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Galvez ill-suited as peace adviser—Karapatan

Criticism greeted Malacañan Palace’s announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned appointment of Carlito Galvez Jr. as Presidential adviser on the peace process, citing the general’s role in the collapse of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in a statement said Duterte’s decision to appoint the retiring Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff as peace adviser is nailing the door to peace shut.

“What will a high-ranking military officer contribute to the advancement of the peace process when the institution [he leads] has been largely behind the derailment and collapse of the negotiations?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said it is likely that the general will only turn OPAPP into the “Office of the Presidential Adviser on Preventing Peace.”

“War is business, and the military is adept at profiting from violating people’s rights,” Palabay added.

Malacañan said Wednesday the President is set to appoint Galvez as replacement to Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza who recently resigned “for failing to curb corruption in the agency.”

Duterte publicly fired OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program last November 26.

Before Dureza’s resignation, however, Galvez already announced he was keen on being a peace adviser when he retires from military service this month.

Prior to his appointed as AFP chief, Galvez was chairperson of the government’s Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he used to visit territories controlled by belligerent forces in his 12 years as a military officer in Mindanao.

Karapatan, however, said Galvez is ill-suited to become a peace adviser because he actively and strongly opposed the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP, along with defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

““The mercenary character of the military prevents them from understanding that peace is not merely the laying down of arms, but a condition that necessitates social justice,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out that Galvez’s appointment will make him the seventh former AFP Chief appointed to key civilian positions in Duterte’s government.

 

Among other former AFP Chiefs-of-Staff appointed by Duterte are Esperon, Año, environment and natural resources secretary Roy Cimatu and social work and development secretary Joselito Bautista.

“Duterte may think he is keeping the military in line by doling out key civilian positions to military men, but he is further endangering the Filipino people. The control of the military over communities will heighten, insidiously using civilian agencies as arsenal against Filipinos themselves,” Palabay warned.

She added that Duterte’s militarization of the bureaucracy undermines civilian supremacy.

“This is how the Duterte regime intends to stay in power amid widespread protest and resistance – fear and repression to be manned by a set of military men kept loyal through the awarding of political favors at our expense,” Palabay concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military wants to take over OPAPP, Joma says

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the issue of corruption that led to the resignation of Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza is a mere pretext in order for President Rodrigo Duterte to close all doors to the peace negotiations.

Asked to comment on Dureza’s resignation, Sison said that Duterte also wants to place the billions of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program under corrupt politicians and the military.

“The issue of corruption is a mere pretext because the Office of the President is anyway the stinking center of corruption,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison said the “racket” in PAMANA is also in the invention of fake beneficiaries and in favouring some local politicians.

“The military officers and some mayors have become notorious for pocketing privately E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) funds for fake surrenderers. Now, they want to take over the PAMANA under OPAPP,” he said.

Dureza resigned as Presidential peace adviser Tuesday (November 27) for failing to curb corruption at the OPAPP after Duterte publicly fired Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary for PAMANA Yeshton Donn Baccay in a speech in Panglao Island, Bohol Monday.

But Sison said the real issue is the military’s desire to control OPAPP to prevent serious  peace negotiations with the NDFP.

This is made clear by Duterte’s announcement of the formation of death squads with the license to kill just anyone who is suspected of being or still becoming NPA.

“Duterte is absolutely crazy in announcing he is forming death squads with the license to kill any istambay (loiterers), any critic, any activist or just anyone whom the death squads suspect or think of becoming or being NPA,” Sison said.

“He wants Oplan Kapayapaan to compete with Oplan Tokhang in murdering thousands of people,” he added.

Sison added that Duterte is obviously becoming desperate because Oplan Kapayapaan has failed to defeat the NPA in the guerrilla fronts.

“Not a single guerrilla front has been destroyed even in Mindanao where he has concentrated 75 of his total of 98 maneuver battalions under conditions of martial law. Duterte has gone out of his mind,” Sison said.

Sison further echoed Caloocan Catholic Bishop Pablo Virgilio David’s observation that the President is mentally sick.

“He needs psychiatric help and should be removed from his position,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Dureza resigns as Presidential peace adviser

Secretary Jesus Dureza resigned Tuesday following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public termination of two senior officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) due to corruption.

The former secretary made public his letter to the President apologizing for his failure to curb corruption in the office he twice headed.

“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed,” Dureza wrote.

Duterte last Monday (November 26) announced he terminated OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

“I am very sad that I accepted the resignation of Secretary Dureza,” Duterte said Tuesday at the inauguration of the new airport in Panglao Island, Bohol.

