By MB Online
The scheme continued but failed again for Bayan Muna Representatives, Eufemia Campos Cullamat and Carlos Isagani Zarate with the militant group, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) to compel Surigao del Sur Provincial Government to pull-out the Community Support teams during the Peace Dialogue in Sitio Simuwao (Kilometer 9), Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday (October 21).
The province cites that military presence is crucial to establish sustainable peace and development in the area through Executive Order No. 70.
The Peace Dialogue intends to promote reconciliation, convergence, sustainable peace and synergy through exploratory and consultative discussions with the community, concerned government agencies including AFP and other sectors. MAPASU and Bayan Muna insisted on their demand to pull-out the Community Support Teams and discrediting the government’s Whole of Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict citing that it is not the right formula to end the conflict in the community.
The military, as an observer, never said a word but a clear and straightforward message of the province through the governor summed it all.
“With all due respect, I must tell you frankly, only President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), can order the Army personnel to move anytime and anywhere when needed. They have a mission to fulfill in line with the Whole of Nation approach to end local communist armed conflict that is very crucial to our national security,” Governor Alexander Pimentel, said.
The presence of the military is not the issue said the governor and encouraged all attendees to move forward and focus on far more relevant issues on education, health, and the economy. He let the military do their mandate and sworn duty to serve and protect the Filipino people from the Communist NPA Terrorists (CNTs)
MAPASU and Bayan Muna discredit EO 70 and the AFP
Bayan Muna and MAPASU members strongly and vocally opposed the peace and development initiatives of Executive Order Number 70 and cited rehashed, false and malicious accusations against the military.
The governor challenged them, “ Sabihin ninyo at ituro ngayon kung sino ang sundalo na nandito sa KM 9 ang nagcommit ng violation at ipatanggal ko agad o paalisin dito,” he said.
Those who accused cannot even present substantial evidence and pinpoint any Army personnel making their statements false and invalid. In fact, the ICRC is always present in the area because of their development project in KM 9 and constantly coordinates with the IP community and the Community Support Teams.
Datu Constancio Duhac and Datu Jumar Bucales said, “Only those who are connected with the Communist NPA terrorists fear the Army. If you’re not in any way connected, there’s no reason to fear the military.”
The Lianga IP Council under their legitimate IP Political Structure show dismay to Bayan Muna,”We thought they would support ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict), but then again, they were not here for convergence, they are here to discredit the military and the EO 70 peace initiatives,” they said.
Despite Bayan Muna and MAPASU’s accusations, the Army personnel present in the dialog did not argue against the statements of the militant groups. It is the local government and the IP Community who stood their ground to defend the presence of the military in the conflict affected area.
On significant issues
Bayan Muna representatives cited the issues on Mining, Education and Economy. Representative Cullamat and MAPASU said that due to the military’s presence the farm production outputs decreased.
The IP Community opposed it saying that their farm produce significantly increased because the farm-to-market road was rehabilitated with the effort of the Lianga IP Council, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 544th Engineer Brigade, the Provincial Government and Lianga LGU. The rehabilitated road made it easy for the residents to transport their agricultural products from KM 9 to the nearby markets.
Cullamat and MAPASU accused that the reason for development is because of the coal mining interests of private investors. The provincial government said that there is no issue here because they have the right for self-determination and can oppose or prohibit anyone from operating in lands covered by their ancestral domain.
On the matter of education, the communities said that no one in the government deprives the right of any IP to education. In fact, the provincial government plans to construct school buildings and eventually ask DepEd to intervene.