The lingering, pestering, nagging national issues that need urgent resolutions – were we to exclude intractable poverty – are easy to identify. One is the communist insurgency. Second is the Muslim insurrection. Third is the Marcos family’s clamor for a hero’s burial for the former President. There are no issues – again aside from mass poverty – as urgent as these three.
These are issues with nine lives and improbable longevity. They have been there even before the term ‘millennials,’ the age group also known as Generation Y, came into being. Only Mrs. Aquino tried to end the first two but failed. The President most identified with Mr. Marcos, Erap Estrada, personally wanted to give in to the demand of the family on the third issue but was too cautious and afraid of the consequences to even try and work out a resolution.
Mr. Ramos is related to the Marcoses on his Valdez side. But there is no proof that he actively pursued a solution to his cousin’s burial issue.
The passage of the BBL could have been Mr. Aquino’s real legacy in the area of securing the peace and confidence-building. But he failed to use the persuasive and vast powers of the presidency to pass the genuine autonomy law. On the Marcos burial, Mr. Binay tried to forge a compromise formula, which got no go signal from Mr. Aquino’s administration.
Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency with determination to find resolutions to all three. To bury the past. To heal the national wounds. To write finis to three major sources of national division. His war on drugs may be getting full media attention and coverage, given the casualty count and media’s predisposition to cover presidential pursuits untried before. TV and tabloid love gore and blood and this is the great incentive to focus on – the war on drugs.
But the truth is this: Mr. Duterte’s efforts to bury the past are important and weighty. Should he succeed, say in mainstreaming the Revolutionary Left but fails on the other two problems, he would already be earning his mark as a President of real consequence. The staying power of the Revolutionary Left has been amazing. An event sponsored in Tripoli by Muammar Gaddafi in 1988, during the time he was the self-styled sponsor of all revolutionary organizations across the world, demonstrates the enduring attraction of the Philippine underground.
In 1988, Mr. Gaddafi hosted in Tripoli a gathering of the groups involved in two activities, communist insurgency and separatism/secession. From the most ruthless to the most benign. Even the then slumbering PKP, the faction of the old Lavaites, was represented, the third PH group after the mainstream Left and the MNLF. Even Hawaii was represented by a comic, beer-drinking trio, who were supposed to make up “the unstoppable force of Hawaii’s liberation.”
But it was serious stuff. And Gaddafi was just as serious in promoting the upending of the global order via the successful takeover of power of his favored revolutionary and separatist organizations. I covered the event for another broadsheet, along with then Malaya reporter, now congressman, Ben Evardone, and TV’s Jun Bautista. Raissa Espinosa- Robles, who donned a hijab, was also there.
What is the current status of the groups that met in Tripoli in 1988?
Just a few days back, the FARC, Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, signed its final peace agreement with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. It was a climax of the efforts to mainstream the FARC, which has been battling the state since 1964. Last year, the government and the FARC leaders jointly declared a unilateral ceasefire, while a final peace agreement was being written.” “The end of conflict has arrived,” tweeted President Santos.
The FARC was one of the few revolutionary groups that survived the Internet Age. Most of them were over and done with by the time Gaddafi was murdered in a Sirte sewer in October of 2011. The nationalist insurgency of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, which created the “ suicide belts” in guerilla warfare and started the practice of deploying all-women attack squads, ended in 2009. Google “Tamil” now and you will find out that Tamil Nadu in India was the birthplace of Google CEO Sundar Pichai. There is very little news on the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan insurgency.
The Shining Path, the Maoist guerilla organization of Peru, was rendered a spent force in 1992 yet, after the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman. What remained of the once-potent revolutionary force are now holed out in remote Peruvian outposts where they are believed to be running small-scale drug operations.
The Philippine revolutionary Left, far from dying, reportedly opened up more guerrilla fronts during the time of Mr. Aquino. Fealty to the Maoist doctrine of patiently working into the center of power via the envelopment of the countryside, rendered obsolete decades ago, has done nothing to render the Philippine underground Left obsolescent.
We are an outlier country in the sense that we are probably the one and only country left with an active Maoist insurgency. Mao is a curio item in the money-making enclaves that dotted the path he and his patient guerillas took in their Long March of 1949.
The frenzied efforts of the Duterte administration to co-opt and mainstream the Left are a stark admission that the nagging, pestering wound of discord (along with the Muslim insurgency and the Marcos burial) will not go away soon without a preferred hand of peace, along with many offerings and side concessions.