Dureza also served as peace adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is the second time in two successive terms the OPAPP was involved in allegations of corruption.

Corruption infested

In 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) red-flagged OPAPP, then headed by Teresita Deles, for overspending on vehicle rentals by 469 percent.

According to COA, the OPAPP in 2014 spent P45 million on vehicle rentals instead of the appropriated P7.97 million.

Government auditors revealed that OPAPP rented a total of 294 vehicles in 2014, in addition to the 56 vehicles already owned by the agency.

COA reported that the office used funds from other programs to pay for car rentals without prior approval from the Department of Budget and Management.

The terminations and resignation this week revealed that corruption is apparently continuing in the agency.

PAMANA is OPAPP’s complimentary program to its role in the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The program claims it is aimed at extending development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities through improved governance, poverty reduction and community empowerment in the hope of addressing issues of conflict.

Duterte and Dureza did not elaborate on the alleged corruption by Flores and Baccay.

“I take full responsibility and apologise for all this,” Dureza said, adding his voluntary resignation is also to make way for needed reorganization that Duterte may wish to undertake at OPAPP.

AFP chief to take over?

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. told reporters that he wishes to become a peace adviser when he retires in December.

Galvez told reporters last November 19 that he conveyed his desire to Dureza and that he “accepted my request.”

Galvez however said he wishes to focus on the government’s peace process with the MILF.

Dureza did not comment on Galvez’s announcement.

The President’s high school classmate remains in government as special envoy to the European countries.

The MILF and the NDFP have yet to comment on Dureza’s resignation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte’s preconditions completely shutting down talks–CPP

The Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said President Rodrigo Duterte is bent on completely shutting down the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Reacting to a statement issued by presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza Thursday (June 5), the CPP said the government’s claims that the doors for resuming peace talks with the NDFP are still open is an outright lie.

“[T]he GRP has repeatedly terminated the talks and make it appear that it is the NDFP which closed its doors,” the CPP said.

In a statement, Dureza said that while the doors for the resumption of the peace talks are still open, it is subject to the following wishes of the President:

  • There will be no coalition government,
  • There will be a stop in the collection of the so-called revolutionary tax,
  • The venue of the talks will be local,
  • There will be a ceasefire agreement in which armed NPA (New People’s Army) members are encamped in designated areas.

Dureza added the government may pursue localized peace arrangements.

“This ‘way forward’ in the stalled peace talks was decided following the consolidation of various positions expressed during the command conference convened by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last night in Malacañang,” Dureza said.

The CPP, however said, that by demanding that future talks should be held in a local venue, Duterte is driving another nail to completely shut down the NDFP-GRP peace talks.

“He (Duterte) knows fully well that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines is unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP, unless he thinks the NDFP will be negotiating only to surrender the Filipino people’s aspirations and give up all its revolutionary principles,” the CPP said.

The underground party added that by completely shutting the door to the negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial law or a general crackdown, use the terror proscription against the CPP and NPA against his critics and dissenters against his tyranny, and push charter change for pseudo-federalism to perpetuate himself in power.

The CPP also pointed out that Dureza’s statement did not mention the fact that Duterte issued Presidential Proclamation No. 360 last November 23, 2017 that formally terminated peace negotiations with the NDFP.

Duterte’s proclamation has never been rescinded, the CPP said.

Duterte also derailed efforts to resume talks by cancelling its scheduled resumption last June 28, it added.

Dureza’s statement was reiterated by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing in Malacañan Thursday morning.

‘Ignorant, arrogant’

Roque told reporters that Duterte is still open to the talks, provided his preconditions that the talks are held in the Philippines and that the NPA encamp are met.

Roque also revealed that the government is planning to come out with its so-called guidelines on localized peace talks.

“If the CPP-NPA would agree to these demands, the talks may still continue,” Roque said.

The Philippine Peace Center (PPC), however said Duterte’s preconditions “show utter ignorance, if not highhanded arrogance, in the conduct of peace negotiations,” adding such preconditions poison the atmosphere and is contrary to any serious, honest-to-goodness negotiation.

“To impose such preconditions on the NDFP is tantamount to demanding its capitulation or surrender, and therefore unacceptable,” PPC executive director Rey Claro Casambre said.

Casambre said that Duterte’s preconditions are absurd because they ignore that both sides have agreed to resolve the armed conflict through peaceful negotiations, with neither one imposing its will or its demands over the other across the negotiating table.

Casambre added that Duterte’s new preconditions violate GRP’s own set of principles and guidelines governing its position and conduct in the peace negotiations.

