Vice President Sara Z. Duterte hailed Wednesday the local peacebuilding initiatives here that have been credited with dislodging the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the city’s far-flung areas.
“Our story in the Paquibato District is one for the books. It is a shining example of a successful anti-terrorism campaign made possible by the collaboration of various sectors through the program Peace 911 by the local government of Davao,” Duterte said during a speech commemorating the first-year anniversary of the city’s declaration as an insurgency-free area.
Duterte was referring to the upland Paquibato District, which for decades has been a haven for NPA guerrillas.
Peace 911, which was conceived when Duterte was mayor, is a suite of economic and peace and order initiatives for NPA-influenced areas in the mountainous parts of the city.
The civilian-led program, Duterte said, has won the hearts of the people of Paquibato through the implementation of projects and programs and providing opportunities for the residents to become productive.
Under Peace 911, the former mayor said Paquibato residents have benefited from livelihood projects, skills trainings, capacitated women, and built their confidence as individuals and as a community.
“Peace 911 is an empowering tool. An education tool. This allowed the people of Paquibato to unmask their enemies. Peace 911 ushered in the development of Paquibato while addressing the fundamental issue of poverty,” Duterte said.
For years, the Vice President recounted that the NPA had taken advantage of poverty in far-flung areas, “feeding on their misery as they advance their violent cause.”
“Let us look back at Paquibato when it was still under the shadows of the NPA. Most children were not getting enough nutrition, and many were out of school — a vulnerability exploited by the NPA for recruitment,” Duterte said.
With the success of the peace efforts, Duterte thanked Irene Santiago, the creator of Peace 911, as well as the local leaders and the people in the communities “who finally saw the light and exorcised themselves of the influence of the NPA.”
Meanwhile, the Vice President thanked the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police “for successfully ending the insurgency in this city.”
Davao City was declared insurgency-free on March 24, 2022.
“One year ago today, we, Dabawenyos claimed our freedom. Freedom from the shackles of a group that has, for decades, through a bloody armed struggle, perpetuated a cycle of violence that trapped many poor Filipino families, especially those living in the countryside such as our Lumad (indigenous people) brothers and sisters,” Duterte said.
She said the peace attained has presented “limitless possibilities” for Paquibato and the entire city.
She also urged the former rebels and their families to ensure that the children “will reach a point where they don’t suffer, for them to reach their dreams. Let us guide our children to become catalysts of solidarity, progress, and lasting peace in our respective communities.”
“As we move forward, I hope that one day soon, we wake up to the news that the entire Philippines is already NPA terrorist-free,” Duterte said. (PNA)