“We broke the back of corruption in OPAPP,” says Abaya

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/Davao City) — Breaking the back of corruption at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is the major contribution of her eight-month administration, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya, told a Peace Forum of mostly government representatives and non-governmental organizations on Friday.

The Friday forum was the fifth in a five-day blitz that started in Baguio on June 5, Manila on June 7, Bacolod City on June 9 and Zamboanga City on June 10.

The results of Dialogue Mindanaw, conducted early this year innine areas in Mindanao and four in the rest of the country, involving 3,769 participants from various sectors, were also presented at the forum.

Abaya says she hopes gatherings like Friday’s were done “at least twice a year.”

Describing the five-day blitz as “back-breaking,” Abaya said they did it because “we owe this to you. We want you to be in the loop” so that the OPAPP in return is “informed with your ideas opinions and feedback.”

She cited seven contributions that her eight-month stint has done at the OPAPP, the first of which was: “we broke the back of corruption.”

She said she learned about the corruption as Day 1 when she assumed the post.

Abaya had earlier told reporters in Manila that a P500-million project for rebel returnees that was initiated by her predecessor and President Arroyo’s trusted ally, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, has been infested by graft with P170-million unaccounted for.

She also mentioned that the previous OPAPP administration made some unauthorized purchases of vehicles and other unnecessary expenditures that have not been explained by the agency’s officials.

In Davao, she said there were unauthorized allowances that were released. She said this has been stopped.

She said she sought the help of the President and the latter helped, she said.

Abaya said she was surprised when told 20 security personnel would be provided her. “Peace naman ito eh” (This is about Peace, she said).

“At least 20. Grabe naman yan. Minimum at least eight ang compromise. But that’s still many.” She said she settled for only one security personnel.

She said she was going to write about her experience when she retires. She counts the number of days left for her to vacate the post. “Nineteen days to go,” she said.

She later told reporters that while she learned about the corrupt practices as early as Day One, she talked about it to reporters only recently. “I wanted to talk about the triumph against corruption.”

She said they worked with the Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman and “they’re going to file cases.”

The second major contribution of OPAPP, Abaya said, is the “strengthening our internals.” She said employees in OPAPP undergo “peace within” workshops that are aligned with the office’s vision and mission.

“If our people don’t know the way of peace in their own lives, we cannot expect them to be authentic,” she said.

The third contribution she said is raising the awareness levels on the peace process in communities, other civil society members.

She said her administration employed the “most massive communications program” to raise the awareness levels on the peace process.

Fourth, she said, there was a “revival and nurturing of peace communities “ and that “voices of peace” that had been drowned out were drawn out and heard from.

Abaya said that under her administration, she decided “OPAPP will no longer compete with peace partners in doing projects.

Fifth, “strengthen peace research” and “deepen our research bench.”

She spoke about how the 1st International Peace Mediators Forum, the 1st International Negotiators Conference, placed the OPAPP in the world map for peace.

Sixth, peace talks resumed in four of five peace processes OPAPP is handling and seventh, there will a seamless turnover to her successor.

Former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ging” Deles, who served as PAPP from 2003 until she and other Cabinet officials resigned en masse in 2005.

“I admonish you to help OPAPP. Help the OPAPP help you,” Abaya said.

Abaya said she would leave OPAPP “na may malaking pondo. We took care of the money and we havethe money set aside. We have set aside already in trust fund 80 million in projects for peace, P50 million for social integration; merong 70 million up to end of the year

She said she hopes it will not be back to the “dating gawi” (old ways).

“If this office was stricken with cancer seven months ago, we are now in remission and ready for transformation,” Abaya said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)