Quoting Executive Order (EO) 125 by the Fidel Ramos administration and EO 3 by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government, Casambre said the GRP has committed to “[a] comprehensive peace process seeks a principled and peaceful resolution to the internal armed conflicts, with neither blame nor surrender, but with dignity for all concerned.”

Casambre advised the GRP to get its act together, saying government officials commenting on the peace talks should learn the basics as well as the nuances from the more knowledgeable and hands-on Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process and the GRP Panel.

“The result of all these ignorance and arrogance is that not only the GRP but the entire Filipino people are being deprived a useful venue for addressing and resolving the roots of the armed conflict,” Casambre added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte orders negotiators to work on resuming talks with Reds

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have stepped closer to resuming formal peace negotiations.

In a tweet Wednesday night, Presidential peace process adviser Jesus Dureza announced that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has directed his peace negotiators to work on resuming formal talks with the NDFP.

“President Duterte directed during the Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday) to work on the resumption of peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army] with clear instructions on the importance of forging a ceasefire agreement to stop mutual attacks and fighting while talks are underway,” Dureza said.

Dureza added that Duterte has said to give the peace process “…another last chance”.

He said the Duterte has also committed “to provide support” to the revolutionary movement as long as it stops imposing and collecting taxes.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison for his part said that formal peace negotiations are the right venues to deal with GRP’s issues and complaints such as ceasefire proposals and the NPA’s revolutionary taxation activities.

The resumption of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels is needed precisely to deal with substantive issues and complaints,” Sison said.

Sison said that in the same round of formal talks, the parties can present conflicting positions and subsequently seek to solve problems “on mutually acceptable grounds.”

He said that both negotiating panels already have a draft of the agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefires, “which is under the watch of a joint national ceasefire committee.”

“This draft agreement is in effect the start of a bilateral ceasefire agreement. It is a significant step towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces,” he added.

Sison also said that the GRP and NDFP has already achieved substantial consensus on the general principles of agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development, which both parties acknowledge are the most important parts of the prospective social and economic reforms agreements.

He added that there is also a draft amnesty proclamation to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“When the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels meet, they can be confident of achieving substantial success. Without a formal meeting of the panels, there can only be an acrimonious public exchange of complaints and demands, which appear or sound like the preconditions prohibited by The Hague Joint Declaration,” Sison said.

The Hague Joint Declaration requires that no side shall impose on the other side preconditions that negate the character and purpose of peace negotiations.

“The conflicting parties become negotiating parties precisely to thresh out serious differences and complaints and seek the solutions to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Sison explained.

“As a matter of course, the two panels shall reaffirm all the existing agreements by way of ending the previous termination of the peace negotiations. It logically follows that the two panels shall cooperate in doing away with the obstacles and hindrances to the agreements and to the entire peace process,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Complain through proper channels, NDFP tells Dureza

The chief peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) advised presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza to course any complaints about alleged rebel atrocities through the proper channels instead of using these as a “scapegoat” for difficulties in resuming stalled negotiations.

Dureza on Monday lashed at the New People’s Army for the “senseless destruction” over the weekend of heavy equipment used in infrastructure projects in Davao City, saying these “unnecessarily squanders whatever gains we have been quietly getting lately in our common efforts” with the rebels to return to the negotiating table.

Reacting to Dureza’s statement, NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said: “What about the continuing killings of NPA fighters, even those unarmed and undergoing medical treatment like Ka Bendoy and his companion, and the continuing arrests, detention, threats and harassment of open legal activists and even UN rapporteurs, and the terror attacks against communities, occupation of schools and public places like health centers that have led to forcible displacements of tens of thousands of residents?”

Ka Bendoy is Bicol rebel leader Alfredo Merilos who was killed along with a civilian, Liz Ocampo, in what the military claimed was a shootout in Naga City, Camarines Sur on March 15.

However, the rebels maintain that Merilos, who was seeking medical treatment, and Ocampo were summarily executed.

As for the complaint raised by Dureza, Agcaoili said “there is a mechanism for addressing the occurrence of such incidents — the Joint Monitoring Committee under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law).”

“The (government) should bring their alleged complaints there, just as the NDFP does,” Agcaoili said.

He added that Dureza’s “attitude shows a lack of interest and sincerity in searching for the appropriate solutions in order to carry out negotiations that would forge agreements that would bring about basic social, economic and political reforms and lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace in the country.”

Although President Rodrigo Duterte began his term by resuming peace negotiations with the rebels, the talks broke down as both sides accused each other of violating their separately declared ceasefires.

