Mindanao's civil society to Deles as Peace Adviser: "Welcome back"

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 May) – Representatives of civil society in Mindanao welcome the return of Teresita “Ging” Deles to Malacanang, as the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, a post she held from 2003 to her resignation along with the “Hyatt 10” Cabinet members from the Arroyo administration on July 8, 2005, following the “Hello Garci” electoral controversy that cast doubts on the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration.

Deles returns to Malacanang at noon of June 30 with fellow “Hyatt 10” member Corazon “Dinky” Soliman who will serve her old post as secretary of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) said Deles “has vast experience in peacemaking and peace building” and is “best able to point the new administration in the right path towards achieving a genuine and just peace in Mindanao.”

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) told MindaNews Deles is “a highly competent and a deeply committed peace advocate with a genuine concern for Mindanao. She will serve as an effective link between this administration’s peace talks with the MILF and the incoming Aquino administration. “

Arnado said the challenge for Deles now is “how to harness all the gains of the peace process and bring these towards a successful political settlement.”

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IIID) said they are “looking forward to a more earnest engagement and hopefully a full, transparent partnership with civil society which was almost a hallmark during her short-lived sting with GMA.”

Guiamel Alim, executive director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation and a member of the council of elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) says he’s “okay” with Deles but thinks she should be in the Defense Department instead.

Abdulbasit Benito, chair of the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace, said Deles’ return to Malcanang is also a welcome development.

“And though I appreciate Noynoy (Aquino) for his move in choosing the right persons for the job, including Sec. Dinky Soliman, the bottomline is the sincerity of intention by the executives, the support they need from the different chambers of government and the political will from the President. Nevertheless, with the legitimacy of Noynoy and the social capital he possesses, I am optimistic that Sec. Deles and Sec. Soliman would make a difference to the lives of our people who are suffering from recurring conflicts,” Benito added.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said he knows Deles as a person and as Peace Adviser. “It’s good to be dealing with someone whom you know,” he said.

Fatmawati Salapuddin of the Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women Association in Jolo, Sulu said, “we had good monitoring of the conflict between the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) when Deles was PAPP (in 2003 to 2005). At least civilians were taken care of in partnership with Dinky in DSWD that time. Deles was open to suggestions and had a balanced perspective of the conflict situation.”

The PCID in a press statement from Amina Rasul, lead convenor and Rey Trillana, project director, said they are “particularly hopeful that Sec. Deles will continue to uphold her visions for peace that she articulated in previous occasions, including, among others: The primacy of peace talks over “all-out war” strategy; Ensuring civil society participation in the peace process; Addressing loose firearms and putting an end to the culture of impunity in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao); Rejecting the conflation of Muslim with the war on terror; and Upholding human rights in Muslim communities.”

“We appreciate the fact that the incoming administration has hit the ground running on the peace process with the early selection of its peace adviser. Peace, as we have stated in the past, cannot be hostaged to petty political intramurals. We wish Secretary Ging all the luck in her return as peace adviser, and we offer our support and help in building a just and peaceful nation for our children,” the PCID said.

Deles was executive director of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute in 1991. When Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the post of the deposed President Joseph Estrada in January 2001, she named Deles chair of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

Deles was loved by the peace movement in Mindanao for her constant updating of government and non-governmental groups on the peace processes. (MindaNews)