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DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Human rights groups in Mindanao on Thursday, December 6, expressed concern over the choice of military chief Carlito Galvez Jr as the next presidential peace adviser, and Lieutenant General Benjamin Madrigal Jr as his successor.
Human rights group Barug Katungod Mindanao (Stand Up for Rights Mindanao) expressed fear that the situation in the countryside would worsen with Galvez at the helm of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and the assumption Madrigal Jr as the new Armed Forces chief after Galvez retires next week.
In a statement, Barug Katungod spokesperson Ryan Amper expressed fear that “Madrigal and Galvez will hit the ground gunning, bombing as new AFP chief and Presidential Peace Adviser, respectively.”
Amper said Galvez was “expected to militarize the OPAPP and the peace process.”
“He will infuse the objectives of Oplan Kapayaan in the peace process,” he said.
Oplan Kapayapaan is the government’s counterinsurgency program.
Kristine Cabardo, regional chairperson of the League of Filipino Students in Northern Mindanao also questioned the President Rodrigo Duterte’s choices, especially of Galvez.
“This shows that he (Duterte) is not serious with the peace talks,” she said.
Cabardo also said that the resignation of Jesus Dureza as peace adviser is a “big loss” to peace negotiations with communist rebels.
Cabardo cited Dureza’s extensive experience as a peace negotiator, having headed the government panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the Arroyo administration, and servng as chief peace adviser of the Arroyo and Duterte administrations.
Dureza resigned last week after President Rodrigo Duterte fired an OPAPP undersecretary and assistant secretary over corruption allegations.
“He is such a big loss to the on-going peace process, because as you know, even when President Duterte has many pronouncement to stop the peace process, we know that Dureza spearheaded back channel negotiations to keep the peace talks floating,” Cabardo said.
She cited, in particular, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser), which was still being drafted when Duterte ended peace negotiations in November 2017.
“Dureza looked for ways that the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will meet halfway, so the negotiation on CASER will be connected,” Cabardo said.
In seeking to be part of the OPAPP after his retirement, Galvez had said that he wants to help forge sustainable peace in Mindanao.
“I’ve always said that for the rest of my life, I will always dedicate my services for the peaceful resolution of armed conflicts in Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro,” he said in a recent news briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.
Prior to the resignation of Dureza from OPAPP, Galvez had conveyed to Dureza his desire to be an OPAPP consultant after he retires on December 12 so he can continue dialogues with rebel groups.
Duterte told his Cabinet earier this week that he would appoint Galvez as his new peace adviser following the resignation of Dureza. – Rappler.com