PHILIPPINES: Peace Talks? Hire Women, Says Adviser

Tuesday, July 6, 2010
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes

When men squabble, count on women to patch things up.

Saying women are better equipped than men in handling the more emotional aspects of peace negotiations, outgoing Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya has urged the incoming administration to include more women on the government panels dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Abaya believes women play a critical role as balancer in the usually tense atmosphere of a peace negotiation.

Speaking on Thursday at a peace forum
in Pasig City, Abaya said the government panels talking with the MILF and the communist New People's Army (NPA) should include at least two women each.

“I hope that in all panels—the MILF or the CPP-NPA—[the government] will at least have two women, not one but two women, because women change the dynamics of negotiation,” Abaya said.

Importance of emotions

She said women could help improve the tenor of talks as they had a better grasp of emotions—an aspect that is inevitable in settling contentious matters.

“When people are talking about rationale, you cannot forget the emotional aspect,” Abaya said. “Although people do not want to put that on the table, the reality is people think because of what they feel. So it is the women who are more comfortable with this aspect of negotiation.”

Abaya noted that talks at times would break down because parties disagree on the use of a single word. She recalled an instance when the government and the MILF panels could not agree on the word “consider.”

Government efforts to negotiate a deal with the MILF began in 2000 under the Joseph Estrada administration. Peace talks with the CPP-NPA go farther back, starting under the Cory Aquino administration in the 1980s.

‘Institutional memory'

Abaya said the current government panel involved in talks with the MILF had only one woman member. In contrast, the panel dealing with the CPP has three.

Abaya also said the incoming leadership must maintain “institutional memory” in talking with the rebels and build on the gains of the Arroyo administration.

She underlined the importance of “preserving institutional memory so that they don't frustrate the other side. This has been the complaint of the panel on the other side, that members of the panel keep changing [and] they have to be oriented again.”

Incoming President Benigno Aquino III is reportedly planning to appoint Teresita “Ging” Deles as his peace adviser, restoring her to her post in Malacañang before she quit the Arroyo Cabinet in 2005.