Peace process under Duterte: 2 rounds for GRP-NDF, 3 rounds for GPH-MILF

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 October) – It took six months for government to formally re-start the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under the Aquino administration but in the first 100 days of the Duterte administration, there have been two rounds of formal peace talks and two dinner meetings in Malacañang with the NDF and three rounds of implementing meetings with the MILF.

At the second round of GRP-NDF talks in Oslo, Norway on 6 October 2016. Photo courtesy of Edwin Espejo / OPAPP
At the second round of GRP-NDF talks in Oslo, Norway on 6 October 2016. Photo courtesy of Edwin Espejo / OPAPP

Duterte promised during the campaign to talk peace with the NDF and to implement the peace agreements with the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and he hit the ground running immediately, even before he took his oath on June 30 by immediately naming his Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the peace panel chair in the negotiations with the NDF.

Addressing “our Muslim brothers” during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, Duterte said: “Let us end the centuries of mistrust and warfare,” and to the Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), he said: “Let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day.”

Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire that day “to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks,” but lifted it five days later when a Cafgu personnel was killed and three others were injured in an ambush in Kapalong, Davao del Norte two days after the SONA.

Panel chairs

It took only two weeks (July 15, 2010) for then President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to name University of the Philippines College of Law dean Marvic Leonen as his peace panel chair in the negotiations with the MILF but the first round of exploratory talks happened six months later.

Aquino named lawyer Alexander Padilla as peace panel chair in the negotiations with the NDF on October 21, 2010. He and NDF chair Luis Jalandoni met in Hong Kong on December 1 and 2, 2010 to set schedules and talking points. Preliminary talks were held in Oslo on January 14 to 18, 2011 and the first round of formal peace talks happened on February 15 to 21, 2011.

Within the week of his election, then presumptive President Duterte immediately named Jesus Dureza as his Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, a post he had earlier held under the Arroyo administration. He also named Silvestre Bello III as his peace panel chair in the negotiations with the NDF, a post Bello also held under the Arroyo administration.

As President-elect, Duterte sent Dureza and Bello to Oslo in mid-June to meet with Jalandoni and Jose Ma. Sison, NDF consultant, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Duterte’s professor in Political thought.

There, they agreed on a five-point agenda for the first round of formal peace talks on the third week of July. It was reset to August as documents for the release of the detained NDF consultants who will participate in the peace talks were still being processed. The consultants were released and attended the first round of talks. The second round was held on October 6 to 9, also in Oslo.

Bangsamoro

In the peace process with the Bangsamoro, Dureza in early August named Irene Santiago as chair of the government peace implementing panel that would deal with the MILF and the MNLF.

Santiago was a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the MILF when Dureza was chair from 2001 to 2003

The government and MILF peace implementing panels met on August 13 to 14 in Kuala Lumpur where they agreed to increase the membership of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that will draft the new Bangsamoro law, from 15 to 21, “to ensure inclusivity.”

The two panels also agreed to “meet regularly in the Philippines.”

The MNLF faction under Muslimin Sema has agreed to be represented in the BTC. There is no word yet from MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari.

The MILF, which will lead the BTC, will nominate 11 members while the government will nominate 10.

The two panels met in Davao City in late August and in Manila in September and are just awaiting the issuance of the Executive Order on the BTC.

“The EO on the creation of the BTC has been submitted to the Executive Secretary’s office and we hope that it will be ready for the President’s signature soon after all legal processes have been complied with,” Santiago told MindaNews Wednesday.

“In the meantime, the various teams created by the panels are meeting to discuss various issues such as normalization trust fund, terms of reference of the implementing panels, political detainees and amnesty, civilian protection component of the International Monitoring Team and other urgent businesses,” MILF peace implementing chair Mohagher Iqbal said.

President Duterte has repeatedly said he would meet with MNLF founding chair Misuari, his personal friend, but the effects of the warrant of arrest issued against him have yet to be suspended. Misuari is still classified as a fugitive. He has a pending warrant for his arrest along with 59 others on charges of rebellion and violation of Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity following the September 2013 stand-off in Zamboanga City between his followers and government troops that left 104 persons dead, 192 injured and 110,000 of its 807,000 population displaced.

On October 4, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews that they are “still awaiting outcomes on the legal status of Misuari which, he said, the Justice Department is now addressing.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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