PEACE STALK: Department of Peace in the Republic of the Philippines

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/12 March) — Cabinet-level Departments, and their corresponding budget allocations, are indications of a government’s priorities. During this election season, we often hear presidential candidates promising to give the biggest slices of the national budget to education thru the Department of Education, or to social welfare through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, or to agriculture through the Department of Agriculture, or even to national defense through the Department of National Defense (DND).

While most of the candidates talk about peace as one of their key concerns, nobody has offered a new strategy on how to pursue it. All that we have heard so far are names of possible persons to replace the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Is this enough? Why not a Cabinet member with portfolio heading a full Cabinet-level Department of Peace?

Is this something new? Definitely not. For instance, USA has a long legislative history that dates to the first years of the republic. This advocacy started as early as 1793 when Dr. Benjamin Rush, considered as a Founding Father of USA, being a signatory of the Declaration of Independence, wrote an essay calling for the establishment of a Peace Office with equal footing with the Department of War.

The energy and passion to pursue this advocacy has been sustained worldwide until today. In mid-2000’s, I was fortunate to have been invited to a peace summit in Canada organized by leaders of a global movement calling for the establishment of the department or ministry of peace in every country in the world. And there have been a few but remarkable successes as some countries such as Nepal and Timor Leste have begun this experiment. Sometimes, peacebuilders cite the Philippines as one of the more advanced countries in terms of creating a national peace office.

We do not have to start from zero. We do not have to re-invent the wheel. We just need to build on the gains, and learn from lessons of OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process).

And the budget? Why not give half of DND’s annual budget to the new Department of Peace. While DND is mandated to protect the citizens from war (negative peace is the absence of war), let the DoP be mandated to plant the seeds of just and lasting peace – a positive peace, a better peace.

That is, if we as a nation put our money where our mouth is. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig is a Mindanawon peacebuilder. He is also President and Chair Emeritus of the Cagayan de Oro-based Kaloy Manlupig).