Duterte gains in security, justice, peace cited

Published July 22, 2020, 3:31 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana presented Wednesday the achievements of the Duterte administration in the security, justice, and peace sectors in a pre-State-of-the-Nation Address (SoNA) forum that was conducted virtually due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government’s efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on June 4, 2020. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Lorenzana, who also serves as the chairperson of the administration’s Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster (SJPC), discussed the government’s accomplishments in the past year in terms of orchestrating the COVID-10 containment and recovery efforts, protecting the country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, strengthening the rule of law, institutionalizing an efficient and impartial justice system, protecting and advancing human rights, and attaining a just and lasting peace.

The pre-SoNA forum is three-part forum which aims to present the accomplishments of the administration ahead of President Duterte’s fifth SoNA on July 27. The first two fora were held last July 8 and 15 with the Economic Cluster and the Human Development Cluster.

The most recent forum was held with the SJPC and the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster (CCAMDRRC).

Among the members of the SJPC are the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Security Council, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity.

Meanwhile, the members of the CCAMDRRC are the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Science and Technology, and Climate Change Commission.

COVID-19 RESPONSE

The country was not spared when the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world late last year.

Lorenzana said the government immediately created the National Action Plan to address the effects of the global health crisis in the country. The National Task Force on COVID-19, which Lorenzana leads as the chairperson, integrates, streamlines, and decentralizes the government’s pandemic response.

Lorenzana said the NAP is anchored on the test, treat, and trace management system to curb the spread of the disease. At present, he said the government is already capable of conducting 50,000 tests per day with the establishment of 87 testing laboratories nationwide.

Four mega swabbing centers, 15 mega-COVID-19 treatment facilities, and more than 7,000 local isolation and general treatment facilities were also built in different parts of the country to attend to patients, he stated.

He said around two million Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and test kits have been distributed to hospitals for the use of frontliners leading the fight against COVID-19.

There were also efforts to bring home overseas Filipinos back home after they lost their jobs as businesses abroad closed due to economic recession, Lorenzana shared.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Air Force, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Army utilized its assets to transport medical supplies, equipment, healthworkers, overseas Filipinos, and locally stranded individuals here and abroad.

NATIONAL SECURITY, TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY

The past year was also a witness to the increased tension in the highly volatile South China Sea (SCS).

There were reports of Chinese warships and civilian fishing vessels encroaching in the territorial waters of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing, and conducting surveillance activities. There were also some sensational maritime accidents among other issues.

To address this, Lorenzana said the government has continuously pursued an “independent and principled” foreign policy which “serves the country’s national interest, fosters respectful friendships among its allies, and facilitates cooperation and partnership with the global community.”

“Defending national sovereignty and protecting territorial integrity is a paramount priority of this administration,” he said.

He said the government has actively pushed for the effective implementation of the cooperative mechanisms to pacify the situation in SCS including the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS, as well as the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in SCS by all claimant states.

“This is on top of our enhanced surveillance, enforcement security, and development capabilities in the area,” Lorenzana said.

Last month, the Department of National Defense (DND) upgraded some of the existing facilities on Pag-asa Island, one of the nine islands which comprise the municipality of Kalayaan, Palawan in the WPS.

“For the first time since the 1970s, Pag-asa Island has received major infrastructure upgrades, namely a ship beaching ramp and a sheltered port for our fishermen,” Lorenzana said, referring to the newly-accomplished projects.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) installed new air defense surveillance radars and set up additional detachments in strategic locations which Lorenzana said can be used for the conduct of wider air and maritime patrols in the WPS.

Lorenzana also noted the recent acquisitions of the AFP through its modernization program, the latest of which was the Philippine Navy’s brand new frigate BRP Jose Rizal.

Others include the Philippine Army’s capability upgrade of its armored vehicles, communication, engineering, and force protection equipment; the Navy’s anti-submarine helicopters, multi-purpose attack craft, and amphibious assault vehicles; and the Air Force’s command and control aircraft, strategic lift aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat utility helicopters, slow air support craft, and light transport aircraft.

While Duterte ordered the defense and military to defer the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) last month, Lorenana said they have further strengthened maritime security cooperation with other neighboring nations, including Indonesia and Malaysia, to secure their shared borders.

WELFARE OF OVERSEAS FILIPINO

Lorenzana said six embassies and consulates were established in different parts of the country by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He said such initiative was the government’s way of honoring the contributions of overseas Filipinos to the country since government services were made more accessible for them.

RULE OF LAW

Lorenzana said the government has also continuously strengthened the rule of law and peace and order in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This, he said, was proven by the decrease in the overall national crime incidence in the first six months of 2020 by 51 percent – or from 438,496 cases from July 2018 to May 2019 down to 404,995 cases from July 2019 to May 2020.

JUSTICE SYSTEM

Lorenzana also said that the country’s justice system has improved with the notable decrease in its backlog rates from 35.30 percent in 2018 to 31.30 percent in 2019. Meanwhile, the conviction rate increased from 41.71 percent in 2018 to 46.86 percent in 2019.

“Dahil sa pinalakas na prosekusyon, nabawasan ang kasong nadidismiss at dumami ang nalilitis at nahahatulan (With the strengthened prosecution, there is a decrease in the dismissed cases while there are more cases being heard and offenders are charged),” he said.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUST AND LASTING PEACE

As part of the protection and advancement of human rights, Lorenzana said his cluster has intensified their efforts to run after communist leaders whom he blamed for numerous rights violations.

He said the administration will be further relentless in its pursuit to eradicate the 51-year communist insurgency in the country with the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Following the collapse of the peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines last year, Duterte created the NTF-ELCAC to harmonize all efforts of the government to implement a peace framework centered on national development and good governance.

He said they have filed murder cases against CPP founders and leaders Jose Maria Sison, Satur Ocampo, and several others for the Inopacan, Leyte massacre in the 1980s where communist rebels were allegedly killed in a purge. A warrant of arrest has already been released against Sison and 37 of his cohorts.

Lorenzana likewise said that a national action plan on preventing and countering violent extremism is being crafted to address the problems on radicalization in the country. He said this will be the first counter-radicalization program in the Southeast Asia.

He mentioned the social healing and peace-building programs in Marawi City to help the residents get back on their feet following the devastating siege by the Maute terrorists in 2017.

Lorenzana also hailed the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) which created the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as the “most successful peace initiative of the government.”

Part of the BOL is the decommissioning of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants which Lorenzana said is 30 percent finished. The remaining 70 percent will be decommissioned in the next two years.

The passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was also praised by Lorenzana as he said it will “greatly enable our security forces to proactively prevent and defeat terrorism.”

 
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