GENERAL Hermogenes Esperon Jr. could not have said it any better.

In the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp), close to a hundred of dedicated employees are out of work, their contracts were not renewed simply on the basis of an alleged unaccounted P170M unaccounted funds from the Social Integration Program.

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The Opapp supervises the peace panels negotiating with the CPP/NPA/NDF Headed by former labor Sec Nieves Confesor (Sec Abaya was one of her panel members), and with the MILF headed by Ambassador Rafael Seguis. There are other panels negotiating with smaller insurgent groups. It also runs the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration studies center (DDR), works with local peace groups for peace building, develops peace institutions and monitors the implementation of signed peace agreements. It is also the conduit for official peace and development assistance from international development aid groups.

Before closing her stint at the Opapp, former secretary Annabelle Abaya exposed the said corruption inside the office. As a result of her investigation, she ended up dismissing some 70 employees in the organization.

"I write this letter with the '70' employees in mind. The number is fiction. But the psychological effect of such a big number, if indeed they had been dismissed, is that corruption has eaten up most if not all of Opapp personnel. When I served at Opapp, I met some of the most dedicated public servants I have ever known. Opapp employees are proud of their work. They work long hours, sometimes coming face to face with physical danger, yet basically underpaid," Gen. Esperon said.

It is disheartening to note that rank and file employees have to suffer the brunt of the culture of corruption in the institution. They have to be terminated to give the false impression that something is being done to curb malfeasance.

Esperon clarified that most of Opapp employees are either "contractual" or "Contract of Service" and their employment are renewed every six months. "Since Ms Abaya took over Opapp and after her 'investigation,' ten (10) contractual employees of Finance and Admin were not renewed in January 2010. Another seven (7) 'Contract of Service' (mostly security and utility personnel) were terminated. Notably, twenty nine (29) from the SIP office resigned as they disagreed with the policies of Sec Abaya. These 29 included Ex Capt Milo Maestrecampo and 8 other former AFP Officers who put their prestige on the line working on prospective returnees, only to be suddenly told that the SIP will be discontinued. Technically then only 10 were terminated due to alleged irregularities in the handling of SIP funds, not 70 as Ms Abaya claims."

The fund in question is the P500M Social Integration Program for the reintegration of former rebels to mainstream society. Its precursors were the Rebel Returnee Program, the Balik-Baril Program and the National Program for Unification and Development.

Most of the expenditures in question include compensation of staff, office space, equipment, travel, repair of offices. The suspension of the SIP operation in October 2009 resulted to the resignation of Capt. Maestrecampo and his group. There are no other alternatives. Their efforts, including those of the other peace workers in PAPP were unaccounted. Email comments to roledan@gmail.com

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