Bohol’s illustrious Congressman Erico AUMENTADO is dead at 72. After 45 years of honorable service, he leaves behind a proud legacy of progress and peace for the province of Bohol.
Bohol previously had the dubious distinction of being a member of the top 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines. However, during his stint as Governor – from 2001 to 2010 – the province shook off the cudgels of poverty to become a progressive province that would be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. AUMENTADO’s laudable efforts were highlighted in yesterday’s necrological services at the Congress, as fellow parliamentarians articulated his many achievements and initiatives for Bohol. Speaker Feliciano BELMONTE himself hailed the Boholano statesman as an exemplary public servant whose integrity and sincere desire to serve were unquestionable.
But what many do not really realize is that AUMENTADO’s influence and accomplishments are felt not just in the province of Bohol, but in the whole country and beyond. The AFP – and the Army in particular – have long witnessed how his efforts had decimated the insurgency in Bohol. Hence, he would always be invited by military commanders to counter-insurgency training courses, planning sessions and workshops. US Army doctrine developers interviewed him and even invited him to the USA to talk about his Bohol experience. The ‘Bohol template’, as it is now fondly referred to, would strongly influence the strategic thinkers within the AFP, paving the way to the conceptualization of a new campaign plan: the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan. Former AFP Chief of Staff, Gen Victor IBRADO said: “I am very much aware of his unparalleled contribution to the country’s peace effort as I was Commander of the Central Command when he was still Governor of Bohol. We should provide him the honors which he rightfully deserves.”
What was the Bohol template all about? AUMENTADO believed that the insurgency could not be addressed by military action alone. He correctly pointed out that the armed elements are just a part of the structure, hence the need for the political sector – not the military – to play the lead role in the fight against the insurgency. IBRADO validated this, noting: “Perhaps one of the most crucial ingredients in any counterinsurgency effort of the government is the role of the local government executive. If only the LGEs would do their jobs, there will be no insurgency in the Philippines. AUMENTADO was one of the rare breed of public servants who was willing to provide the strong and steady leadership amidst the persistent threats posed by the insurgents.”
AUMENTADO said: “There was a legitimate dissent. There was poverty, there was the lack of services, there was corruption. We needed to address these first, before resorting to the use of force.” Thus, his focus in the counterinsurgency campaign in Bohol was to bring in more development, as opposed to combat. He then spurred development in the province by first building a web of roads that would help provide better access to the furthest villages of Bohol. He then brought in foreign and local entities who would provide the highest standards for Bohol’s fledgling tourism industry. This was followed by more development projects in the other sectors. He started the development of the province’s communication infrastructure. He gave full support to the establishment of better education and health services for Bohol. These and more, AUMENTADO provided.
With the development impetus emphasized in the Bohol template, the insurgency in Bohol started to wane. Good governance was now very visible. With good governance came economic opportunties. People were now enjoying the fruits of their toil. And it became easier to convince people that construction – as opposed to the destruction that the local dissidents espoused – was the better option. The CPP/NPA rank-and-file slowly started to dwindle. All these with very minimal combat action.
AUMENTADO also provided bold new ideas that were a pleasant surprise to our military strategists, further bolstering the counterinsurgency efforts in the country. Among them, the military’s Special Operations Teams (SOT) would normally bring in provincial representatives to the barangays in the middle of their programs. AUMENTADO would have none of that. He required his people to join the SOT at the very start of the program, and instructed them to stay with the SOT teams until the program was terminated. He stated: “Our provincial reps need to show empathy and concern for our people. They cannot just stay in the barangay for 2-4 days and then report back to us as though they know the problems and solutions already. It’s important to show sincerity, it’s important to show heart.”
Today, the world is slowly changing its outlook on how to fight contemporary insurgencies. This approach is not only changing mindsets, it is ‘changing the game’. Our country has been at the forefront of these breakthroughs. And all these were greatly influenced by a single-minded Boholano who simply wanted the best for his provincemates in Bohol. IBRADO summed it all up by saying: “He truly deserves all the accolades. Bohol should be proud of this son who lived a life of selfless and dedicated service to its people.”