ELECTIONS 2004 PART 2:  KNOW YOUR CANDIDATE
 

MANILA, April 13, 2004
 
(STAR)
Terrorism, kidnapping, military adventurism, insurgency. Words all too familiar, which undeniably hamper the country’s stability and development.

As the May 10 polls draw near, Filipinos need to hear from candidates vying for the presidency their long-term plans to address these peace and order problems.

Amid the battle for survey supremacy, political mudslinging and other sideshows, The STAR takes a closer look at what the presidential contenders have to say on improving the country’s peace and order situation.

President Arroyo vows to continue her relentless campaign against criminality and illegal drugs. She is also keen on pursuing peace talks with insurgents to attain that elusive peace with communists and Muslim separatist rebels.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson banks on his experience as a former top cop in going after lawless elements and eradicating the problem of illegal drugs. Lacson vows to live up to his campaign slogan, "Wag matakot, stop kurakot" in instilling discipline in the police and military.

Actor Fernando Poe Jr. talks about putting up a "framework" that will guide government in effectively dealing with terrorism and insurgencies. Evangelist Eddie Villanueva is for imposing the death penalty for kidnappers, saying they "must be condemned and executed." His administration, he says, will focus on inculcating values in future policemen and soldiers as well as reviewing "antiquated laws" on peace and order.

Former education secretary Raul Roco believes that street crime and kidnappings can be prevented if communities are involved.

Crime/Drugs

Question 1: What specific measures would you undertake to bring down street crime, neutralize kidnap-for-ransom gangs, and stop the proliferation of illegal drugs?

Arroyo: Peace and order is a strong foundation for sustained economic development. Thus, I shall continue our unrelenting war on street crimes, kidnapping, illegal drugs and other crimes. I shall professionalize our law enforcement agencies and continue to harness civil society and community support and vigilance against criminality.

On street crimes, I will continue to increase police visibility. I have also ordered the setting up checkpoints in various areas of Metro Manila and other neighboring regions. My relentless campaign against illegal drugs will help bring down street crimes. There shall be no let-up in this campaign.

On the proliferation of illegal drugs, I shall continue to implement our three-pronged approach to eradicate illegal drugs, namely supply and demand reduction, development/reform and people empowerment.

Lacson: Increasing police visibility is the key to reducing street crime. I did it when I was chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP). I did it in Cebu when I was Metrodiscom commander there and we did it in Metro Manila. There was heightened police presence in the streets and we even used a contingent of the Marines to walk the streets in tandem with police officers. The immediate effect was a 70 percent reduction in crime. Of course, discipline is a big factor and we succeeded in instilling that among PNP personnel. We used the same formula in neutralizing kidnapping-for-ransom gangs. The most effective way of dealing with this problem is to solve kidnapping cases individually, which we successfully did, and to prosecute the suspects.

My campaign against illegal drugs will be two-pronged: market constriction and supply reduction.

Poe: I will outlaw the carrying of firearms in public places by civilian and off-duty military and police personnel, increase police visibility in crime-prone areas and the number of police stations and/or outposts and mobile patrols, strengthen partnerships with civilian anti-crime information networks and local peace and order councils to facilitate crime reporting and expedite arrests of criminals, upgrade communication and transportation equipment of the police on the streets to make them more effective in combating crime.

I will also increase the capability of the Navy, Coast Guard, Bureau of Customs and other concerned agencies in protecting/guarding our coastlines to prevent the smuggling and/or transshipment of illegal drugs.

In addition, I will reorganize the PNP from top to bottom to rid the institution of corrupt and erring members of the police. These steps are aimed at restoring the trust and confidence of the people on the police force.

Roco: Street crimes are best solved at the community level. This is in accordance with the principle of local government empowerment which my administration will pursue. Resources will be devolved to local government units with the additional mandate of maintaining peace and order within the communities.

People’s participation will be given the highest importance. I will empower and engage our citizens to help in governing the nation, involving them in local governance to help curb crime.

For kidnap gangs and drug dealers, an added integrated national approach is necessary as these problems are not confined to one locality.

Crime syndicates, when entering a community, first establish the framework/system of payoffs and corruption that leads to "heavier" crimes like drugs, kidnapping, etc.

I advocate zero-tolerance for corruption. This means stopping it whenever we see signs of it as well as reforming systems that support/encourage it.

Villanueva: I believe that criminals should be dealt with appropriately. According to the scriptures, kidnappers must be condemned and executed.

But my administration will focus on the prevention of crimes, however petty they may be. In my administration, defense and peace and order would be multifaceted undertakings and everybody’s concern.

Community involvement and participation in all security matters would be encouraged and institutionalized. An independent security policy using flexible alliances as our first line of defense will be forged. We would integrate police and barangay security and information services.

Antiquated laws regarding peace and order would also be reviewed to address the current multi-dimensional security situation.

Terrorism/ Insurgency

Question 2: How would you deal with terrorism and insurgency?

Arroyo: I shall continue the ongoing all-out war against terrorism. Terrorism shall be dealt with counter force. Along with my campaign to fight terrorism, I shall remain committed to the pursuit of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) because it is morally right and is required by our national interest.

I shall gather the people’s support and vigilance against terrorism by linking national and transnational efforts with the grassroots and civil society groups. Government shall continue to actively support efforts in the United Nations and other regional and international organizations against terrorism.

