As the nation celebrates the 121st anniversary of the Philippine Declaration of Independence on Wednesday, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año calls on all peace-loving Filipinos, particularly the youth, indigenous peoples (IPs), and urban poor, “to protect our freedom and shun recruitment of leftist enemies of the state who are behind communist terrorism in the country.”
According to Año, whilst the country has long been freed from Spanish colonial control, the threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), which is out to deceive the youth and other vulnerable sectors to join them in trampling on the country’s democracy and overthrowing duly-constituted authorities, remains.
“Independence does not only mean liberation from external or foreign manipulation. For the last 50 years, communist terrorist groups have been pounding on the democratic pillars and integrity of the Philippine State and have caused the death of countless innocent civilians and the promising youth,” says Año.
The DILG Chief emphasizes that Independence Day also means emancipation from foreign harmful ideologies particularly Marxism–Leninism–Maoism political philosophy that is alien to the democratic Filipino way of life.
He points out that the communist ideology is a foreign imposition and a proven failed system among countries that adopted it that’s why it must be rejected outright by Filipinos because it would destroy the Philippine society.
He urges the Filipino citizenry to not be “enslaved and blinded” by the CPP-NPA-NDF as well as individuals and groups affiliated to them. “They do not represent the Filipino masses. They are not your voice and are not your defender. They only conceal their ultimate goal of overthrowing the current democratic representative government to an authoritarian communist rule.”
The DILG Chief specifically calls on the idealistic youth to not join communist-linked organizations in and out of schools with the false notion that it is where they can demonstrate their nationalism and patriotism.
“Maraming kabataan na ang nasayang ang magandang kinabukasan dahil sa maling akala’t pakikisapi sa kilusang nawala sa tamang landas. Save yourself from that tragedy. Finish schooling and do volunteer works in your community. That means a lot to your families and in nation-building,” he says.
Año also enjoins the IPs to be steadfast in resisting communist rebels’ recruitment and to report to authorities the harassment and intimidation being done to them. On the other hand, the urban poor, he says, is another sector that is highly vulnerable to being used by communist terrorist groups especially when they are mobilized for street protest activities.
Año says that the government has now adopted the whole-of-nation approach (WNA) by virtue of the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 70, series of 2018 to combat terrorism and violent extremism as opposed to a purely military response.
EO 70 signed by President Duterte created the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) comprised of different national government agencies and other stakeholders. It recognizes that armed conflict is symptomatic of broader social, economic, and historical problems such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality, and lack of inclusivity.
According Año, the DILG’s concrete support to the WNA approach to end local communist armed conflict is by capacitating local government units (LGUs) to address and mitigate risks posed by violent extremism and insurgency; capacitating conflict-affected LGUs on the implementation of socioeconomic infrastructures and facilities like water supply, roads and bridges, halfway houses, and local electrification projects; providing financial assistance to former NPA rebels through the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP); and strengthening Peace and Order Councils (POCs) at various level of local governments.
“With the upcoming assumption to office of newly or re-elected local chief executives on June 30, the DILG counts on their solid support to local peace talks and efforts against threats to public safety. Together, let us firmly protect national and local independence from the enemies of the state, the enemies to peace and progress,” he says.
Año says that despite the government’s constant reminder to the public not to join or sympathize with communist groups, he assures that leftist members are dwindling and will soon be disarmed as can be proven by the continuing surrender of NPA rebels.