PASIG CITY (13 FEBRUARY 2020) – The conduct of localized peace engagements (LPEs) across the country aims to put an end to the decades-long communist insurgency in the country by directly addressing the needs of the rebels themselves.
According to Assistant Secretary Wilben M. Mayor, chief of staff and spokesperson of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), there is a growing disconnect between the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) and their people in the frontlines who are actually suffering the most from the armed conflict.
“Hindi tugma yung buhay nung mga nasa taas at sa baba. ‘Yung mga nasa baba nararanasan nila yung hirap, samantalang ‘yung mga nasa taas, alam naman nating nasa ibang bansa sila, nabubuhay sila ng marangya,” Mayor said during a live phone patch interview this morning.
(There is a disconnect between those in the CPP leadership and those on the ground. The ones on the ground face hardship, while the people up the ladder, they are abroad, and they live comfortably.)
Mayor stressed that in case the peace talks between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP resumes, the Red should not impose preconditions which go against the Constitution.
“Localized peace engagements prove that peaceful dialogue and consultation with the rebel group can be conducted without violating the Constitution,” he said.
LPE means convergence
Localized peace engagements is one of the 12 clusters of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the multi-agency body created by virtue of Executive Order No. 70 or the “Whole-of-Nation Approach.”
Since its implementation in 2019, LPEs have made a significant impact on the peace and security situation of communities in Central Luzon, Davao and Zamboanga Peninsula regions where hundreds of CPP-NPA members have returned to the folds of the law.
OPAPP, which is the co-lead agency along with the Department of Interior and Local Government for the LPE cluster, is carrying out various interventions across the country, with the help of partner agencies and organizations, in order to better respond to issues and concerns affecting residents in conflict-ridden communities.
These include the conduct of forums involving the youth, labor and Indiegenous Peoples (IPs) sectors, provision of immediate cash assistance and livelihood interventions to former rebels, continuous consultations with families of combatants, and the protection of industries from CPP-NPA infiltration.
Peace through dialogue
Mayor said the conduct of LPEs aims to empower local government units, as it brings the government closer to the people through the more timely and efficient delivery of much-needed services.
“Ang mga local officials talaga ang frontline natin dito, ang mga governors, mayors, at actually marami na tayong mga local officials na active dito, lalong lalo na sa Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, at iba pang mga bahagi [ng bansa],” Mayor said.
(Our local officials are on the frontline here, the governors, mayors and other officials, especially in Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro, as well as in other places.)
By responding to the needs of the rebels and their families, he pointed out that LPEs promote good governance and more importantly, allow people to be part of the peacebuilding process.
“Mostly talaga ang focus natin ay yung mga tao dun sa komunidad, dahil ang nakikita natin, karamihan, ang nagiging cause nga nito ay yung mga issue ng pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan,” Mayor said.
(Our focus mostly are the people in the communities, because we see that their issues and concerns are born out of their most basic needs.)
Mayor assured rebels who wish to surrender and avail of the government’s livelihood programs that they are welcome to do so and have no reason to be afraid.
“Kung sino ‘yung willing at voluntary naman na makikipag-usap sa atin, ayun ang ating ineentertain, ina-accommodate kung anong pangangailangan (We accomodate the needs of whoever comes to us willingly and voluntarily.),” Mayor said.
No need for armed violence
As the government agency tasked to implement a comprehensive peace process across the country, OPAPP continues to strengthen its efforts in finding a long-lasting solution to the armed rebellion, Mayor said.
He said that the agency is offering its hand of peace to the rebels, but they must also show reciprocity on their part and stop carrying out acts of violence against the people.
“We recall the incidents of armed violence of the NPA last December, despite the agreed ceasefire. We refer to the continued recruitment of our youth in schools through the CPP-NPA-NDFP’s legal front organizations. If they want peace, let us talk peace, but stop the violence,” Mayor said.
“Wala naman po sigurong isang mamamayan na ayaw ng kapayapaan,” (There probably is no person who does not seek peace), he added.