Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines 2001 - 2010

Terminating Hostilities

A. Introduction

January 2001 brought about a brusque change in leadership, marked by the suspension of the peace efforts in Mindanao and other initiatives of the National government. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed leadership after EDSA Dos, borne by a call for higher ethical standards in public office as the animating principle of justice and the rule of law.

The new President sketched out a new vision for the nation, centering on her pledge for a Strong Republic. She articulated the key aspects of this covenant as follows:

"Two essential features mark out a Strong Republic. The first is independence from class and sectoral interests so that it stands for the interests of the people rather than of a powerful minority. The second is the capacity, represented through strong institutions and a strong bureaucracy, to execute good policy and deliver essential services-the things that only governments can do. The results of these two features-good policies and empowered institutions-are faster economic development and social reform…A Strong Republic involves a painstaking process of strengthening institutions and communities. It is a process that advances only on a broad platform of shared ethical values, a firm consensus to serve common interests, and a common vision of a national future".

The quest for a just, comprehensive and permanent peace is en suite in this vision. It became imperative therefore for the Government to reconstitute the peace process, reorganize and streamline the governmental institutions for promoting peace. New as well as revised paradigms for peace were also introduced over time: the combination of soft and hard power, interfaith dialogues, authentic consultations with communities, and the UN-endorsed principles of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration for all armed rebel groups.

B. Breakthroughs in Negotiations, Existing Peace Agreements

The following breakthroughs in peace negotiations and/or the implementation of existing peace agreements have been accomplished in the following six (6) fronts of the peace process:

1. GRP-CPLA 1986 Peace Agreement. The implementation of the GRP Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) agreement continued to be pursued, with the Figaro Foundation firming up livelihood training partnership on organic coffee farming for CPLA members and former rebels, as well as other project proposals from Tabuk City. Twenty-seven (27) barangays have been validated by the CPLA and submitted to the Department of National Defense (DND) for inclusion in the KBP. Rapid needs assessment (RNA), community-level focused group discussions, and key informant interviews in selected provinces were also conducted.

2. GRP-MNLF 1996 Peace Agreement. The Implementation Review of the 1996 GRP-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Final Peace Agreement (FPA) was concluded with agreements on the following:

  • The GRP and MNLF's reaffirmation of their commitments to preserve the primacy of the 1996 FPA and collaborative endeavors of genuine dialogue in narrowing the differences; and the adoption of the reports of the five (5) Joint Working Groups which contain common proposals to amend Republic Act (RA) 9054 or the Strengthened and Expanded Organic Act for ARMM.
  • The establishment of a Legal Panel, consisting of legal experts nominated by both Panels, to: legalize common proposals and find ways to arrive at common grounds on issues that need further study; reiterate the importance of continuing confidence building measures in maintaining an environment of peace and security; and, accelerate the social and economic development in Southern Philippines.

3. GRP-RPMM. Peace negotiations between the GRP and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Mindanao (RPMM) remain on track through the continued formal and informal Panel meetings. Challenges and opportunities are both being addressed so as to find ways to move forward the GRP-RPMM Peace Process. This resulted in the formation of a National Technical Working Group that will assist the GRP Panel in finalizing its position, anchored on the parallel concepts of development, DDR, and authentic dialogues. On the development front, the Engineer Construction Support Battalion of the AFP led in the construction of infrastructure projects under the Kalayaan Barangays Program (KBP) in five barangays in Sultan Naga Dimaporo and four barangays in Godod, Zamboanga del Norte.

4. GRP-RPMP/RPA/ABB Peace Process. To reinforce the peace process with the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/ Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP/RPA/ABB), a signed resolution with the Joint Enforcement and Monitoring Committee (JEMC) was agreed by the two factions of the RPMP/RPA/ABB following the declaration of GRP's position to pursue the implementation of the Peace Agreement Under the Cessation of Hostilities (COH) Agreement, local technical working groups provided channels to address escalating numbers of COH-related incidents. As provided by the peace agreement that the GRP shall work for the dismissal of charges against the RPMP/RPA/ABB peace panelists, only 60 still remain in detention out of the 315 alleged political prisoners/political offenders (APOs/PPs) which the JEMC agreed to process. The amount of P4.93 million is allocated for the awarding of livelihood assistance for APOs/PPs.

5. GRP-CPP-NPA-NDF. Formal peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF were sustained until 2004. In 2005, a Joint Monitoring Committee was created for the implementation and monitoring of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed in 1998. Two rounds of informal talks between the groups were held in Norway in 2008, hosted by the Norwegian Government, as Third Party Facilitator. The informal discussions allowed both parties to understand each other's dilemmas in returning to the negotiating table, and commit to work for resuming talks.

