Civil society, grassroots leaders and peace advocates including those displaced from Marawi City reiterated their calls to address perennial civilian protection issues and urged the government to commence institutionalizing transitional justice mechanisms and processes as key to ensuring the meaningful success of the country’s peace processes in a dialogue with the new Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in Davao City recently. 

The multi-stakeholders dialogue, dubbed “Winning the Peace”, was organized by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) under the auspices of the Office of the University President, in coordination with the Madaris Volunteer Program and the University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC). This policy dialogue sought to shed light on the Philippine peace process discussing both the status of the political transition in the Bangsamoro and updates on the terminated GRP-NDFP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front Philippines) peace talks including the much debated Executive Order No. 70 (Institutionalizing the Whole-of-nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework). 

Speakers during the dialogue were led by the new Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. of the renamed Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) and Assistant Secretary Dickson Hermoso, a member of the government Peace Implementing Panel for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace accord and co-chair of the Joint Normalization Committee. Other panelists included Professor Rufa Guiam, in her capacity as the then Coordinator of the Listening Process of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission  (TJRC) and Ms. Irene Santiago, the Peace Adviser to Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte and former Head of the government Peace Implementing Panel. Most Rev. Fernando Capalla, the Archbishop Emeritus of Davao, was among the participants for the forum representing the religious sector. 

Sec. Galvez said that Executive Order No. 70 was essentially a shift of government’s efforts in addressing the communist-led insurgency through localized peace efforts. Participants in the forum sought clarification on what they consider a potentially divisive policy that needed the buy-in and participation of all stakeholders in the peace process in its crafting and implementation. The forum also became an avenue for Sec. Galvez to provide updates on the Bangsamoro Peace Process that has now entered the phase of political transition following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and consequent establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) last February. The forum was Sec. Galvez’s first broad engagement with civil society following his ascension of office early this year. 

Said dialogue likewise highlighted the concerns and views of the Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) leaders particularly in Mindanao on how the E.O. 70 will affect the past peace agreements and contribute to the escalation of armed hostilities in their ancestral domains resulting to more internally displaced Lumads. Sec. Galvez contended that the government is currently conducting consultations so that all agreements will be in the purview of the constitution, thereby scrapping back-channel agreements that did not go through a constitutional process. 

Meanwhile, in his welcome address, ADDU President Fr. Joel Tabora S.J. cited the bombings in Sri Lanka that killed 253 people even during a time when the Christian world was celebrating its most solemn feast, the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. He said it was a grim reminder that as people celebrate “…life over death, and peace over war in sacred spaces, the reality on the ground is that peace, lasting peace, has yet to be won.” He also highlighted a portion from the ‘Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ a joint statement which was signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb on February 5. Accordingly, the document stipulates “the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard”. The message serves to uphold the teachings of religion to remain rooted in the values of peace, justice, and dialogue. 

The Ateneo de Davao University’s Calungsod-San Vitores Jesuit-Lay Collaboration Center hosted the said dialogue-forum, which was attended by more than a hundred participants across ethnic lines coming from the academe, civil society, grassroots leaders, government, non-government organizations, international organizations, religious sector, and the media. 

Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), committed to consolidate the outputs of the forum and workshops for participants to share them with relevant actors and agencies including government, non-state actors, civil society and their respective networks for further discussions, analysis and action.

This policy day is supported by the Australian Aid under the project EnPolD (Enhancing Political Dialogue for Inclusive Peace) and is also done in cooperation with other allied peace partners.