In a bid to ensure efficient and effective “whole-of-nation” approach on achieving peace, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the creation of a national task force seeking to end the local armed conflict with communist rebels, according to a document released by the Palace on Monday.
In Executive Order No. 70, the President has directed the government to create a national task force to end local communist armed conflict. It also aims to institutionalize the “whole-of-nation” approach for an inclusive and sustainable peace and adopt a national peace framework.
Based on the order, the national task force shall be formed to ensure the efficient institutionalization of the “whole-of-the-nation approach.” It will then seek to address the root of the insurgency by prioritizing the delivery of basic services in conflict areas in the country, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.
The national framework on peace, which is anchored on the whole-of-nation approach, shall also include a mechanism for local peace engagements and address the root causes of insurgencies, disturbances, and tensions such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality and lack of inclusivity.
The task force will be chaired by the chief executive, while National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon will serve as its vice-chairman. The members of the task force will be composed of the different department heads.
It shall formulate and implement within six months from the issuance of the EO the whole-of-nation approach-driven national peace framework. Among its functions include the evaluation, modification, and integration of policies, programs and activities contained in the framework as well as the development of strategic communication, advocacy and peace constituency plans in case of a ceasefire.
In November last year, peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels bogged down after the President signed Proclamation 360, putting an end to peace negotiations with the NDFP.
Duterte made the decision following frequent attacks by the communist rebels against the government’s armed forces and civilians while talks between the government and NDFP panels were ongoing in Oslo, Norway.
Last week, the President appeared to be growing impatient of the progress of peace talks with the leftist groups, saying that he was “no longer ready” to talk to the communists. He also warned Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Ma. Sison not to set foot in the country, threatening to ‘slap’ the top communist leader should he return to the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said the temporary ceasefire declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) during the holiday season is “meaningless” and is simply for propaganda purposes.
“Ito po ay isang malaking kalokohan. Huwag na nilang gamiting dahilan ang Kapaskuhan sa pagkukunwari nila na magtitigil-putukan sila sa panahong iyon gayong alam naman nating magpapalakas lang sila ng puwersa (This is a big fraud. They should not use Christmas season for the supposed ceasefire because we very well know that they use this opportunity to muster their forces,”・Año said in a news release Monday.
He said like the defense department, the DILG is also not recommending a holiday truce because the CPP-NPA-NDF will only exploit the truce to consolidate its forces to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
“Taun-taon na lang ay nagdedeklara sila ng tigil-putukan at pinagbibigyan sila ng pamahalaan alang-alang sa diwa ng Kapaskuhan. Sa puntong ito, huwag na nating sakyan ang mga palabas ng grupong ito (Every year they declare a ceasefire and the government agreed in the spirit of Christmas. At this point, let us not be swayed by these groups),”Año, a former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff.
“We will not allow ourselves to fall into the same trap again. We have seen time and again the insincerity of the Communists and their front organizations,” he said.
The CPP central committee announced last Friday a temporary ceasefire to take effect 12:01 a.m. of December 24 to 11:59 p.m. of December 26, and at 12:01 a.m. of December 31 to 11:59 of Jan. 1, 2019.
Año said nothing will come out of a truce because the CPP-NPA-NDF has really no intention to stop fighting with government forces during a ceasefire.