President Rodrigo Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, acknowledged that peace remains elusive as armed conflicts continue in the countryside, but said he would do his utmost to attain peace in the country.
In his address on Monday, the president is expected to announce approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, designed to grant greater autonomy and powers to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and put an end to almost half a century of conflict in the restive south.
But the government’s peace negotiation with communist insurgents has not gained headway.
The peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front scheduled for the middle of 2017 were suspended because of continuing attacks by the rebel group.
The talks were scheduled to resume just weeks earlier but Duterte called off the negotiations, telling CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison in late June he was not ready and needed more time before formal talks can proceed.
This drew a rebuke from the exiled CPP head who said the Duterte government is not interested in serious peace negotiations with the communist rebels.
It was in his 2016 SONA where Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the communist insurgents and called for the resumption of peace talks. In his second SONA, he launched a tirade against Sison. In December 2017, he labeled the CPP/NPA a terrorist organization.
Below one can track the gains and setbacks in Duterte’s peace agenda.
PROMISE: Pursue an “inclusive peace process” — pass the BBL Law
|“In our sustained effort to achieve just and lasting peace, for a [unified] nation, we are pursuing an inclusive peace process, promoting the participation of all stakeholders, including those conflict-affected areas.” (SONA, 2017)
“The only way they said that we can have this [is] iyong BBL ibigay na natin minus the things that you do not want, iyong mga constitutional issues tanggalin muna natin. Ibigay ko iyong area, nandiyan na iyan eh. So I ask you, pass it minus the constitutional issues that are contentious.” (SONA, 2016)
The bicameral conference committee approved July 18 the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, now known as Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The committee will forward the final version to Duterte for review and approval.
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) states that upon promulgation and ratification of the law, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be created, which will in turn abolish the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Aside from the approval of the final version of the BBL by the bicam, the Bangsamoro region is stipulated in the draft revised 1987 Constitution crafted by Duterte’s Constitutional Committee.
PROMISE: Discontinue talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF
|“Kayong mga Left, I will not talk to you. Why should I?” (SONA, 2017)
“To immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities and provide an enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks. I am now announcing a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF effective immediately, and call on our Filipinos in the National Democratic Front and its forces to respond accordingly.” (SONA, 2016)
After reaching four rounds of peace negotiations, the Duterte administration cancelled the scheduled May 26 to June 2 meeting.
On December 5, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP – NPA as terrorist organization.
Despite his recent pronouncement not to talk to the CPP-NPA-NDF, Duterte at times expressed interests in reviving the talks since his 2017 SONA.
Talks between two parties were supposed to resume June 28.
Duterte, however, cancelled on June the talks, saying he was “not ready” to resume peace talks.
Presidential Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza, meanwhile, said the government is still open to peace talks with the NDFP.
The Duterte administration has not released possible date on the resumption of talks.
Inquirer.net, Bicam approves Bangsamoro Organic Law, July 18, 2018
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Proclamation 374, Declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New People’s Army (NPA) as designated/identified terrorist organization under Republic Act 10168