A different kind of Martial Law in Davao City

August 03, 2019

MY family and I recently visited Davao City and we were quite surprised to learn that there’s a different kind of martial law being implemented in the turf of President Duterte: I call it a martial rule to enforce discipline and keep peace and order in the streets.

There was no heavy presence of heavily-armed soldiers and policemen patrolling the streets to enforce the rule although I expected dozens of tanks and hundreds if not thousands of government troops with their automatic rifles ringing the Davao City International Airport and the entire city.

When we visited the ‘tiyangge’ area which was bombed by suspected Maute terrorists on September 2, 2016 leaving 15 dead and 70 others injured, I found it uncanny that the area was teeming with hundreds of people while a few teams of soldiers and policemen stood guard.

I learned from a local policeman that shortly after the bombing, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte ordered the implementation of some measures that will prevent the entry of ‘terrorists’ in the area. Steel barriers were erected in the temporary night market area where all visitors are being screened and asked to produce IDs.

The steel barriers actually forces traders and shoppers to pass thru an entrance area where they are being thoroughly screened for illegal weapons and explosives. A single Army  tank was positioned near the main entrance area where visitors like us posed for souvenir photos.

I wish that all other cities and municipalities can do what Davao City has been doing particularly in keeping trouble out on the streets. It’s very simple: all bars, karaokes and other similar establishments are only allowed to serve liquor up to 11 in the evening.

Once it is 11 p.m. already, police start their city-wide patrol to ensure that the liquor ban is fully implemented. I was told that officers check bar receipts to see if they still served liquor to their customers past the 11 p.m. deadline. Once a violation is found, stiff fines are given and repeated violations mean the automatic closure of the offending party.

I hope that the practice will be replicated in entire Metro Manila and other parts of the country. Why? This will prevent the presence of men and women drinking in bars up to the wee hours of the morning and eventually engaging in drunken brawls and other incidents.

I learned lots of things in our very short stay in Davao City which boasts of a high-tech city monitoring center equipped with state-of-the-art CCTV system. Before we departed for Manila, my family and I visited the very simple house of President Duterte and had our pictures taken  in front of the house and with the Mayor’s standee after asking permission from policemen guarding the area.

It was quite a humbling experience to see where the President lives, a very far cry from houses of other government officials located in many posh subdivisions in the country.

DAVAO DEL NORTE’S ‘WHOLE-OF-NATION’ APPROACH IN DEALING WITH CPP-NPA

I pray that the whole country support’s  Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito ‘Charlie’ Galvez Jr.’s effort to lead  the national government’s commitment to bring sustainable development and long-lasting peace in Mindanao.

“If Mindanao gains peace, the whole Philippines will become peaceful. If Mindanao will progress, the whole Philippines will progress,” said Galvez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy ‘Sandiwa’ Class of 1985 who became known for his leadership of the AFP Western Mindanao Command during the Battle of Marawi until he was appointed by President Duterte as AFP chief of staff.

This week, local government officials in Davao region showed Galvez how they fully appreciated the national government’s ongoing paradigm shift which have helped them to effectively implement the “Whole-of-Nation Approach” in addressing the communist insurgency in their respective areas.

“We shifted our priorities from building wars to building peace. Our main strategy involves addressing the drivers and triggers of conflict, establishing a culture of dialogue and open communication in enhancing social cohesion, and building trust [with] the people,” explained Compostela Valley Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy during a meeting with representatives from the United Nations Development Programme  at the office of Sec. Galvez.

Executive Order No. 70 institutionalizes the Whole-of-Nation Approach wherein all agencies of government will work together in an integrated and cohesive manner in order to bring much needed services to remote, underdeveloped, conflict-affected across the country.

Under the approach, local government units and members of the community will take the lead in providing solutions to finally put an end to the decades-long communist rebellion in the country. Among these strategies are localized peace engagements wherein LGUs will be at the forefront.

“We see them [rebels] as  victims — a victim of ideology. That’s why we need to convince them to go back to the government and instill [in them an] idealism for a better country,” Uy said. For his part, Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib stressed the need for the government to focus more on providing the basic needs of residents to prevent them from being vulnerable to recruitment by rebel organizations.

“If the government can support the community’s basic needs, I think there will be no rebellion. We can stop the insurgency,” Jubahib said as he shared that the provincial government is now channeling its efforts on improving the state of education in the province. For years, rebel groups have cited the lack of education opportunities as an argument to bring in new recruits into their fold.

“The 17-year olds and below are the most vulnerable groups for recruitment because of their lack of education. But if we give education to their children, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army cannot recruit, and [they will] support the government,” Jubahib added.

United Nations Regional Coordinator Ola Almgren thanked the provincial leaders for sharing their localized initiatives in line with the Whole-of-Nation approach. Over the years, UN and its various agencies have been supporting the Philippine peace process through different programs and mechanisms including the agency’s full support to peace-building and normalization in Mindanao; educational support for children in conflict-affected Mindanao areas and support to the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.