As the country commemorates its 123rd Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence today with the theme “Kalayaan 2021: Diwa sa Pagkakaisa at Paghilom ng Bayan,” Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año urged all Filipinos to rise up against the threat of Communist terrorism as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To my countrymen and women, this momentous occasion reminds us that while our country has been freed from foreign occupation, our freedoms are still continually challenged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the obsolete and archaic ideology they pit against our democratic way of life,” he said.
The threat of CTGs is ever-present, even during the ongoing fight against COVID-19 as shown, Año said, in the most recent attack of the NPA, wherein an ambush and explosion from the landmines placed by Communist terrorists caused the death of Far Eastern University (FEU) football player Keith Absalon and Union leader Nolven Absalon.
He said this tragic act showed the true colors of the rebel groups as “absolute traitors and menaces of the Philippine society.”
In a time where millions of Filipinos have shown admirable and exceptional acts of bayanihan amid the pandemic, he said that the Communist terrorists “represent the opposite of the Filipino spirit in their selfish deeds aimed towards overthrowing the current democratic government our forebears have fought so long and hard to build.”
Año said that the fight against Communist terrorist groups (CTGs) has been more effective in recent years since the government adopted the whole-of-nation approach (WNA) in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace against CTGs and communist armed conflict through the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 70 on December 4, 2018.
Aside from institutionalizing the WNA, the EO created a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and directed the adoption of a national peace framework. The WNA approach aims to address the very root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances, tensions, and other armed conflicts in the country.
In support of EO 70, the DILG recently issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2021-063, which provides the enhanced guidelines on the implementation of the Capacitating Urban Communities for Peace and Development (CUCPD) program.
The CUCPD program serves as a platform for collaboration among all stakeholders at the local level to improve the institutional capacity of local government units (LGU) to implement “development-oriented and context-sensitive peacebuilding programs” to address emerging local issues that hinder the most vulnerable sectors.
Through this, Año says that areas and sectors that have been exposed to CTGs can be provided with the necessary programs to ensure their safety and security from the rebels in their communities.
He adds that the program will also allow local chief executives to harness all available opportunities to champion sustainable peace and development by providing a framework to address the most pressing sectoral issues from the youth, labor, urban poor, and women sectors respectively.
Healing from COVID-19
According to Año, the 123rd celebration of Philippine Independence also comes at an opportune time in the country’s continuous efforts against COVID-19. He encourages all Filipino citizens to register and partake in the Nationwide Deployment and Vaccination Program (NDVP) so that we can end the pandemic.
“After one year of bracing through trials and hardship, we have the opportunity to slowly return to normalcy. Let us all do our part to register in our NDVP, get vaccinated, and ultimately, keep each other safe,” he said.
"Mayroon na po tayong light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. Kung kaya sama-sama po nating kamtin ito sa pamamagitan ng paglahok sa ating NDVP,” Año added.