THE DURIAN BEAT
By ROGER M. BALANZA
Killing Parago softly
Communist rebels in Davao City led by Kumander Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao could have thrown a feast after the local government announced that it was stopping its logistical support for a military brigade spearheading the counter-insurgency operations in the Davao Region.
In terms of trust and confidence, it would mean a setback for the military and an expression of unholy alliance by Mayor Sara Duterte for the communist rebels whose organizations were declared as “terrorist groups” by the United Nations and the European Union.
Have we gone commies? Hardly.
Mayor Duterte had made clear why she was ending the annual subsidy to the 1003rd Infantry Brigade under Brig. General Eduardo del Rosario.
Del Rosario had sought the support to backstop the brigade’s Internal Security Operations (ISO) for year 2010.
For the uninitiated, the ISO is a military blue-print for operation, particularly for the counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army.
Del Rosario’s ISO may have been peppered with civic actions—happily now a component of the government’s military campaign against insurgents to lure the hearts and minds of the populace—but it has also a very strong smell of gun powder.
Military operations, meaning soldiers hunting down rebels and engaging them in sporadic firefights, have been with us for decades without the military ending the local insurgency.
The fact is that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had vowed to lick the communist movement by the end of her term. If there was somebody who surrendered, it was not Parago and his rebel bands. It was the red-faced military which admitted that the communist insurgency is well and alive, despite massive military operations and despite Arroyo’s promise to whittle down the communist movement into an inconsequential persona before the end of her term.
Nobody can fault Mayor Duterte if she thinks that the military operations are “futile and unproductive” without the military mission to lick the insurgency seeing the end of the tunnel after decades of fighting the rebels.
Locally, the barometer for the military failure has a human face in Kumander Parago, who leads the NPA 1st Pulang Bagani Command, and his rebel bands. Parago had been ruling the hinterlands of Paquibato district since the mid-80s and he is still alive despite special military operations to cut him down.
But Mayor Duterte has other concerns than the military failure to complete its mission and eliminate communists in Davao City.
The military operations often displaced people, leading to social problems lumped on the lap of the Davao City government to solve. Deaths, damage to properties and fear—the collaterals of the hunt for the rebels—cannot be quantified in monetary values. The greater damage is that they take their toll on the over-all psyche of the peaceful Dabawenyo, who collectively are not bothered if Parago and his men controls the hinterlands for as long as they don’t shake down over-all peace in the city..
Has Mayor Duterte a suggestion on how the counter-insurgency operations against the communist rebels should be pursued?
She would rather have that the military throw their guns and treat the conditions that feed the insurgency: lure rebels to the folds of the law, bring in development projects to rebel-infested areas, educate people about their government and bring down social services to the people whose neglect forced them to find other alternatives that would respond to their woes.
In this way, you don’t kill Parago with a gun or obliterate the entire rebel population with massive operations—which are military strategies that Mayor Duterte said have been “futile and counter-productive.”
In this way, you kill Parago softly by luring back the hearts and minds of the people to support their government, without bloodshed.