability, if no longer legal accountability, such as through some form of “truth commission.”


The work of upholding respect for human rights and IHL in the context of the GPH-NDFP armed conflict may be well below the ideal and the high policy level of a negotiated political settlement.  But aside from its more immediate value of civilian protection, HR-IHL work has a long-term strategic value and direction of laying better ground (and lowering the costs and antagonism) for a negotiated political settlement when the requisite political will and also paradigm shifts on both sides come about, hopefully sooner rather than later.  In the meantime, let’s not fool ourselves “playing our charade” of peace talks, and just devote our efforts, energies and valuable time to what can be realistically and beneficially done.  This is the new peace challenge on the GPH-NDFP front of war and peace.




SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR. has been a long-time Bicolano human rights and IHL lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer, whose initial engagement with the peace process was in Bicol with the first GRP-NDFP nationwide ceasefire in 1986.  He is presently Presiding Judge of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato, Camarines Sur and Acting Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balatan, Camarines Sur.




PNoy Speech on GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

Get it here, or scroll down for full text:

Kagalang-galang Benigno S. Aquino III
Pangulo ng Pilipinas
Ukol sa balangkas ng kasunduan sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front

[Inihayag noong ika-7 ng Oktubre 2012]

Dalawang henerasyon na po ang lumilipas mula noong magsimula ang hidwaan sa Mindanao. Isang siklo ng karahasang umangkin sa buhay ng mahigit isandaang libong Pilipino—hindi lamang ng mga kawal at mandirigma, kundi pati mga inosenteng sibilyang dumanak ang dugo dahil sa alitang puwede namang naiwasan.

Marami na pong solusyong sinubok upang matapos ang hidwaang ito; nakailang peace agreement na po tayo, ngunit hindi pa rin tayo umuusad tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap para sa rehiyon. Nabigyan ng poder ang ilan, ngunit imbes na iangat ang kaledad ng buhay sa rehiyon, nagbunga ito ng istrukturang lalo silang iginapos sa kahirapan. Nagkaroon ng mga command votes na ginamit upang pagtibayin ang pyudal na kalakaran; naglipana ang mga ghost roads, ghost bridges, ghost schools, ghost teachers, at ghost students, habang tumaba naman ang bulsa ng iilan. Nag-usbungan ang mga warlord na humawak sa timbangan ng buhay at kamatayan para sa maraming mamamayan. Umiral ang isang kultura kung saan walang nananagutan, at walang katarungan; nawalan ng pagtitiwala ang mamamayan sa sistema, at nagnais na kumalas sa ating bansa.

The ARMM is a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun. We cannot change this without structural reform. Read the rest of this entry

Press Release: Peace Day 2012




Nikki Delfin, Secretariat Coordinator, 09178946454/

Youth celebrate Peace and remember Martial Law Day

Groups call for a just and sustainable peace nationwide


GenPeace leads the annual International Day of Peace activities for the youth in the Philippines since 2007. Photo taken from Peace Day 2011, Quezon City.

Quezon City, Philippines– Youth groups hold simultaneous peace initiatives nationwide on September 21. The date is infamously known as the declaration of PD 1081 or the Declaration of Martial Law but some commemorate it differently. September 21 is also the International Day of Peace, which is signed unanimously by the UN General Assembly.

“The youth can be apathetic but also active agents of social change and its time to bridge the gap. Many are unaware of the armed conflict and the International Day of Peace which is a day of peace, ceasefire and nonviolence,” said Mirma Mae Tica, the national spokesperson of GenPeace.

Armed conflict persist in the Philippines and remain an important issue. Consider the following:

–          The Philippines experience the most protracted armed conflict and most protracted peace negotiations in this part of the world.

–          The country’s armed conflicts continues after over 40 years

–          In 2008 the country held the world record for most internally-displaced persons at 600,000. That year there were more internal war refugees in the Philippines than in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.

–          This year, the world is attempting the largest reduction of armed violence on September 21. Throughout the world, groups are calling governments and armed groups for a day of truce from armed violence.

