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Arroyo's peacemaking legacy leaves a trail of blood and chaos

Published August 14, 2009 7:31pm

By GMA NEWS RESEARCH

Five years ago, encouraged by the then ongoing peace talks with both the

Muslims and the communist rebels, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

made this bold declaration:

SONA 2009

» Fast Facts: National Harmony

“Peace will have come to Mindanao and all insurgency areas," proclaims

her Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan for 2004 to 2010.

Obviously, with barely a year left before her term ends, this has not

happened. In 2004, peace talks with the National Democratic Front were

suspended. Five years after, talks have yet to resume. NDF chief political

consultant Jose Maria Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founding

chair, was arrested in 2007 in The Hague and was released after a

month. In 2008, negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were

stalled after a public outcry against the memorandum of agreement on

ancestral domain, which was supposed to be signed by the peace panels

in August. MILF attacks, staged in protest of the aborted signing, killed at

least 30 people. Meanwhile, from 2001 to 2008, the armed conflict has

claimed the lives of a total of 747 people and displaced close to 1.9

million people. Arroyo, of course, has now appeared to have

acknowledged the fact that peace has yet to reign in certain parts of the

country, particularly Mindanao. “There is now a good prospect for peace


talks with both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the MILF, with

whom we are now on ceasefire," she said in her last State of the Nation

Address on July 27. Short-lived peace One of Arroyo's first executive acts

after assuming the presidency in 2001 is to reverse her predecessor

Joseph Estrada's "all-out war" stance against the Moro Islamic Liberation

Front. On February 28, 2001, Arroyo issued Executive Order 3 which

defined her government’s policy for comprehensive peace efforts and

reiterated former President Fidel Ramos’s “Six Paths to Peace." EO 3

created the Government Peace Negotiating Panels for the different rebel

groups, strengthened the mandate of the Office of the Presidential

Adviser on the Peace Process and integrated special projects under the

Office of the President. But peace proved to be short-lived. Relations with

the NDF soured after Arroyo welcomed the United States government’s

inclusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing,

the New People’s Army, in its list of “foreign terrorist organizations" in

August 2002. The US also imposed financial sanctions on CPP/NPA and

its founder, Jose Ma. Sison. Formal talks were suspended in 2004. The

following year, Arroyo suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and

Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) that gave safety passes for the people

involved in the formal peace talks. In February 2006, the National Police

charged with rebellion more than 50 people including Sison and four

militant party-list representatives for alleged involvement in the attempt

to overthrow the Arroyo government. Armed Forces chief of staff Gen.

Hermogenes Esperon vowed to crush communist insurgency by 2010. In

August 2007, Sison was arrested by Dutch police and ordered detained by
a judge in The Hague on charges of giving orders, from the Netherlands,

to murder former communist associates Romulo Kintanar and Arturo

Tabara. He was released the following month. Meanwhile, talks with the

MILF have its share of landmarks and losses. The first few years of the

Arroyo administration saw the signing of key agreements and hostilities

between government groups and MILF forces that led to the cancellation

of talks. The talks reached a breakthrough in 2005—“the first time that

both sides entered into substantive discussions outside of the cessation

of hostilities," a joint statement of the peace panels said. This culminated

in the July 27, 2008 initialing of the memorandum of agreement on

ancestral domain, which will pave the way for the expansion of the

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a Bangsamoro homeland with

broad economic and political powers. The formal signing of the MOA-AD,

scheduled on August 5, 2009, was canceled after the Supreme Court

issued a temporary restraining order. The High Court subsequently

declared it unconstitutional. The government has since abandoned the

deal. Trail of blood The scrapping of the MOA sparked attacks from

“recalcitrant" MILF members in towns in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte

and Sarangani, killing at least 30 people. From 2000 to 2009, a total of

248 armed conflicts were recorded by the Department of Social Welfare

and Development and the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Nationwide data on frequency of armed conflicts

YEAR

Frequency of Armed Conflict

2000
50

2001

23

2002

22

2003

21

2004

12

2005

23

2006

29

2007

25

2008

30

Jan–Mar 2009*

13

Total (2001-09)

198

Total

248

Sources: DSWD and NDCC

* from NDCC Quarterly Updates


The most number of armed conflicts in the past nine years happened

during the last year of President Joseph Estrada in 2000, with 50

incidents. Since Arroyo assumed office in 2001, a total of 198 armed

conflicts were recorded including the 13 in the first quarter of this year.

2008, the year the MOA-AD was scrapped, saw the most number of

recorded armed conflicts in the Arroyo administration. All 30 incidents

recorded that year occurred happened in Mindanao after the MOA-AD was

junked. The armed conflict claimed the lives of a total of 747 people from

2001 to 2008, proof that Arroyo’s supposed “all-out peace" policy still left

a trail of blood. During the same period, a total of 649 government troops,

civilians and rebels were injured while 21 others were missing.

