By Catherine S Valente /Manila Times
In line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining peace and development in the country, the government has enjoined barangay (villages) to support the campaign against communist insurgency.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei Nograles said the first Barangay Summit held in Butuan City on Thursday served as a covenant-signing for peace between the national government and local stakeholders, and was the jump-off point in disseminating more information about Executive Order (EO) 70 signed by the president last year.
“This is the first time for a region, and for any regional task force, that a barangay summit on EO 70 was held…. We blazed a trail here in Caraga,” Nograles said.
EO 70 institutionalises a “whole-of-nation approach” in ending communist insurgency by adopting a national peace framework toward attaining lasting peace and development, particularly in areas burdened by armed conflict.
Nograles is the designated Cabinet officer for Regional Development and Security (Cords) and chairman of the Caraga Regional Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflicts (RTF-Elcac).
The Cabinet official noted that what they started in Caraga would be the template used in other regions for the localised implementation of EO 70.
“We did it in Caraga, and we can replicate the success in other areas,” Nograles said.
“During the second RTF-Elcac meeting, I was asked what was the next move and I said we should localise the regional task force. To that end, nothing is more local than our barangay,” he added.
Nograles said 80 pilot villages backed the initiative. “It’s important that government is able to quickly address local concerns, such as those relating to peace and order,” he said. “This is the priority of President Duterte. Our president wants to end the communist armed conflict. This is also one of the reasons why I volunteered as Cords of Caraga. I’m fully aware that addressing various social, political and economic issues is key to ending the insurgency.”
The task force’s other objectives include the implementation of social development programmes targeting geographically isolated barangay.
Nograles said the construction of roads, school buildings and health centres, and access to basic services ensure that the needs of the people were met and addressed.
“The national government is springing into action, and this is the core of what we do at the RTF-Elcac. We give what is needed in Caraga through retooled community support programmes,” Nograles said.
Duterte terminated peace talks with the communists, purportedly in response to the rebels’ insistence on a power-sharing agreement that the chief executive said was prohibited by the Constitution.
Last week, the president said he was no longer bent on pursuing peace talks with the communist rebels, saying such negotiation would be “pure hypocrisy.”
He also recently ordered the military to launch a “full-scale” attack against the communist rebels, saying the chances of peace talks had become “almost nil to nothing.”
Duterte has been sending mixed signals with regard to the talks with communist rebels, who have been waging an armed struggle against the government for five decades.
In 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of the talks with communist rebels. In the proclamation, the president said the insurgents failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine peace negotiations because they had engaged in acts of violence and hostilities.
In December 2018, the president issued Executive Order 70, forming a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”
In February, Duterte expressed readiness to talk to the communists, even offering to shoulder their expenses if they come to Manila for the negotiations.
The following month, the president announced what he described as the “permanent” termination of the talks with the insurgents.
In May, Duterte said he might form a new panel to negotiate with communists. He said the panel would be composed of at least two civilians and three military officers.
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