There has been an
unexpected breakthrough in the search for peace in Mindanao. While
much attention is given to the two major peace processes: with the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and with the Communist Party of
the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), a third process
quietly began in 2003.
Towards the later part of
2002, Iligan City Mayor Franklin M. Quijano received feelers from
the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa sa Mindanao (RPM-M) that
they wanted to explore possibilities of entering into a Peace
Process with the Philippine Government to finally put a just end to
a three-decade old struggle. Both Mayor Quijano and Ike delos Reyes
of RPM-M agreed to approach Kaloy Manlupig of Balay Mindanaw to seek
his help. A series of serious informal meetings followed.
RPM-M used to be the
Mindanao "component" of CPP/NPA/NDF until they decided to
break away from the Communist Party. They eventually became known as
the CMR (Central Mindanao Region) rejectionist group. They later
joined other rejectionist factions from Luzon and Visayas to form
the RPM-P with Ike delos Reyes as the Secretary-General. RPM-P
started peace negotiations with the Estrada government but failed to
reach a national agreement as Ike's Mindanao group decided to split
from RPM-P. They eventually formed RPM-M.
Serious efforts were then
exerted to bring this matter to the attention of the government.
Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles (then of NAPC and now OPAPP)
responded enthusiastically to the information. After a series of
informal dialogues and consultations, Secretary Deles wrote a Joint
Memorandum with the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Eduardo Ermita addressed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
recommending the creation of a panel to conduct formal peace
negotiations with RPM-M.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through Presidential Memorandum Order No.
108 dated July 19, 2003, has created the Government of the
Philippines (GRP) Panel for Negotiations with the Rebolusyonaryong
Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPMM). The said Government Peace
Panel, which is under the supervision of the Office of the
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), is composed of
Mayor Franklin M. Quijano as Chairperson with NAPC Secretary
Teresita Quintos-Deles and Philippine Councilors’ League
Chairperson Frolian Melendres as members.
Through the said
Memorandum Order, the GRP Peace Panel has been mandated to undertake
negotiations with the RPPM in accordance with the Government’s
policy framework for peace and the national agenda on poverty
alleviation. Similarly, RPMM has also formed its own counterpart
The process that is
used for this peace negotiation does not involve complex political
negotiations. Rather, a local peace and development agenda that will
have an immediate impact on the ground will be pursued. As part of
this peace process, a series of Barangay and community-based
consultations in areas where the RPMM has presence will be conducted
to determine community problems as well as to identify the projects
that can be undertaken as a response to these problems. The projects
are expected to be mainstreamed and incorporated in all the levels
of local development planning.
On September 22, 2003,
the first round of formal talks and the signing of a document
entitled Joint Commitment to Pursue Peace and Development in
Mindanao signaled the formal process start of the peace process
between RPMM and the Government. Two other documents, namely Rules
for the Conduct of the Peace Talks and Rules for the Conduct of
Local Consultations, were also signed.
Balay Mindanaw acts as
the Independent Secretariat of this Peace Process.
Finally, the attainment
of development and peace has become so near, real and achievable.