Despite a continuing impasse in the talks, the Panel remains committed to pursue the peace process with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) through the conduct of preparations for the possible resumption of the formal talks.

A "Non Meeting" with the NDF was conducted on 14-15 June 2009 in The Hague (Norwegian Embassy), The Netherlands, through the hosting and facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) as Third Party Facilitator for the talks. On 17 July 2009, the suspension of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) was lifted to allow the members of the CPP-NPA-NDF to prepare for the resumption of the formal peace negotiations. On the other hand, parallel channels of engagement are continuously being explored in pursuit of the peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF, through the sustained support to community-based peace initiatives, linking with peace stakeholders, and continued implementation of Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) for the Talks, among others.

6. GRP-MILF. After the reconstitution of the GRP Peace Panel in December 2008, the President issued on 02 January 2009 a Memorandum of Instruction for the conduct of the GRP-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiations. Intensive backchannels through the Malaysian chief facilitator have been organized, providing the reestablishment of communication lines and the signing of the negotiation's two major components namely, Framework Agreement on the Formation of the International Contact Group (ICG) and, the Agreement on the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

To assist internally displaced persons (IDPs) in returning to their places of origin and restore normalcy to their communities, ceasefire mechanisms for both parties were implemented. Among these are the GRP Declaration of Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) issued on 23 July 2009 and the MILF's Suspension of Military Actions (SOMA) issued 2 days later.

Other countries such as Malaysia, Brunei, Libya and Japan also provided support to ensure the successful conduct of the negotiation. The negotiations between the GRP and the MILF resumed on 08-09 December 2009 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to renew the mandates of mechanisms supporting the ceasefire and to set the agenda for the resumption of the peace negotiations. The Parties agreed to renew the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in monitoring ceasefire/security; humanitarian and development; socio-economic; and, civilian protection components.

As the fourth core monitoring function area of the IMT, the Civilian Protection Component (CPC), reaffirms the GRP and the MILF's commitment to international humanitarian laws for protecting and aiding civilian communities in armed conflicts situation. Both sides also renewed their commitment to continue the mandate of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and to invite other countries and organizations to take part in the IMT.

Simultaneous with the negotiations is the implementation of development projects, including the US$968,955 worth of projects covering agriculture, education and health, among others, in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Region XII from the Embassy of Japan. A related initiative is the establishment of a peace and development fund mechanism for the Southern Philippines supported by Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) member countries and OIC Special Bodies.

C. Rehabilitation and Development of Conflict Affected Areas

Within the framework of the peace process, a comprehensive rehabilitation plan must consist of interrelated economic (livelihood rebuilding), social (stress and perceived inequity reducing), and political (reconciliation and legitimacy restoration, not least by rehabilitating basic service access) mechanisms. In partnership with civil society, local governments, private sector and foreign donors, a framework has been instituted to quickly deliver critical services to areas with the greatest need of immediate development intervention.

  • Kalayaan Barangays Program. A convergence of efforts of concerned national security and civilian agencies, the program was launched in 2004 to transform conflict-affected Barangays into areas of peace and development through accelerated rehabilitation and development. From 2005 to June 2009, 536 projects were completed, with 116 still ongoing. These projects consist of farm to market roads, school buildings, water systems, electricity and health facilities. In 2009, 586 projects amounting to P858.5 Million were been identified in 199 barangays, which are expected to be completed in early 2010. The projects include construction of access roads, school buildings, water systems, electrification and health facilities. According to the DND, they were able to complete 752 projects under the KBP as of 23 November 2009, benefiting 805 barangays.
  • Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP). To date, the program was able to mobilize 858 volunteers in 62 conflict affected communities who were organized into People's Organizations and capacitated in the fields of Project Management, Procurement, Financial Management, Operation and Maintenance. In addition, the Program was able to partner with 55 municipal LGUs and 66 barangay LGUs. A consultation with selected priority LGUs for the MTF-RDP was held, where local officials were oriented on the program and LGUs committed to support it.
  • Health, Education and Livelihood Progress (HELP) for Sulu and Basilan: Created by Administrative Order No. 192, s. 2007, the program has assisted conflict affected families in Sulu and Basilan. In 2008, under the HELP, the government conducted humanitarian caravan in Basilan and Sulu; mega medical missions through donations of hospital equipment as well as surgical operations in Sulu; and, provided technical assistance in 14 municipalities.

