OPAPP on the true barrier to the peace process
(The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

This is in relation to Mr. Satur C. Ocampo’s column entitled “Duterte order sets peace process barriers” which was published in your paper last Oct. 12.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) would like to respond to the issues raised by Mr. Ocampo, and provide the Filipino people a clearer, more balanced perspective on these issues.

Mr. Ocampo’s piece only proves his skewed understanding of the entire peace process. He pointed out the government and its other supporters merely want to put an end to the communist revolution by employing all means necessary.

To put things in their proper context, we would like to remind Mr. Ocampo that President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks specifically because of the lack of sincerity on the part of the insurgent group. We believe there are no gray areas here.

From the start of his administration, President Duterte created a platform for peace negotiations and even went the extra mile to appoint leaders of the left-leaning groups into his Cabinet; acts of goodwill which were reciprocated by planting seeds of distrust and sleeper cells who created more problems than solutions in their agencies while a series of violent acts were carried out by the communist terrorist group in the countryside.

So brazen were these actions that even while the Philippine government were engaging with them in peace talks, the New People’s Army continued to attack government forces with continued extortion and burning of development equipment and commercial establishments. It also proceeded in recruiting young cadres from prominent schools to its fold, and thus robbing them of their future.

One of these recruits is Jane from Bulacan. She was convinced to join the communist movement at the tender age of 15, and was prevented to leave the organization until she became pregnant and gave birth.

Now, we are asking Mr. Ocampo, who is setting the peace process barriers?

The lack of sincerity on the part of the communist terrorist group pushed the Duterte administration to look for an alternative solution that would directly address the social conditions and the threat posed by them against vulnerable communities across the country.

This gave birth to Executive Order 70 known as National Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict which aimed to empower these communities in most conflict-affected areas and enable them to face the rebel organization head on, and at the same time, enhance the delivery of much-needed government services to residents in the countryside.

At the heart of the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” are the localized peace engagements wherein the people in communities themselves will be the ones to recommend solutions to address the problem and convince rebels to return to the folds of the law and normalize their lives.

We believe it is crucial for local stakeholders to be directly involved in the peace process. As what we have witnessed, it is pointless to talk to leaders of an organization who employs deception and duplicitous tactics.

EO 70 is also designed to empower local government units and peace partners in the community to be at the forefront of efforts to stamp out the communist rebellion. Because their ears are “closer to the ground,” they know the sentiments of the people.

By and large, localized peace engagements provide a stronger platform wherein the voices of the people who are the ones most affected by armed conflict, can truly be heard and whose sentiments can be acted upon.

In a video posted by YouTube user karomaloveskaaya on Aug. 19, 2009, National Democratic Front (NDF) senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said, “We see that peace negotiations are another form of legal struggle, which is possible to be used by the revolutionary forces in order to advance the revolutionary armed struggle and the revolutionary mass movement.”

Clearly, Jalandoni and the NDF leadership had no intention whatsoever of using the peace talks with government as a means to reach a just and peaceful settlement to their armed struggle. Rather, they merely utilized the negotiations as a tool to advance their organization’s twisted political agenda and strengthen their mass base.

Moreover, his statement is a reflection of the revolutionary group’s underhanded tactics, and willingness to use any means necessary to prop up its tarnished image, and consequently, obtain the sympathy of those who are most likely to be drawn to their cause, particularly the inauspicious international community, labor organizations, and students.

Again, we are asking Mr. Ocampo: Do you think that giving people in communities the chance to actively participate in localized peace engagements a barrier to the peace process?

We are pleased to note the government’s efforts have started to show significant positive results. Many local government units with Tapang and Malasakit have declared the communist insurgents as persona-non-grata in their areas.

By doing this, people are now have gathered their strength in rising up and rejecting the communist terrorist group’s atrocities and twisted ideology. They are showing that their communities have no room for an organization that has only instilled fear, hatred and violence among the people. Enough is enough.

Through this letter, we hope Mr. Ocampo and his comrades will be enlightened on the government’s efforts to put an end to the communist armed struggle which for more than 50 years, became the true and only remaining barrier of peace and development. We encourage him and everybody to reflect on their group’s obsolete ideology, and examine how their actions have adversely affected the Filipino people whom they profess to serve. – Atty. WILBEN MAYOR, Spokesperson and Chief of Staff, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER ON THE PEACE PROCESS
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