BY ROGER M. BALANZA
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte frankly admitted the insurgency problem is a Goliath “bigger than Davao City,” to which her contribution may not have an impact.
Duterte made the remark as she was asked by media for comment on the looming resumption of peace talks between the government and the communist National Democratic Front (NDF).
While the city has its own insurgency woes, the New People’s Army, which operates in the city’s hinterland boundaries with Bukidnon and Davao del Norte, shuns away from the urban centers¸ thanks to her father, former mayor now Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has maintained cordial relations with the communist rebels.
During his nearly twenty years as city mayor, Vice Mayor Duterte’s “backdoor diplomacy” had helped secure the city against rebel atrocities, which stopped as soon as he became mayor in 1988. He is known to make regular visits to rebel camps in the hinterlands to sustain the healthy relationship.
The city’s history was at its lowest from the 70s up to the late 80s—just before Vice Mayor Duterte’s first term as mayor—when the city was made as a laboratory for urban warfare by the communist guerillas.
While saying that the insurgency problem is a national problem, Mayor Duterte however is throwing her own unique style of confidence building at the approach to next year’s resumption of peace talks, by inviting rebel leader Parago to join the Dabawenyos during the month-long Pasko Fiesta. Parago, true name Leoncio Pitao, heads the 1st Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA which is based the city’s hinterland Paquibato District.
Vice Mayor Duterte, last week said President Benigno Aquino should seize current opportunities for lasting peace as the government and the rebels announced a ceasefire from December 16 to January 3.
The vice mayor said communist rebels, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are tired of fighting and hunger for lasting peace.
The MILF, fighting a 20-year old secessionist campaign to establish a Moro homeland in Mindanao, is soon to start resumption of peace negotiations with the government. The NDF, still battling a 40-year old obsession to topple the government, said it would go to the peace table in February, after talks failed five years ago.
In the television program, Duterte said the peace fever should inspire President Aquino to move fast to clinch a lasting deal with the MILF and NDF.
He should start the talks now, because time is fast moving, said Duterte, who adds that the President should take advantage of the lull in fighting to push the government peace initiatives.
From his base in Surigao, the regional spokesman of the NDF spokesman for Southern Mindanao said communist rebels would back resumption of peace talks.
But Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, interviewed through mobile phone by a Davao City-based radio station on Saturday, said demands on government action on issues such as human rights, land reform, poverty and hunger is necessary for lasting peace.
The peace talks should be the start of the road to peace, Ka Oris told Allan Abais, anchor of the Banat program on ABS/CBN/DXAB radio.
Vide Mayor Duterte said he is fully supporting Mayor Duterte’s invitation to Parago to come down for the Pasko Fiesta.
“I will assure full responsibility for your safety,” he said on television on Sunday. RMB