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PIA Press Release

Empowering people is key to ending insurgency, says WESWCOM chief

Zamboanga City (10 November) -- The key to bringing the forces of insurgent groups, such as the New People's Army (NPA), down and effectively address the problem of insurgency is not by engaging them in combat but by empowering the people, according to the Commanding Officer of the Western Command (WESCOM), Major General Juancho M. Sabban.

With this in mind, his leadership veers away from the conventional military combat methods of tackling the problem of insurgency and instead focuses on establishing tie-ups and collaborations with concerned government agencies and private organizations in order to bring community development and consequently improve the lives of Palawenyos, MGen Sabban told the representatives of Metrobank Foundations, Inc. (MFI) who paid him a courtesy visit last October 28.

MFI representatives visited WESCOM to convince the soldiers here to join their nationwide search for Ten Outstanding Filipino Soldiers, which is being conducted annually since 1999. MGen Sabban was a recipient of the said award in 2003.

The paradigm shift in the armed forces conforms to the mindset that the insurgent/communist groups draw their strength from the support of the people, who are being swayed to these groups' deceitful promises of a better life because of their miserable conditions due to the failure of the past governments to efficiently allocate and distribute its resources and services to the people.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) believes that in order to encourage the rebels to surrender, the government has to govern more efficiently and that it should provide hope to the people.

"No form of movement will survive and succeed without the support of the people," MGen Sabban asserted.

Hence, from the WESCOM Commander's point of view, the way to put an end to the problem of insurgency is by breaking the people's sympathy to the misguided and misleading cause of the rebels. It can be done, according to MGen Sabban, by empowering the people.

"What the people need is capital to start their own livelihood so they can improve their economic condition, and then we can let them by themselves. We have many stories to prove this," MGen Sabban shared.

Indeed, the Social Integration Program (SIP) of the government, which offers cash and livelihood assistance to rebels who will lay down their arms and decide to go back to mainstream society, has been effective in convincing many insurgents to leave the life of a fugitive and live peacefully with their families.

With the threat of insurgency already reduced from being a national security issue to local government concerns, WESCOM has been busy coordinating and collaborating with all the stakeholders, particularly the provincial government of Palawan, to bring developmental projects to areas in the province that needs them.

On October 11 this year, WESCOM initiated a peace conference with the provincial government, represented by Governor Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra himself, representatives from different concerned government agencies, officers from the three services of the command, private organizations and other stakeholders.

The peace conference, which underscored the important role the local government plays in fighting insurgency, identified the root causes of the problem and the participants formulated solutions to address them accordingly. (6CRGAFP/through PIA9-BST) [top]

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