DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 12 June) – No negotiations.
The Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will have to “face the full force of the law for their terrorism and criminal acts,” returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.
In a statement posted on his Facebook wall on Friday evening, Dureza, who was on his way to Oslo, Norway for an informal meeting with National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Jose Ma. Sison, corrected reports by some media outlets that he was open to negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the BIFF.
Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte chats with returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza during a press conference at Hotel Elena in Davao City on May 28, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
“True, I have even directly negotiated with the ASG just recently to seek the release of my friend John Ridsdel whom they nevertheless beheaded as the families could not raise the demanded ransom amount. But negotiating with them in the context of what we are doing with the Bangsamoro and the CPP/NPA/NDF is definitely not the way forward. They have to face the full force of the law for their terrorism and criminal acts,” Dureza wrote.
Dureza’s friend, Ridsdel, a Canadian national who was one of four persons abducted from a resort in Samal Island near this city on September 21, 2015 was executed in Sulu on April 25, his severed head dumped by two unidentified persons riding in tandem towards a group of young men about to play basketball near the municipal hall of Jolo, Sulu at around 7:30 that evening.
Ridsdel served as President of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc., with main office in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao. He was abducted from the Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak district in the Island Garden City of Samal at around 11:30 p.m. on September 21, with KjartanSekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian; and another Canadian named Robert Hall, 50 and his Filipina partner Teresita Flor.
Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan of the Abu Sayyaf had warned in a video posted on youtube on April 15 that they would kill one of the hostages at 3 p.m. on April 25, if the ransom demand of 300 million pesos is not paid by April 25. An earlier deadline was set for April 8.
The Abu Sayyaf again threatened to execute another foreign captive from the remaining victims from Samal if ransom is not paid by Monday, June 13.
In a statement hours after Ridsdel’s execution was confirmed, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government “condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers, and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”
The Canadian government, he added, “is committed to working with the Government of Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice.”
Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters on May 26 that when Trudeau phoned to congratulate him, he apologized to Trudeau for the death of Ridsdel in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte said he assured Trudeau that his administration will ensure that the perpetrators answer for their crims.
The first Mindanawon to lead the country will take his oath as the country’s 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines on June 30, 2016.
Dureza left Friday evening for Oslo, via Paris where he is set to attend a thanksgiving party prepared by overseas Filipinos who supported Duterte in the May 9 polls.
“I am flying tonight to Paris enroute to Oslo, Norway for an informal meeting with the CPP/NPA/NDF headed by Mr. Jose Ma. Sison upon instructions from President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to work for the early resumption of the stalled peace negotiations,” Dureza wrote Friday evening.
Dureza, also Presidential Adviser of the Peace Process from July 2005 to June 2008 under the Arroyo administration, said he will be accompanied in Oslo by incoming Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III who is also the returning chair of the government peace panel in the negotiations with NDF, and former Rep. Hernani Braganza, also a former peace panel member.
“We look forward to a fruitful meeting under the auspices of the Norwegian government on the sidelines of the Oslo Forum,” he said.
The Oslo forum is an annual event held in mid-June, that convenes senior conflict mediators, high level decision makers and key peace process actors in a series of informal and discreet retreats to share their experiences, identify challenges and reflect on mediation practice.
The Oslo Forum is widely regarded as “the leading international network of armed conflict mediation practitioners.” All discussions take place under the Chatham House Rules.
Merged and consolidated
Dureza was also peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from January 2001 to May 2003, under the Arroyo administration.
The Philippine government signed the Tripoli Agreement in 1976 and Final Peace Agreement in 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsmaoro (FAB) in 2012 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsmaoro (CAB) in 2014 with the MILF.
These agreements with the MNLF and MILF are on their implementation phases, the FPA on the last three remaining consensus points that need to be resolved and the CAB on its early stages.
Dureza told MindaNews on May 30 that he will conduct consultations with various sectors on the Bangsamoro peace roadmap. “It will have to be inclusive of all Moro fronts,” Dureza said, referring to the MILF and the MNLF.
He said the unresolved issues of the FPA and the provisions of the CAB may be merged and consolidated so they can be “harmonized and only one law will come out of it.”
The 16th Congress under the Aquino administration failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would have paved the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would have replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The BBL’s passage is crucial in the peace process as it is tied up with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants, as well as the gradual redeployment of the military from the “former conflict areas” during the normalization phase.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF in March 2010 after Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato resigned as commander of the 105th Base Command on December 19, 2009. Kato suffered a stroke in November 2011 and had not been seen in public. He died on April 14 last year.
He left behind an organization that had split into at least three factions. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)