Ombion: Slim chances for ‘local peace talks’

THE localized peace talks is now one of the flagship programs of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under the leadership of Secretary Eduardo Ano, a former military general who is also a veteran in intelligence and psywar operations.

It is also the result of President Duterte’s instruction for DILG to take the lead role in the implementation of localized peace talks nationwide to decapitate the revolutionary movement of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Although the DILG has not laid down yet its comprehensive program, it wants the local government units (LGUs) to be more aggressive in this program and ensure more effective coordination between the LGUs, police, military and the Civil Society Organizations.

So what does it really want to achieve?

It is apparent from the talks, instructions and memoranda of DILG, so far, that the revolutionary movement is the hindrance to peace and development, and therefore, they must be forced to stop their revolutionary activities, disarm and surrender before they can be processed for re-integration to society.

Right now, LGUs are encouraged to declare the revolutionary movement persona non grata in their respective areas of jurisdiction; force them through intelligence, psywar and combat operations to lay down their arms and surrender. In so doing, the DILG framework of local peace talks is not positive and persuasive, but negative and punitive.

The problem with the government framework is that they consider the revolutionary movement as the hindrance to local peace and development, and not the product of inequality, injustice and poverty.

Of course, they have ideology, organized armed groups, and vast underground network, but they formed those to be able to counter effectively the ruling system that continue to deprive them to be treated as humans. How else can their voices be heard if they don’t have such weapons? How else can they force the government to the peace table if they are powerless?

Such government negative and punitive local peace talks won’t result in dialogues, as the concept of local peace talks connote, and much less on cooperation for development initiatives. Simply, the government cannot force the revolutionary movement to trust it unless it shows genuine goodwill beyond sweet and deceptive talks and postures. Trust is not imposed nor demanded. It is earned. It is our lesson from history.

If the government and DILG in particularly, have to be consistent with their declarations, the Local Government Code and the Constitution, they must treat local peace talks as the result of good local governance, and not a pre-condition to peace, security and development.

The standards of good local governance are clear: LGUs must exercise participatory governance; the current non-functional Local Development Councils (LDCs), Local Special Bodies (LSBs) and other special committees must be functional and effectively work for the people’s interests; transparency must be institutionalized to improve public officials’ accountability and responsibility over their functions and the public coffers.

Local comprehensive development plan must be reflective of people’s interests and aspirations and not merely the extension of the whims and caprices of local officials; LGUs must be rid of the entrenched political dynasties and corrupt officials; and basic social services and infrastructure support must be done right and well.

If all these are followed and done well and good, then I don’t see reasons for the local revolutionary movement to reject dialogues, and eventually cooperate in local governance. Yes, one cannot fight goodwill and good governance, one only make them better.

As unsolicited advice, the DILG central leadership must focus first on evaluating the LGUs including its frontline DILG officers and people, whether they are on the track of good local governance – or just by their “doctorized reports” and citation awards given to them.

I say this because facts from DILG itself and its attached agencies like the Local Government Academy clearly shows that most LGUs can’t pass the standards of good local governance as set by the LGC itself, the Constitution and the Civil Service Commission. Ironically, those given SGLG certificates are doing the contrary. A number of them have files of cases in the Sandiganbayan, Ombudsman and Civil Service, and are hated by the people.

This is the challenge for the DILG and the LGUs. This is the same challenged for the National Government.

LGUs, as well as the National Government, widely known as corrupt, anti-people and anti-development – is the anathema of genuine peace talks.

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