In November last year, he issued Proclamation 360 formally terminating the talks.

Since then, the government has also moved to have the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA proscribed as terrorist organizations.

However, the Department of Justice petition filed in court triggered controversy by including a list of more than 600 individuals described as “terrorists,” among them UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey, and several other indigenous peoples’ and human rights advocates.

Recently, a number of lawmakers also urged government to resume talks with the rebels. #

 

Punish rights violators, GRP urged

Rights group Karapatan urged the Rodrigo Duterte government to investigate and prosecute human rights violators instead of engaging in “token gestures” following the opening of a monitoring station in Davao City Friday.

Saying that while the opening of a Davao station to receive reports of rights violations is welcome, Karapatan added the government should do more than “superficial moves” to respond to and address the numerous complaints against State security forces.

“It should investigate, establish accountability and punish State actors who have committed human rights violations,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“In short, it should do its job, instead of [engaging] in token gestures,” she added.

Officials led by Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza attended the opening of the first Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) compliance monitoring station under its Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRHIL) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The station, to be housed at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines building in Davao City, is the first to be opened by the Manila government since it signed the CARHRIHL in March 1998.

It will receive reports and complaints of “non-compliance” of the provisions of CARHRIHL in 10 conflict-affected regions across the country and endorse it to the Joint GRP-NDFP Monitoring Committee (JMC).

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) did not mention the nine other regions in their statement on the event.

It also failed to identify the source of funding of the stations.

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

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

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part said they were invited to co-sponsor and attend the event, but refused.

“[The monitoring station] is not mentioned in the CARHRIHL. What the CARHRIHL mentioned was a Joint Secretariat (JS) office, which is the one we have in Cubao,” Agcaoili said.

“The monitoring station is strictly a GRP initiative,” he clarified.

A JMC-JS Office opened in July 2005 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City which the GRP has practically abandoned after several years of operations.

The Teresita Deles-led OPAPP under the Benigno Aquino government petitioned the Royal Norwegian Government to stop funding its operations but failed after the NDFP rejected the move.

The NDFP Nominated Section of the JS still actively holds office there, keeping 6,397 complaints of human rights violations, 4,471 against the GRP and 1,926 against the NDFP as of May 23, 2016. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Dureza: Maasin raid not covered by the Minda-wide no offensive declarations

The New People’s Army (NPA) raid on a police station in Iloilo yesterday was not covered by the government and the Left’s statements to mutually refrain from offensive operations in Mindanao, a cabinet secretary clarified today.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said in a statement the Maasin, Iloilo incident must be dealt with by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as there is no mutually-agreed bilateral ceasefire agreement in place nationwide.

While “disheartened” with the attack, Dureza said he hopes “the attack is just part of the birthpains of the agreement to stop offensive military actions even if it covers only Mindanao as of now.”

A unit of the NPA’s Napoleon Tumagtang Command in Panay Island launched a daring 20-minute daytime raid yesterday that netted them 11 M16 assault rifles, four pistols, assorted ammunition and communication equipment.

The surprised PNP officers on duty failed to put up a fight.

Julio Montana, spokesperson of the Coronacion “Waling-Waling” Regional Command of the NPA in Panay, said the raid was in response to complaints of extortion of small time market vendors by the Maasin PNP.

“(They also) allow narcotics and illegal gambling to proliferate,” Montana said in a statement issued after the raid.

AFP’s Task Force Panay immediately deployed to Maasin but the guerillas have already withdrawn from the Maasin town center on board a truck and PNP’s own patrol vehicle.

Both vehicles were later separately found abandoned in neighboring towns.

The NPA is an allied organization of the NDFP.

The NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government are reportedly holding back-channel talks after their cancelled fifth round of formal peace negotiations in The Netherlands last month in an effort to resume talks in August. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Sharing common values and common aspirations’–Jesus Dureza

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the fourth round of formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP is the farthest the negotiations have ever been.

In his opening remarks, Dureza said he has noticed both parties “are no longer in the concept of negotiating but already sharing common values and common aspirations for a better Philippines.”

“I think this is the one that will bring us further to what we all dream of having a better Philippines,” Dureza said.

 

 

NDFP negotiators to leave for Europe for back-channel talks with the GRP

NATIONAL Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultants Wilma Austria Tiamzon and Vicente Ladlad will soon leave for Europe to participate in the ongoing backchannel talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

In a speech at the National Defense College earlier today, Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana also announced Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza has left for Europe last night to lead the GRP delegation in the talks for the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations between the parties. Read more