Keynote Address: In Pursuit of Peace, Truth and Justice… - Speech of Sec. Teresita Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Editorial Speech featured in the March 2015 issue of the "Kababaihan at Kapayapaan"

KEYNOTE ADDRESS:  In pursuit of peace, truth and justice…  
At the Bangsamoro Peace Forum, held at ISO, Ateneo de Manila University 
By Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process 
26 February 2015 

Good afternoon.  

A  month ago yesterday, all hell broke loose at Mamasapano in Maguindanao  and, with it, the hopes we were nurturing for the timely  passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that would conclusively shift the MILF struggle from armed to electoral, from violent to peaceful.  Or so it seems. 

Are we now consigned to picking up the bits and pieces of a Humpty Dumpty of a BBL; or are we tasked to do something else?  I think you and I are on the same page when you call this afternoon’s activity a forum on the Bangsamoro - in pursuit of peace, truth and justice.  For the forcible deconstruction triggered by Mamasapano compels us to a reconstruction, a recovery, a rethinking that must go deep and far and wide if we are to do justice to truth and the pursuit of peace. 

Amidst the din and frenzy, the death and despair, the grieving and recriminations, we must go deep into a space within ourselves—as individuals, as communities, and as a people, and face up to certain hard questions.  We may not have all the answers, but, as the poet Rilke says, sometimes the questions are more important than the answers.  

I propose three questions: 

First, what happened at Mamasapano and how do we make sense of it? 
Second, how has the fall-out from Mamasapano impacted on the GPH-MILF peace process and what are our stakes in it? 
Third, given the saber-rattling and name callng, what is to be done? 

As we tackle these questions, may I further propose two guideposts?

• Embrace history as our guide.

• Avoid dualism.

First - What happened at Mamasapano and how do we make sense of it? 

By now we have a clearer picture of what happened during that longest dawn and day and night at Mamasapano.  We have the cold statistic of 67 deaths, not just 44, of police commandos and Muslim combatants and civilians including an 8-year old child.  Several bodies are probing the why and the wherefore—why things went terribly wrong, and who is or are called to account. 

The details, and the accountabilities, I leave to the investigating bodies.  My concern here is the question: how do we make sense of it?  And here we must take the long view, a deep breath, and reach far back into our common history to begin to make sense of the carnage at Mamasapano.  

The Statement from Mindanao, issued 15 days ago by religious leaders led by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato and joined by Jesuit presidents of Ateneo univesities in Mindanao, rightly says that no one has a monopoly on guilt, or on righteousness.  The statement reminds us that for 300 years, a proud Moro people stood up to Spain, the United States, and a succession of Philippine governments, colonial and republican, to defend their sovereignty and claim their homeland.  They paid the price in blood – the massacres of Bud Dajo, Bud Bagsak, and Jabidah.  In the end they, and the lumads, the indigenous peoples, are pushed to the margins by the guns of Pax Americana, the waves of migration from the north and central islands, and the shrewdness of a Torrens title.  

The past 45 years of intermittent warfare in Mindanao have claimed the lives of at least 150,000 combatants and civilians. This has led to the ―mutual insight‖ that guns, violence and wars only fuel the need for more guns, violence and wars in a macabre death dance with no end in sight but the end.  It has been said that peace is the only way to peace.  Proof of this is that, in the past three years, the ceasefire between the government and the MILF has held without a single skirmish – and this is by the accounting not of OPAPP and the negotiating panel but of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  

The bloodbath at Mamasapano does not debunk the imperative of peace.  On the contrary, Mamasapano tells us – and may I paraphrase the poet E.E. Cummings here – that, of peace, we must be more careful than of anything else.  It is a beacon but it is also a fragile flower.  It lives in the hearts of men and women but, stunted, it can also turn toxic. 

We must make sense of Mamasapano by learning the lessons of history; and by keeping our ears close to the ground.  War’s alarms ring in the halls of Congress and in social media but not in the blood-drenched fields of Maguindanao where people, and children most of all, pay the price of the conflict. 

Second - How has the fall-out from Mamasapano impacted on the GPH-MILF peace process and what are our stakes in it? 

It has been said that the BBL is as much a casualty of Mamasapano as the fallen 67.  True, two legislators have withdrawn sponsorship of the BBL bill. True, the MILF is being faulted for, demonized even, for breaking the peace. And our peace negotiators, myself included, have been criticized for speaking in behalf of MILF. 

More specifically, some lawmakers have called for the resignation of GPH Panel Chair Miriam Ferrer, GPH-CCCH Chair Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, and myself.  These legislators have charged us with being spokespersons, even lawyering for, MILF.  They have called the BBL a ―sell-out‖ for being one-sided and favoring MILF. 