–          The government is pursuing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and a framework peace agreement is expected within the Aquino administration

–          The National Democratic Front peace negotiations are stalled due to issues such as Safety and Immunity Guarantees for rebel leaders.

“We remember Martial Law, and the human rights and humanitarian abuses during the Marcos administration. Our theme ‘just and sustainable peace for our future’ is our way to pay it forward. We are making it national and the time for peace is now.” Tica said.

This photo is taken during the exodus of ‘bakwit’ that followed the 2002 all-out war armed skirmishes between the government and the MILF. photo copyrighted to PhilANCA and Gil Nartea

 In Quezon City, Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace) leads students and youth organizations, women, indigenous peoples, local government and religious groups in peace rituals and an advocacy fair. Simultaneous peace day events also take place in Butuan, Surigao City, Cebu, Cotabato, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, Zamboanga, and Catarman. Activites range from candlelit vigil, art competitions, ceasefire petitions, a photo exhibit, a feeding program, peace rituals and forums. The youth organization also partners with local governments for localized peace resolutions and ordinances.


GenPeace is a national youth network that supports the peace negotiations through peace advocacy, education and empowerment programs. We supercharge youth organizations to become active for peaceful social change. Learn more about what we do at

We are part of local, national and global networks on peacebuilding: United Network of Young Peacebuilders, Global Youth Movement for an Alliance of Civilizations, Youth Solidarity Fund Winner — UN Alliance of Civilizations, Mindanao Solidarity Network, Waging Peace Philippines, Kilos para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan, GPPAC-SEA.

Media Kit

Click to download the Youth Media Guide/Toolkit


I. Media Advisory

II. Press Release

III. Background Materials

a.  What is Peace Day?

b.  Why Support Peace in the Philippines?

c.  Peace Day Ceasefire Call





Dear Youth Peace Advocates,

This media kit provides us with some ideas, and information that can help us with our media coverage. We encourage that you  engage your local media partners for your peace initiatives. This helps us in broadening the impact of our softcore peace work—popularizing the issue of peace, and making peace a national (not marginal) issue.

Included in this kit: media advisory, which is an invitation for your media contacts. We also included a sample press release, which is what you provide your media contacts to ensure your messages are included in their coverage. We know you can do better than our samples, these only serve as your guide but feel free to Sotto them without conditions (redit, revise, reword, redraft, repackage, etc.)

Lastly, we included some information bonuses through simple Q and A of what is Peace Day, why support peace and our peace day ceasefire call. We are confident that you can use or at the least be inspired by this simple kit to pursue engagement with both traditional and non-traditional media.

Padayon para sa kapayapaan at karapatang pantao!


Localize the Peace Day: Resolution and Ordinance Templates

September 21 is the International Day of Peace. In the Philippines, the date also marks the commemoration of PD 1081 infamously known as the date when Martial Law was declared in 1972.

Few people know about the Peace Day. It is, in fact, a UN General Assembly Resolution and is unanimously approved as a day of “Peace, Nonviolence, and Ceasefire”.

Another unknown, or perhaps unpopular, issue in the country is the problem of armed conflicts on two fronts–the Bangsamoro and the Communist armed struggles.

While we are perennially in conflict for the past four decades, the urgency of resolving these age-old armed struggles remain a whimper.

GenPeace as a youth network is embarking on a ‘green packets’ sort of project, or more appropriately, packets of peace. The Local Government is a potent avenue for youth engagement, collaboration and advocacy. Because of that, the youth network, through LGU engagement wants to:

1. Promote and popularize the International Day of Peace.

2. Educate the youth on the armed conflict and the peace processes in the country.

3. Provide space for community collaboration–multisectoral and multistakeholder peace initiatives at the community and grassroots level.

4. Join the global call for a Peace Day Ceasefire.

If you are one with some or all of the points above, join our local lobbying for Peace Day Resolutions and/or Ordinances. Below are some of the resources that may be helpful for our cause. You may use, modify, repackage, etc. as long as proper attribution is considered. Let’s build more spaces for peace: Support the Peace Day, Advance the Peace Processes!

Template Letter for Your LGU (word document)

Template Peace Day Resolution (word document)

Template Peace Day Ordinance (word document)