THE Philippine Army officials in Negros said the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan on the island is a success.
Colonel Francisco Delfin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental, said the people are responding positively to the various activities being implemented under IPSP Bayanihan for peace and development.
Unlike in the past when people would cower in fear or even hide upon seeing uniformed Army soldiers, he said the citizenry now welcomes the presence of government troops in their communities.
Delfin said they are getting positive feedback from the civil society organizations (CSOs) on the change in people’s perception of the Army today, which he attributes largely to the government’s transformation program of the Philippine Army.
The transformation program puts emphasis on professionalism and “adherence to international human rights laws,” Delfin said, adding: “You can see that our operations now are not tainted with complaints of human rights violations.”
In the one year and a half since his assignment to Negros Island, Delfin said that he has not seen or received any complaint of human rights violations by any of his men.
The transformation program has greatly helped in the success of the IPSP Bayanihan, as people now have the trust and confidence in the Army and are now cooperating with the government troops, he added.
Lieutenant Colonel Roderick Garcia, commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, points to the peace initiatives in the second and third districts of Negros Oriental where “conflict has been managed.”
Garcia said the operations and activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) have “scaled down” in these areas, as he cited the local government units and the CSOs for their support and cooperation in the peace efforts.
He said after these areas where cleared of the insurgency problem, the 79th IB is now into non-traditional efforts, such as participating in socio-civic activities like tree planting, Brigada Eskwela, coastal clean-up, and medical and dental missions, among others.
These non-combat activities have actually brought the Army closer to the people, he added.
“We just want the people to know that we are here to help alleviate their lives and for peace and development to take place in their area,” Garcia said.
He said the 79th IB also provides manpower to the Philippine National Police (PNP) when needed, as well as being on call 24/7 during disasters and other emergencies.
When asked what will happen when the IPSP Bayanihan terminates at the end of this year, Delfin assured that the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is continuously assessing the campaign to determine if there is a need for its continuation.
The IPSP Bayanihan is a campaign of the AFP and shared and co-authored by other stakeholders in the non-government sector in winning the peace and reeled off on January 1, 2010.
Delfin said that while some parts of Negros still are affected by the insurgency, the problem is no longer as critical as it was in the recent years.
Meanwhile, Marietta Jambora, convener of the Bantay Bayanihan in Negros Oriental, said the weekend meeting was part of the IPSP Bayanihan nationwide research to conduct an evaluation and assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and accomplishments of the campaign plan since its implementation.
Jambora said these will be submitted, along with recommendations, to the general headquarters of the AFP “as inputs to the crafting of the next campaign plan”.
On Tuesday, October 18, officials at the AFP general headquarters will be sitting down with the Security Reform Initiative (SRI), the national secretariat of the Bantay Bayanihan network nationwide, to discuss the “IPSP Bayanihan’s impacts from a security reform perspective,” said Jambora.
Bantay Bayanihan is a network of civil society organizations, now reaching 150 network-members in 16 conflict-affected areas nationwide performing an oversight function on the AFP’s implementation of IPSP Bayanihan and opening dialogue spaces for peace and security reform issues. (PNA)