Jamindan, Capiz March 25, 2019 – Ending decades of communist insurgency and attaining inclusive and sustainable peace in the country can be achieved through the concerted efforts of national and local government agencies, local government units, sectoral groups, and the military, Armed of Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. said on Monday.

During the Whole-of-Nation commitment activity held in this municipality, Madrigal expressed optimism the armed conflict between the national government and the rebel group will find closure under the term of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. 

“Confident tayo lalong lalo na with the creation of National Task Force (to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) kung lahat tayo ay magkakaisa, magsasama-sama, dahil sabi nga hindi lang military ang makakasagot ng problema na ito. Lahat tayo,” he said. 

(We are confident especially with the creation of National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict if we all unite. The military cannot resolve this alone. All of us.)

At the event organized by the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (3ID PA),  the representatives from the government and various sectors pledged their commitment to end the communist insurgency in Western Visayas through the Whole-of-Nation approach.

The said approach is anchored on Executive Order 70 issued by President Duterte in December 2018 which seeks to put an end to the armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Through this multi-pronged strategy, the government will prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable communities, facilitate societal inclusivity, and ensure active participation of all sectors of society in pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.

According to Madrigal, local government units will play a key role in the success of this approach. 

“Pinakamahalaga ang mga local chief executives dahil kailangan magkaroon ng mga champions sa pagpapatupad nito. Sabi nga natin sa mga areas kung saan maganda ang resulta ng ating counter-insurgency efforts, mga local chief executives talaga ang namuno,” Madrigal said. 

(The most important component in this effort are the local chief executives because they are the champions in its implementation. In the areas where the results of our counter-insurgency efforts are successful, they were led by our local chief executives.)

The NPA has been conducting guerilla-styled warfare in the countryside for almost 50 years with the aim of setting-up a socialist form of government by overthrowing the democratically-elected one.

For the past 32 years and over several administrations, the national government and the communist group have held intermittent negotiations but have not produced a peace deal. 

In his message during the event, Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Carlito Galvez Jr. said his office aims to replicate the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process in the implementation of the local peace engagements. 

“Ang MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) at MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), hindi po kami magiging successful kung national level lang po ang aming pag-uusap,” he said. 

(Our talks with the MILF and MNLF will not be successful if we limited our talks in the national level.)

Galvez explained that by engaging local actors of conflict, critical peace and security issues on the ground will be better addressed. 

On March 26, the peace adviser will be having a dialogue with the leadership of Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP/RPA/ABB-TPG) to craft the multi-year transition plan which will transform their former members into active and productive members of the society.

Galvez also said that with his office’s expanded scope of work, it will help “break the generational chain of violence through peacebuilding, reconciliation, and unity.”

Meanwhile, Major General Dinoh Dolina, Commander of the 3ID operating in the Visayas region, attributed the increasing number of rebels in the region coming back to the folds of law to the holistic approach in supporting the communities mired by conflict. 

“Kaakibat namin ang iba’t ibang mga government agencies to really address kung ano ang mga problema na nakikita namin upang mabigyan ng agarang solusyon,” he said. 

(We are partnering with different government agencies to really address the problems we are seeing to be given an immediate solution). 

Ilonggos back Whole-of-Nation approach 

 In a message delivered by Maria Lourdes Miado on behalf of Western Visayas National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) Regional Director Ro-Ann Bacal, the latter called for unity among the people to achieve sustainable peace in the region. 

“Along with other developing countries, our country long for genuine peace and sustainable development. But peace and development in our country, and our region in particular, will remain elusive unless we work together as one,” Bacal said. 

For her part, Western Visayas Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Ma. Evelyn Macapobre echoed Bacal’s sentiments, noting that other government agencies aside from the military can also contribute in the work for peace. 

“We work to achieve peace using our ballpens, using our talents, and doing the best that we can to deliver government services,” she said.  

Meanwhile, Archbishop of Capiz Jose Advincula, represented by Father Cyril Villareal, threw the Catholic church’s full support behind the government’s peace efforts. 

“Undeniably, the Whole-of-Nation approach to attain peace is very much aligned with the church’s vision to attain peace.” he said.