UP extends institutional support to GRP-NDF peace talks

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/01 Oct) — The University of the Philippines on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) committing the state university’s institutional support to the peace process.

In a press release, the OPAPP said UP will lend their academic personnel and resources to help end armed conflict in the country through political settlement.

UP president Dr. Alfredo Pascual and Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza signed the MOU at the closing ceremony of the 2016 National Peace Consciousness Month held at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

“This is another historic and unprecedented event in the history of peace process in the Philippines. Now, the best minds of the country’s premier university are on board to help end the decades-old armed conflict,” Dureza said.

In the MOU signed with OPAPP, UP agreed to “explore ways and meas of understanding and cooperation” in the following areas:
* Creation of an institutional linkage or coordinating framework between the academic community through UP, and institutions and organizations actively involved in the peace process through OPAPP;
* Collaboration on research projects concerned with the peace process;
* Formulation of workshops or conferences for the academe, OPAPP, and other institutions and organizations which contribute to the peace effort;
* Organization of lectures and forums with the objective of information dissemination and providing education to the general public;
* Organization of recruitment activities, trainings, or internship programs for students, practitioners, and peace advocates;
*Establishment of an epistemic community focused on peace education; and
* Exchange of staff and technical experts through consultancies, secondment, special detail, or shorter engagements on official time.

UP became involved in the peace process through Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who also recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the appointment of UP Vice President Prospero de Vera, Jr. as adviser to the government panel negotiating peace with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“We are tapping the best and the brightest in the academe and other sectors of Philippine society to help us forge a final peace agreement that will be mutually-acceptable to government and the communist guerillas,” the press release quoted Bello, who is concurrent chairman of the Philippine government (GRP) panel talking with NDF.

“We will also hold public consultations to enable ordinary citizens and other stakeholders in the peace process to amplify their issues and concerns related to our negotiations with the NDF,” he added.

Government panel member Hernani Braganza noted that De Vera will not only sit as adviser, but will actively assume an active role as one of the five committee members who will negotiate the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) with their NDF counterparts.

Braganza is the supervising panel member for the GRP’s CASER committee, which is chaired by Atty. Efren Moncupa, a human rights lawyer and a former political detainee.

The other committee members include Dr. Eric Batalla, chair of the De La Salle University’s political science department; Roberto Ador, a former political detainee who holds a Master’s Degree in International Public Health from University of Washington; and Atty. Rhia Corazon Lano.

“Our experts from UP and the academe are expected to help the government panel craft a comprehensive agreement that aims to reduce economic, social and political inequalities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good,” Braganza said.

One of the agreements signed in the formal resumptions of peace talks between GRP and NDF in Oslo last month commits the Reciprocal Working Committees of both panels to “endeavor to complete work within a period of six months.”

Discussions on CASER cover such issues as agrarian reform, national industrialization and foreign policy, which are considered the heart and soul of the peace negotiations.

After CASER, the panels will tackle the two remaining items in the substantive agenda of the talks — political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. (MindaNews)