After abruptly terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in November 2017 – just when, according to his then peace adviser Jesus G. Dureza, “Never before have we all reached this far in our negotiations” – President Duterte opted for a new approach one year later. It’s a move that unilaterally changes the rules of the game, so to speak, midway in the negotiations.
Through Executive Order 70, which he signed on Dec. 4, 2018, Duterte pays lip service to the idea that insurgency/armed conflict is not only a military and security concern. It is “symptomatic of broader social, economic and historical problems, such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality…” that must be addressed in order to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace,” according to the text of the directive.
However, the framework that EO 70 lays down includes only “a mechanism for local peace engagements or negotiations and interventions.” Since the military first suggested it, this framework has been consistently rejected by the National Democratic Front (NDFP) as divisive rather than unifying. Worse, the root causes of the armed conflict are supposed to be addressed through “prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government.”
These two aspects of EO 70 erect big barriers to progress in the peace process. Not only for the NDFP side, but also for the multisectoral groups that continue to call for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP peace talks at the national level, picking up from the stage that had already been achieved when Duterte unaccountably stopped the negotiations.
“Localized” peace talks would degrade – worse, set aside — the substantive agreements/ consensus already reached through high-level negotiations on three items of the four-point agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace talks. And the complex issues that are sought to be resolved are trivialized by the oversimplified, one-sided approach in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict. More telling, it denies the people involved, and their revolutionary organizations, represented by the NDFP, their deserved part in proposing appropriate ways of satisfactorily resolving the historical injustice they have suffered for long.
Let’s take a brief look at EO 70 and how it has been implemented over the past 10 months.
EO 70 sets three objectives: institutionalize a “whole-of-nation” approach (WONA) to attain “inclusive and sustainable peace”; create a National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC); and adopt a National Peace Network.
It sets four guidelines for attaining inclusive and sustainable peace. These are:
• Reframe and refocus government policy by recognizing that insurgencies “are not only military and security concerns, but are symptomatic of broader social, economic and historical problems, such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality, lack of inclusivity”;
• Through WONA, address the root causes of insurgency “by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government… ensuring active participation of all sectors of society” in pursuing the peace agenda;
• Create NTF-ELCAC to “provide an efficient mechanism and structure” for implementing the WONA “to aid in realization” of the aspired-for peace; and
• Formulate a National Peace Framework “which shall include a mechanism for local peace engagements and interventions” consistent with “constitutional integrity and national sovereignty, responsive to local needs, sensitive to realities on the ground.”
The NTF-ELCAC was formed in December. At its first meeting in April, it approved a National Plan to implement EO 70 that would mobilize the entire government machinery from national to barangay level. Duterte, as NTF chair, assigned Cabinet members to oversee implementation in each geographical region, backed up by integrated Regional Development Councils and Regional Peace and Order Councils. Since then NTF-ELCAC counterparts have been (or scheduled to be) set up at regional, provincial, and municipal/city levels.
On Jan. 10, the chiefs of the AFP (Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.) and the PNP (Gen. Oscar Albayalde) signed the AFP-PNP Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2019-2022. (Anchored on NTF-ELCAC, it replaced Oplan Kapayapaan 2016-2018). The plan mandates the PNP to support the AFP in combat operations involving the suppression of insurgency and other serious threats to national security. Inversely, the AFP is tasked to support the PNP in law enforcement operations against criminal syndicates and private armed groups.
On March 18, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) and the AFP’s Joint Task Force-NCR signed a memorandum of agreement to jointly secure Metro Manila against insurgency. Under Implementation Plan (Implan) Kalasag, they would conduct “joint security, peace and order, and development-support operations” until Dec. 31, 2022. They would also develop strategies and plans to “defeat all threat groups” and criminal elements.
NCRPO chief Major Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said his group has the lead role in law-enforcement operations and “legal offensives” (arresting and filing cases against “target personalities”and organizations). It plays a supporting role in defeating “communist terrorist groups (CTGs)” in the NCR, he added, as well as monitoring “peace-inclined armed groups” and implementing peace agreements.
Then JTF-NCR commander Brig. Gen. Cristobal Zaragoza said the AFP is committed to secure Metro Manila against insurgency and to lead operations aimed at defeating CTGs and in monitoring private armed groups.
Last Sept. 10, the NCR Regional Development Council (RDO) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) formally set up the NCRTF-ELCAC. Gen. Eleazar, RPOC interim chair, said the NCRTF has three tasks: integrate and coordinate “national efforts to localize peace initiatives”; counter recruitment efforts of groups “such as the CPP-NPA and their deceitful propaganda” in schools and poor communities in Metro Manila (mainly in Caloocan, Navotas, Malabon, and Valenzuela cities); and ensure direct delivery of social services to the poor.
The NTF-ELCAC territorial counterparts have pushed Oplan Katatagan (and Implan Kalasag in the NCR) through intensified campaigns of red-tagging, harassing, threatening /intimidating progressive organizations and activists in their areas of operation. To resist the attacks, targeted organizations braced up to resist the attacks. In the NCR, Bayan-Metro Manila, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Isaiah Ministry, have formed Defend the Defenders Network, specifically to oppose Implan Kalasag.
Meantime, the DILG and the AFP-PNP have pressured local government units to declare the CPP-NPA as “persona non grata.” A DILG online statement, on July 4, cited Secretary Eduardo Año’s referring to AFP records showing at least 270 LGUs (9 provinces, 29 towns, 241 barangays, and 1 city) had already issued such a declaration. Last Wednesday, Central Luzon police director Brig. Gen. Joel Napoleon Coronel reported that 81 of 130 towns and cities in the region had also done so. He made the report during a meeting in Bulacan by some LGU officials and members of CLTF-ELCAC with now presidential peace adviser, retired AFP chief Carlito Galvez Jr.
Is the persona-non-grata campaign part of “local peace engagements or negotiations and interventions”? How can it advance the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace?
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