INCOMING President Rodrigo Duterte may find the peace process with the Moro rebels more complicated and contentious than the peace overtures with the leftist group but analysts believe that a genuine peace pact is possible under his administration.
Bobby Tuazon, a University of the Philippines professor and also director for policy studies of Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), on Wednesday said Duterte’s decision to have Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and peace negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd back on the negotiating table with the Moro and leftist rebel groups is on the right track.
“Both government peace negotiators have a record of successful negotiations with the rebels during their first stint in the sensitive peace process,” Tuazon explained.
The political analyst noted that Duterte’s decision to give priority to making peace with all rebel forces in the country makes that task for Dureza and Bello more manageable with a bigger leeway for negotiations.
The opening of key Cabinet portfolios to leftist personalities is also a positive sign that peace with the armed Left may be in sight.
“Negotiating with the Left is always comparatively well-defined since the government will be dealing with the NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippine] that has a solid organizational discipline and is assigned to represent the CPP and NPA,” Tuazon pointed out, referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.
He, however, said the incoming administration will find the peace process with Moro rebels more complicated and contentious because government negotiators will be dealing with different rebel groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and an emerging radical faction of the MILF.
While a proposed shift to federalism as a final solution to the Moro rebellion is a welcome move, Tuazon also noted that this will take years to be implemented and the MILF may not be able to wait that long.
Even if a federal form of government is adopted, it will likely take six years before it gets implemented, he said.
“By that time, the Moro struggle for self-determination will have taken different shapes and forms including the entry of extremist forces such as IS [Islamic State] groups,” Tuazon added.
The CenPEG official said it is yet to be seen if the final peace agreement that will be reached with the NDFP will include the 12-point program of the Left or at least major parts of it.
He added that another challenge any peace agreement will face after both parties reached a pact is convincing Congress to support it.
Duterte and MNLF founder Nur Misuari were with the Kabataang Makabayan, an organization founded by CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison, in the mid-1960s.
In a separate interview, Professor Ramon Casiple, founder and executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms in the Philippines, said the peace proposals will test the political will of the Duterte administration.
Casiple added that Duterte took the right track to peace because he can directly communicate with the key negotiators of the other parties and there were promises that have been made by both sides.
The only challenge, he said, is when the other party makes a move on government forces, like what happened recently in Davao Oriental when NPA rebels attacked a police station and abducted the town police chief.
“This is when the political will of the Duterte government will be tested,” Casiple added.
He said Duterte may have the trust of the rebel groups but political will plays a crucial role in his administration’s peace mission.