PHILIPPINE independence was technically won by us after the second world war. This was meant to free the country from American tutelage. But after several decades of self-government, it became clear that having done away with our foreign colonizers, we substituted them with those from within. Certain segments of our citizenry always thought of this “independence” as fiction as over the years since 1946, a greater part of our people was still manacled to perpetual poverty brought about by policies that served the interests of the new masters—the emerging and thriving oligarchy that had begun to control both the economic and political levers of power. Thus, several types of peasant uprisings, foremost of which was the Hukbalahap insurrection came into the fore to free the farmers and the downtrodden from the shackles of injustice. All of them failed. But the seething anger within continued to boil until the appropriate time.
Thus, in 1968 a call for upheaval was heeded by an academic activist, Jose Ma. Sison (Joma) who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP); a year after, its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), was born.
It all began with a popular ideology, overlaid by a patriotic love to free the peasants from oppressive poverty and an idealistic young leadership. From an ember, the revolutionary fervor spread throughout. Six presidents have come and gone, each with a promise to solve the deep-rooted problems seeping into the country’s socio-economic and political fabric. Yet, the status quo prevailed.
The internecine war that ensued has resulted in thousands of deaths with a greater toll among civilians and innocent lives trapped in this madness. Today, the number of casualties continues to rise in the midst of yet another attempt at peace dialogue. But both sides have accused each other of duplicity. The conversation has deteriorated into the language of violence.
At this juncture, there can only be one end to this sordid narrative and both protagonists have staked their positions. The government on one end will require the total surrender of the communist rebels, with enticements to bring them back to the fold and quell insurgency thereafter. The revolutionary forces on the other hand, distrustful of government’s inducements has but one ultimate design and that is to take full control of government. Unable to arrive at a political solution, DU30 has of late employed a final gambit, one which the international community (the US and EU) unilaterally allowed itself years ago.
President Duterte recently declared the end of the peace talks with the CPP/NPA. Subsequently on December 5, 2017, he signed a proclamation formally declaring the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations pursuant to Republic Act 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said this was because of the “continued violent acts of the CPP-NPA which sow and create a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace.” The terrorist tag kills any hope of negotiations and reconciliation with the CPP/NPA.
To recall, during the campaign, DU30 did a song and dance with this group, culminating in his dramatic televised call to Joma Sison, exiled in the Netherlands, offering to restart the peace talks. As a sweetener, he offered cabinet slots to the CPP once he was elected President. The Deegong became the darling of the Left and it reinforced his street cred as the candidate for the “masa.” He went on to capture the presidency. True to his word, three cabinet slots were reserved for the Left and top CPP/NPA leaders were freed from incarceration to participate in the peace negotiations abroad, at a huge discomfort to the Armed Forces which had shed blood in apprehending these prisoners. All of these moves by the PRRD were done to end the almost five decades of the communist insurgency.
Today, a year and half into his presidency, all bets are off.
The terrorist label is of course not entirely new. Back in August of 2002 the US listed the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization, followed by the European Union (EU). The Philippine government refused to tag them as terrorist as there was this hope of a real reconciliation. But over the years, the peace talks with the communists did not go forward and was instead eclipsed by the Bangsamoro peace talks. Also, it was seen that the CPP/NPA Maoist ideology was losing traction and the CPP/NPA had been reduced to acts of brigandage.
Earlier, with the euphoric start of the peace talks in Europe, it was obvious that the central leadership based in the Netherlands were not in control of the local CPP/NPA as sporadic attacks and the extortionate acts continued unabated while peace negotiations were going on.
With the recent government declaration, Joma is putting up a brave face saying that the terrorist tag means nothing. But it is undeniably a most shameful conclusion to their years of armed struggle. On top of this, the implications for their international standing and the sources of their funding could be damaging. The terrorist declaration by the government freezes and forfeits the property or funds of those designated as terrorist organizations; their support from China ended in 1976; and their various fund-raising activities in Europe have dried up following the 1990 collapse of communist regimes worldwide.
The CPP/NPA principally finances itself now by exacting “revolutionary taxes” from businesses, offering the latter “protection,” and by selling “campaign permits” to candidates for elective positions campaigning in the hinterlands. Worse still is their collusion with corrupt police and military personnel selling them small firearms and ammunition.
Ideologically, they have become irrelevant. They have been reduced to mere banditry. Impending arrest also awaits the communist leaders from abroad who may be repatriated to the country.
The implications on the peace and order situation in the entire country could still be deadly. The CPP/NPA is by far not a spent force. They still have the means to wreak havoc in the countryside and still capable of spilling blood and treasure of the Armed Forces and government. The Deegong’s job is up his alley—decapitate its leadership and those remaining few.
We are in for a tumultuous Christmas holidays and beyond. God help us!