Former Executive Secretary Ed Ermita talks with President Duterte in Malacanang in this file photo taken in 2017.
By Junex Doronio
First of series
WHEN PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte angrily terminated the peace talks with the local Maoists last April 27 following the reports that soldiers were killed in a recent clash with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Aurora province, many people could not help but wonder when will the country achieve genuine peace which is a very important element to attain progress and a better quality of life for the populace.
Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a retired lieutenant general, stressed the need for sincerity from both government and rebel groups to achieve lasting peace.
“So much depends on the sincerity of purpose of those involved. and it behooves them to better understand and carefully evaluate and analyze the positions of each one in order to craft the proper approach in the conduct of negotiations,” Ermita said during the launch of his book, Soldier Peacemaker, in Camp Aguinaldo in 2017.
Of course, Ermita is no stranger to peace negotiations.
During his stint as a military assistant to former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, Ermita joined the mission to Tripoli, Libya to broker the ceasefire between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari and the creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Later as a congressman of Batangas, Ermita became part of the National Unification Commission and became one of the negotiators who got the final peace agreement with the MNLF signed in 1996.
The “gentleman from Batangas” was also one of the back-channel negotiators with the MNLF that led to the formal peace negotiations.
“The attainment of peace is very, very important in our national life,” Ermita once quipped.
The spectre of more unrest hovers as the President tirelessly launching tirades against the NPA and again warned he would declare martial law – a threat he has made several times since the start of the pandemic — while the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also assailed the passage of the Anti-Terror Act (ATA) and its exclusion in the Anti-Terrorism Council.
MILF head and Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim has expressed apprehensions that among those hardest-hit, once the anti-terrorism bill becomes a law, would be those from the Bangsamoro.
But when the anti-terror bill was finally signed by the President into law, the MILF asked that they should have representation in the Anti-Terrorism Council which is now composed of retired military generals.
The country really badly needs a warrior-peacemaker.
Ermita is apparently the perfect one. If ever.