I have recently concluded another round of talks with the NDF in Oslo, Norway. We are also making progress in the peace process with the MILF. With Malaysia playing the role of third party facilitator, the government is confident that the peace process with the MILF would also succeed.

Lacson: The campaign against terrorism is a fight by all countries, all individuals for that matter. Terrorism for political ends, ang tinatamaan talaga mga civilian (civilians are the ones affected), so there should be no compromise against terrorism. There should be a no-nonsense, no let-up (action) against them (terrorists).

As for insurgency, I can pursue all the peace talks with them (insurgents) but I can’t compromise two things: the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity and the Rule of Law. If they want to talk peace, then they should recognize that there is only one government, one authority: the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Hindi puedeng may sarili silang gobyerno, sariling flag at sariling army (It is unacceptable for them to have their own government, flag and army).

Poe: I condemn all forms of terrorism. I am committed to restoring the safety and security of all Filipinos. I will develop a National Security Framework that will adequately and effectively respond and combat all threats of terrorism.

On insurgency, I will formulate a National Peace Policy that shall be the framework for dialogue and negotiations with all groups that have taken up arms against the government. I will accelerate efforts to achieve peace with the NDF and other communist groups. In addition, I acknowledge that the problem in Mindanao is rooted in poverty, and that peace negotiations with the MILF should be based on this premise.

Roco: On insurgency, the lines of dialogue must always be open. To do this, we need a presidency that can be trusted. I cannot be talking peace and reconciliation while at the same time bombing them. Peace must be pursued. The Constitution renounces war as an instrument of national policy and I must keep that in mind whenever I deal with insurgent groups. Dialogues will be held and these dialogues will prosper only if the leadership is credible. However, the Rule of Law must still be enforced. While my administration will show good faith when negotiating with rebel forces, I will expect the same of them. They, too, cannot be talking peace while attacking outposts and kidnapping civilians.

While I strongly condemn terrorism, I have always been and will continue to stand against unilateral military action by any country. I do not believe in the policy of preventive war. That in itself is an oxymoron. However, I will go after all kinds of terrorism in our country.

Villanueva: There is no doubt that we should fight terrorism in all its forms because it is an assault on all civilized people. With the modernization of our police and military, we would not need the United States to help us in this war.

In the case of insurgencies, I will continue the ongoing negotiations but there must be a deadline for both sides. I believe all kinds of criminals must be given chance to surrender, but justice has to prevail.

Military Adventurism

Question 3: How do you intend to address the issue of military adventurism? How would you deal with coup plotters in the previous administrations?

Arroyo: One basic policy is to strictly implement the arm of the law in dealing with military adventurism and other forms of destabilization. Concomitant with this policy are efforts to reform the military through modernization, professionalization and prompt action on legitimate grievances through the implementation of the Feliciano Commission recommendations.

I have relentlessly supported the efforts of Sec. Carolina G. Hernandez, Presidential Adviser to Implement the Feliciano Commission Recommendations to strengthen the grievance mechanisms in the military and to implement potential solutions to the AFP Retirement Savings and Benefit System (RSBS) scandal, among many others. I also gave marching orders to Department of National Defense Undersecretary for Internal Control Connie de Guzman to help ensure a simplified yet transparent procurement system to address the allegations of corruption and inefficiency.

Lacson: If there are no problems like graft and corruption in the government, including the military and the police, they will have no reason to complain and rise up against the national leadership. Kung matino ang liderato, from the president down, hindi sila magrereklamo (If the leadership is decent, from the president down, the soldiers will not complain). The leaders won’t succeed in recruiting lowly soldiers and policemen because, to begin with, there is no issue to confront. As for coup plotters in the past, we will allow the courts to decide the cases of those facing criminal charges. As for the others, I am willing to consider or reconsider their plight or situation.

Poe: There is an urgent need to get to the bottom or the root cause of this military adventurism to finally put an end to this phenomenon. All grievances must be threshed out and addressed within the framework of the Constitution. We have to enhance professionalism within the military. In this regard, I will depoliticize the appointments and promotion within the organization. As Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, I will provide an honest and strong leadership that will guide our military to perform its mandate in protecting our security and sovereignty and at the same time promote their welfare.

As regards the alleged coup plotters who committed common crimes, they have to face the consequences of their illegal acts after the observance of due process. As far as the causes of the coup is concerned, like military adventurism, the root cause of the same must be identified and properly addressed.

Roco: Again, the key is credible and honest leadership. The soldiers are restless because they do not see true reforms coming. A presidency that emphasizes reform and empowerment will not easily find itself in a situation where certain factions of the military deem it necessary to take matters into their hands.

My administration shall secure upward mobility for young, competent and idealistic officers and make sure that their sentiments are heard.

Coup plotters in the previous administration will be tried in the proper courts and be given ample opportunity to defend themselves. The Rule of Law shall be enforced and the principle of superiority of civilian authority shall be strictly followed.

Villanueva: I will introduce values education in both PNPA and PMA to reduce and later eradicate corruption in the defense and police establishments. I believe, however, that the military men who were involved in adventurism have legitimate grievances that need effective solutions.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) will be professionalized and modernized. Decisive reforms in the procurement, accounting and auditing systems of both the defense and police establishments will be initiated.

The machinery and weaponry of both AFP and PNP will be upgraded and improved significantly through active lobbying with supplier countries for better payment terms and prices.

We would also provide better salaries, benefits and incentives to our military and police so they will be at par with the private sector. There would be continuous indoctrination, training and retraining.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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