But what is the truth?  The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro or CAB, precursor to the BBL, was painstakingly crafted over three years of hard negotiations with the MILF, and the fact that, more than once, negotiations nearly broke down is a testament to the integrity of the process.  The four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or FAB, signed by the parties in September, 2012, took 16 months to complete, 13 months beyond the timetable projected in the FAB, precisely because negotiating positions were so difficult to bridge.   

On the side of government, the most contentious issues were first threshed out with the concerned national agencies in discussions which sometimes seemed as difficult as the negotiations with the MILF.  After each negotiation round in Kuala Lumpur, the GPH panel and myself, briefed the designated peace observers from the House of Representatives, as well as key members of the Senate peace committee, on the progress of the talks.  In the last rounds of talks in KL, our peace observers from Congress even accompanied the GPH Panel to Kuala Lumpur so that they could personally witness the rigor and difficulty of the peace negotiations.  No one told us then that we were betraying the interests of the republic.   

The CAB, and later the BBL, has been subject to consultations and forums particularly in but not limited to Mindanao.  The private sector and big business, academe, religious leaders and officials both Christian and Muslim, civil society organizations have weighed in on the peace process and the agreements they have produced.  All signed documents were immediately posted online, widely covered by media, with infographics reprinted in major broadsheets.  But the truth is also that few of those who are talking loudly today took much interest in all these then.  

They say that peace is not an easy path, sometimes it’s like walking a tightrope.  But there is no alternative to peace.  War cannot end war.   Religious officials, civil society leaders, business persons, academicians have spoken out who live and work in Mindanao.  They know how destructive war is, and how fragile peace is.  That is why, to a person, they have issued calls for peace very early on when thick haze still hung over Mamasapano.  They called for a resumption of congressional hearings on the BBL. 

Some legislators and politicians wish to demonize the MILF.  But I can say, from working with the MILF in the past three years, that they have earned the trust and respect of GPH peace negotiators with a ceasefire that has held firm since the Al Barka incident in October, 2011.  The trust of the AFP has been won with successful joint operations against lawless elements and to rescue kidnap victims, and some occasional PNP officials who wandered into hostile territory, in central Mindanao.  And most of all, they have won the trust and respect of the whole-of-government for choosing time and again to stay on the table through the stickiest negotiations, shifting from winner-take-all talking points to joint and mutual problem-solving to move the multiple tracks of the peace process forward – not just in pursuing the political settlement in the autonomous Bangsamoro , but also in the delivery of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro peace dividends, the crafting and adoption of the Bangsamoro Development Plan, and the groundwork for the phased and gradual decommissioning of MILF combatants in the context of the comprehensive Normalization Annex.   

To say so is not lawyering for them but speaking the truth in love, to borrow a line from scripture. 

I find it oddly strange that it is legislators and politicians who have not witnessed, or felt, firsthand the scourge and ravages of war in Mindanao who come charging at our peace structures with a wrecking ball.  What is it like to live your life forever on the run?  What is it like to lose your home, and your wits, because bombs come raining from the sky?  What is it like to force your adolescent daughter to work abroad because there is no decent work for bakwits or semi-permanent refugees?  What is it like to force your underage daughter to marry because there is no security of home for her?  What is it like to know that the little boy that you suckled at your breast will not grow up to learn reading and arithmetic and how to make a living from his talents and acquired skills?  What he will learn best is how to point the gun and pull the trigger and, at what is supposed to be the prime of his life, he will wake up on many mornings with the knowledge that that this is a day when he may kill or be killed.   

This is what war has meant in Mindanao – not for one, or two, or three, but for thousands, for tens of thousands, for hundreds of thousands, and during the episodes of all-out war, for half a million people, even a million, of its people: Muslim, Christian, lumad. 

That is why Mindanao people – children and bishops and ulamas and businessmen and women and teachers and NGO leaders – that is why their reaction to congressional freezing of BBL hearings is visceral, pained.  Because they know what the costs are, they know that war is infinitely costlier than peace. 

If speaking this truth labels me as lawyering for MILF, I do not mind.  Better that than to shut up because it is not popular, or sexy, to speak up at this time in defense of peace.  How oddly strange to be so viciously assailed for speaking up for peace.   

People in Mindanao are also pained by the resurgence of our old biases and dualistic thinking of us versus them, expressed in the view that the only good Moro is a dead Moro, or that Muslims can never be trusted.  We must unlearn this dualism so we can move beyond our superficial analyses to a more discerning view of the peace process and our stakes in it. 

