OPAPP sets peace process consultation in Zamboanga

January 3, 2010 11:57 am 

By Teofilo P. Garcia

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Jan. 3 — Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Annabelle Abaya has assured Mayor Celso Lobregat the conduct of a meaningful and credible consultation concerning the peace process in this city in January, as she expressed regrets over the failure of a similar activity conducted by the government panel here from December 15 to 16.

Abaya, in an e-mail sent to Lobregat last December 29, said she will be pleased to provide her office’s resources in conducting the consultation that the mayor intends to sponsor this month.

Abaya’s e-mail was in response to Lobregat’s letter strongly protesting the GRP “consultation in this southern port city from December 15 to 16 intended for city and municipal mayors in Western Mindanao due to very short notice, lack of coordination with panel members and other observations.

“I read with much sadness your letter informing me that the consultations organized by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) panel did not turn out as you would have wished, due to lack of preparations and sufficient notice to participants. I appreciate your concern for proper consultation, as the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) shares your view on the significance of such an undertaking. I have taken Adel Antonino as a special consultant for this effort, and I would like to work with you,” Abaya said in her letter to Lobregat.

Abaya said she learned about Lobregat’s plan to convene a consultation on the renewed GRP-MILF peace talks through Antonio, who represents the Mindanao local government units (LGUs) in the peace panel.

“He (Antonino) also let me know that you are putting together the people who need to be consulted and had asked my assistance for this,” Abaya added.

“I will be pleased to have the OPAPP provide you its resources in putting this together, and ensuring that it is a credible effort to listen to the people,” Abaya continued.

Prior to her assumption as presidential peace adviser, Abaya was a conflict resolution practitioner by profession, with dialogue as one of her main areas of practice.

“As such, I will be more than pleased to lend you a hand in planning the effort, including the design, selection of participants and their representation, and the facilitation of the consultation itself. We must, of course, work very closely on this so you can gain confidence in the way it will be conducted”, she stressed.

Lobregat said he is vindicated by Abaya’s letter, which supports his position on the conduct of the supposed consultation in this city last month.

Lobregat has strongly protested the manner the government peace panel conducted the two-day consultation in this city and deliberately did not attend the same to drive home the point that the activity was not an honest to goodness consultation.

He lashed out at people who “gate crashed” the consultation, intended originally only for municipal and city mayors in Western Mindanao, for jeopardizing the position of this city.

In a protest letter addressed to Local Government Undersecretary Austere Panadero, dated December 14, 2009, Lobregat sharply reacted to various observations which he said made the event illegitimate.

Among the observations that Lobregat cited were the very short notice extended to the intended participants; the lack of coordination with other GRP peace panel members such as Antonino, who represents the LGUs in Mindanao; as well as the tapping of some resource persons who were respondent-intervenors in the landmark case of Province of North Cotabato, City of Zamboanga, et. al vs. the GRP wherein the Supreme Court declared the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) as unconstitutional and contrary to law.

Lobregat said the letter invitation coming from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) dated December 11 was received by his office only on December 14 at 9:05 in the morning and personally delivered by DILG City Director Pedro Cuevas.

“Considering the importance of this “consultation” on the peace process, it is quite a surprise that the coordination of this activity was made on a very short notice, taking into consideration that activities related to the yuletide season are hectic. As a matter of fact, the undersigned had long made prior commitments of equal importance in Manila on December 15 to 16, 2009,” Lobregat said in his protest letter.

Lobregat also said that Antonino himself, when contacted, expressed surprise as he did not know of such an activity set in this southern port city. (PNA) DCT/TPG/utb

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