Vol. 76, No. 2Q & A

The missing peace

RCMP officer brings expertise to Philippines

A/Commr. Randy Beck (back left), poses with ICP members and Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants at Camp Darapanan, following a consultation for designing a new policing model in the Philippines. Credit: A/Commr. Randy Beck

The southern Philippines has long been plagued by conflict between two religious factions. When a tentative peace deal was struck last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) asked the RCMP's A/Commr. Randy Beck to chair the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) for the Bangsamoro region. Beck, who has 35 years of service with the RCMP, spoke with Sigrid Forberg about the experience.

What interested you about this assignment?

It was that they were looking at designing a new policing model and wanted recommendations for a democratic and economically emerging country. The fact that they were coming out of a conflict period subject to a cease-fire agreement and the policing model would be a cornerstone to providing a peaceful society in the region called the Bangsamoro, that was appealing.

How has it been going?

The very short timeline that we are working under is very challenging, but I'm very optimistic and certain that we'll be able to deliver the report on time and of the quality that's expected.
Working here in the Philippines has been a challenge as this is my first international deployment. But I believe the people of the Philippines are the most patient people in the world – they've waited so long for this peace. They live that patience out every day; they're now at a point where they desire peace and everybody's working to see that through.

What's been most challenging for you?

I think the most challenging part was at the very beginning, coming over here with really no infrastructure and no capacity as a commission. Starting from scratch, starting from the ground up – we didn't have an office, we didn't have support staff, we didn't even have a budget that had been finalized.

Then, Typhoon Yolanda hit, and the disaster was the complete focus of the government of the Philippines and all of the embassies and the people here. Rightfully so, 100 per cent of the focus has to go to the disaster relief and support. But that critically put us behind by four weeks. So the short timeline has forced us to attach a risk management philosophy in our work assessing the highest risk areas that need to be addressed in the short time and identifying some mitigating strategies to reduce the risk of those areas we couldn't address adequately.

On the other side, what's been most rewarding?

I think seeing and hearing that the people of the Bangsamoro understand that policing is the foundation for lasting peace, that they want armed groups to put their arms down. The rewarding part is just working with people and feeling that they are wanting to give peace a chance and that they want policing to be civilian in nature and work with them in a community policing model.

It's so very rewarding to be able to apply my 35 years of experience to the work that we're doing, to the consultations, to the discussions, to the development of a new model for the Philippines. It's so rewarding to apply my experiences from Canada within the context of the challenges here.

How does Canada and the RCMP benefit from getting involved?

I think peace in the Philippines does benefit Canada. I've said many times, you can't police yourself out of a conflict. There's political and economic solutions that have to occur for peace to last. Then policing can establish a safe and secure community. Canada's role in this work will enable the economic development to come to the southern Philippines.

I just read in the paper yesterday that there's been more foreign economic investments in the area of Mindanao in the first month and a half of 2014 than there was in all of 2013. It's just such community optimism and international interest in wanting to invest in the Philippines and it's such an emerging economic nation that Canada's role in providing assistance in developing a policing model for the Bangsamoro will pay dividends in the future, there's no doubt in my mind.

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