MANILA, Philippines - The new administration is serious about the prospects of exploring peace negotiations, said President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s peace czar.
Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said they are currently forming 2 new panels to talk with separatist groups and rebels, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
"The new government, coming on a very high mandate, would like to offer the olive branch to everyone," Deles said. "We have a shortlist and we hope we can announce it not too far off."
The panel, Deles said, is composed of 5 members.
"We will have the chief negotiator first, so we can complete the panel together with the chief negotiator so we have a team that he or she can work with," Deles said, adding former Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is among those who have expressed interest to helping the panel, as soon as the 1-year ban on the appointment of losing bets in the May elections is over. Hontiveros ran but lost her bid for a Senate seat.
Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown" on Thursday, Deles said that they are also open to continuing peace talks with the MILF.
"I don't think we close our door to any possibility," said Deles. "We will pursue and seriously negotiate the political settlement and send the very clear message that we will treat the peoples of Mindanao sincerely."
Hostilities with the MILF broke-out in the wake of the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2008.
Deles said they hope to revisit the botched agreement but, this time, with more consultations with affected communities.
"With the major outbreak of hostilities after the failed MOA-AD, it aroused a lot of prejudices and suspicions about the peace process and intentions of each side," said Deles. "We will look at elements in the MOA-AD that are important in being able to respond to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro. We will have to do with more transparency."
Citing this among the Arroyo administration’s missteps in the last five years, Deles said the new administration has to be creative with pursuing the peace process. Deles added they plan to use a 4-pronged approach to achieving peace in Mindanao, in the new administration’s first 100 days.
"With President Aquino there, I'm thinking, the policy is going to be for reform in all areas," said Deles. "OPAPP has clear directions. We have to work very closely with implementing agencies, local government, DSWD [Department of Social Work and Development], DOJ [Department of Justice]. We will be working together to improve democratic governance, the delivery of basic services and security sector reform. I think there can be enough of a common ground that will be truly good for us, and that will help strengthen our institutions and strengthen our capacities during this difficult and critical time."
Deles said that security sector reforms rest on the principle of civilian supremacy and democratic control of the Armed Forces, adding she believes the military will follow the incumbent leadership. She added that Aquino also issued clear instructions on the prevailing culture of impunity especially on the unresolved cases of human rights violations, adding private armies would not have a place in the new administration.
"We will work very closely with the DOJ. We don't need to negotiate this. It is the policy of this government to end the impunity of human rights violations," Deles said.
In discussions before Aquino's proclamation, Deles revealed that she had expressed plans of transforming the relationship between the national government both with the regional and local government.
"It will be a policy of incentives-driven performance," Deles said, "So it is going to encourage local and regional governments to put in resources to meet the needs of people, because that is going to be matched. If local governments don't care, then they shouldn't expect help from the national government."
Deles said the Aquino administration is bent on pursuing peace on all fronts on the way to achieving sustainable development.
On Thursday, the CPP expressed doubts on whether Aquino had serious plans of resolving the decades-old civil war through peace negotiations, citing the failure to mention them in his inaugural speech. The communist group, in a statement, had also criticized Deles’s appointment as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, saying her past participation under the Arroyo government only served "to induce the revolutionary movement to disarm and surrender."