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By Godfrey T. Dancel

Helping Promote Peace and National Development

By Godfrey T. Dancel

NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ASSISTANT DIRECTOR GENERAL FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS JONATHAN E. MALAYA SHEDS LIGHT ON THE ROLE OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL IN ADDRESSING NOT ONLY SECURITY CONCERNS BUT DEVELOPMENT ISSUES AS WELL.

THE NSC’S ROLE

“There are three main functions of the NSC,” Malaya states. “The first is to advise the Philippine president on matters of national security. The second one is to monitor, guide and supervise the intelligence community, and third, to be part of and support various task forces involved in matters of national security.” The advisory function is performed by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Secretary Eduardo Año, who primarily advises the president on the proper coordination and integration of plans and policies affecting national security.


The monitoring and supervisory function, meanwhile, is done by working closely with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and all intelligence outfits of government, including the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces (ISAFP), and the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group (PNP-IG). This involves, among others, making sure that policies adopted by the NSC on national security are effectively and efficiently implemented. Finally, the NSC, through the secretary and other top officials, plays a major role in government task forces. Among these are the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which, despite being quite controversial, has been very successful in diminishing the communist insurgency in the country. The NSA also chairs the National Task Force West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), which deals with all deployments and actions which relate to the dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.


WORKING WITH MEDIA

“My role as Assistant Director General is technically to handle the public affairs of the NSC,” Malaya states. “My role is to promote peace and development in the country by communicating the programs and projects of the NSC. Meanwhile, utilizing the measured transparency policy of the NTF-WPS, we, together with the Presidential Communications


Operations Office (PCO), handle information dissemination insofar as our operations in the West Philippine Sea is concerned,” Malaya states. “So, we deal with media; we are the ones who invite mediamen to board Coast Guard vessels, sail with us to Bajo de Masinloc, to show what government is doing.“


“We work with media, because we understand media has a critical role to play in disseminating information to the public. With media reporting about us, there is a certain type of credibility and legitimacy to it. So we need media to be able to report government’s programs and projects. At the same time, media also needs government. Because media won’t have anything to write about if the government doesn’t have an official position on specific issues and does not communicate such to them. It's a symbiotic relationship. So that’s exactly what we do, through the policy of measure transparency,” Malaya stresses.


Malaya notes that even with the love-hate relationship between government and media, the two actually work together in disseminating information as part of efforts to promote peace and security in the country. “We do that in all of our assignments, whether it is internal or external threats to the Republic. So in the communist insurgency, we also work with the media in bringing about and communicating to the rebels that they can immediately surrender. They will be given assistance from government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Integration Program (ECLIP) of the government, so that we can promote peace and development across the country,” he elaborates.


THE ROAD TO THE NSC

Malaya, who has spent half of his life in government service, traces his interest in public service to the fact that his parents were also dedicated public servants. “I think I was brainwashed early on by my parents into entering public service,” he chuckles. “My parents were both public servants. My father retired as a regional trial court judge. My mother retired as a schools division superintendent of the Department of Education (DepEd). My brother joined the foreign service, and my sister used to work for the Supreme Court. So that was really what I wanted to do, early on, to join government. Public service has always been part of my DNA.”


Just like public service, studying at the University of the Philippines was part of the Malaya family culture. “So all of us four siblings went to UP,” he shares. “When I got to UP Diliman, I knew exactly what I would do.” An English major, Malaya became a writer for the Philippine Collegian and founding member of the UP Debate Society. He also emerged as a leader of the Alpha Phi Beta Fraternity and the Independent Student Alliance, one of the major student political parties in campus during the 1990s. “The trajectory really was to enter public service,” he declares.


In a career that has spanned 25 years, Malaya has served in all three branches of government. He first worked at the Lower House with then- Samar Congressman Antonio Nachura and later on at the Upper Chamber with then-Senator Mar Roxas. He later joined the executive branch as chief of staff to then-DepEd Secretary Florencio Abad, then as assistant secretary at the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. He was subsequently appointed as chief of staff at the Office of the Solicitor General. In 2007, Malaya reunited with Nachura, who by then had been appointed as Supreme Court associate justice. He later on rejoined the DepEd, again as assistant secretary, this time under then Secretary Jesli Lapus.


In 2011, Malaya took his talents to the Pasay City government, serving as spokesperson and public information officer during the term of Mayor Antonio Calixto. Six years later, he joined the DILG as assistant secretary, undersecretary, and eventual spokesperson. The multi-hyphenate Malaya has also been part of the academe, having taught at the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) and the University of Makati, among others. He has also written a number of books on topics such as Philippine presidents, constitutional reform, and debating.


A PERFECT FIT

Malaya’s appointment to the NSC in March 2023 seemed to be part of the natural flow of things, what with Año being chosen to lead the agency two months prior. The ADG, however, shares that he did not quite expect such. “I was already supposed to join another agency. When Secretary Año called and asked me to join him, I acceded.” Asked what he thinks Año saw in him, Malaya shifts the focus to the perfect team at the helm of the NSC. “The team that is here, I think it’s a Dream Team,” he says. “Because the Deputy Director General is also a former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, retired Gen. Benjamin Madrigal. Our Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Engagements, retired Gen. Nestor Hericho, used to be the Commandant of the Philippine Marines. Our Deputy Director General for Operations used to be the Commanding General of the Army Intelligence Regiment. And Secretary Año used to head the Intelligence Service of the AFP. So they’re all intel.”


