There must be some confusion— no provision in the Executive Order 70 of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte that authorizes illegal searches, planting of evidence, illegal arrests and murders. What sets this order apart from those issued by former strongman Ferdinand Marcos is its adoption of the “whole of nation” approach in dealing, and solving, the insurgency problem.
What, precisely is the whole of nation approach? Basically, the concept is a management one. It contemplates the integration of all relevant agencies and departments efforts at finding solutions to end the communist insurgency.
This just means that there is an admission that government understands the deep rooted causes of the insurgency. That the solution does not entirely rests on the shoulders of the military or security agencies of the state. That the strategy may involve more socio-economic and civic activities rather than the “war” approaches undertaken by previous administrations.
It strives towards activities that creates an environment of peace such as developmental and peace-building efforts.
That explains why in the whereas section, there is a tacit admission by the Duterte administration that the insurgency problem is a symptom of “social, economic, and historical problems” and the solution is “prioritizing and harmonizing delivery of basic services and social development packages.”
These words, to me, seemed a stark departure from three decades of peace efforts which combines third track diplomatic efforts coupled with strategic and tactical military initiatives.
And then this…
There seems to be a major and stark misinterpretation as to the lofty provisions of Executive Order 70. Government is trying to create a network of agencies to address the root causes of insurgency, not a “task force” to coordinate the justice, military, police and developmental agencies towards the physical annihilation of insurgents without distinguishing between legal and underground elements.
EO 70 is about healing of rifts, not creating new ones. It is about peace-building, not a legal cloak to use force both enforcement and legal, in defeating insurgency.
EO 70 is about finding common ground by strengthening the relationship of government and Filipinos who turned insurgent due to social, economic, political and historical reasons. This is not about creating a fresh new generation of insurgents by eliminating those actively working in people’s organizations.
Basing on the interpretation of the Philippine National Police under General Archie Gamboa, the PNP interprets EO 70 as a legal weapon to fight the insurgents by dismantling their parliamentary and legal structures. Arresting activists and members of the legal opposition is not, I reiterate, not part of the whole of nation approach.
Raids, assassinations, and planting of evidence against those who still work above ground and among those who want nothing more than political change in this country had been used before, and historically were already deemed inutile and highly ineffectual in dealing with insurgencies. Thru EO 70, the state is expected to use a softer approach, not indulge in militarist tactics to neutralize perceived state enemies.
Unlike criminals and vice lords, insurgents undertake criminal acts with a political cause in mind. These people are not motivated by money. They have reasons why they dedicate their lives to the people’s struggles. Political oppositionists are there to balance public discourse. Dissent is a healthy feature of liberal and republican democratic states, such as the Philippines.
What is most dangerous is when the state only uses this as a pretext for the pursuit of commercial interests of its economic allies. Empirical studies show how effective non-governmental organizations are in opposing and even killing onerous contracts entered into by government. As things stand, several government projects are being hampered by active engagement by these non-governmental organizations, and whether they belong to the militant or legal left, the state considers them as irritants, serious problems which necessitates the use of force.
Again, EO 70 is not supposed to be a blanket legal measure meant to be used by state security forces in neutralization efforts against insurgents. It is not a law meant to create legal violence against activists, or even against combatants of these insurgent groups. No.
EO 70 is supposed to be for peace. As things stand right now, state security forces seemed ill-advised or at least needs further briefings from other agencies and remind them that this task force is not for the sake of a implementing more effective operations thru clear and unmistakable arrests since tight and strict coordination already exist now between the DOJ and state security forces, such as AFP and PNP.
Assaults against these dissidents will only spur more violence, and more of this will not really heal the rifts which EO 70 intends to repair.