OPAPP’s role gets mixed reaction from lawmakers-A A +A
By Bobby Lagsa
Thursday, September 26, 2013
THE Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp), the government agency that deals with peace talks with five different tables, has received mixed reaction from two Mindanao lawmakers in connection to the current crisis in Zamboanga City.
Representative Rufus Rodriguez (2nd district, Cagayan de Oro City) on Monday lauded the Opapp for its efforts to advance the peace process and stressed the agency’s crucial role in attaining just and lasting peace in the country.
However, Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna), for his part, has called on Congress to “scrutinize” the performance of the Opapp in the ongoing budget deliberations of the proposed 2014 national budget, for its failure to address issues in the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which resulted to the standoff between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the MNLF in Zamboanga City.
The standoff between government troops and MNLF rebels is now on its third week and claimed more than 100 lives including government forces and civilians.
In an e-mailed statement sent to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, Zarate said Opapp’s tough stand against the MNLF in the peace negotiation and its disregard of Nur Misuari have resulted in the bungling of the peace talk.
The two lawmakers from Mindanao have attended the budget deliberation on Monday for Opapp’s proposed 2014 budget.
Opapp sought for the approval of its 2014 annual budget of P351,547,000 on top of the P7 billion for its PAMANA (Payapa and Masaganang Pamayanan) fund that it administers as part of the government’s peace and development program.
“The Opapp is a small office. It has a small budget of P351 million only but it is charged with a very vital function of achieving peace in our country,” Rodriguez said.
“We see the Opapp as very, very important. I think we should be able to congratulate them because of the achievements they have already secured,” Rodriguez added before other lawmakers during the agency’s pre-plenary budget hearing with the House Committee on Appropriations.
Zarate also questioned President Benigno Aquino III’s inclusive and comprehensive peace policy after Opapp allegedly revealed that it was Aquino’s marching order to terminate peace negotiations with the other rebel group.
Zarate noted Opapp’s selective stand against other peace panels of the negotiations, terminating the MNLF peace talks and scuttling the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace negotiations while rushing and promising more funds to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Zarate also challenged Congress to delete Opapp’s PAMANA lump sum fund scattered in 10 agencies including the Department of Interior and Local Government, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, National Electrification Administration, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Commission of Indigenous People, and PhilHealth on reports from the ground that it only reinforced the President’s patronage politics and counter-insurgency measures.
Rodriguez, in particular, commended the progress made by Opapp and the peace panel negotiating with the MILF in the ongoing peace talks.
He added that the current military operations against the Misuari’s MNLF faction will not affect the peace process with MILF, a breakaway group of the MNLF.
“I had the good fortune to be an observer in the 39th formal talks, and I saw the sincerity of both panels (government and MILF). I saw in their faces and actuations that there is a very big chance that this (peace) will be achieved,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added that Opapp spearheaded by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles is mandated to oversee, coordinate, and integrate the implementation of the comprehensive peace process by virtue of Executive Order No. 3-2001.
Opapp is also tasked with the government’s negotiations for political settlements with rebel groups recognized by government as having legitimate grievances, as well as pursuing the complete implementation of previously signed peace pacts.
Snag with NDFP
However, the GPH-NDFP negotiations hit a snag in February 2011 following the government’s failure to release political prisoners, particularly the detained NDFP consultants, which was an agreed confidence-building measure in the resumption of the talks.
Nur Misuari and the rest of the MNLF, on the other hand, accused the government of unilaterally terminating the GPH-MNLF-Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) Tripartite Review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement which resulted to Misuari’s declaration of Mindanao independence in August this year and the standoff in Zamboanga City.
“The peace policy of President Aquino should not be divisive and exclusive. It should not leave out a legitimate group just to appease another group. This is no way of talking peace in Mindanao,” Zarate said.
Opapp is currently having five peace tables: those with the MILF and the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed component the New People’s Army and its political arm NDF for negotiations on political settlement.
It is dealing with the MNLF that is currently undertaking a Tripartite Implementation Review process with the group and facilitated by the OIC-Peace Committee for the Southern Philippines.
Opapp also deals with the Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Army in Northern Luzon that signed a closure agreement last July 4, 2011, and with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade that is expected to sign a closure agreement soon.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 26, 2013.