DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 December) — A week after Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza resigned following President Rodrigo Duterte’s firing of his two undersecretaries due to corruption, no successor has been appointed even as names have been floated, including retiring Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who hails from Bukidnon in Mindanao said Galvez, who will be retiring by December 12, would be a “good replacement” for Dureza but peace advocates in Mindanao say the next Peace Adviser should not come from the military.
“My recommendation is Gen. Galvez is a good replacement,” Zubiri told Senate reporters on November 28, adding he listened to him during the discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, and witnessed his good relations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with government in 2014.
Zubiri described Galvez as “a general ready for war, trained for war but open to pursue peace.”
Galvez, who once headed the government peace panel’s ceasefire committee in the GPH-MILF peace process, was earlier described as “Soldier of Peace” and was honored as such by the MILF when he visited its Camp Darapanan on October 6.
Consultant to MILF, to OPAPP
There, Galvez volunteered to be a consultant to the MILF as it transitions from armed to parliamentary struggle when the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is ratified on January 21, 2019. He also vowed to campaign for the law’s ratification as soon as he hangs his uniform.
“I will work hard and dedicate my life for the Bangsamoro. I love you all. Today is the end of war and now we will begin Peace in our land,” Galvez, the first AFP Chief of Staff to visit the MILF camp, wrote on the MILF’s guest book.
Last month, Galvez volunteered to be consultant to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. “I told Secretary Jesus Dureza, ‘Can I be some sort of consultant?’ He accepted my request,” Galvez told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo on November 19, eight days before Dureza resigned.
At the Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City on November 13, Galvez declared the end of the communist movement by next year.
“We are confident by 2019 we will be finishing the CPP-NPA,” Galvez said.
No to military
Having a military man as the next Peace Adviser, however, is not welcomed by peace advocates in Mindanao, the island grouping that hosts the largest number of communist guerillas and Islamic State-inspired extremist groups. Mindanao is also home to more than half of the government’s armed forces.
MindaNews asked Mindanawons engaged in the peace processes what should be the criteria in choosing the next Peace Adviser. While the criteria varied, a common factor was that the next PAPP should not come from the military sector.
Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., former President of the Notre Dame University, now consultant of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance, said he does not favor a Peace Adviser from the military as the “military culture and thinking are far different from civilians.”
Mercado, who was involved in the peace processes with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said “there are already too many generals and military officers in the civilian bureaucracy of government … I do not know (the President’s) intention why appoint military men immediately upon retirement to key positions in Government.”
Duterte appointed in October retired Army Chief Rolando Bautista as Social Welfare Secretary. Other retired generals occupying key Cabinet posts include Delfin Lorenzana for Defense, Roy Cimatu for Environment and Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. for National Security.
“Military culture and thinking are far different from civilians… so I do NOT Favor or look with favor such trend in PRRD’s (Duterte’s) government… There are quite a number of competent men and women from the civilian sector,” he said.
Also on the list of Mercado’s criteria for the next PAPP is “Integrity… NOT CORRUPT!” He said the PAMANA program which was the reported source of corruption that led to the firing of Dureza’s two undersecretaries, is a billion peso program from the Aquino to the Duterte administration but those in charge “all got richer and the rebels remain poor!”
Integrity, political astuteness, gravitas
Professor Hadji Balajadia of the Ateneo de Davao University, a peace and security specialist and social psychology professor, said the next PAPP “must possess unassailable integrity, political astuteness and gravitas to engage parties in rational dialogues on many existing peace tables. Peace talks highly demand a host of trust between parties. With the unpredictable direction of the President pertinent to the peace process of the GRP-NDF (Government of the Republic of the Philippines – National Democratic Front) I sincerely hope the next Peace Adviser will really have the ear and the heart of the President.”
Balajadia said appointing a peace adviser from the military sector “might be counter-productive as it might inflame further the poisoned environment for peace.”
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Regional Legislative Assembly said the next PAPP “should work on the gains of his predecessors in terms of generating mass support for the approval of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and continuously advise the President to utilize diplomatic channels in engaging with other rebel groups in order to achieve peaceful resolutions with other unresolved armed conflicts.”
“He/she must also be guided and well informed on the current status of the on-going Tripartite Review and Implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and must advise this administration on which steps the government should take in keeping the talks forward. The office must remain a balancing force to dissuade the government from forming any policy that may lead to war,” he said.
Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’ s Peace Implementing Panel, believes the next PAPP “should be from Mindanao and has no history of deep anti-Moro biases.”
But he added that President Duterte “knows best.”
Memen Lauzon-Gatmaytan said the next PAPP should have a peace lens and should uphold the primacy of the peace process and civilian protection. “Inclusive, consultative. Established relationship with peace stakeholders not just government actors,” she said.
Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipiniana Independiente, co-convenor of the Sowing the Seeds of Peace, expressed sadness over Dureza’s resignation, noting that he was “instrumental in leading the peace talks up to the fifth round” and “thought out of the box to hurdle the snags and pushed both formal and informal processes with urgency.”
Calang fears “the collateral damage of the resignation is the sound, rational, people-centered perspective,” nothing how Dureza “prodded for sustaining the talks” even as the President “was closing its doors on the talks.”
He also pointed to the friendship of Duterte and Dureza, who were classmates in high school. “The motive for the replacement must have been greater than this close personal relationship which is important in a negotiation where the peace secretary is virtually the alter ego of the principal,” Calang said, adding, “we fear that replacing Dureza with someone from the security sector will throw out the essence of that point.”
For Mags Maglana, who has worked in various capacities for peace, good governance, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights, the next PAPP should be “civilian and not one who is one by technicality but actually retains the paradigms and approaches of a military official; and can work with a range of stakeholders even difficult ones, on sticky issues — has the skills for it and has actually done it.”
Kaloy Manlupig, Chair Emeritus of Balay Mindanaw Peace Center said the next PAPP should be “somebody who has direct access to the President. I mean DIRECT. Somebody who sees the situation with a conflict transformation / peacebuilding lens And please, not a retired general again.”
Dureza was the first Mindanawon appointed as Presidential Peace Adviser, from July 2005 to June 2008 when he was named Presidential spokesperson.
He returned as PAPP on June 30, 2016 upon the assumption to the Presidency of his high school classmate Duterte. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)