SECRETARY Jesus Dureza on Friday said the Office of the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process is quietly working to salvage the peace negotiations with the communists, despite the termination of peace talks last November.
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to cancel peace talks with the leftists, the doors to peace “have not been totally shut,” Dureza said.
“The work of OPAPP is to look for ways and means to move the peace process forward. So we’re doing that but in a very unofficial and quiet way, because we have to take the directive coming from no less than the President,” he told Bloomberg TV Philippines on Thursday.
Dureza, however, said these moves aren’t backchannel talks. The OPAPP still continues to work on the peace process with the communists, but has to take the clear directive of the President.
“Nothing at all, in deference to the President’s directive,” he said.
Duterte had earlier tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines, along with its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as a terrorist organization following his decision to end peace talks with the communist rebels.
In the same interview, Dureza said he is confident that Congress will “find a way” to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law because it is the “desire of the President.”
He alluded to the President making it “very clear” that Congress must pass a BBL “in justice to the Bangsamoro.”
“I’m sure Congress will find a way, in spite of that cluttered and that very busy schedule of them, to look for ways and means on how to move this forward, because that is the desire of the President,” he said.
Dureza acknowledged that the executive and the legislative branches of government are “two different, independent bodies.”
“While the President may express this, you have to deal also with what is the final decision that Congress will have on pending legislations including the BBL,” he said.
Four House bills on the BBL are to be harmonized by a House subcommittee headed by Zamboanga Sibugay 1st District Rep. Wilter Wee Palma, and is composed of members from the House committees on local government, Muslim affairs, and on peace, reconciliation and unity.
The consolidated bill is expected to be ready between Jan. 15 and 30.
A law for the Bangsamoro people is Duterte’s “top priority,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had said in November, after the President was quoted as saying he would ask Congress to hold a special session on the proposed BBL.
No such special session was held before Congress went on recess on Dec. 16, 2017. Its session will resume on Jan. 15. John Paolo Bencito