In order for relief, rehabilitation and developmental support and policies to play a positive role in the promotion and security of permanent peace, they must address the structural conditions (or "root causes"), which produce violent conflict, such as social exclusion, lack of political participation, unaccountable public institutions, and lack of personal security. With this in mind, the Government has supported the creation of educational and peace building programs and institutions that minister to the resolution of social conflict and assisted in people's empowerment. It is through this vision and facilitation of fundamental social transformations, that ever-shortening funding cycles and aid have been empowered with the capacity to offer long-term commitment and support.

  • Balik Buhay sa Mindanao. The Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) awarded 214 scholarship grants under the Balik Buhay sa Mindanao Program as assistance to rebel returnees. The OMA has likewise granted scholarship programs to 50 former MILF rebels and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maguindanao through skills training and capability building.
  • Days of Peace II Project. The project, in collaboration with UNICEF, AFP, and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) concentrates on the development of early childhood curriculums for Muslims. Preparations are ongoing to roll out the Training the Trainors' Training for teachers on the use of the proposed curriculums.
  • OP-United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Conflict Prevention and Peace Building (CPPB) Programme. The programme, which began in 2005, involves the delivery of basic services through catalytic projects and strengthening of indigenous peace and conflict resolution and mechanisms. It includes a community empowerment component that will deliver basic services in conflict-affected areas. For 2008, the Program included among others: capacity building of 3 barangays in Mindoro; support of livelihood projects of former combatants in Kalinga, Apayao and Abra; establishment of Farmer Field Schools in 5 barangays in Negros Oriental; and implementation of level II water systems in barangays in Iloilo, Antique and Negros Occidental. The program has ongoing and pipelined projects and development deliveries amounting to P321.7 million
  • Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development: Started in 2006, J-BIRD provides grants for various economic cooperation projects in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. As of April 2009, projects under the J-BIRD, amounting to USD 968,955 or PHP 45.034 million, were awarded to nine NGOs, LGUs and academic sector proponents in Mindanao, covering agriculture, education, water system, health and emergency and disaster management.
  • RMM Social Fund Project. Created under EO 124, s. 2002, the Fund was projected to foster sustainable development in the region. As Of April 2009, the ARMM Social Fund supported the implementation of 1,859 community-based infrastructure sub-projects, functional literacy training and household food sufficiency activities, and income-generating projects; 13 World Bank-Assisted strategic regional infrastructures; and assistance to Madrasah. The closing date of the project has been extended from 30 June 2009 to July 31 2010. Regular monitoring of projects under the program continued this year. These projects comprise the erection, improvement and preservation of community-based Infrastructure, Strategic Regional Infrastructure, Institutional Strengthening and Governance, and information/education/ communication (IEC) activities.

D. Mainstreaming Rebel Groups:

  • Social Integration Program. Under the program, 560 former rebels (FRs) are currently enrolled and were awarded immediate assistance (IA) of P20,000 each since its launching in June 2008, of which 332 were awarded from January to November 2009. Out of the 560 FRs, 428 FRs were provided with capital assistance worth P50,000 each since June 2008, of which 310 FRs received their capital goods from January to November 2009. As of 7 January 2010, a total of 423 FRs are on the pipeline pending enrollment to the Program.

    During the 1st semester of 2009, 132 SIP information campaigns were conducted throughout the country. To date, a total of 24 Local Social Integration Committees (LSICs) were organized in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, while 16 LSICs are in the process of formal organization. Since 2008, a total of 330 surrendered firearms were collected, 181 of which were accumulated in 2009. Moreover, a Joint Memorandum of Agreement was signed in Malacañang on 01 October 2009 between OPAPP and other national government agencies (NGAs) to further strengthen the services to be provided to former rebels as well as tighten coordination and convergence of efforts of various NGAs.
  • Rebel Returnee Program (Prior to AO 17216 and SIP). As of November 2009, socio-economic assistance amounting to P46.06 Million was provided to 2,303 unassisted former rebels in 30 provinces across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
  • OPAPP-CHED Scholarship Program. To provide higher education opportunities, 91 scholarship grants were given to deserving rebels and/or their immediate next-of-kin for school year 2009-2010.
  • E. Strengthening the Peace Constituency :

    • Peace Education and Advocacy. The thrusts of the Peace Education and Advocacy Program centered on the policy advocacy for Executive Order (EO) No. 570 or Institutionalizing Peace Education in Basic Education and Teacher Education. In 2009, CHED directed all higher education institutions to integrate peace education into the Special Topics for Teacher Education and the Social Dimension Course. A Nationwide Peace Storytelling Campaign, Kids for Peace Workshops and Teacher's Forum, and monitoring of the usage of Peace Education Teaching Exemplar were also conducted as part of peace advocacy.
    • Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation. Towards forging a strengthened international and national interfaith ties and environment, the government participated in the following interfaith activities:

      -The 5th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Seoul, Korea, with the theme "Bridging Divides through Interfaith Dialogue", particularly on social cohesion, public communication and policy development aspects;

      - The ASEM Interfaith Cultural Youth Camp on 06-12 February 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand;.

