“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,” Duterte said during the city’s Insurgency-Free Davao City First Anniversary Celebration at the Rizal Park here on Wednesday.
In her 13-minute message, Duterte said that the New People’s Army are three words she “once avoided mentioning” as she did not want to dignify its presence or acknowledge the monstrosity of its terrorist acts over the past 53 years.
“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,” Duterte said.
“We needed to speak of the devil if only to defeat the devil. And we did,” she added.
Duterte cited the local leaders and the law enforcement units’ accomplishments against the communist insurgency.
She also thanked peace advocate and adviser Inday Irene Santiago for being the woman behind the Peace 911 Project that helped the city government of Davao in changing the landscape of chaos in Paquibato into a landscape of peace.
“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,” Duterte said.
“Peace 911 is an empowering tool. An education tool. This allowed the people of Paquibato to unmask their enemies,” she added.
Since the launch of Peace 911 in Paquibato District when Duterte was still mayor, Davao City has been declared “insurgency-free.”
She cited how Peace 911 transformed the far-flung community in the city’s Paquibato District which used to be a “stronghold” of the NPA.
Duterte also mentioned the death of a four-month-old girl in Talakag, Bukidnon in an NPA ambush in November 2016, and the death of a fish vendor who died five days after falling into a coma after being hit by a landmine that the terrorist NPA detonated in Barangay Mandug in May 2017.
“Terrorism is a dangerous enemy. The NPA, for one, does not care if you are a member of the military, police, or civilian body,” Duterte said.
“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,” she added.
Duterte, who is also Education Secretary, called on to people and former rebels to always make sure that children will go to school for them to reach their dreams, and do the things they want to do with their lives and for their families.
She shared the Department of Education’s current institutionalization of the national peace curriculum to teach children the value of peace and to learn more about conflict resolution and non-violence.
“Let us guide our children to become catalysts of solidarity, progress, and lasting peace in our respective communities,” Duterte said.
“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,” she added.
Duterte ended her message with a call to sustain the active peacebuilding efforts and to not abandon the country’s strength as a community and shared dreams as a nation.
“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,” Duterte said.
“Let us make this happen,” she added.