Duterte creates task force to end local communist armed conflict

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) 70 which forms a national task force to end local communist armed conflict and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.

Under the EO, the task force is mandated to provide an efficient mechanism structure for the implementation of a "whole-of-nation" approach, which was likewise institutionalized as a government policy for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace.

Created under the Office of the President, the task force will be chaired by Duterte and vice chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process; Presidential Adviser for Indigenous Peoples' Concerns; Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff; Philippine National Police director general; and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples chair are delegated as members.

Other members are secretaries of Local Government, Justice, Defense, Public Works, Budget, Finance, Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare, Education, and Communication departments; and director generals of the National Economic and Development Authority, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Two representatives from the private sector appointed by Duterte will also serve as members of the task force with a term of one year each.

Under EO 70, the task force is directed to formulate and start to implement a National Peace Framework driven by a whole-of-nation approach in conflict-affected and -vulnerable communities.

The National Peace Framework, according to EO 70, should contain principles, policies, plans and programs that will bring inclusive and sustainable peace, and address the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, as well as other armed conflicts and threats in identified areas.

The Task force is also ordered to enlist the assistance of any departments, bureau, office, agency, or government instrumentality, including local government units, government-owned or -controlled corporations, and state universities and colleges, in the implementation of the framework.

Duterte also instructed the task force to evaluate, define, modify or integrate policies, programs and activities contained in the framework.

The task force should also organize ad hoc inter-agency and multi-sectoral clusters, councils, committees, and groups in national, regional and local levels, or modify existing ones, "whenever necessary."

It should also develop strategic communication, advocacy and peace constituency plans in case of ceasefire, as well as capacity-building measures, to enable local chief executives and local peace bodies to engage and facilitate local peace engagements or negotiations and interventions.

The task force was also told to review mandates and functions of offices undertaking peace efforts to avoid duplication of functions and programs, and submit recommendations to the President for approval.

It should also issue supplemental guidelines, protocols or policies in furtherance of EO 70, "as may be necessary."

The task force was also directed to recommend to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process projects in conflict-torn areas where the Payapa and Masaganang Pamayanan Program may be implemented.

A copy of EO 70, signed by Duterte on December 4, was made public by Malacañang on Monday, December 10.

The signing of EO 70 came months after the current administration had planned to conduct localized peace talks with the communist rebels.

On November 23, 2017, Duterte formally scrapped the peace negotiations between the government peace panel and the communists' political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Duterte was prompted to end the peace talks with the communist guerillas last year, following the string of attacks of the communists' armed component, the New People's Army (NPA), against the government forces. (SunStar Philippines)


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