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Prodded discord

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WHOLE-OF-nation approach.

Whatever that means – a conglomeration of parts-of-the-nation strategies, perhaps? – is said to have been brought by President Duterte to Central Luzon, per an Inquirer story by the intrepid Tonette Orejas last week.

Executive Order No. 70 mandated the new approach, wrote Tonette. Googled it and found EO 70 as signed on Dec. 4 last year, ordering the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

Its aim: To institutionalize the “whole-of nation approach in inclusive and sustainable peace” and adopt a national peace framework.

“There is a need to create a national task force that will provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace,” the EO reads.

And furthered: “Towards this end, the Government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and -vulnerable communities, facilitate societal inclusivity, and ensure active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.”

For its implementation, 16 members of the Cabinet are tasked as Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) corresponding to the 16 regions of the country. (The autonomous Bangsamoro to get its own point person, presumably).

CORDS would “assist the President in the speedy, efficient and orderly resolution of problems in government operations,” said presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr., a former AFP chief of staff.

Galvez presided over the meeting in Pampanga last Wednesday among “top officials of the military, police, and line agencies to synchronize their efforts ‘eradicate the threat of insurgent group.’”

Sans the S for Security, CORDS hews perfectly to the CORD – same Cabinet Officer for Regional Development – during the more secure presidency of Fidel V. Ramos.

Perhaps, El Tabaco’s think-tank knew only too well that regional development has security well within its embrace. No disparagement to Duterte’s brain pool there.

By happenstance, I’ve had up close and personal experience with that CORD, serving at that time as special assistant on public affairs to Interior and Local Government Secretary Raff y Alunan who was CORD for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Among the more visible efforts of Tio Paeng as CORD were the “Sulu Arms Limitation Talks” that commenced with the first-ever “walk of solidarity for peace and development” in the streets of Jolo, participated in by warring political clans; and the Oplan Paglalansag that dismantled private armies, subsequently replicated throughout the country.

PROD

Galvez’s military persona permeating Duterte’s CORDS – to me though – harkens further back to Marcosian times, specifically 1976-1978, to the PROD – the Presidential Regional Officer for Development.

Harmonizing the delivery of basic services of regional agencies to the remotest areas – subscribing to the operative mantra of the time: Bringing the Government Closer to the People – was the PROD’s mission.

All PRODs were personally picked up by the Great Ferdinand. For Central Luzon, it was Brig. Gen. Benjamin G. Santos, commanding officer of the 5th Infantry Brigade, PA, headquartered at the Camp Servillano Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac. Yeah, that is the present Northern Luzon Command.

The real mission all too clear there: Deprive the fish of the sea in which they swim, a reversal of the Maoist dictum: “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”

Concomitant with harmonizing was ensuring the delivery of the services. Here, the PROD had a secretariat composed of one representative each from the line agencies in the region that comprised the PROD operations monitoring office (OMO).

The synergy in the Association of Regional and Assistant Regional Officers (ARARO) as well as that in the Association of Regional Public Information Officers (ARPIO) in Central Luzon wrought Operations Tanglaw (Tanod at Gabay ng Lahi at Watawat), the PROD’s spearhead in its mission of cascading the government to the far-flung areas.

Fortnightly, RDs, ARDs and their technical staff went to pre-assigned cluster barangays to hold assemblies with the people, clarify pre-surveyed needs, draw direct feedbacks from them, even as actual service was readily rendered, usually medical-dental, plant and animal dispersal, reproductive health seminars, nutrition information, and the like.

Follow through programs were undertaken by the agencies’ technicians to ensure some continuity of what were decided upon during the initial assemblies.

No less than Marcos recognized the impact of this PROD program with Operation Tanglaw meriting recognition in his Notes on the New Society of the Philippines II.

Why and how did I come to know about this? I served as the PROD-OMO executive officer and coordinator of Operation Tanglaw from its conception in 1976 to its demise two years after, when the PROD faded in the great Marcosian scheme of things.

So how fared the PROD in the antiinsurgency aspect of its mission?

The strength of the New People’s Army by the end of the Marcos dictatorship pointed to an absolute negation.

Lest it be misconstrued, I am not implying now, much less prophesying, that Duterte’s CORDS shall meet the same fate as Marcos’ PROD. I am just struck by history with some parallelisms there.

Yeah, as in Marx’s take of history as repeating itself, first as tragedy and second as farce.

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