Nationwide data on casualties due to armed conflict

YEAR

DEAD

INJURED

MISSING

2001

71

91

13

2002

74

127

2003
284

227

2004

20

21

2005

35

34

2006

30

2007

70

21

2008

163

123

TOTAL

747
649

21

Source: DSWD

The most number of casualties—284 deaths and 227 injuries—took place

in 2003, when authorities were pursuing members of the notorious

Mindanao-based Pentagon kidnap-for-ransom gang. 2008 closely follows

with 163 deaths and 123 injuries, reflecting the fighting that ensued after

the failure of the MOA-AD. “Bakwits" More substantial than the figures of

the casualties are the number of “internally displaced persons (IDPs),"

people forced to flee their homes to avoid the armed conflict but who,

unlike refugees, remain within their country’s borders. Almost a million

IDPs, also called evacuees or “bakwits," were displaced during the last

full year of Estrada in 2000, when his “all-out war" policy against the MILF

was in full swing. The 985,412 IDPs in 2000 is the biggest number

bakwits in nine years. (see table) The IDPs in 2008 totaled 145,427

families or 697,969 persons, the highest since Arroyo’s term started in

2001. All these people were displaced by the conflicts in some parts of

Mindanao after the failure of the MOA-AD.

Nationwide data on IDPs served

YEAR

FAMILIES

PERSONS

2000

985,412

2001
39,929

202,842

2002

4,346

23,650

2003

91,151

452,258

2004

9,110

44,532

2005

32,107

169,803

2006

17,661

87,893

2007

34,871

184,730

2008

145,427

697,969

Source: DSWD and NDCC

Based on the 2008 figures, the Geneva-based Internal Displacement


Monitoring Centre ranked the Philippines No. 1 in the world in terms of

number of displaced persons. The IDMC is an international body

monitoring conflict-induced internal displacement. The IDMC keeps its

own database sourced from various government agencies and media

reports. From 2001 to 2008, nearly all or 9 in 10 IDPs came from

Mindanao. Besides the MOA-AD-related armed conflict, military operations

against the Pentagon gang in 2003 resulted in high numbers of IDPs.

Regional breakdown of IDPs served Sources: DSWD and NDCC

REGION

2001

2002

2003

2004

CAR

101

III

588

IV-A

-
1,664

IV-B

114

VI

VII

528

VIII

-
-

IX

65,818

7,770

10,244

246

49,682

XI

18,206

1,686

123

XII

46,663

8,138

145,498

10,121

ARMM

71,909
6,071

245,047

33,058

CARAGA

Sub Total

202,842

21,986

452,157

43,302

Total

202,842

23,650

452,258

44,532

REGION

2005

2006

2007

2008

CAR

-
-

III

875

139,561

IV-A

15,599

605

IV-B

617

1,252

901

4,285

VI

-
2,497

3,871

VII

-1,057

VIII

3,994

1,087

505

IX

766

271

6,000

XI

250
3,436

XII

7,591

5,729

33,950

116,580

ARMM

135,896

71,079

185,595

CARAGA

3,898

567

2,287

Sub Total

147,635

81,577

36,508

308,175

Total

169,803
87,893

45,169

308,175

REGION

TOTAL

CAR

101

III

141,024

IV-A

17,868

IV-B

1,869

5,300

VI

6,368

VII

1,585

VIII

5,586

IX

83,832

56,965
XI

23,708

XII

374,270

ARMM

748,665

CARAGA

6,752

Sub Total

1,294,182

Total

1,473,883

Cumulative total affected population Aug. 10, 2008-Jul 7, 2009 Source:

NDCC Situational report No. 86 dated July 14, 2009

REGION

Brgys

Severly

Moderately

Mildly

Families

Persons

Families

Persons

Families

Persons
X

155

75

375

36,958

160,688

XII

105

1,073

5,365

30,901

154,482

25

ARMM

175

2,653

13,265

83,931

412,181

1,988

10,173

Total
435

3,801

19,005

151,790

727,351

1,993

10,198

REGION

Brgys

TOTAL

Families

Persons

155

37,033

161,063

XII

105

31,979

159,872

ARMM

175

88,572

435,619

Total
435

157,584

756,554

Cost of conflict Government estimates placed the total cost of assistance

extended to IDPs at almost half a billion pesos since 2001. The

government spent the most for assistance during major military

operations and political conflicts. Of the P494.47 million, almost 43

percent or P211.97 million was spent in 2008 owing to MILF attacks

related to the MOA-AD. It is the biggest so far under the Arroyo

administration. Funds came from the DSWD, local government units and

nongovernment organizations.

