By Jennifer P. Rendon
Almost four years into the issuance of Executive Order No. 70, the government has declared that it has gained headway in its campaign against the decades-long local insurgency.
Signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, EO 70 mandated “Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict” and the creation of the controversial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC).
But even early on, the government aimed to end insurgency before the end of the Duterte administration.
While it appears that the target has not been met, state forces believed that EO 70 has been a big blow to the New People’s Army.
And under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., it might need just another three years to consider the job done.
“We hope that within the next three years of this administration, maki-clear na ang lahat ng insurgency affected areas because nararamdaman na nila ‘yung development,” Philippine National Police chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said.
Azurin commented that 2025 is the new target to topple the local rebels following a press conference in Iloilo City on Thursday, November 10.
During his visit, he held a consultative meeting with the mayors from Western Visayas on the Localized Peace Engagement (LPE).
One of the 12 clusters of TF-ELCAC, the LPE intends to facilitate the process from the bottom level of the locality or community. Its main essence is to reach the possible group of surrenderers down the line.
With ELCAC and LPE, Azurin said the insurgency problems are now limited to some parts of Western Visayas, some parts of Region 8 in Samar, and Bicol.
“In almost all areas of Region 1, when I was the (PNP) regional director, before I was replaced, na-i-clear na yung Region 1,” he said.
He said that police now can easily reach far-flung areas in Region 1 since anti-insurgency programs in the areas were sustained.
With the TF-ELCAC at the helm, “‘yung mga dating neglected areas ay natutugunan na ang kanilang pangangailangan. And that is also part of the marching order that I gave to every policeman that they are the ambassador of this administration so they should do their consultations. I-localize natin para maiparating natin sa kinauukulan anong mga program ba ang gusto ng mga kababayan natin sa mga far-flung areas,” he said.
Through LPEs, the number of former rebels who surrendered has snowballed in all parts of the country.
“They’re embracing the chance to a new life a new program by the past government.
With this new administration ay itutuloy ang magandang programa na mga iniwanan ng past administration with more intensity and more focus,” he said.
As such, the development program that was earmarked in Western Visayas will be continued, Azurin assured.
“‘Yung budget po this year ay inabutan na ng bagong administration. With the new budget that will be implemented next year, maraming pagbabago as far as Barangay Development Program on communist insurgency-affected areas is concerned,” he said.