The Western Command (WESCOM) has urged the city government to reconsider its decision not to issue a persona non grata declaration against the insurgent group New People’s Army (NPA).
WESCOM commander Vice Adm. Rene Medina made the appeal Friday afternoon as a reaction to the city government’s resolve not to pass a resolution declaring the NPA persona non grata.
Medina said the declaration is a manifestation of support to the government’s “whole-of-nation approach” in addressing insurgency, as outlined in Executive Order No. 70.
He agreed, however, it is not mandatory.
“The declaration of persona non grata is really a voluntary action on the part of each barangay, municipality, and province. But in compliance with EO 70 and as part of the government, it is very noteworthy also that if you can support the effort of the government — the persona non grata is really a simple way of telling the NPA that you are not welcome in our area, you are not welcome in our city,” Medina said at the Provincial Capitol during an awarding ceremony and press conference invited by the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC).
Medina said they believe that the declaration will help the PTF-ELCAC in sustaining law and order in Puerto Princesa City.
“Maybe they have a good reason, but for us, if we are determined and committed to making Puerto Princesa free from lawless elements, particularly the NPA, I suggest they have to. They have to. Walang mawawala po sa kanila,” he said.
Medina said officials of the city government should not be worried about their own personal safety, but those of the people they represent.
He said the city government will not lose if it will declare “the enemy of the state” unwelcome in Puerto Princesa.
“What they should be thinking about is the safety of the people of Puerto Princesa which they represent. ‘Yon sana ang isipin nila, huwag nilang isipin ang sarili nila kasi po ibinoto sila ng tao. Isipin nila ‘yong constituent nila, kung ano ba talaga ang gusto ng tao nila. In fact, kung titingnan mo talaga, dapat matanong niyo rin ‘yong taong bayan ng Puerto Princesa kung okay ba sa kanila ang [deklarasyon] ng persona non grata,” Medina said.
Councilor Elgin Damasco had earlier asserted they are not compelled to issue a resolution similar to what several municipalities have already done.
Damasco pointed out, among others, that there is no reported NPA presence in Puerto Princesa.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) provincial head Rey Maranan said the passing of a resolution is not mandatory.
“Wala kaming alam na polisiya sa DILG patungkol sa initiative ng mga LGUs natin sa declaration. There is no clear cut na polisiya about that so kung ano man ito, and DILG ay wala pa sa posisyon para sabihin kung ano ang implikasyon nito. There’s no prescribed policy on this,” Maranan said.
When asked by the media about what could be the implication of the city government’s indecision, Maranan said the DILG has no prescribed principle of action.
He said the only requirement that has a memorandum circular is the organization of barangay, municipal, and provincial task force ELCAC.
However, Maranan also said they are monitoring LGUs that have and have not declared.
“Right now, may template kami ng monitoring ng sino ng LGUs ang naka-declare, sino ‘yong hindi pa, sino ang barangays na — or municipality and city and province na may organized ng task force [ELCAC], mayroon na kaming mga information listing numbers and all — those are shared with the region for this particular matter. This is for appropriate guidance on what to do with those LGUs na not able to declare [persona non grata],” he said.
“Even if walang prescriptive guidelines, the LGUs should do this and provide this particular legislation from the local Sanggunian. Kami naman sa DILG Palawan would like to share this to our respective members of the legislative bodies for them to give support sa ating local task force ELCAC na kung ito ay makakatulong to give a boost and motivation sa ating mga ahensya, sa ating mga community members so, ito ay kanilang responsibilidad na on their part itong legislative measure ay isagawa nila so that we can inform our higher offices at saka iba pang nagmo-monitor ng local task forces that the municipality and their respective Sanggunian have done their share of supporting the ELCAC through the declaration of persona non grata,” Maranan added.
Maranan said there are also cases in other LGUs where the declarations are not made by the municipal councils but by their municipal peace and order councils (MPOCs).
He said they are still verifying if such MPOC declarations can be considered as “initiatives” by the LGUs despite not being approved by the municipal councils.
“These things will be properly represented sa management for us to be able to make proper guidance,” he said.
Maranan said they also hope to receive a “document” from the DILG central office regarding the persona non grata declaration so they can guide the LGUs on what to do, especially the municipal councils.
“Wala pa kaming eksaktong polisiya sa ngayon,” he said.
Out of 66 barangays in Puerto Princesa City, four barangays have been declared conflict-affected areas — Babuyan, Maoyon, Conception, and San Rafael.
In the whole province, Medina said earlier that they have identified 69 conflict-affected barangays in 11 municipalities in Palawan.
Based on data, these municipalities are Sofronio Española, Quezon, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, and Bataraza in southern Palawan, and Coron, Araceli, Taytay, Dumaran, San Vicente, and Roxas in the northern area.
Of all municipalities, Taytay has the most number of vulnerable barangays or 14 out of 31.