“I think what Secretary Año did was to choose the people he worked with in the past. He chose those who have shown him their expertise,” Malaya continues. Indeed, the ADG enjoys the full confidence of the secretary. Following Malaya’s appointment last year, Año was quoted as saying that Malaya’s “25-year experience in public service as well as his proven dedication and commitment to the national interest will serve this agency and the country well.” Their successful partnership at the DILG serves as a solid basis for Año to have complete faith in Malaya’s character and capabilities. “It’s important that when you work for someone, he has trust and confidence in you,” Malaya stresses. “Trust is very valuable. So I reckoned that, rather than work in another department, I would rather work at the NSC.”


Aside from their good professional relationship, Malaya also values the close personal relationship he has with Año. “I consider him as my mentor. So I immediately took the opportunity to join him here at the NSC,” Malaya reveals.


MAKING PROGRESS

The same team Malaya mentioned above has been responsible for the success that the NSC has had in the recent months. For instance, Malaya points to the much-improved internal security situation. “The New People’s Army (NPA) has been decimated to such a degree that it’s no longer a major threat to the State,” he declares. Of course, there are still remnants in Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Negros. But the NPA is now just a shadow of what it used to be, because of the successive losses coming from focused military operations and development programs.”


“Of course, there will always be violent extremism in the South. But, it’s quiet there now,” he adds. He shares how a friend who came all the way from Basilan related to him how Lamitan, Isabela, and other parts of the province are much quieter now. “Because we were able to build the circumferential road in Basilan. Then the road that crossed the hinterlands to the other coast was also built. So they are now reaping the benefits of peace.”


Malaya shares that the NSC is also actively looking at ways to stop the active recruitment of youth to take up arms against the government, noting that a number of schools in Metro Manila and nearby areas remain as recruitment grounds for the NPA. “Hopefully, we can find common ground with the Commission on Higher Education and university officials. I know it’s going to be hard, because to be honest, there is no anti-subversion law so it is not illegal to believe in communism. The only concern of the NSC is when students take up arms against the government,” he underscores as he laments the fate of students who, thinking that it was part of their duty as nationalist young citizens, joined the armed struggle, only to perish afterwards.


With relative internal peace, Malaya says that “We can now focus our attention on the West Philippine Sea and external threats.” He also points to the continuing threat of China’s invasion of Taiwan, as well as possible conflict in the Korean Peninsula as threats that the NSC has been helping the government prepare for. Among the possible effects such are the disruption of the flow of goods to and from the country, as well as the displacement of overseas Filipino workers in affected areas. “All of these, we’re constantly monitoring to make sure that we can minimize the impact and keep us safe as a nation,” he assures.



 

MALAYA’S STINT AS COLLEGE PROFESSOR SERVED NOT ONLY AS A MEANS FOR HIM TO IMPART HIS KNOWLEDGE TO THE COUNTRY’S NEXT SET OF LEADERS. IT ALSO SERVED AS BOTH AN EYE-OPENER ON THE YOUNGER GENERATION’S VIEWS OF GOVERNMENT AND A CHANCE TO CORRECT LONG-STANDING MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT GOVERNMENT SERVICE.

 

THE EDUCATOR AS PEACEMAKER

Malaya’s stints as college professor served not only as a means for him to impart his knowledge to the country’s next set of leaders. It also served as both an eye-opener on the younger generation’s views of government and a chance to correct long-standing misconceptions about government services. “They’re mostly anti-government. Malaya says of his former students at the UP-NCPAG. I tell them, ‘Why did you go to NCPAC? Because you want to be public servants. Therefore, you must be fair to government. Because eventually, you’ll end up sitting there. You have to understand that not everyone in the government is stupid, crazy, or corrupt’.”



“There’s an automatic mistrust. And I don’t blame them,” Malaya avers. He points to social media and Left-leaning groups as being major contributors to the prevailing view among students. “When you Google, you’ll usually see negative things about the government. And you know, that’s intentionally done by the Left. When we looked at the way they operate, we saw that they have propaganda campaigns on everything. On the economy, they have Ibon Databank; on human rights, they have Karapatan; on fishermen’s rights, there’s Pamalakaya. And they produce press releases almost every day. So researchers and students are bombarded with negative stories which are readily available online. So what I told my students is for them not to immediately believe in what they are reading hook, line, and sinker without subjecting such to critical analysis.”


One strategy Malaya resorted to in his classes is the use of case studies in addition to discussing the theoretical aspects of governance. “So when we discuss about corruption, we have a discussion about the law itself. And then, we will discuss one or two graft and corruption cases, so that they can really understand the concept,” he shares.

His experience as college professor has made such an impact on Malaya that he sees himself going back to teaching if ever he leaves government. “I don’t really know where life will bring me, as I never really planned on my career. In any case, if I leave government, I’ll go back to teaching. That’s what I did after I left the DILG. And before I joined government, I taught at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and Assumption.”


How long he will stay in government, even Malaya himself cannot say for sure. “I never really planned on my career. I did not plan to work in the Supreme Court, for example, since I am not a lawyer. But I found myself there. I did not plan to go to the Office of the Solicitor General, but I ended up working there.”


Joining electoral politics is also an option that has been presented to Malaya a number of times. He has been asked to make a bid for a seat at the Lower House either as district representative or as a partylist lawmaker. He has also been named as a possible senatorial candidate a number of times. For now, however, he would want to concentrate on his role at the NSC. With this, one thing is crystal clear. With his active involvement in responding to various present-day threats to national security as well as in helping mold the country’s future leaders, Malaya is indeed a major figure in efforts to ensure peace and development in the country.


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