Nationwide data on the cost of assistance due to armed conflict

YEAR

Total

DSWD

LGUs

NGOs & OTHER GOs

2001

121,235,618.13

106,047,965.63

1,860,998.50

13,326,654.00

2002

1,367,092.30

951,180.30
373,062.00

42,850.00

2003

106,085,427.58

85,325,210.13

11,718,096.70

9,042,120.75

2004

838,120.00

320,720.00

487,400.00

30,000.00

2005

13,452,589.99

6,359,503.99

3,414,132.00

3,678,954.00

2006

9,129,880.26

3,733,674.46

1,045,308.45

4,350,897.35

2007

30,384,812.60

7,429,764.73
2,670,031.10

20,285,016.77

2008

211,974,699.21

87,898,978.81

13,891,058.80

110,184,661.60

Total

494,468,240.07

298,066,998.05

35,460,087.55

160,941,154.47

Source: DSWD

The government spent the second-biggest amount for assistance in 2001:

P121.24 million to rehabilitate those affected by Estrada’s all-out war. A

total of P106.09 million was spent in 2003 after the military offensive in

the MILF’s Buliok Complex in Pikit, North Cotabato. Meanwhile, in just one

year, damage to infrastructure and agriculture was pegged at P251.59

million.

Cost of damages due to armed conflicts in infrastructure and agriculture

Aug. 10, 2008-Jul 7, 2009

Infrastructure

99,024,756.08

Agriculture

152,566,236.00
Total

251,590,992.08

Source: NDCC Situational report No. 86 dated July 14, 2009

From 2001 to 2008, houses damaged by armed conflict totaled 11,122,

most of them totally destroyed.

Nationwide data on damaged houses due to armed conflict

YEAR

DAMAGED HOUSES

Totally

Partially

Total

2001

272

73

345

2002

82

82

2003

5,889

1,515

7,404

2004

8
30

38

2005

57

61

2006

1,328

1,328

2007

14

14

2008

1,584

266

1,850

Total

9,234

1,888

11,122

Source: DSWD and NDCC

The Buliok military offensive ordered by Arroyo in 2003 destroyed the

most number of houses: a total of 7,404 were totally and partially


destroyed. A total of 1,850 houses were razed during attacks of MILF

renegade forces in several Mindanao towns, the second highest. Cost of

peace Maintaining peace appears to be costlier than the damages of war.

Ramos created the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace

Process in 1993 through Executive Order 125 to be the lead agency that

will manage and supervise the comprehensive peace process with all

rebel groups. From 2003 to 2008, OPAPP was allocated a budget totaling

almost P1.4 billion. Funding for the OPAPP came from government

subsidy and grants and donations.

Budget Allocation for OPAPP

YEAR

Subsidy from Gov’t

Grants & Donation

Total Amount

2001

2002

2003

167,074,726.68

4,082,500.00
171,157,226.68

2004

191,624,843.71

N/A

191,624,843.71

2005

220,831,915.48

2,825,068.90

223,656,984.38

2006

162,364,072.41

2,647,782.99

165,011,855.40

2007

199,271,282.21

1,761,844.92

201,033,127.13

2008

418,812,662.63

7,506,375.55

426,319,038.18

Total

1,359,979,503.12

18,823,572.36

1,378,803,075.48
Source: Commission on Audit

It received the highest budget in 2008—P426,319,038.18—more than

double the allocation of the previous year. Prospect Peace talks with the

NDF, CPP’s political wing, and the MILF are expected to resume hopefully

within the year. On July 8, Malacañang and the NDF announced that

preparations are being made for the continuation of formal talks in Oslo in

August 2009, ending the five-year hiatus. Both negotiating panels have

agreed on the implementation of the Jasig to enable persons to

participate in the preparatory meeting and formal talks. On July 23, Arroyo

declared the suspension of offensive military operations against the MILF.

The government is awaiting word from the Malaysian government, the

third-party facilitator, on when the peace talks will resume. But Amina

Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy,

believes that Arroyo needs a miracle to meet her MTPDP goal of

attaining peace in all conflict-ridden areas by 2010. “A miracle is needed

for that to happen. Her unpopularity will be the principal deterrent in

getting the various publics to support proposed peace agreements," Rasul

said in an email sent to GMA News Research. She is of course referring

to the MOA-AD, calling it a potato that the government helped cook only

to drop when it became hot. “The worsening trust in the Arroyo

government has made it difficult to gather the necessary support for the

initiated MOA-AD," Rasul said. Rasul said the Arroyo administration

mishandled the peace negotiations with the MILF, evident from alleged

inconsistencies in approach from support of the peace process to a

military one. A mess, she said, that has taken its toll on the people of
Muslim Mindanao, which has the worst indicators for poverty and

underdevelopment since Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001.

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