VPSD Speech for Insurgency-Free Davao City First Anniversary Celebration, Rizal Park, Davao City

Event Date and Time: May 24, 2023, at 9:00 am



Madayaw ug maayong adlaw kaninyong tanan.

One year ago today, we Dabawenyos claimed our freedom.

Freedom from the shackles of a group that has, for decades, through a bloody armed struggle, perpetuated a cycle of violence that trapped many poor Filipino families, especially those living in the countryside such as our lumad brothers and sisters.

Freedom from the war inspired by a deranged ideology and the delusion that they can topple the government, take over, and rule the nation.

New People’s Army.

These are three words that, as much as possible, I once avoided mentioning.

Why because I did not want to dignify its presence or acknowledge the monstrosity of its terrorist acts over the past 53 years.

I thought that mentioning “New People’s Army” added more air into their swollen state of madness and encouraged them to unleash more destruction and death and string another cycle of violence for the people to suffer from.

But I realized that we needed to speak of the devil.

But speak of the devil not with fear but with the resolve, the bravery, the tenacity of real patriots determined to defend our fellow Filipinos, particularly our children, and our homeland.

We needed to speak of the devil if only to defeat the devil.

And we did.

Our story in the Paquibato District is one for the books.

It is a shining example of a successful anti-terrorism campaign made possible by the collaboration of various sectors through the program Peace 911 by the local government of Davao.

And let me just make a special mention to the person who created Peace 911 and we, Davaoeños, will forever be grateful for the passion to work on peace not only in Davao City but the entire country — Ma’am Inday Irene Santiago. Daghan kaayong salamat, ma’am for all the work that you do for our country.

And thanks mainly to our local leaders and the people in our communities who finally saw the light and exorcised themselves of the influence of the terrorist NPA.

The civilian-led program Peace 911 won the hearts of the people of Paquibato through projects and programs that offered them the opportunity to become productive, provided them with livelihood, made them discover new skills, capacitated women, and built their confidence as individuals and as a community.

Peace 911 is an empowering tool. An education tool. This allowed the people of Paquibato to unmask their enemies.

Peace 911 ushered in the development of Paquibato while addressing the fundamental issue of poverty.

Lest we forget, this terrorist group leeches on the people’s condition of poverty, feeding on their misery as they advance their violent causes.

Nakabalo kita nga ang masa, ang mga katawhan, sila ang sandigan ug ginasaligan sa mga teroristang NPA.

Ug kung moingon ang masa nga tama na, undangon na nato kini, gikapoy na kami — human na ang away.

Sa Davao City, human na ang away.

We express our admiration and gratitude to the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with the help of the Philippine National Police, for successfully ending the insurgency in Davao City.

We also remember those who died in the fight to defend us from this terrorist group.

Today, we commemorate and celebrate our people’s commitment to the noble principles of freedom and social justice that liberate us from the threats of extremism.

Now, we are presented with limitless possibilities for Paquibato and the entire city, taking advantage of the gains of peace to fortify our city and secure the life of the Dabawenyos.

Kahibaw ba mo na naay mga adlaw na bisan pa og naa nako sa Department of Education ug sa Office of the Vice President, mag sige lang gihapon ko ug huna-huna sa Paquibato. The peace that we have is fragile, and I realized that sustaining the peace is more difficult than attaining or gaining peace.

That is why sige ko og huna-huna kung unsa pa man akong matabang sa Paquibato para ang mga tao makatagamtam dyud og tinuod na kalinaw na wala na’y mag sige ug huna-huna kada gabii kung basig mubalik, basig naa, basig unsa’y mahitabo ugma.

Terrorism is a dangerous enemy. The NPA, for one, does not care if you are a member of the military, police, or civilian body.

The brutality of this terror group was clearly portrayed by the death of a four-month-old girl in Talakag, Bukidnon, following an NPA ambush in November 2016.

I am also reminded of the vendor who died five days after falling into a coma after he was hit by a landmine that the terrorist NPA detonated in Mandug in May 2017.