Mamapasano has, indeed, set back the peace process but let us use this lull to clearly spell out the stakes, not only for Mindanaoans, but also for people from the north (Luzon) and the central islands (Visayas).  We cannot prosper as a nation with a house divided.  We cannot live the promise of life abundant while pockets of poverty and violence and squalor remain in Mindanao. 

Let us issue primers on peace, let us hold fora such as this, let us write letters to the editor, let us lobby our congresspersons, let us reach out over and over again to Filipinos who are different from and unfamiliar to us.  Let us keep the flame of peace burning, to keep BBL at the top of the agenda, and to honor our fallen 67. 

And, finally - what is to be done? 

There is a well-loved Protestant hymn that goes: ―Once to every man/woman and nation, comes the moment to decide …‖  In the end this is a moment of truth for every Filipino: Christian, Bangsamoro, or lumad.  The President, P.Noy, has put it this way: Am I for peace? Or am I for war? 

Shall we let our fears, insecurities, and falsehoods, rule us?  Can we afford to sit on the fence, let the wind blow where it will, and may the best or strongest side win?  

Let us not sell ourselves short.  Not for nothing did we fight Spain, again and again, for three and a half centuries – to strike out at injustice, for the call to freedom.  Not for nothing did we fight the Americans – at the cost of becoming a howling wilderness – to defend our sovereignty and freedom.  Not for nothing did we fight against the darkness of totalitarian rule, which triumph inspired the world with our people power revolution 29 years ago yesterday – to regain our freedom and once again light our way to a future of justice, democracy, and peace.   
I beg you, the young people here: as young Filipinos to whom the future rightly and irrevocably belongs, please do not sell yourselves short.  Insist on your say to how the future will take shape.  Insist that decisions that will determine your future not be made on the basis of emotions – or more accurately, emotionalism – not on the basis of allegations and surely not on the basis of prejudices and petrified perspectives that belong to the past and will not serve in your quest to manage and overcome the challenges of the future.  Please demand that, when the BBL is put to a vote in Congress, it will be the future of the children – Christian, Muslim, and lumad; equally for the child in Mamasapano as the child in Manila – that will take center stage and not the 2016 electoral prospects of politicians.     

Today we are called to stand beside, not against, our Muslim brothers and sisters in their quest for justice and selfhood within a house united, not divided. The most vociferous voices call for a stop to the BBL hearings, call for a revamp of the peace infrastructure in midstream.  Perhaps the most charitable thing to say is that they do not know whereof they speak. 

Let the blood shed at Mamasapano clear, and not blind, our vision in the quest for truth and justice.  Let the sturm und drang of these days be as a refiner's fire to purify words of their dross.  

And may the peacemakers be blessed. 

Good afternoon.


Aubrey Gail Mallari
Chief for Admin and Finance
Office of the Secretary
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Tel No.: (+63-2) 637-6083
Fax No.: (+63-2) 638-2216
Email Add: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SPECIAL REPORT: BalikBayanihan, The Global Filipino’s Journey From Diaspora to Philippine Development


The Filipino Australian

MANILA – In 2014, around 10.5 million Overseas Filipinos (OF) working or residing in more than 200 countries had remitted an astounding $28 billion or P1.2 trillion to the country, according to the World Bank. And yet, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the primary government agency tasked to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of OFs, says there’s a much more important currency that global Filipinos are sending back. They are social remittances.

Social remittances are initiatives or a way of living of Global Filipinos that create opportunities for people other than their own families.

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“While we appreciate the remittances of our kababayans abroad that contribute to the country’s GDP while helping support their families, their will to share their talents and passions within the homeland is their greatest gift,” said CFO Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas on opening day of the 3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora (February 25-27) at the Manila Hotel.

Secretary Nicolas also encourages the use of the term “Overseas Filipinos” instead of “OFWs” to include people who live abroad but not for work—unlike the OFWs or Temporary Migrants who are expected to return to the Philippines after their employment contract ends.

BAbad02 26 2015There are also the permanent residents and naturalized citizens of other countries (Permanent Migrants), and those who are not properly documented with residence or work permits and may be overstaying in a foreign country (Irregular Migrants).

As of December 2012, of the 10.5 million Overseas Filipinos, 47 percent (or 4.9 million) are Permanent Migrants, 40 percent (or 4.2 million) are Temporary Migrants and 13 percent (or 1.36 million) are Irregular Migrants.

As an agency mandated to strengthen their economic, political and social ties with the motherland, the CFO has adopted the Diaspora to Development (D2D) as a flagship program that maximizes the involvement of OFs here through 10 major areas of development interventions: Alay Dunong or transfer of skills and technology; Arts and Culture Exchange; Balik-Turo or educational exchange; Business Advisory Circle or business linkaging and mentoring; Diaspora investments; Global Legal Assistance; Lingkod sa Kapwa Filipino or Diaspora Philanthropy; Medical Mission Coordination; Tourism Initiatives; and Return and Reintegration.

