Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ging” Deles is getting a second chance to push for peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People's Army (NPA).
Deles, who also served as peace adviser under the Arroyo administration but resigned in 2005 along with nine other senior government officials, told The STAR that her first 100 days at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) are aimed at restarting the peace talks with the rebel groups to achieve lasting peace in the country, particularly in Mindanao.
Deles said the Aquino administration will also oversee the implementation of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); the CPLA (Cordillera peace) agreement signed in 1986; and the continuation of the talks with the RPM, a breakaway group of the NPA, whose operation is presently centered in Western Visayas and Mindanao.
“Our hope here is that, with President Aquino's high mandate, we could restore the trust that the past administration lost due to the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) it signed with the MILF,” Deles said.
President Aquino, according to Deles, vowed in his inaugural speech that he will be sincere in his dealings with the people of Mindanao.
“There will be just and peaceful settlement of conflicts. We are counting on our counterparts that they will do the same with us. So far, the MILF has given a positive response,” Deles said, adding that the Arroyo administration inflicted great damage to the peace process.
“GMA (former President Arroyo) played with the peace process. But that will not happen in this administration,” Deles said.
The peace adviser said she is also banking on the capability of lawyer Marvic Leonen, who was earlier chosen to head the government peace panel that will talk peace with the MILF.
The OPAPP, Deles said, has also created an advisory body to help ensure the success of its peace efforts.
“With Atty. Leonen, his level of proficiency and the members of the 1987 National Constitutional Commission at the Advisory Council, we will have a good chance in the pursuit for peace. President Aquino says we have to know the roots of the peace problems in the country,” Deles said.
Deles said the OPAPP is still unclear on whether there is a need to amend the Constitution to succeed in peace efforts.
“We will conduct a deep review of the peace process, so that once we start it, it will be continuous until a final peace agreement is signed,” Deles said.
She also stressed her disagreement with the use of the military to resolve conflict.
“But while we are focusing on the peace process, we don't want to wait for a final peace agreement for the community to feel the gains of peace,” Deles said.
“There are four elements that President Aquino wants to achieve and these are: good governance, the delivery of basic services such as health and education, economic recovery in Mindanao and security,” Deles said.
Deles said the OPAPP will also establish close relations with other line agencies such as the Departments of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the security cluster which are all part of the peace process.
“We want to end the impunity of human rights violations, the extra-judicial killings. We will close ranks by giving our support, whatever is needed, to the Department of Justice,” Deles said.
While the OPAPP has a lean budget to start with, it is tied with other government agencies' funds like the discretionary fund of the Office of the President (OP), she said.
“It is a small staff. It is under the OP. When the peace process moves on, we will get funds from the discretionary funds of the President. The budgeting of the peace process is unpredictable,” Deles said.