Peace zone and good gov­er­nance

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

IN­STEAD of the DILG push­ing the Lo­cal Government Units (LGUS) to pur­sue a mil­i­tarist line on armed in­sur­gency prob­lem like prod­ding them to de­clare the CPP-NPA as ‘per­sona non grata’ and ask for in­crease de­ploy­ment of state armed troops, the op­tion of declar­ing a lo­cal government ju­ris­dic­tion as a peace zone would be a more en­hanc­ing en­vi­ron­ment to­wards in­sti­tut­ing good lo­cal gov­er­nance, and even­tu­ally achiev­ing a more just and last­ing peace.

The for­mer will only sharpen armed con­flict and blood­shed; the lat­ter will ease it and al­low other as­pects of po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural life to con­tinue and even flour­ish. This is ex­pe­ri­en­tial not the­o­ret­i­cal.

The late Bacolod Arch­dioce­san Bishop An­to­nio For­tich in the midst of bloody war in the early 80s, called for the for­ma­tion of peace zones es­pe­cially in the area of CHICKS (Can­doni, Hi­nobaan, Cauayan, Ka­bankalan and Si­palay) to pre­vent more blood­shed and eco­nomic de­struc­tion.

For­tich’s peace zone con­cept called for the de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion of CHICKS which means no armed units from both sides could en­ter the de­fined area, no check­points and en­camp­ments, so peo­ple can con­tinue with their so­cial and eco­nomic life without fear, and the state gov­er­nance func­tions could be car­ried out without in­ter­rup­tion.

But this peace zone was only a part of his much com­pre­hen­sive for­mula, of all cit­i­zens work­ing for a last­ing peace based on so­cial jus­tice.

It means that the peace zone is only an en­abling con­di­tion to freely al­low the lo­cal government and the cit­i­zens work col­lec­tively on good gov­er­nance, and slowly erad­i­cate poverty and hunger, and re­al­ize the in­clu­sive devel­op­ment of the area.

Although there were some suc­cesses in some barangays due to the pres­sures of the peo­ple and lo­cal churches and the re­spect ex­tended by some armed units of the CPP-NPA, For­tich peace zone was never ma­te­ri­al­ized in a large scale, town or city or district level, be­cause it lacked the sup­port of the LGUS, while the mil­i­tary con­tin­ued their search and de­stroy op­er­a­tions. In short it came at a time when the fas­cist ter­ror reigned the en­tire is­land and ar­chi­pel­ago.

I was in­formed that Davao City un­der then Mayor

Ro­drigo Duterte had some kind of mo­dus vivendi with the CPP-NPA on some sort of peace zone. His was not per­sona non grata tag­ging, de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion nor sur­ren­der of the armed in­sur­gents, but al­low­ing the CPP-NPA forces and their sym­pa­thiz­ers to be in the city any­time without fear of ar­rest or ha­rass­ment, pro­vided they don’t carry firearms or re­strain from any temp­ta­tion of armed con­fronta­tion or even arms con­fis­ca­tion.

Today, more than ever, es­tab­lish­ment of peace zone in as

many ar­eas pos­si­ble, not only in ru­ral but ur­ban ar­eas as well, in­clud­ing Bacolod City, de­mand some ur­gency and broad sup­port.

I would push for a model which com­bine the For­tich for­mula and the Davao City ex­pe­ri­ence (if there’s any truth to it at all); I call this model “peace zone plus” or de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion and good gov­er­nance.

Un­der the ba­ton of the DILG and the Lo­cal Chief Ex­ec­u­tives (LCES) , the “peace zone plus” would push for the de­mil­i­ta­riza­tion of the city or town with pri­or­ity in those af­fected by in­tense armed con­flicts, dis­band­ment of check­points and mil­i­tary en­camp­ments, no armed op­er­a­tions from both sides in the de­fined area, stop­page of all forms of psy­war and black pro­pa­ganda from both sides ex­cept is­suance of state­ments on valid is­sues.

As soon as these are done, the DILG will closely guide the LGUS in in­sti­tut­ing all com­po­nents of good gov­er­nance, start­ing with the re­moval of cor­rupt Lo­cal chief ex­ec­u­tives (LCES) and of­fi­cials in­clud­ing cor­rupt and abu­sive po­lice and the mil­i­tary, re­or­ga­ni­za­tion to­wards ef­fec­tive func­tion­al­ity of Lo­cal Devel­op­ment Coun­cil (LDC) and Lo­cal Spe­cial Bod­ies (LSBS), ca­pac­i­tat­ing LGU of­fi­cials and LDC mem­bers in devel­op­ment road map­ping and bud­get­ing in the model of Bot­tom’s Up Bud­get­ing (BUB); cit­i­zens par­tic­i­pa­tion in all as­pects gov­er­nance, re­gard­less of ide­o­log­i­cal align­ment.

Once there is sig­nif­i­cant ad­vance­ment in the in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of good gov­er­nance, the lo­cal government could pro­ceed to­wards the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of land and wealth in its scope of area; leg­is­la­tion of sup­port for the ru­ral and ur­ban devel­op­ment in­clud­ing in­fra­struc­tures, em­ploy­ment gen­eral and so­cial hous­ing; in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of so­cial ser­vices; run af­ter and pros­e­cute abu­sive and ex­ploita­tive busi­nesses; ad­e­quate pro­vi­sions for strength­en­ing so­cial se­cu­rity of the peo­ple, re­spect for hu­man rights, and many oth­ers.

The DILG and LGUS could also put up mech­a­nisms that would en­cour­age the free ex­change of ide­olo­gies, cul­ture and tra­di­tions in the spirit unity in di­ver­sity.

If these are all done right, well and good, the peace zone plus could ef­fec­tively trans­form a place or com­mu­nity into one where peo­ple live in peace, pros­per­ity with dig­nity, and harmony with na­ture.

Again this is eas­ier drawn than done. And I know there could be other mod­els, per­haps much bet­ter and doable.

But the bottomline of peace zone plus is to veer away from flag­ging lo­cal government of­fi­cials from the old re­hashed model of mil­i­tarism and Mc­carthy­ism in gov­er­nance and re-en­gi­neer gov­er­nance that is in­clu­sive, non-mil­i­tarist, par­tic­i­pa­tory, re­spect­ful and co-ex­is­tent with dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies, and sus­tain­able.

If the pro­vin­cial government is not ready to be­gin with this ex­per­i­ment, I would dare Bacolod City of­fi­cials to show the way, to pur­sue its area as a peace zone plus city. It’s just a mat­ter of po­lit­i­cal will and leg­isla­tive de­ci­sion.

Who can stop a city or a town from mod­el­ling a non­mil­i­tarist ap­proach to good lo­cal gov­er­nance? Who can stop a city or a town from mod­el­ling some­thing that could only bring unity in di­ver­sity, pros­per­ity with dig­nity, and just peace (not peace of grave­yard)?

Only the con­fused souls and in­se­cure minds will dance to the beat of the war drums.*

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