In addition, CFO organizes a biennial Global Summit to forge partnerships among stakeholders and ensure that Global Filipinos will find it easier and more inspiring to take part in local and internationally-linked initiatives for long-term Philippine development.

The recently concluded 3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora at the historic Manila Hotel was another fruitful interaction of around 600 Filipino diaspora partners and community leaders to discuss “Vision and Action for the Filipino Diaspora for 2015 and Beyond,” this year’s theme.

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“We feel that we should help the community leaders of our global Filipinos to be empowered, engaged with both their host and home countries, capable of sustaining their goals and maximizing their own strengths and opportunities for partnership with each other, other diaspora groups and multi-lateral organizations – way beyond this Administration,” said Secretary Nicolas.

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Some of the speakers at the 3rd Global Summit were technology incubation expert Earl Valencia and world-renowned cancer specialist Dr. Samuel Bernal.

A graduate of Cornell University and Stanford Graduate School of Business graduate, Valencia was the Business Incubation Manager of Cisco’s Emerging Technologies Group in Silicon Valley before he went back to the Philippines before he turned 30 to co-found IdeaSpace Foundation, an incubation and acceleration initiative for technology entrepreneurs which has touched over 100,000 lives in less than three years.

BTweddell“Coming back to the Philippines after more than 10 years in the US is one of the most difficult yet rewarding decisions for me and my family,” said Valencia.

“We did it because we hope that maybe in our lifetime, our kids will say they are from the Philippines in the US or in Europe and people will remember our country as a place where great innovators live,” Valencia added.

Another Global Filipino who is making a name for the country is Dr. Samuel D. Bernal, world-renowned cancer specialist and regenerative medicine pioneer, who is also a lawyer specializing in Regulatory Law and Medical Malpractice, a PhD and MBA degree holder, the head of the Institute of Personalized Molecular Medicine and consultant adviser for Regenerative Medicine Program of The Medical City, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the author of various books on oncology and cancer research, and a director of various business organizations and foundations. He is also a cancer survivor.

Dr. Bernal is a devoted advocate of personalized, customized diagnosis and care of patients. He won a landmark case in 2008 representing a patient who died in the hands of doctors who used standard-of-care procedures and population-based statistics instead of looking at the unique case of the patient.

“The enduring feature of the Global Summit has always been the sharing of stories among overseas Filipinos themselves – about their experiences, their successes and their dreams for the future,” said Secretary Nicolas.

“These stories create the bridge towards stronger networking and diaspora engagement. This makes the Global Summit something to watch out for because it is not a mere traditional gathering of overseas Filipinos. It is much more than that. It is a celebration of the vibrant and ever-renewing Filipino spirit.”

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The Third Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora is co-presented by The Filipino Channel (TFC). Major and minor sponsors are: The Medical City, Department of Tourism – Tourism Promotions Board, Vibal Group of Companies, Western Union, Philhealth, PAG-IBIG, Philippine Retirement Authority, Meralco/PLDT Foundation and Megaworld. Partner agencies are Metro Manila Development Authority and Skyway O&M Corporation. Media partners include ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business World, Philippine Starweek Magazine, Panorama Magazine, Balikbayan Magazine, DZMM and RMN. (Carissa Villacorta / Pauline Mangosing / Rocel Ann Junio)


The Filipino Australian


 2nd European Regional Conference of Overseas Filipinos in Malta


What is ENFiD: ENFiD is a non-profit networking association of Filipino communities in Europe registered in Malta and the EU Transparency Registry. Presently ENFiD has 18-country representation in Europe and an institutional partnership with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and the PhilAm Life Foundation.

Statement: ENFiD is holding the 2nd European Regional Overseas Filipino Conference with the theme -- Overseas Filipinos Make a Self-Assessment (Ako ay Pilipino, Ganito Ako Ngayon, Paano Ako Bukas).

Collaborators: The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the various Filipino associations in Malta, the Malta Emigrants Commission, Attard Holdings, Inc. and the Malta Tourism Authority

Project description: Strengthening the Filipino-European Identity to Harness the Development Impact of Socio-Cultural and Psycho-Emotional Remittance of Overseas Filipinos in Europe 

Objective: Allow the opportunity to debate, self-examine and analyze “What and Who” is a Filipino living overseas in a multicultural environment; and define the OF as a Euro-Pinoy in the conduct of their Personal Life, Social Behavior, Cultural Awareness and Economic Preparedness


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