Simple solutions can curb insurgency problem: ERC chair

MANILA Sometimes the simple programs are the ones that work in solving complex problems like insurgency.

This was stressed by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chair Agnes Devanadera during the first conference on "Empowering Women Law Enforcers in the Philippines" held at the AFP Commissioned Officers' Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Tuesday.

In attendance were representatives from various law enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police, Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

In the same event, Devanadera said that during her term as mayor of Sampaloc town in Quezon in the late 1980s, she came up with counter-insurgency program that is simple, responsive and culturally apt for her town.

"So I have to think, ano ba ang target natin, sa (what is our target in terms of) counter-insurgency. Di ba talaga namang tao, hindi yung movement, hindi yung prinsipyo (It's the people, not the movement or the principle). Tao yan (These are people), ni-label lang natin na sila (ng) Red (We just labeled them as Red). Pero tao yan (But still, they are people). So I have to think of programs. So ano ba yung nakapaligid sa tao (What surrounds a person?), sa (an) individual person, sa (an) individual member of the community. The one around is not just the family, but the household. Because it's an ordinary thing among us that in every house there is not just a family but several members of the family," she added.

"And so the household composed of the purok, they comprise the barangay. And the barangays comprise the entire municipality. So what we did were programs. Programs coming from the national but localized. For example we had to identify the names and faces of the people who would be really the recipient of programs. So I started with a counter-insurgency program. Kailangan ma-identify ko sino sa isang barangay, sino sa isang purok, at sino sa household ang sumusuporta sa (I have to identify the people in the barangay, the people in the district, the people in the household who are supporting the) NPA (New People's Army), or active member of the NPA," Devanadera stressed.

The ERC chair admitted that identifying rebel members or supporters was really a challenge.

"And so I had some tool to determine whether there is presence of these people in my town especially those who are not from my town. So what did I use? I had occasioned to (present) my strategy to the Armed Forces and PNP at my level in Quezon. Natawa sila nung sinabi ko na (They laughed when I said) one of the tools that I found very effective in monitoring the presence of the insurgence. Ang sabi ko, ginamit ko po ang 'pandesal' (I said I used pandesal). It's a 'pandesal' strategy. It is something that is local and easy to monitor," she added.

And based on her experience, Devanadera said that sales of "pandesal" would often climb when there are NPAs or supporters in her town.

"And if the sale of pandesal in a specific area would have a dramatic increase, ang tawag ko doon may laman (I call it stuffed). And that's where we would have our intervention. All the agencies we would focus but we were very discreet. So ang tinawag nila sa akin sa programang iyan ay (So they call that program) pandesal strategy. That's how I started the counter-insurgency (campaign)," she disclosed.

While this approach is very "woman", the ERC chair claimed that she managed to break the backbone of the insurgency problem in Sampaloc, Quezon.

"So I felt that when I coined this strategy, it was a very woman approach. But it was very effective. And the rest is history, because i was able to really break the backbone of insurgency. I presented myself as an alternative government at that time. I stayed in the barangays and lived there for three days, and just being with people I made my assemblies very, I call it community friendly. Walang mahahabang (no long) speeches, and after that we would have dancing. And I think those are the small things that disarm the people who would have otherwise (remained) with the insurgents," she added. (With reports from Ericka Cirera, OJT/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency