MANILA – Multi-sectoral group Liga Independencia Pilipinas (LIPI) said the calls to defund the country’s anti-insurgency task would derail the country's long-time quest for inclusive and sustainable peace.
LIPI secretary-general Jose Antonio Goitia said the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has significantly impacted the lives of many people in the far-flung communities infiltrated by the communist groups, particularly the New People's Army (NPA).
"After decades of procrastination in dealing with the communist insurgency whose principal objective is to replace the current economic and political order in the Philippines with a socialist system by waging a protracted people’s war to destroy the government, the Duterte administration institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach to attain inclusive and sustainable peace," Goitia said in a statement on May 1.
Citing the task force’s responsiveness to its mandate "to halt all the threats to the national security", he believes NTF ELCAC recognizes the internal socio-political stability as it promotes participatory governance, government synergy to push more developmental efforts, and empowering local government units.
"Specific to this is addressing the root causes of insurgencies, disturbance, tensions, and other armed conflicts and threats by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social and development packages by the government, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda," he said.
Earlier, several lawmakers made the call to defund the NTF-ELCAC and instead use the PHP19 billion budget for the low-income earners affected amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lawmakers' decision, he said, comes out to be an "emotional response than a rational one."
"Throw discernment out and immediately condemn an action because their feelings were hurt. This is an egregious display of power," he said.
Of NTF ELCAC’s PHP19 billion total budget, PHP16.5 billion is allotted for the Barangay Development Program (BDP).
The BDP is aimed to deliver various government programs in conflict-afflicted and geographically isolated villages that have been considered "cleared" from the influence of communist rebels.
Meanwhile, Goitia cited a 2021 Senate report contrary to the lawmakers' recent statements against the task force over red-tagging allegations.
"Their declaration runs counter with their own panel February 21, 2021 report by the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation that the whole-of-nation approach could be the most effective anti-insurgency program as evidenced by the continuous and consistent reduction of the influence and strength of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National democratic Front)," he said.
NTF-ELCAC programs, he added, made NPA-infiltrated communities see the "light at the end of the tunnel."
"The success of NTF-ELCAC cannot be discounted and the people will not allow the Senate to pursue their course of action which runs counter to the security and well-being of Filipino people," he said. "The BDP is one of the worthiest programs of this government.”
He noted that the task force has been assisting about 822 NPA-cleared barangays in the most conflict-afflicted areas by providing developmental packages such as farm-to-market road projects, school buildings, water, and sanitation system in conflict-affected communities, especially in the far-flung areas.
They are also providing financial aid to indigent individuals/families, electrification, health services as well as agricultural, livelihood, and technical vocational training for rebel returnees, he added.
"Taking away all of these government services especially in neglected Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs) ancestral domains will set us back in our goal to bring stability in the countryside," Goitia said. "The only group who will benefit from this is the group which the whole-of-nation approach is trying to eradicate…..the CPP-NPA."
He added that former rebels would not return to the fold of the law if they are not satisfied with the NTF-ELCAC's programs.
"Peace must not be derailed by trivial arguments or emotional outbursts. We expect our leaders to work for the benefit of our country by expediently addressing our socio-economic issues," he added.
Signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte in December 2018, Executive Order 70 created the NTF-ELCAC that institutionalizes a whole-of-nation approach in obtaining exclusive and sustainable peace, giving the government an effective solution against communist terrorists.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)