DAVAO CITY—“Fire the gun only when it is necessary. But keep it quiet when there is a way to peacefully engage them.”

This was the challenge given by Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus G. Dureza to the men and women of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 7th infantry Division, in his remarks during the commemoration of the unit’s 45th Founding Anniversary held at their headquarters here.

In referring to rebels who have expressed their desire to lay down their arms and live peaceful, productive lives, Sec. Dureza advised members of the 3rd ID to give the rebels a chance to reform themselves.

He pointed out that the main objective of the security sector is not to engage the insurgents in armed battles, but “to accept them” and help them make the transition to mainstream society.

Sec. Dureza said he had adopted this mindset after being instructed by President Rodrigo Duterte to “talk across the tables” in order to find a long-lasting solution to the armed conflict in the country.

As the national government’s top peace negotiator, he has told the leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), “You are only a small table. The bigger table is the general public.”

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has established various “peace tables” which aim to provide a venue for stakeholders to discuss pressing peace-related issues and come up with recommendations on how to best address them.

According to the presidential peace adviser, there is a need to use a “community-based approach” in dealing with the insurgency problem in the country.

During a recent visit he made in Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte to inaugurate a Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) bridge project, he was informed by tribal leaders that the event almost did not push through after they received threats from a rebel group operating there.

But what he found most touching was their assurance that no harm will come to him, as members of the Lumad community had secured the area themselves.

“Don’t worry, we will protect you,” one of the elders told him, as he pointed to village folk who were armed with native weapons.

From his conversations with the village folk, he could sense their strong desire to maintain peace and order and sustain the gains of economic growth in the community.

Sec. Dureza believes in the power of diplomacy in resolving situations of conflict.

He said that through diplomacy, he has been able to effectively carry out talks with the leaders of various rebels groups in the country.

“Use diplomacy,” Sec. Dureza told the members of the 3rd ID, as he urged them to continue being agents of peace and development in the communities they serve.