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PEACETALK: Dawn of a new day; let’s stay the course

(Opening statement of Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza during the formal resumption of peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF in Oslo, Norway , 9:30am , at Holmenkollen Park Hotel, August 22, 2016)

On this crispy cold Oslo morning, we are all convened here, thousands of miles away from our own homeland, ironically in a foreign clime and time, in yet another renewed effort to re-ignite the lost sparks that were once there, in our mutual search for that seemingly elusive peace in our land.

Today’s challenges , no doubt, are daunting. Consider the following stark realities:
* 40 years of conflict;
* Filipinos fighting Filipinos;
*about 40 rounds of
“off and on” peace talks;
* around 15 deadlocks
* last peace talks 5 years ago
* Spanning six ( 6) presidencies

I was a young Davao congressman then when I first joined the fray as Panel Adviser representing the House of Representatives. I and Secretary Bebot Bello were 30 years younger then and I am amazed that we are still here today! I still see old timers here on our side of the table like former PAPP Rene Sarmiento, former Sec Nani Braganza, including Secretariat chief Carla Munsayac, Atty Sedfrey Candelaria, among others. And as I scan across the other side of the table, I still see the same still familiar looking faces, Joma Sison, Louie Jalandoni, Fidel Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma, Julie de Lima , Asterio Palima , Ka Satur Ocampo and others.

We all went through several breakdown of talks. We stumbled due to “preconditions”, so-called “hardline non- negotiable positions”, the ghost of the now obsoletE” status of belligerency” rearing it’s ugly head from time to time. There were many more of these obstacles.

We have long worked together and we hope to learn from the lessons of the immediate past.

So, why are we still here today doing the same things as before and hoping to find better results this time than before? I recall an interesting post at my Facebook account which defined ” insanity” as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting and hoping that the results will be different at some other time.

Well, there’s a new, refreshing element now in that illusive peace equation that has unexpectedly entered the scene. And this is the dawning of some new hope with the onset of the Duterte presidency. President Rodrigo Duterte has committed his presidency to bringing a definitive and final peace settlement to our troubled land. We who are in government are working now under his leadership and guidance to bring about this commonly shared dream.

The bold and historic recent release of detainees and the record-time, hastily-arranged foreign travel in so short period of time to enable them to participate in the peace negotiations is unprecedented. I never imagined this could ever happen before, including the spontaneous ceasefire declarations that we now see happening.

Yes, the Duterte presidency is the main and compelling reason why we are all still here, confidently inspired and full of spirit , still with fire in our belly to hopefully find new breakthroughs and milestones together.

Please allow me to also mention an important factor that impels us to continue our difficult task, the daunting challenges notwithstanding. Let me pay tribute to the strong support, patient and creative facilitation of the Royal Norwegian government – our virtual common umbilical cord that tightly connected us and kept us from walking away from the negotiating table during those trying times. Likewise, we also cite the support of the other foreign governments and the donor community and we call on them to continue being with us in our peace journey.

We can all see now that there is renewed and fresh euphoria in the air. Our coming together starting today should be not in the context of out-witting or out-maneuvering each other across the table. Neither is this a joust of one side unduly gaining strategic advantage over the other. But this should be more of a coming together of Filipinos interested to see changes in the land– in our land, to be shared for and by all. If we can, let’s no longer call our engagements as negotiations but instead a shared national “conversation” a ” dialogue” where we find together common grounds, bridge the divides and seek common dreams to share.

But this peace journey is not on well-paved and concrete road. There will expectedly be humps and bumps along the way. The road to peace is not easy and rosy, considering the long history of animosity, suspicion and armed conflict that troubled our land.

Hopefully all this now belong to yesterday. Today is the dawning of another day.

As I always say: Let’s all stay the course! No matter what!!

Who knows. This may perhaps be our last chance in our own lifetime to make this shared dream come true.

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