PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has urged the military to be "peacemakers" in the government's fight against communist insurgents, as his administration carries out a new approach to deal with communist and terrorist groups in the country.
In his talk to the troops before the 9th Infantry Division at Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Thursday, the President recognized the role of the military as "warfighters" who put pressure on enemies of the State.
He, however, said they must also take on the role of "peacemakers" who give the communist insurgents a chance to return to the fold of the law.
"Now, we are asking you to be peacemakers because we have changed our approach to the communist, terrorist groups that we have been encountering," Marcos also said.
"We are now not only presenting them with a military force, we are presenting them with other options. We are presenting them with a life after their life as rebels," he added.
Marcos attributed the gains in ridding communist groups to the government's "whole-of-nation" approach to resolving armed conflict.
The whole-of-nation approach aims to address root causes of the communist insurgency and provide developments in conflict-affected areas.
The President said the "peacekeeping" mission of the military came as he observed that the insurgency situation in the Bicol Region has evolved and appears to have gained some stability.
"Although they technically have not abandoned the concept of armed struggle, I think efforts of those dissidents had been redirected in another way," Marcos added.
"And that's why your role as the Philippine military continues to be as warfighters, but now there is the additional mission that we are asking of you to be peacemakers," he said.
In a previous speech in the Davao Region, Marcos also recognized the role of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) in making the area as "insurgency-free."
He had said law enforcement authorities' support to the anti- insurgency task force has improved the living conditions of residents.
"In many ways, the program NTF-Elcac has been around for a long time in different forms. During the Vietnam War, it was called the Doctrine of Hearts and Minds. Later on, it was still always referred to, earlier than that, we used to call it government civic action from the military," Marcos also said.
"But the NTF-Elcac added many new dimensions to the concept. And that whole-of-nation concept that was attached to the NTF-Elcac was I think what brought us success," he added.
The NTF-Elcac, which was created during the Duterte administration, is mandated "to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the whole-of-the nation approach for the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and vulnerable communities, facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuits of the country's peace agenda."
The task force became controversial during the previous administration for linking administration critics and other personalities to the communist movement — a practice called red-tagging.