Government’s peace body: From OPAPP to OPAPRU 

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 01 January) –  The  Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will be officially known as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU). 

This after President Rodrigo Duterte renamed the 28-year-old organization through Executive Order No. 158 issued last December 27. 

OPAPP was created through Executive Order No. 125 issued by then President Fidel Ramos on September 15, 1993. It was reaffirmed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through Executive Order No. 3 signed on February 28, 2001. 

Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., the presidential peace adviser, reiterated the agency’s commitment to pursue a just and lasting peace as it transitions to OPAPRU. 

“Now as OPAPRU, we shall be maximizing the power of convergence so that we can effectively communicate the message of peace across the widest spectrum of society and rally the support of all sectors behind our collective vision – to heal the wounds caused by armed conflict and foster genuine peace, reconciliation and unity among our countrymen,” Galvez said in a statement.

Galvez is the fourth retired general and third Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to head the OPAPP. But his appointment as Peace Adviser in 2018 referred to him as Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity instead of the previous Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Galvez assumed the post on December 20, 2018.  

According to EO 158, in order to build on and sustain the gains of the national government as it pushed forward the comprehensive peace process over the past decade, “there is a need to continually reassess and realign how policies and programs on peace processes are designed, implemented and monitored, and expand the framework on peace to include initiatives that reinforce national reunification and reconciliation, as part of enhancing resilient and social, political and economic reengineering.” 

In particular, the OPAPRU’s mandate is focused on embedding peace, reconciliation and unity in the Philippines’ social fabric; enhancing the nation’s resilience for peace; and helping in the country’s social, economic, and political re-engineering by addressing the root causes of armed conflict. 

EO 158 further details the government’s policy framework on peace, reconciliation and unity, which employs the principles of a conflict-sensitive and peace-promoting approach; utilizes a whole-of-society strategy; and empowers people so that they can meaningfully participate in the peacebuilding process.  

“We believe this development bodes well not only for our organization, but for the comprehensive Philippine peace process as a whole. It demonstrates the Duterte administration’s commitment not only to build on and sustain the gains of peace, but also to bring reconciliation and unity among our people,” Galvez said. 

Under OPAPP, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forged the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), their final peace agreement, on March 27, 2014 after 17 years of negotiations. It was signed during the term of the late President Benigno Aquino III, who died from illness on June 24, 2021. 

The CAB mandated the creation of a Bangsamoro region, which was realized in 2019 following the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which Duterte signed into law on July 27, 2018. 

The final peace agreement, through the Annex on Normalization, also mandated the decommissioning of MILF forces. Phases 1 and 2 had been completed with the deactivation of 145 and 12,000 MILF combatants in 2015 and 2020, respectively. 

The Phase 3, involving 14,000 MILF fighters or 35 percent of the 40,000-strong MILF, kicked off last November, delayed by the onslaught of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The MILF listed some 2,500 assorted weapons to be decommissioned along the MILF fighters. 

Several senior leaders of the MILF, including chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, have been appointed to the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the interim body that governs the new Bangsamoro region. 

Duterte appointed Ebrahim,  whose real name is Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, as interim Chief Minister of the BARMM.  

Galvez said that “good things come to those who walk the path of peace.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)