      - The Work/Summit on Moral Revival in partnership with the Ulama League of the Philippines (ULP) and an interfaith forum in partnership with the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines (GLP) entitled, "Laying the Cornerstone for Peace Prosperity" held on 23 September 2009 in Manila; and

      - The 5th Regional Interfaith Dialogue co-sponsored by the Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand in Pert, Australia on 28- 30 October 2009, with the theme "Future Faith Leaders: Regional Challenges and Cooperation".
    • National Peace Policy Initiatives. To better enhance existing efforts in the implementation of the national peace policy, the Philippine government and the European Commission have forged Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which involves articles/provisions on Education and Culture and on Peace Process and Conflict Prevention, among others. This agreement is yet to be finalized.
    • Integration of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) in the Peace Process. Towards this end, the following were undertaken, among others:

      - Capacity building for DDR through seven lectures, which provided basic information on DDR as a component of the peace process, as well as in the context of peace building and post conflict rehabilitation.

      - Participation in the 1st International DDR Congress (IDDRC) on 04-06 May 2009 in Cartagena, Colombia. The IDDRC highlighted the importance of community-based reintegration as the most viable strategy for the long term success of social and economic reintegration processes for demobilized persons.

      - Conduct of Context and Security Analyses on the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF towards building a comprehensive knowledge on security and conflict dynamics that will serve as basis for a conflict sensitive DDR program for the peace process
    • UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and UNSCR 1820 on the Protection of Women from Sexual Abuse During Armed Conflict. A National Action Plan on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and 1820 was formulated from four (4) Regional Consultations conducted in Lucena, Bacolod, Baguio, and Davao. The National Action Plan is envisioned to be submitted to the United Nations Security Council, making the Philippines the 14th country to have a National Action Plan, and the first in Asia.
    • Comprehensive Program on Children Involved in Armed Conflict (CIAC): Created in 2001 under Executive Order No. 56, the program serves as a vehicle to ensure the country's compliance with the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children involved in Armed Conflict.

    Other International Agencies such as the ASEAN, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Japan Social Development Fund, United Nations Multi-Donor Program and its successor funds, the European Union-UNDP Program Fund for Rehabilitating Internally Displaced Persons, Organization of Islamic Countries, United Nations, and the Canadian International Development Assistance, among others, have likewise imparted assistance to conflict affected areas in Mindanao.

    Certain communities affected by armed conflict were declared as peace zones, including municipalities in Cordillera, Negros and Mindanao. These zones have thus become venues for increased numbers of development projects, dialogue, resolution of conflicts and empowerment of communities. Affirmative action for Muslims has likewise been implemented, including the strengthening of standardization of Madrasah education, rehabilitation of Islamic banking, improved Hajj supervision, and other affirmative action in schooling and employment.

    F. Conclusion

    The Government has consistently demonstrated its desire to achieve equitable, genuine and lasting peace in the country. The year 2009 marked several significant gains as crucial foundational jump-off points towards achieving peace.

    For 2010, resumption of peace talks will be pursued with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with substantive agreement, and with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF). Likewise, completion of the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPMM) peace process shall also be pursued. The completion of implementation of peace agreements will also be undertaken with the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA); Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); and, the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas- Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP/RPA/ABB).

    Alongside these efforts, Government will also enhance the Social Integration Program (SIP) to mainstream 1,000 former rebels, and scale up its programs for rehabilitation and development of conflict-affected communities (i.e. Kalayaan Barangays Program, Mindanao Trust Fund, Reconstruction and Development; ARMM Social Fund; and, Health, Education, Livelihood for Progress – Central Mindanao [HELP-CM]). Moreover, the Administration shall closely monitor the implementation of peace-related programs and policies such as: Children Involved in Armed Conflict (CIAC); Peace Education; Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation; and, National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (in relation to UNSCRs 1325 and 1820).

    The truth is that the peace process, as it unfolds over the negotiating spaces and in communities, has been and shall always be a work in progress. It is a continuum that is not always linear, amorphous in its parameters and definitions, nor unidirectional. The signing of peace agreements does not constitute the conclusion of an everlasting peace. Rather, it is a crucial, defining step of setting reforms in place and addressing crucial issues and concerns. Reconstructing the peace process is an arduous endeavor. Signed peace agreements shall always be a work in progress and shall always have room for improvement.