IT is welcome and reassuring to hear President Duterte elucidate a new government policy on peace talks with the communist insurgents, whom he bluntly labels “terrorists.” He articulates a more clear-eyed perspective on the 46-year-old communist insurgency, which is the oldest communist rebellion on the planet, and on the unending demand of the CPP/NDF/NPA for the release of communist political prisoners. And he has told the Armed Forces to prepare for war against the communists.
If one or all of the more than 400 communist prisoners are freed by the government, what guarantees are provided by the CPP/NDF/NPA that they will not wage war anew against the government once given liberty?
This is the common-sense question that is being asked by every soldier of the Armed Forces, and by every law-abiding citizen of the Republic.
They fear justifiably that the prisoners’ release could mean 46 additional years of the communist insurgency in our land.
They are suspicious that from the way the CPP-NPA is talking, there will never be an end to the communist rebellion, and the many miseries it has been inflicting on our people, our communities, and businesses across the land.
A resolute war effort is a sound course of action for the nation to take because these compatriots of ours have been engaged in rebellion against the Republic for so long, and the cost to the nation has been colossal.
Rebellion should not be confused with mere political dissent. Rebellion is organized opposition to a government or political authority, whereas dissent is only an expression of disagreement with authority. Rebellion is armed and violent; dissent is largely vocal and symbolic.
Rebellion is one of the reasons recognized by the Constitution for the declaration of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus by the President, acting as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
There is much confusion in the public mind about the gravity of the act of rebellion because of the way known rebels flit in and out of detention, and then act as though they have done nothing unlawful.
We raise this issue because in democracies more mature than ours, the act of rebellion is treated with tough-minded application of the law and utter seriousness, in a way that would preclude the return of the rebel to armed struggle against the government.
Take the United States, for instance. In the words of one noted conservative pundit: “Once you take up arms against the United States, you become an enemy combatant, thereby forfeiting the privileges of citizenship and the protections of the Constitution, including due process. You retain only the protection of the laws of war – no more and no less than those of foreign enemy combatants. A senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, suggests stripping such traitors of their citizenship, thereby formalizing their extra-constitutional status.”
In the Philippines, we tend to be softheaded and sentimental in our treatment of citizens who rebel against the Republic.
Communist rebels have standing as citizens of the Republic. They can even run for important political post, and sit in office if they win.
We have passed a law that inexplicably provides reparations to rebels who suffered disabilities or torturous treatment as a result of their rebellion.
President Duterte, in a grand gesture, invited the communists to serve in his administration, and take over the administration of key government departments.
The President has been wakened from his fantasy of a complete peace agreement with the CPP/NDF/NPA by the triple shock of 1) AFP soldiers/officers killed by the NPA during a supposed ceasefire; 2) the announced lifting of the communist ceasefire on February 10; and 3) the monotonous demand for the release of communist prisoners.
He sees that resolution of the insurgency is possible through the earnest prosecution of counter-insurgency measures, and that the people will support him in this effort.