A CULTURE OF PEACE AMIDST DIVERSITY
ROMULO B. HALABASO
Chief, Peace Education Unit
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
of all, on the behalf of the Office of the Presidential Adviser
of the Peace Process (OPAPP), I would like to thank the organizers
of this Forum for giving us the privilege to speak on a very relevant
topic, Building a Culture of Peace Amidst Diversity.
society is a highly diversified society, where serious conflicts
arise out of unresolved differences among the people’s needs,
interests and beliefs. Certain conflicts have in fact escalated
into full-blown and protracted armed violence which threaten our
national security and development while making life extremely difficult
and miserable to countless civilians in the affected communities.
At the start of the decade, we were facing three fronts of insurgency,
namely: the communist movement, the separate forces in the south
and the military rebel groups. Today, as the decade comes to its
close, the country continues to be battled by violent unrests and
critical presence of internal armed conflicts has prompted the government
– particularly under the Ramos administration – to adopt
and implement a comprehensive peace process aimed at attainting
a just and lasting peace in the country. This was formulated in
the basis of the results of the nationwide grassroots consultations
conducted by the National Unification Commission (NUC) in 71 provinces
in 1992. Currently being pursued in partnership with both the civil
society and the private sector, the comprehensive peace process
is the government’s main endeavor to consciously build and
nurture peace for all Filipinos.
comprehensive peace process is governed by the following underlying
1. A comprehensive peace process should be community-based, reflecting
the sentiment, values and principles important to all Filipinos.
Thus, it shall be defined not by government alone, nor by the
different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one
2. A comprehensive peace process aims to forge a new social compact
for a just, equitable, humane and pluralistic society. It seeks
to establish a genuinely pluralistic political society, where
all individual and groups are free to engage in peaceful competition
for predominance of their political programs without fear, through
the exercise of rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution,
and where they may compete for political power through an electoral
system that is free, fair and honest.
3. A comprehensive peace process seeks a principled and peaceful
resolution of the internal armed conflicts, with neither blame
nor surrender, but with dignify for all concerned.
six paths to peace
The comprehensive peace process consists of (6) components, namely:
the pursuit of social, economic and political reforms to address
the roots of armed conflict;
consensus-building and empowerment for peace;
the negotiated settlement of armed conflict;
Four, programs for reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation;
conflict management and the protection of civilians caught in
armed conflict; and
building and nurturing a climate for lasting peace.
me now dwell briefly on each of these paths.
first path calls for the pursuit of social, economic, and political
reforms to address the root causes of armed conflicts in the country.
Based on the NUC report, armed rebellion arose primarily due to
widespread poverty and economic inequity; poor governance; abuse
and control by a few of political power; and marginalization of
the cultural communities.
a response to these, government put a place in 1994 the Social Reform
Agenda (SRA), aimed at advancing social equity, the just sharing
of the benefits of growth, and the effective participation of all
sectors, especially the poor and marginalized, in the mainstream
of our economic and political life. The initiatives under the SRA
have been institutionalized under the Estrada administration through
the creation and operationalization of the National Anti-Poverty
ensure people’s participation in the formulation and implementation
of reform policies, programs and other peace agenda, continuing
consultations and consensus-building processes are being pursued
at the national and local levels, especially among the affected
communities. This is the second path to peace.
this lane, we have formed, strengthened as expanded a nationwide
network of a local peace partners with whom we have conducted regional,
community-based and multi-sectoral dialogues and for a with the
end in view of drawing up area-based peace and development agenda
as well as facilitating the resolution of conflicts. Our partners
include the Cordillera People’s Forum, Paghiliusa Sa Paghidaet-Negros
in the Visayas, and Kalinaw Mindanaw, among others.
critical intervention under the second path is the empowerment of
the indigenous peoples through consensus-building, in the light
of issues arising from the implementation of development projects
within their respective areas and domains.
third path to peace refers to peace negotiations with various rebel
groups. To date, government has already forged a peace accord with
the military rebel groups and with the MNLF. Peace agreements with
the military rebel groups and with the MNLF. Peace agreements with
the military rebels were reached in 1995. Consequently, three amnesty
proclamations covering the military rebels have been issued since
1994 and more than 4,000 applicants have been granted amnesty under
these proclamations. In addition, one hundred fourteen (114) officers
have been reinstated in the military service, along with about 2,000
The peace agreement with the MNLF,
on the other hand, was signed on September 2, 1996. Significantly,
most of the various reforms covered under the first phase of the
peace accord have already been accomplished. The political reforms,
particularly the creation of the Southern Philippines Council for
Peace And Development (SPCPD) and other structures, have created
an encouraging landscape where Muslims, especially former MNLF combatants,
are clearly active participants in political and development processes.
successful and smooth integration of the MNLF forces into the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police
(PNP) unequivocally demonstrates the sincerity of both sides in
waging peace after three decades of conflict. The integration program
is considered to be unparalleled anywhere in the world.
