Pres. Duterte’s roadmap to peace marks hope, trust, confidence (YEARENDER)

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has drawn a road map to peace that offered road signs of confidence, hope, and trust of the Filipino people in general and for the people in Mindanao in particular.

Duterte was elected as the country's 16th Philippine president during the May 2016 national and local elections with a vote of over 16 million and a majority vote of over six million over his closest rivals.

The first elected Philippine president from Mindanao, the largest island of over 20 million people 800 miles south of Manila, Duterte's election eclipsed all major events in a country where bombings, carnage, and street killings is part of the daily grind.

Six months into office since he assumed the presidency in July 2016, Duterte carved a niche in the war against the illegal drug trade, criminality, and corruption in a country of 100 million people.

Duterte said that about three million Filipinos in the country had been reported hooked into the illegal drug with more than 990,000 users/addicts turning themselves to the law enforcers at the height of "Oplan Tokhang" (Knock and Plead), a nationwide anti-illegal drug campaign, as of December 29, 2016.

In Northern Mindanao, the regional police command reported that over 81,000 self-confessed drug addicts and users voluntarily turned themselves in various police and military camps in the region.

P/Chief Supt. Noel Constantino, erstwhile regional police director in Northern Mindanao, has reported that the criminal activities had gone down by almost 50 percent - credited to the no-nonsense drive against the illegal drug activities in the region since July 2016 compared to the crime index recorded in 2015 during the same period.

Ernesto Dancalan, a 48-year-old father, said that he is now confident that his teenage children could now walk around the city streets without fear of being waylaid or molested by muggers high on drugs.

Julie Radut, 17, a sophomore student of a local university here, said she was happy that the government has adopted an iron-fist approach in the fight against illegal drugs in the country.

"Unlike before where I had to call my dad or elder brother to fetch me, I now feel safe going home alone after my night classes. Thanks to Pres. Duterte's serious campaign against the drug addicts, the streets, once lorded over by bystanders seemed empty now," she said.

Aside from the fight against illegal drugs, corruption, and criminalities, the Duterte administration has offered a roadmap to peace among the communist rebels in the country and in the strife-torn Moro land in Mindanao.

Ombra Gandamra, the regional director of the National Commissions on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) in Northern Mindanao, said that the NCMF fully supports Duterte's peace initiatives in Moslem-dominated areas in Mindanao where the terror groups, claiming to be sympathizers of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), reportedly operate.

"It is very disheartening that what the terror groups were doing were against our Koran. The peace-loving Moslems condemn the terroristic activities and hope that the terror groups would be enlightened and give peace a chance," Gandamra said.

He said that Duterte's thrusts to prioritize peace, unity, reconciliation, and development through the peace process have gained the trust and hope among the Filipino people, particularly the Moslem community in the country.

A member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) panel has also expressed the optimism that the peace process being hammered by both the government and the NDF would end the country's almost 50-year insurgency, Southeast Asia's longest armed insurgency.

Alfredo Mapano, also known as "Paris," one of the Northern Mindanao-based NDF consultants, said that the NDF has trust President Duterte's obsession to reach a peace agreement with the communist New People's Army (NPA), the armed-wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

During the regional observance of the 48th founding anniversary of the NPA last Dec. 26 in a remote village in Misamis Oriental, Mapano told the media here that the NDF-CPP-NPA believes that lasting peace could be attained in the country before Duterte ends his term.

Mapano described the "unilateral ceasefire" declared by the Philippine government in August 2016 as the "longest ceasefire" since the government and the NDF entered into various peace agreements in the past in a bid to forge a viable formula that could lead to the cessation of hostilities.

Next year, in mid-January 2017, the NDF and government panel would hopefully nail the peace process in a scheduled meeting in Rome, Mapano said.

"The discussion in Rome would focus on the social and political issues like the comprehensive agrarian reform and the political justice involving the rich and the poor," he said.

Actually, the discussion in Rome is the last phase of the peace process since the NDF and the government declared a "unilateral ceasefire" in August this year, Mapano said.

The NDF trusts that the government and the NDF-CPP-NPA could attain a lasting peace agreement that could provide confidence among the Filipinos in the future, he said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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