Army backs newly-formed peace body

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed their support on Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s move on crafting a peace committee that will initiate dialogues with the New People’s Army (NPA) and the government.

Speaking during the AFP-PNP press forum at The Royal Mandaya Hotel Wednesday, September 13, 3rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander Lieutenant Colonel Raymund Lachica said they will abide with the directive of the mayor because they want to achieve peace.

The AFP is yet to talk with the mayor to determine their role in the peace process with the NPA guerillas present in the city’s hinterlands.

But they guarantee that they would help encourage the rebels to go back to the folds of the law and facilitate the surrenderers.

To date, there are several NPA units or threat groups present in the city including the Guerilla Front (GF) 54 operating in Toril and Sta. Cruz; GF 56 in boundary of Bukidnon and parts of Paquibato; and there are two Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 1 and PBC 2.

Lachica further said that based on the information they gathered, there is also an additional PBC 3.

He noted that NPA established this new unit to make it appear that they are expanding, but those members of the PBC were also members of other units.

Lachica cited that there were armed caches recovered in Arakan, North Cotabato in which he emphasized that if there are more rebels, it must have been used and not hidden.

“But we would not like to discount kung nadagdagan (if it has been added) in terms of personnel. There are discoveries of armed cache specifically sa boundary ng Arakan sa 39th IB, bakit sila magtatago ng baril kung marami pa sila? (In the boundary of Arakan in 39th IB, why would they hide guns if they are still many)” he said.

Although their commander-in-chief President Rodrigo Duterte had already terminated the peace talk with communists, he said he sees no conflict and will possibly create adjustments in the process in pursuit of the localized peace talk.

On one hand, 10th IB assistant division commander Major General Bienvenido Datuin said the peace innovation of the mayor is a good option and he has high hopes that it will push through.

“Whatever it takes, just be in good faith. Maganda itong ating pinasisimulan dito sa Davao City (What we’re starting in Davao City is good) and we have high hopes that this innovation will work well for peace here in the region and country eventually,” he said.

He also commended the mayor because now, the local government unit is also making a move to advance peace in the area and reaching out to the rebels to address their demands.

“Masaya tayo dahil nag-iisip na rin ang LGU (We’re happy that LGU is also mentioning) that development is being hampered because of peace and order so what we have to do here is to respect each other’s option and prerogative. We will respect the plans of the city, all other innovation we respect,” he said.

Datuin also urged the left to cooperate with the government and respect the agreements if they would enter into it unlike the previous national talk wherein they continue with their atrocities despite the imposition of ceasefire.

“This is all a long peace effort; it’s not about winning the war but winning the peace. Everything we are doing is geared towards peace, peace advocacy programs,” he said.

The localized peace talk, he believes would be more effective because the local government is talking directly to the ground units. There have been several rounds of peace talks held in other countries but it failed because its personnel on the ground are not following the directive of their higher leaders.

“I believe mas maganda siya ‘yong local government unit para ma-empower natin ang ground units (I believe it’s good the local government is doing the talking to empower the ground units). Sila ang nakakaalam sa (They know the) real situation. Let’s create another way the local peace initiatives. Subukan natin (Let’s see) and we’ll see the sentiments of the people on the ground,” he said.