On Tuesday, Mayor Aran Boller of Matuguinao, a former rebel-infested town in Samar, suggested the national government should investigate local government unit (LGU) officials’ sincerity in combating the New People’s Army (NPA) in their villages.
Boller remarked that the national government will only be able to completely address the core causes of insurgency if local governments have the political will to do so, in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
“There should be a system to make local governments accountable if they are not serious in the fight against insurgency. Even if the central government is making double efforts to build safe and conflict-resilient villages, if local governments are not committed, we will not achieve lasting peace,” Boller said.
“I feel that the President is sincere in fighting NPA, but this commitment should be matched with efforts of local officials,” he added.
In his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte claimed that the establishment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had settled the underlying causes of the country’s communist armed conflict.
“With the creation of the National Task Force to End [Local] Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, we have made great strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans (countrymen) who have been used by the communists for so many decades,” he said.
Between 2019 and 2021, the local task force ELCAC was able to secure the surrender of over 300 NPA fighters and their ardent sympathizers in Matuguinao town.
“All of our 12 conflict-stricken villages are now cleared with no sightings of armed rebels in the past six months. I hope the national government agencies will be consistent in delivering services and the army should regularly conduct patrol in these communities or else the NPA will come back to extort food from residents,” Boller stressed.
In 2022, each of these 12 villages will be eligible to receive P20 million from the Barangay Development Program to fund farm-to-market roads, water and sanitation systems, health stations, school structures, assistance to poor families, and livelihood training.
The weakening of the NPA in Samar is the outcome of a whole-of-nation approach that involves linking arms between the central government’s basic service providers, local governments’ community involvement groups, and the security sector’s military and police.
Several local government entities have created ELCAC, a task force to implement Duterte’s Executive Order 70, which was issued on December 4, 2018, in support of the war against the NPA.
The order also establishes a “whole-of-nation approach” to achieving a just and lasting peace.
The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines have all designated the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA as a terrorist group for its five-decade violent fight against the government.