Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has cited the role of women in peace negotiations.
"More people understand now that we need women. Without women, violence would have become communal a long time ago," Deles said during a dialogue with delegates from various local and international non-government organizations held on Thursday at her office in suburban Pasig City.
Deles emphasized that women's participation in the current administration is "not just token representation on the table," but is something that has been "shaping the discourse" of the talks.
"If you don't have a peace constituency, women won't have a voice," Deles said, adding that this has been one of the most important lessons she learned as a woman peacemaker.
She recounted her own experiences as a civil society peace advocate in the 1980s when she co-founded the Coalition for Peace, an assembly of citizens calling on the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) to settle the armed conflict through peace negotiations.
"We realized that we need to build constituency on the ground," Deles said. "This has helped other women find their voices in the peace process."
She said that there are three women members in the government negotiating panels.
Jurgette Honculada, a women and labor rights advocate, and Maria Lourdes Tison, a peace advocate from the private sector, sit in the panel for peace talks with the NDF.
Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, on the other hand, is part of the panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"Likewise, the panel secretariats are both headed by women," Deles said.
Beena Sebastian, a foreign delegate from the Cultural Academy for Peace based in India, admired the extent of Filipino women's involvement in the peace process after learning from Deles that aside from the women participating in the negotiating table, there have been countless others involved in peacemaking work on the community level.
Sebastian is among the women peacemakers visiting the country to attend the Gender Sensitive Active Nonviolence Training for Women Peacemakers from Africa, Middle East and Asia from Jan. 16 to 22.
Conducted at the Bukal Formation Center in Antipolo City, the training is being organized by the Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan–Action for Peace and Justice (AKKAPKA) together with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation African Desk.
It is supported by Projects for Peace, a comprehensive program of partnership between government and civil society which is spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).