DAVAO CITY – The top-ranking military official here said the armed struggle carried out by the New People’s Army is irrelevant in the midst of a country that is “now slowly developing”.

“Yung Pilipino laban sa kapwa Pilipino, hindi na yata napapanahon especially ngayon nakikita naman natin slowly yung development pumapasok na sa ating mga kanayonan. So, hindi na natin kinakailangan pang mag-alsa at mag-aklas laban sa gobyerno dahil unti-unti itong mga kinakailangan ay natutugunan na. (The conflict between Filipino and a Filipino is not anymore timely since our country is already slowly developing. We do not need to protest and fight against the government since the needs of the people are being addressed),” said Eastern Mindanao Commander Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero in a press briefing here Tuesday.

Guerrero said that the best way to resolve these conflicts is through peace talks. He said that they are willing to do anything that would contribute to the resolution of issues and conflicts.

Guerrero said that they have been updating plans and “continuously been in contact with stakeholders, partners, alliances, in the area to be able to come up with a consecutive effort to deliver services needed in the countrysides”.

“We fully know and fully recognize the fact na itong insurgencies natin dito is not just a military problem but also a multifaceted problem that requires a holistic solution. As far as the things we need to do, ang pinaka-concern natin dito is for us to strengthen itong atin collaboration with the other agencies of the government, civil society, with the NGOs, para ma-address natin ang mga root causes ng ating mga problema dito sa security (We fully know and recognize the fact that the insurgency is not just a military problem, but also a multifaceted problem that requires a holistic solution. As far as the things we need to do, our primary concern is for us to strengthen our collaboration with other agencies of the government, civil society, with the non government organizations for us to address the root causes of our problems with regards to security),” said Guerrero.

Guerrero also said that they will work with any agency or any entity who supports peace and development.

“Any sector of society as long as it is for peace and development, then makaka-asa sila na ang ating AFP ay makikipagtulungan sa kanila (then they can assure that the AFP will be willing to help them),” said Guerrero.

Meanwhile, Makabayan Coalition council member and first nominee of Anakpawis Partylist Ariel Casilao believe it is beyond the Army’s control to call for peace talks

“It’s beyond the AFP’s control. Remember AFP is the core implementer of Oplan Bayanihan as a policy of the government, which resulted to a problematic human rights situation in our country,” said Casilao.

“They do not have the credibility to say that they are open to peace talks while the attacks against schools owned by Lumads and religious groups are ongoing,” said Casilao.

Oplan Bayanihan is the government’s counterinsurgency program, which increased the involvement of national and local government agencies, non-government organizations and the public to address peace and security concerns.

According to Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, the “IPSP departs from the old parameters and explores non-combat parameters of success in addressing the country’s peace and security problem.”

The militant group has criticized the program, saying this is patterned after the United States Counter Insurgency Guide.

Casilao said Oplan Bayanihan does not address the root cause of the armed conflict.

“The killings of Lumads and activists are increasing and the government is clearly targeting those who are vocal critics of its programs,” said Casilao.

“They are not credible to call for peace talks when they are the ones who arm and train the paramilitary groups who continue to harass and threat the indigenous peoples communities,” he said.

On September 1, the killing of Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur has prompted the evacuation of an estimate of 3,000 IPs. The killing was allegedly perpetrated by the Magahat Bagani force.

The residents said the paramilitary group is trained by the Army, which the latter has denied. (With reports from Mae Love Deseo and Kristine Gadiano, Davao Today interns)

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