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A policy forum in Metro Manila upon invitation of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) partner Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) brought government, the military leadership, the Committees on Cessation of Hostilities, the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and civil society together to discuss recent developments and disturbances in the peace process and how the cease fire mechanism may be improved.
The debate started with insightful observations presented by Ms. Marites Vitug (Editor-in-Chief, Newsbreak) who did a series of interviews with commanders in conflict areas. These were followed by substantive inputs from Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina (DND), the AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon, two Chairmen of the Committees on Cessation of Hostilities(CCCH) Chair Brother Al Van Haq (MILF) and Chair Brig. General Ed Guerra (GRP), the GRP Chairman Major Gen. Ben Dolorfino from the AD-hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and Fr. Bert Layson from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) .
The debate was followed up by a call from Atty. Benedicto Bacani (Executive Director, IAG) that both the MILF and the GRP must identify and name the ones responsible for clashes. The recent encounters that were basically caused by local conflicts should not serve as an excuse for not making public the real troublemakers. They should also be punished. All participants agreed that the state of the ceasefire may serve as an indicator for confidence and trust in the peace process, but the same is also true the other way around. Therefore, successful peace negotiations are highly relevant for maintaining the ceasefire.
The discussion highlighted the responsibility of all stakeholders including the local government officials and media, which in the view of the GRP and the MILF, do not always contribute to the truth and de-escalation in a proper way. GRP and MILF vowed to identify the local troublemakers, while the leadership of both sides agreed to stay in close contact and exert concerted effort at preventing future escalation of conflicts. It was also discussed whether the mandate of the MIT should be extended, to enable more proactive action.
The Policy Forum proceedings will be synthesized into a policy paper, which will provide recommendations on possibilities to address the current problems of the peace process.