The bloody wages of the almost 40 years spent by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to quell the communist insurgency need no retelling.
The longest -running leftist insurgency in the world may not be the record-holder on body count, carnage and mayhem but the toll on lives and property has been substantial. The drag on the economy, the scar on the national psyche, the towns on the peripheries that can’t be integrated into the functioning part of modern society because they host the bloody skirmishes, have set back the nation’s growth aspirations for at least a quarter of a generation.
The toll on the young during the First Quarter Storm and the first few years of martial law alone had deprived the country of some of the best and the brightest minds – and the most politically committed.
Who can forget these immortal lines? “Where have all the young men gone? Into graveyards everyone.”
The battles with the MNLF, which was the “ baptism of fire” of the young Greg Honasan and his just-out-of-the-PMA contemporaries in the early 70s, was also as bloody as hell. The young army officers and their enlisted men fought in a no-man’s land, or at the very least in unfamiliar territory, with no rules of engagement except two things: kill or be killed.
Looking back, it was hard to dismiss the veracity of the stories that went with the fighting – that both sides collected enemy scalps in post-skirmish stress. Who would not after surviving the hostile marshes of Muslim Mindanao?
The state’s efforts to reach out and talk peace, efforts that vested the insurgents and the secessionists bargaining power and leverage, have all failed despite the government’s pliability and tolerance. On the grounds that there is hardly a meeting ground, a point of happy intersection, a condition wherein the rebels can lay down their arms without giving away their reason for being. With the Left, it is seizure of state power and the building of a society anchored on its Marxist ideals. With the Muslim secessionists, it is balkanizing the country so they can take away and govern Mindanao in a secular (MNLF), or on a semi-religious version (MILF).
The contradictions ( a Marxist formulation) are so intrinsic and fundamental that many have given up on the peace talks, or regard peace talks as exercises in utter futility. There are no compelling reasons for a genuine peace accord, now and never. The Left wants to seize state power to put in place an alternative governing system. The secessionists want Mindanao, which is more than a third of the entire country. There can be no meeting point.
So why is the government seriously talking about collaborating with the NPA, the army of the Revolutionary Left and the MNLF, the original secessionist army, in the fight against the local affiliates of the ISIS?
The ISIS and its affiliates do not fight for territory to simply govern that territory according to a defined system of governance. If they can’t build a caliphate, it would be, on the very minimum, a theocracy. Life would simply revert to life during the Dark Age, with the dark and punitive version of the Muslim faith, an aberration of peaceful Islam – as the law.
An ISIS-led rule will do a scorch-earth evisceration of the Left and the secular Muslims and Muslims who are not fundamentalists enough. The Left and the secular Muslims fully realize the numbing cold-bloodedness of the fundamentalists. And that these are people you can’t reason out. The Taliban rule of parts of Afghanistan would be considered “enlightenment” if compared to the kind of fundamentalism that the ISIS aspires for.
A society where women do not have the value of stray animals is an ISIS-led society and if that were not terrifying enough, just imagine a society that will take your basic freedoms, your smart phones, your educational system and your right to vote and your right to travel.
The Left and the secular Muslims sure have governing versions that differ from liberal democracies. Their views on how institutions should function, or on what undergirding ideologies should guide and direct the strategic decisions are divergent. But the motivation to uplift man and science, culture and growth, are defined and detailed and fully accepted. The differences are on the strategies on how to go about building a progressive, just and fair societies. Or, at least, their versions of that.
ISIS aims to run society and institutions and belief systems to the ground and this is anathema to mainstream liberal democracies, to secular Muslim societies and to the Marxist ideals.
The fear of ISIS and what ISIS will do to societies it enslave are enough motivations for a temporary coalition, the possible convergence of three armed forces — the mainstream AFP, the NPA of the Left and what fighters are left of Nur’s original MNLF.
The fears are well grounded and well-founded.
If ISIS wins, nothing will be left of the Left’s dream of building a Marxist society and secular Muslims’ dream of building a secular and progressive Muslim Mindanao.