Recognizing that lack of institutional support from national agencies is one of the barriers in effectively responding to issues in far-flung barangays, Regional Director (RD) Karl Caesar R. Rimando of the DILG Region 8 explained to soldiers of the famed 14th “Avenger” Battalion how Executive Order (EO) No. 70 issued by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in December 2018, brings the whole government and other sectors together to find solutions to festering issues through a Whole of Nation Approach.
“EO 70 does away with the old concept of viewing the insurgency as primarily a military problem, but rather offers a comprehensive solution. If in the past you lacked support to address the issues you discovered in immersion activities in communist-affected barangays, the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) now provides the needed mechanism to make government, and the community at large, responsive to problems that fuel the communist insurgency. With the full commitment of all government entities and the support of various sectors, mas nararamdaman na ng mga tao na ang gobyerno ay kanilang kakampi,” he said.
RD Rimando updated the infantry on the efforts of various clusters in implementing EO 70, from the Send-Off Ceremonies, peace initiatives, Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), and the activities of the various phases of RCSP. He informed the troops that while the army and police have been working front and center to promote peace and law enforcement, other clusters have likewise been working to accomplish their respective mandates.
Help from national agencies and commitment from the local government units (LGUs) to provide resources needed to address the identified issues comes at an opportune time for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel in Leyte and nearby Samar. Although the island of Leyte has been declared largely insurgency-free as of late, soldiers last year were able to overrun an NPA camp and engage in firefights with communist rebels in remote mountain barangays of Mahaplag, which borders Sogod town in Southern Leyte.
With closer coordination among all branches of government, law enforcers have also been able to throttle the NPAs to minimal activities such as extortion and harassment, further alienating the public against the communist-terrorists.
This area bordering Leyte and Southern Leyte was likewise the site of a major convergence activity last year in nearby Baybay City. The AFP together with LGUs and national agencies held a service delivery event to mark the discovery of NPA mass burial grounds in Inopacan, Leyte who were killed in the 1980s by their own comrades in purges of suspected government spies.
After his keynote speech, RD Rimando and Lieutenant Colonel Roberto B. Obaob, 14th Infantry Battalion (IB) commanding officer, conferred awards to deserving personnel, toured the camp, planted a tree in the DILG RD’s honor, and signed the Memorandum of Agreement on the institutionalization of the Community Development and Resiliency Initiative (CDRI) of the 14th Infantry Battalion.
According to the 14th IB, the CDRI “serves as a development arm of the RCSP to facilitate the delivery of basic services, livelihood programs, skills trainings, food production, and resiliency programs in order to transform vulnerable communities into self-sufficient and resilient communities”.
RD Rimando believes that despite the challenge posed by COVID-19 which temporarily diverted government activities, the RTF-70 is on track towards achieving the goal of a just and lasting peace in Eastern Visayas in 2022.