MANILA – One of the legacies of President Rodrigo Duterte is his strong stance on putting an end to insurgency, leading to the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said insurgency is a “national problem” that the next administration should address through NTF-ELCAC.
“The problem of insurgency is not the problem of any person. It is the problem of the nation. It has been with us since 1968, at the least. When you say what is the possibility of the next president attending to this, they will have to because it is a national problem,” he said during the Presidential Communications Operations Office’s Pre-State of the Nation Address virtual presser on Wednesday.
Since its establishment in December 2018, the NTF-ELCAC brought synergy among other government agencies and officials to addressing insurgency and helping the former NPA rebels who opted to return to the fold of the law, he said.
Esperon said aside from the government, the private sector as well as the local community is involved in fighting insurgency under NTF-ELCAC.
Elements of solution vs. insurgency
“As vice chairman, I find the elements of the solution already in the NTF-ELCAC. We work in terms of coordinated and harmonized clusters,” he said.
The work of the NTF-ELCAC, he said, covers sectors in infrastructure, resource management, local government empowerment, local and international peace engagements, among others.
During his time as former Army general, he said fighting local communist insurgencies was difficult. But with the creation of NTF-ELCAC, everyone is involved in realizing shared responsibilities to achieve peace and development.
“Palagay ko, bigyan man ng ibang pangalan ito (I think, this might be renamed but), the idea itself that has been formulated or the national action plan must be continued. Otherwise, you will lose the coordination and the oneness of the whole effort,” Esperon said.
Esperon said among the laudable achievements of the NTF is reclaiming the indigenous people (IP) community from the arms of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
He said 75 percent of the NPA rebels in Mindanao came from the IP community due to deception and threat to life.
“Ngayon ay nabawi na natin sila (We were able to rescue them). I don’t see a reason why this could be discontinued, it may come in another name but the process, the systems, will stay. Maybe even more reinforced,” he added.
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chair Allen Capuyan echoed Esperon’s remark, citing the culture of unification as the most significant achievement under the NTF-ELCAC system.
“There has never been a President that put his name on the line to lead the Task Force. The most significant thing that happened here is the culture of unification of all agencies was created under the framework of whole governance,” Capuyan said. “Nobody wanted to lose this opportunity. This approach is beneficial to government agency workers: municipal, city, and provincial. There is a culture of unity to address problems in society.”
Capuyan said investments will start to come in if the communities are cleared of insurgencies.
“Such as in Mindanao. We now hardly hear of any conflict in the island region. And when investments pour in, the lives of the people in these communities are changed for the better because they now have opportunities to live well,” he added.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)