for the socio-economic aspect of the peace agreement, the government
has provided in SZOPAD areas an estimated 8.9 billion peso worth
of development projects from government line agencies, P845 million
worth of projects from specialized government bodies, and P194.43
million from the SZOPAD Social Fund as of September this year. 14.6
million pesos have also been provided through the UNDP-NEDA-SPCPD
multi-donor program for livelihood projects and relief assistance.
peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formally
opened last October 25, 1999 in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. However,
as we have read and heard from the news, armed encounters between
the AFP and MILF forces have escalated after the MILF withdrew from
peace talks last April 30. While MILF administration remains committed
to peace negotiations and is hopeful that MILF would return to the
the peace process with the communist rebels, a major accomplishment
was the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human
Rights and International Humanitarian Law in March 1998. Following
the collapse of the talks, however, the government has decided to
take an alternative course. On June 21, 1999, President Joseph Estrada
issued Executive Order No. 115 establishing the National Peace Forum
to ensure the continuity of the peace process with the communist
insurgents at the community level. The Executive Order also provides
for the creation of local peace for a in areas where multisectoral
efforts can be effectively harnessed for the purpose. It is our
hope that such localized peace processes shall strengthen our democratic
institutions, enlarge our peace constituents and lead to meaningful
The fourth path to peace provides
hope to a new life to combatants who are willing to surface and
be reintegrated into the mainstream society and be reconciled with
their perspective communities and families. It includes programs
to address the legal status and security of former rebels, as well
as addressing the economic, social and psychological rehabilitation
needs of demobilized combatants and civilian victims of armed conflicts.
Two agencies are primarily responsible for the implementation of
this path, namely: the National Amnesty Commission (NAC) and the
National Program for Unification and Development (NPUD) Council.
the creation of the NAC in 1994, a total of 7,291 former combatants
have been granted amnesty. This number represents 60% of the total
amnesty applications received. Last September, President Estrada
issued a proclamation further extending the period for amnesty applications
for another year.
the other hand, the NPUD has provided more than 6 million pesos
for emergency assistance to 3,600 former rebels and 153 million
pesos for livelihood assistance to 9,300 rebel returnees.
fifth path to peace seeks to ensure the welfare and protection of
civilians in areas where hostilities continue to erupt even as peace
negotiations and other peace-building initiatives are being pursued.
this regard, our office has continued to provide support to several
peace zones, which constitute a people-initiated, community-based
response to mitigate armed conflict. In particular, we have engaged
a partnership with seven peace zones located in Mountain Province,
Negros Occidental, North Cotabato and Abra towards the implementation
of their respective community-based peace and development agenda.
the sixth path to peace seeks to build and nurture a positive climate
for peace or, more broadly, a culture of peace. Along this line,
we have been vigorously pursuing peace education and advocacy both
within and outside the schools, in order to instill in the minds
and hearts of children, youth, women and other sectors the values,
knowledge and skills essential to peace building and peace making.
this regard, we have established partnership with The Department
of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) as well as with private
schools for the eventual integration of peace education into the
formal school curricula. The partnership has mainly involved the
development of pilot peace education modules for use in classroom
teaching, peace education orientation and capability-building for
teachers and school administrators and, for some schools, the establishment
for peace centers as venues for peace research, extension and advocacy.
the same time, we supported and facilitated the development and
implementation of nonformal community-based and institution-based
peace education programs, notably: the tri-people culture of peace
program for Mindanao, for which a manual titled Panagtagbo Sa Kalinaw
was produced and printed; and the community-bassed peace education
program for the Cordillera Administrative Region.
also co-convened pilot peace education and training activities for
certain key sectors such as the urban poor and the local government
units. Just recently, we reached out to the military sector by integrating
a culture of peace training component into the internalization program
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which was intended
for the AFP regulars and the MNLF integrees. This partnerships with
the military took off with the conduct of the Speakers’ Bureacu
Trainers’ Training on AFP Professionalism and Peace advocacy
held last November at Camp Aguinaldo. We have just finished another
trainors’ training held in Jolo, Sulu last April 14-18 and
we are now preparing for another activity scheduled this month in
Cotabato City. Through this partnership with the joint AFP-MNLF
Secretariat Office (JAMSO), we expect a new rank of peace advocated
to be formed from the sector that really matters in the entire peace
process which is the military.
the role of the religious sector in peace-building, we have promoted
and supported the conduct of interfaith or interreligious dialogue
in Mindanao as a building block for a culture of peace. This is
in recognition of the common spiritual bases of peace found among
the different religious leaders in promoting social peace and cultural
solidarity. A significant development along this line is the instutionalization
of the Bishop-Ulama Forum (BUF) which was initiated in 1996.
conclusion, let me say that we have gone a long way in advancing
the peace process. But the peace that we have achieved so far remains
fragile especially as new situations of unpeace continue to emerge
which tend to erode many people’s sense of nationalism and
solidarity as well as confidence in the peace process. The achievement
of genuine and lasting peace in the country therefore calls for
a more intensive and more effective pursuit of our multi-track peace
process through new and innovative approaches.