Peace talks in peril af­ter Dureza’s res­ig­na­tion: IFI Bishop

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Top Stories - By Jig­ger J. Jerusalem

NOW that Je­sus Dureza is no longer the gov­ern­ment’s chief peace ad­viser, a church leader is wor­ried that the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions will take a wrong turn and the ef­forts that all stake­hold­ers have been work­ing hard for will be un­der­mined.

Sow­ing the Seeds of Peace main con­vener and Igle­sia Filip­ina In­de­pen­di­ente (IFI) Bishop Felixberto Calang said Dureza was in­stru­men­tal in sus­tain­ing the peace talks that reached the fifth round and that his res­ig­na­tion was a loss to the peo­ple be­hind the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Dureza stepped down as head of the Of­fice of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­viser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on Nov. 27 fol­low­ing his ad­mit­tance of al­leged cor­rup­tion re­port­edly com­mit­ted by two of his sub­or­di­nates in re­la­tion to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the “Payapa at Masaganang Pa­mayanan” (PAMANA).

PAMANA is the na­tional gov­ern­ment’s peace and de­vel­op­ment frame­work de­signed to re­spond and strengthen peace-build­ing, re­con­struc­tion and de­vel­op­ment in con­flict-af­fected ar­eas. OPAPP over­sees the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this pro­gram.

“He (Dureza) was in­stru­men­tal in lead­ing the peace talks up to the [fifth] round,” Calang said, re­fer­ring to the se­ries of ne­go­ti­a­tions con­ducted by the Philip­pine gov­ern­ment and the Na­tional Demo­cratic Front of the Philip­pines (NDFP) in some parts of Eu­rope in 2016 and early last year.

When Pres. Ro­drigo Duterte as­sumed of­fice in 2016, re­sum­ing the talks was on his pri­or­ity list, even or­der­ing Dureza to set the ta­ble for ne­go­ti­a­tions a few weeks into his pres­i­dency.

But on Nov. 23, 2017, Duterte signed Procla­ma­tion No. 360, for­mally ter­mi­nat­ing the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions with the rebels, cit­ing the con­tin­ued fight­ing and at­tacks made the New Peo­ple’s Army, the armed wing of the NDFP, against the se­cu­rity forces.

Dureza, Calang said, “thought out of the box to hur­dle the snags and pushed both for­mal and in­for­mal pro­cesses with ur­gency.”

With Dureza gone as the gov­ern­ment’s chief peace ad­viser, Calang said they are wor­ried that the ne­go­ti­a­tions might take a wrong turn and de­stroy ev­ery­thing that both sides of the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble as well as the third-party fa­cil­i­ta­tors and other en­ti­ties in­volved in the peace process have built over the years.

“We also find that [Dureza] as a civil­ian voice in the peace talks was grad­u­ally marginal­ized by the in­creas­ing mil­i­tarism from out­side the panel. The shadow peace panel of the se­cu­rity sec­tor has been loom­ing large over the ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he noted.

“We fear that re­plac­ing Sec­re­tary Dureza with some­one from the se­cu­rity sec­tor will throw out the essence of the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions. It will trans­form the peace talks into a sound­ing board for sur­ren­der rather than a process of di­a­logue to com­monly ad­dress the roots of the armed con­flict,” he said.

The prelate added that the peace talks might be­come a “mere play in the ‘game of the gen­er­als.’”

Calang said they are ap­pre­hen­sive that the col­lat­eral dam­age of the res­ig­na­tion is the sound, ra­tio­nal, and peo­ple-cen­ter per­spec­tive.

“Even as the [gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of the Philip­pines] prin­ci­pal, Pres­i­dent Duterte, was clos­ing the doors on the talks, Sec­re­tary Dureza prod­ded for the sus­tain­ing of the talks,” he said.

The mo­tive for the Pres­i­dent’s ac­cep­tance of Dureza’s res­ig­na­tion and his con­se­quent re­place­ment, Calang said, must have been greater than Duterte and Dureza’s close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship which is im­por­tant in a ne­go­ti­a­tion where the peace ad­viser is vir­tu­ally the al­ter ego of the prin­ci­pal.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Sal­vador Panelo, in a state­ment, said Duterte “has ac­cepted, with deep re­grets” Dureza’s res­ig­na­tion.

Panelo said Mala­canang com­mended Dureza for tak­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity and is­su­ing an apol­ogy un­der the prin­ci­ple of com­mand re­spon­si­bil­ity for the trans­gres­sions com­mit­ted by his two sub­or­di­nates.

“His res­ig­na­tion has set a con­crete ex­am­ple and put a true mean­ing to the value of ‘del­i­cadeza’ and moral­ity in gov­er­nance. This is lead­er­ship by ex­am­ple,” he said.

(JIG­GER J. JERUSALEM)

PEACE AD­VO­CATES are sad­dened by the res­ig­na­tion of Je­sus Dureza as Pres. Ro­drigo Duterte’s chief peace ad­viser. Photo shows Dureza speak­ing to jour­nal­ists dur­ing a fo­rum on fed­er­al­ism held in Ca­gayan de Oro on Oct. 8, 2018.

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