MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Presidential Peace adviser Isidro Purisima said high-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of The Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) are welcome to join local peace dialogues, as he urged them to support the Marcos Administration’s peace agenda.

“They can join us in the local peace dialogues, kaya nga hinikayat natin ‘yung mga leaders ng CPP/NPA/NDF that sana magbago na ‘yung direksyon nila. Na sana ma-prevent na natin ‘yung violence sa ating communities,” Purisima said.

Purisima made the statement during a special press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) entitled, “TAGGED Reloaded: Debunking Lies By Telling The Truth.”

The press briefing was done right after the first executive committee meeting of the NTF-ELCAC in Malacañang on Wednesday, May 10.

Purisima explained that the shift from national peace talks to localized peace engagement (LPE) was meant to engage not just the rebels, but also the communities and families affected by the armed conflict through the conduct of community consultations and bringing essential government services to these areas.

LPE: The way forward

To recall, the Philippine government, then under the leadership of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, officially terminated its peace talks in 2017 with the CPP-NPA-NDF due to the insincerity and lack of commitment on the part of the rebel group.

“The national government never abandoned the peace process nor the framework of peace. The way forward for the peace process is LPE, which is nationally-directed and centrally-supervised but locally-implemented,” Purisima said.

The LPE is one of the 12 lines of effort under the NTF-ELCAC which was created through Executive Order No. 70 signed by President Duterte in 2018. EO 70 mandates a whole-of-nation, whole-of-society approach in addressing the root causes of the communist insurgency.

“That’s why we’re inviting them to join us in the localized peace engagement dito sa ating bansa kasi nakikita natin na kailangan, it should be community-driven, kasama ‘yung mga tao para sa ganun ay ‘yung mga interventions natin it should be community driven. [Ito} ‘yung objective natin dito sa tinatawag natin na localized peace engagement,” he added.

According to Purisima, LPE is anchored on community-driven consultations because by engaging members of the community, the peacebuilding process becomes inclusive, participatory and more importantly, sustainable.

“The peace process is not only about peace talks. It also involves other components like peacekeeping – making sure that the people and communities are safe and secured, peace-making – the transformation of the different combatants, their families and communities, and peacebuilding that includes the socio-economic dimension and development in the different areas,” Purisima added.

VP Sara joins NTF-ELCAC

At the same press conference, National Security Adviser Eduardo M. Año announced the designation of Vice President Sara Duterte as NTF-ELCAC co-vice chairperson.

“The NTF-ELCAC EXECOM has approved the designation of Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte as co-vice chairperson of the Task Force. Her unstinting commitment to the cause of NTF-ELCAC will undoubtedly be very valuable to the Task Force and we thank her for accepting the challenge,” Año said.

In a statement, Duterte expressed her commitment and support, as she takes on her role as Vice-Chairperson of the Task Force.

“We have already learned that our battle against the CTG takes more than military prowess for us to come out victorious. The whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach proved to be truly effective in this battle against the despicable ways of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” she said.

As education secretary, Duterte said she had seen “how deeply ingrained the problem of insurgency in our country is.”

“They have infiltrated our institutions and sectors and remained a serious threat to the well-being of the Filipino People, particularly our youth. Education, therefore, is one of the greatest weapons we can use in suppressing the lies and deceptions of these terrorists and their allied organizations,” Duterte said.

“We shall take advantage of strength derived from unity and good governance, as we promote sustainable peace and development for every Filipino to enjoy,” she added.

Final stretch to victory

At the same presscon, NTF-ELCAC Executive Director Ernesto Torres Jr. said that the task force is on the “road to victory” as the Task Force intensified its peacekeeping efforts which resulted in the dismantling of 75% of all CPP-NPA guerilla fronts.

“We are now on the road to final victory and with the commitment that were expressed by the member-agencies in this afternoon’s meeting. Masasabi ko na abot-kamay na natin ang ating tagumpay,” he said.

The National Security Agency also vowed to deliver on its commitment to help push forward unity, peace and development across the country, with their interventions anchored on the principles of good and inclusive governance.

“The President’s marching orders to the NTF ELCAC is clear: Sustain the whole-of-nation approach to peace and development to prevent Communist terrorists, their front organizations, and other lawless elements from recruiting, regrouping, and regaining power. He also directed the Task Force and the Local Government Units to continue working together to seize the gains in the regions and ensure that we carry this momentum towards total victory over Communist terrorism under his administration,” National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said. ###