By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star
Last August 2, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process issued a quaint statement through its website. It’s titled, “Goodwill, sincerity will move GPH-CPP/NPA/NDF peace process forward.”
It quotes remarks by Alexander Padilla, head of the government panel in the GPH-NDFP peace talks, which convey the impression that the negotiations — in limbo since these bogged down in mid-2011 after resuming auspiciously in February — would be pursued earnestly by President Aquino.
Yet, P-Noy, to the disappointment of several peace-advocacy groups, said nothing at all on the GPH-NDFP talks during his July 22 state-of-the-nation address, nor thereafter. In his SONA he spoke, optimistically and confidently, only about the GPH-MILF peace talks.
OPAPP quotes Padilla’s comments on the recent “breakthrough” in the GPH-MILF negotiations:
“Sincerity and goodwill on both sides have brought Muslim Mindanao closer to a regime of peace and prosperity that it desires and deserves. This is what awaits the rest of the country should a peace agreement be reached between the government and the CPP/NPA/NDF.”
From the SONA, Padilla picked up P-Noy’s roseate declaration of commitment to the MILF to parlay similar optimism regarding the GPH-NDFP talks. He cited these statements:
• “Both sides must be ready to listen, to compromise, to reach a meeting of the minds. We know, too, the consequences of impatience and haste.”
• “Every word we utter must result in action that would benefit all. Every line that we craft in the agreement we are forging must be set in stone and not be merely written on water, only to be forgotten by history. My father raised me to be true to my word, and I can tell our brothers and sisters of the Bangsamoro: whatever agreements we come to will be fulfilled by the national government.”
“This is a president that will deliver,” Padilla enthused, citing P-Noy’s “sincere desire to implement reforms.” This had produced results, he added, such as the impending distribution of Hacienda Luisita land to its farmworkers, and the “positive developments” in agriculture, health, education and labor.
Padilla, the OPAPP says, “assured that the same commitment, as evidenced by the progress made in these areas and in the GPH-MILF talks, will be manifested in the peace process between the GPH and the CPP/NPA/NDF.” He concluded:
“It was with openness, sincerity and goodwill that the President invited the CNN (acronym used by OPAPP for CPP-NPA-NDFP) to negotiate peace with the government to end the armed violence. It is with openness, sincerity and goodwill that he will deal with them in bringing peace to our land that has been torn apart by conflict.”
By using the words “will be manifested…: and “will deal with them…” are the OPAPP and Padilla assuring the people that P-Noy will definitely resume the GPH-NDFP peace talks? Do they correctly reflect their principal’s thinking?
Also, do Padilla and OPAPP head Teresita Deles – whose hard-line stance on their mistaken interpretations of certain previously signed agreements (which they had reaffirmed in February) led to the scuttling of the formal negotiations on social and economic reforms in June 2011 – now realize they were driven by “impatience and haste”?
Do the duo acknowledge that, as P-Noy said, they must now be ready “to listen, to compromise, to reach a meeting of the minds” with the NDFP peace negotiators?
They have accused the NDFP panel of insincerity, declared they would shift to localized peace talks. But now that Padilla talks of “sincerity and goodwill on both sides,” will they take the initiative to resume the peace negotiations at the stage where they were stopped in 2011?
Or is the OPAPP statement on Padilla’s remarks merely a feeling-good ride on P-Noy’s buoyant rhetoric, if not an unabashed gesture to please their principal?
At ground level, it certainly looks that way. Why?
As already mentioned, P-Noy devoted not a word in his SONA on the GPH-NDFP peace talks, as he also didn’t say anything regarding the continuing human rights violations and the climate of impunity.
On the latter subject, the President has reaped a whirlwind of criticisms and condemnations, both local and international, because in his first SONA he promised to put a stop to extrajudicial killings (now 143 under his watch), enforced disappearances and other human rights violations and to punish the perpetrators.
More telling is what P-Noy and OPAPP actually have been doing on the ground: pushing the government’s six-year counterinsurgency drive: Oplan Bayanihan. The OPAPP is the military’s partner in implementing the “peace and development” counterinsurgency framework, called PAMANA, in seven zones: the Cordilleras, Bicol-Quezon-Mindoro, Samar, Negros-Panay, Davao-Comval-Caraga, Zamboanga-Sulu-Tawi-tawi, and Central Mindanao.
The plan’s defined goal is to “render irrelevant” the New People’s Army, “convince them to abandon the armed struggle and instead engage in peace negotiations with the government.” Originally targeted to be attained this year, that goal has been reset to 2016, after a three-year assessment showing questionable success.
Question: Peace negotiations after 2016, with P-Noy no longer President?
Maybe as a booster, P-Noy has approved the recruitment of 20,000 additional troops over the next three years, mostly for the Philippine Army, which leads the counterinsurgency campaign. The augmentation will cost P9 billion.
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August 10, 2013