The threat of a terror group like the NPA to the lives of Filipinos, the future of our children, and our most cherished democratic ideals is real.

Let us look back at Paquibato when it was still under the shadows of the NPA.

Most children were not getting enough nutrition, and many were out of school — a vulnerability exploited by the NPA for recruitment.

There was a scarcity of government services and basic infrastructure because Paquibato was an NPA territory — and this made the people's lives more miserable.

Kadtong bise mayor pako 2007 up to 2010, kung musaka ka og Paquibato, kailangan pa ka mananghid. Kailangan paka magdala ug sigarilyo alang maghalad didto para ka lang makasaka didto. And only didto lang pud, dili nimo pwede maistorya ang mga tao, mga komunidad tungod kay sila ang nag ampon sa lugar.

And as a young public servant at that time, I do not understand why the government allows it to continue. But then again, I said to myself, gipakita ni sa akoa aron mahibaw ko kung unsa akong dapat buhaton, kung unsa akong trabaho as mayor of Davao City.

Our anti-insurgency success in Paquibato and the entire Davao City should always remind us that we must dismantle structural factors and tear away the forces that lure our fellow Filipinos, especially our children, into the bosom of our enemies.

Filipino parents must have the values and capacity to protect their children from these forces, ensuring that they grow into individuals with the knowledge, skills, and competency needed for them to realize their dreams.

Let us guide our children to become catalysts of solidarity, progress, and lasting peace in our respective communities.

Naga awhag ko sa atong mga former rebels, sa ilang mga pamilya na paniguraduhon nato na ang atoang mga anak matagamtam nila ang panahon na dili sila maglisod sa ilang pang adlaw-adlaw, ug makab-ot nila ang ilahang mga pangandoy ug gusto buhaton para sa ilang kinabuhi ug para sa ilang pamilya.

Education, as we know, harbors power that could change the course of our lives and that of our fellowmen.

It is a tool that can emancipate us from poverty or injustice. It is also a powerful tool for peacebuilding and combating terrorism.

It is the greatest equalizer. Kay kahibaw man gud mo, kung ang isa ka tao mahuman og, pananglitan ingon nato mahuman siya og nursing, pag graduate nila, wala’y dato ug pobre — pareho mo tanan graduates. Therefore, the opportunities for you will always be the same. Wether or not gikan ka sa dato na pamilya o sa pamilya na nagalisod.

The Department of Education is working hard to institutionalize a national peace curriculum to teach our children the value of peace as they build their skills and learn more about conflict resolution and non-violence.

Through the national peace curriculum, we strengthen our youth’s resilience, maturity, and sense of patriotism.

The prevailing peace in Paquibato is proof that there is hope in our active peacebuilding efforts.

Kit-an nako na naa ta’y mga barangay captains diri karon na gikan sa Paquibato. Daghan-daghan pud ang mga barangay captain na namatay tungod sa NPA. Dili nato sila dapat kalimtan ug ang atong trabaho, panihuraduhon nato na ang mga anak nato, mga apo nato na mahimong barangay captain na mamatay tungod sa wala’y hinungdan na rason.

Thus, this is a success that must be sustained. And this can only be done if we do not abandon our strength as a community or our shared dreams as a nation.

The NPA’s so-called protracted war is ending.

The guerrilla warfare tactic is no longer working for them to be able to breathe life into a dying movement.

The stench of its doom and imminent demise is repulsive, but something that we anticipate with most profound excitement.

Meanwhile, Davao City is just one city. Isa rata sa kadaghan daghan na mga syudad ug munisipyo ang kailangan pang makakat-on sa kung unsa’y naagian nato na kalisod ug kagubot dinhi sa atong syudad ug sa Paquibato District.

As we move forward, I hope that one day soon, we wake up to the news that the entire Philippines is already NPA terrorist-free.

Let us make this happen.

Tanan- para sa Diyos, sa nasud ug sa matag pamilyang Pilipino.