‘Peace building is Nation building’

Message from Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
December 27, 2013

“Peace on earth, good will to all” is the call of the Christmas season, simple and true. And we at OPAPP have sounded this call with all our hearts: through the storms that have rendered parts of the country a howling wilderness, through a senseless siege that has defaced a southern city, through widespread outrage over exposed grand larceny among some high-ranking politicians that has plundered public coffers.

The pain and suffering dealt by these serial disasters is more than we can bear collectively as a nation. But it is precisely at this point that the call to peace and goodwill must convict us at its core. For Christmas brings the promise of new life and a new being. The gospel promise of life abundant does not mock our tragedies. Rather it is a beacon that says life can be much more if we affirm, rather than kill, each other; if we can honor diversity; if we hold all life sacred—including forests and oceans and rivers. How to become instruments of peace so that new life can take root and flourish?

At OPAPP, peace is mediated through five tables; namely (and alphabetically), with the CPLA, the CPP/NPA/NDF, the MILF, the MNLF, and the RPM-P/RPA. Hard as peace negotiations are in the best of times, they become doubly challenging with disasters stretching government resources and attention beyond breaking point.

But, with tenacious resolve, we have managed to stay the course. We strove with all our will to keep our eye on the ball, so to speak. And, as we approach the end of a year made unforgettable by the horrors it has visited on our shores, we feel truly grateful that we have kept within our grasp the promise of peace even across our most difficult peace tables. We are grateful for the stakeholders who have stepped up, mainly coming from the areas most affected by the conflict, to help restore and strengthen mechanisms for making and building peace. We value the possibilities for dialogue still being birthed and nurtured where it has at times floundered badly. We take special note that, in the negotiations with MILF, the annex on wealth sharing was a gift of Ramadan, the most sacred Islamic month, and the newly-signed annex on power sharing is a gift of Advent, most holy and celebrated in the Christian calendar.

As we mark a Babe’s birth, and greet the New Year, let us remember that peace building, in essence, is nation building. We must rise from the rubble and learn to dream anew. This we must pledge not as a Taclobanon or Waray or Davaoeno or Bol-anon or Chavacano or Bisaya or Tausug or Yakan or Samal. This we must pledge as one body politic, as Filipinos who, with our different cultures and histories, are united by birth and blood, unbent by foreign yoke and unbowed by killer quake and storm.

Peace on earth and good will to all. Assalam allaikum.