“Truly there are mysteries without end! Too many riddles weigh man down on earth.”
– From The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoievski
Peace is always a noble objective. However, the good kind of peace is always based on justice. Without justice, the peace that will arise is the peace of the grave not the peace of the brave. And the Oslo settlement is an interesting game Secretary Bebot Bello and former Jesuit Luis Jalandoni play, with Duterte and Sison as their coaches, respectively.
The Oslo settlement
Secretary Bebot has every reason to be happy about the settlement. Considering the secret orientation of Bebot, the CCP-NPA elements are even happier than the government.
I have been wondering why the government should settle the communist problem when communism is already a spent force – not only in this country but in many places in the world. These are the factors that the government should have taken into consideration. Why negotiate in Oslo, Norway? To begin with, the communist movement is no longer a monolithic organization in this country. The movement is split into several independent groups here. Joema no longer calls the shots in many of these groups. So why resuscitate a moribund organization and an equally moribund leadership? This is difficult to understand unless you have a basic understanding of the major players.
The government should have learned from previous experience. In the case of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), President Ferdinand Marcos (FM) adopted a strategy that dismantled the MNLF leadership by co-opting the field commanders of Nur Misuari. Left with a skeleton force, Nur had to run for his life and sought refuge in the Middle East, primarily in Khaddafi’s Libya. MNLF had a difficult time recovering from the FM coup. If Marcos were not overthrown, MNLF and Misuari would have become a thing of the past.
There was a running debate in the newly-installed Cory Aquino government on how to deal with Misuari and the MNLF. Abul Khayr Alonto, former vice-chairman of MNLF and President of the Muslim Federal Party wanted the immediate implementation of the Imelda Marcos’ crafted Tripoli Agreement. I was against the whole idea as it would revive the MNLF and grant the Moros a solid foothold in thirteen provinces and nine cities in Mindanao constituting a serious threat to the Christian and lumad communities, which constitute the majority of the population of Mindanao.
The Tripoli Agreement was not implemented but Cory committed the mistake of going to Jolo to meet with Misuari. I advised Cory to meet with Misuari in Malacañang not go to Jolo as that would resurrect Misuari and the MNLF. Cory went to Jolo nevertheless to meet with Misuari on the advice of Butch Aquino and Aquilino Pimentel Jr. That visit revived Misuari and the MNLF.
The country was saved from a fate worse that death when the Cory bright boys committed the error of creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) composed of thirteen provinces and nine cities, a reincarnation of the Tripoli Agreement. When it was submitted for ratification in those provinces and cities, the proposal was resoundingly defeated in all the nine cities and eleven provinces. It survived the onslaught only in two provinces. It was a complete shameful devastation of the Cory Aquino forces.
A silver platter offering
Since the details have not been released to the public, we can only speculate on the possible outlines of the agreement. As of the moment, Joema has secured almost everything he wants from the government – release from jail of Joema’s negotiators and consultants to safe conduct passes, trips abroad and propaganda exposure. These indicate a creeping influence of the institutional Left into the Duterte government. What Sison failed to achieve with his forces in more than forty years, he got them in silver without firing a single shot.
This fellow Sison must have done a lot of reading while in exile – from Niccolo Machiavelli’s Prince to Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The strategy that did not work for more than forty years was abandoned to make way for a winning strategy – elect a leader that is friendly to the group and join the government after electoral victory. This time the shift in strategy worked and worked well.
Joema has for a long time friend PDU30 since his teaching days and Duterte’s student days at the Lyceum of the Philippines. The friendship started on an ideological plane. It is quite obvious that the friendship survived the years. Rodrigo Duterte as mayor of Davao City had a very friendly and stable relationship with Sison’s crowd. He had always interceded successfully with the CPP-NPA to release government functionaries and private individuals. All the time, Sison’s group and Duterte got laudatory media coverage.
Depending on the kind of agreement the Duterte government has forged with Sison’s group, the finality of our conclusions will have to wait. For now, the leanings of the Duterte government are quite clear. If the leanings are pursued to their final conclusion, it may not be presumptuous to suppose that if for one reason or another PDU30 disappears from the scene, Sison from beyond years of exile and his group will be the new power in the Philippines. That will be something for the books.
That will be a new deal for the Filipinos
The CPP-NPA has impressed me through the years, not as a revolutionary group that could take over the country through the force of arms, but as a group that has taught Filipinos how to be human and be Filipinos. More than that, it has taught young and old in the cities and the countryside to dream dreams for the country and the people.
You will probably ask me how I know. When I was one of two opposition provincial governors in the country during martial law, I met many of the CPP-NPA functionaries in my province; in the campus of the University of the Philippines and many other campuses in colleges and universities throughout the country; in the mountain areas of Misamis Oriental; in the nooks and corners of many provinces and cities in Mindanao and the Visayas; and in my person-to-person contacts with the simple men and women in these areas.
Many of them have not gone to colleges and universities but they could deliver lectures on human rights and the inviolable character of the human person and that one should take pride in being a Filipino. The immersion was impressive and I have spoken about it through the years. I did not wonder about this transformation in the thinking and emotional responses of the common folk on the fundamentals that make a difference on being an integral part of mankind as differentiated from the beasts in the jungles. This did not surprise me though because their teachers come from the best educational institutions in the country – from UP to Ateneo, from Silliman to Xavier U, from MSU to CMU, from PUP to St. Scholastica, and from the Philippine Military Academy to many other high institutions of learning.
But even before my election as governor of Misamis Oriental I had a chance to converse and dine with them in the Marcos political prisons of Camp Crame and Fort Bonifacio as a political prisoner. And as governor of Misamis Oriental, I had the singular privilege of being charged by co-alumnus at UP, CGPA JOSEPHUS RAMAS, in the presence of five other generals operating in Mindanao, as the top communist leader of my province because he said I went to the hinterlands without security. It had always been my philosophy of life that I need no security because I am not a crook and an oppressor. Like Moammar Khaddaafi who also moved around in his country without security, I feel that my continuing security is God and the people.
As General Ramas was Cebuano, I told him in Cebuano: “Tiaw-tiaw ka man Bay. Ngano man nga si Edgar Jopson nga taga Ateneo maoy gi-ingon ninyo nga maoy lider sa communista sa Mindanao – taga Luzon, dili makamao mag Cinebuano (niadtong panahon sa among pag-istorya). Di ba insulto kana kanako. Nativo ako sa Mindanao, larino ako mag Cinebuano, tag-as ang akong grado sa UP ug editor-in-chief sa Philippine Collegian, unya lider lang ko sa mga komunista sa Misamis Oriental. Pero kon moingon ka nga akoy lider sa mga komunista sa Mindanao, ngano di ko man angkonon?”(You must be joking, my friend. Why do you claim that Edgar Jopson from the Ateneo is the leader of the communists in Mindanao – he is from Luzon and don’t know how to speak Cebuano (at the time)? Is that not an insult to me? I am a native of Mindanao, I speak Cebuano fluently, I had very high grades in UP and I was editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian and now you tell me that I am only the leader of the communists in Misamis Oriental? But if you tell me that I am the leader of the communists in Mindanao, why should I not admit it?)
After my retort, we had a big laugh over it.
If Joema abandons communism as his ideology of running the country, I really won’t mind if he takes over the country, with or without PDU30.