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Local anti-communist campaign risky, says Esperon

By URIEL C. QUILINGUING,
Contributing Editor

NATIONAL Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said those who are engaged in government’s all-out campaign to end local communist armed conflicts must be ready to face threats on their lives.

“We know there is danger,” Esperon said in a press conference Thursday after a meeting of Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security (Cords) in Mindanao at Mallberry Business Suites in Cagayan de Oro City.

But Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy said “there is no reason to be afraid of the threats” which the leftist insurgents pose.

Esperon, a retired Armed Forces chief of staff, said there would be more threats on them as well as on provincial, city, town and barangay leaders since they are the heads of the task forces.  However, he did not specifically mention what these threats are.

“Our biggest challenge, for now, is resources,” the national security adviser said, even as he expressed optimism agencies of government in the task force could pull their resources and collectively address poverty, one the perceived root causes of insurgency.

What makes the current anti-communist initiative different from previous administrations, he said, is the President, no less, is the national task force chairman and the challenge of insurgency is being addressed through a “whole-of-nation” approach—that of delivering all vital socio-economic services to the village level.

“Before, the passion is easily lost,” said Esperon, who sits as national task force’s vice-chair, and had been involved in the peace initiatives of three former presidents. “Now, we’re seeing that what we have been doing is proper.”

Results from inter-agency workshops showed that the security sector’s successes could not gain ground because agencies of government could not harmonize their plans and orchestrate the delivery of programs and projects to effectively address the needs of communities.

The former presidential adviser on the peace process, however, declined to offer a model for a village that has been freed from threats and control of communist insurgents, the best practices of which could be replicated in other places.

He said “there is no definite model” since the focus areas may have their own specific needs.

Skills development secretary Isidro Lapeña (Cords for Region 12) and cabinet secretary KarloNograles (Cords for Caraga), however, shared success stories in their respective regions, where the convergence of government interventions was at their best. 

Esperon said the presence of communist insurgents is more profound in Mindanao—through there are regional peculiarities—than in the Visayas and Luzon. By 2022, he said that there might still be a handful of communist insurgents left, capable only of banditry.

The creation of task forces on end local communist armed conflicts at the national, regional and local levels is pursuant to Executive Order 70, which institutionalizes he whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, was issued Dec. 4, 2018.

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Uriel Quilinguing

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