By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday admitted that government cannot end communist insurgency this year.
In a press briefing following the joint Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) New Year’s call at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Lorenzana said although it is their goal to end insurgency in 2019, he thinks that is not feasible to attain this year because of the complexity of the problem.
“Ah not, we cannot do it this year dahil napakalaking problema iyan [because that is a big problem],” Lorenzana told reporters.
“If you will recall this insurgency has been going on for the past 50 years and we cannot end it in one year. Siguro ang target natin ngayon [Maybe our target now] is the remaining three years of President (Rodrigo) Duterte’s presidency. Kaya siguro nating gawin iyun [Maybe we can do that],” he added.
Lorenzana said the remaining three years of President Duterte’s term may be enough to finish the problem.
“Attainable iyun, attainable [That is attainable]. With the way we are doing now with our localized peace talks and the E-Clip (Enhance Comprehensive Localized Integration Program)
sa dami ng bumababa [With so many going down] we can do it in three years,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) has been weakening through the years following the surrender of their members.
AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. earlier said he is looking forward to the operationalization of the Executive Order No. 70 or the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in 2019.
Madrigal stressed the need for all government agencies — both national and local government units — to come together to totally eradicate the root causes of conflict and violence.
“We have made significant progress and have headways in our campaign to end insurgency, but to reach what we can call a complete victory, we need to create communities that are conflict-resilient and we need local and national government agencies to attain this,” Madrigal said.
In 2018, consolidated data from ground units of the AFP indicate a total of 12,017 CPP-NPA members and supporters have been neutralized.
The figure includes 130 that were killed and 264 that were apprehended in legitimate security and law enforcement operations.
A total of 11,623 have also surrendered including 1,227 regular NPA fighters. AFP units also confiscated 1,920 assorted firearms and seized 316 enemy encampments.
Madrigal added that a series of meetings and planning sessions is ongoing to operationalize E.O. Nr 70 and create a National Peace Framework anchored on the Whole-of-Nation approach institutionalized as a national policy.
“Aside from focusing on our enemies, we also have to look at our people and communities through a people-centered strategy to make our communities resilient from communist recruitment, propaganda, and exploitation,” Madrigal said.