When I think of the arrest of Communist Party Chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma Austria Tiamzon, I hear , to quote the words of a poet, “the drop of chains.” There is a sense of release and liberation in this development.
Jose Maria Sison and his closest comrades will doubtless continue to proclaim that the Communist armed struggle will go on. But the Tiamzons’ arrest is a very big deal—for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and for the Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Benito and Wilma Tiamzon are top banana—he as chairman of the CPP, and she as finance chief of the underground movement.
I fantasize that, if President Aquino and the nation are alert to the opportunity and are resolute, the chains long shackling our democracy will finally fall (wither) away and clear national perspectives in forging our course toward the future.
Among these chains are the following:
1. The chain of our perpetually hosting the longest- running communist insurgency in the world, which by now has extended over four decades;
2. The chain of pessimism that the republic will ever defeat the communist armed struggle;
3. The chain of pretense personified by the peace-talks racket that produces no results and benefits no one, except the government’s unchanging negotiators and the Communist negotiators hiding comfortably in foreign lands;
4. The chain of faux communist government that exerts control over certain areas of the country and exacts revolutionary taxes from businesses and the people there.
5. The chain of delusion that there is still a socialist future for the Philippines and the world, despite the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism as a system
6. The chain of unrealism that those who take up arms against the republic can snatch reparations by right from our government when they come to grief, which sharply contrasts with the policies of other countries.
7. The chain of government fecklessness in securing a military victory and in achieving a negotiated peace.
Hammer and sickle becomes question mark upside down
It’s now 23 years since the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) broke up in 1991 and the communist system was exposed as unworkable. But for our country and our people, it has sometimes seemed as though the news never arrived.
The events of 1991 had a terrible sense of finality.
When the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev by his party mates failed, Soviet communism disintegrated before the eyes of the entire world. We could see it on CNN live.
The Soviet center could no longer hold. The 15 individual republics that once comprised the USSR were busting loose from Moscow, many of them set on becoming independent republics. The Soviet communist party was rapidly losing significance.
Communism withered away even much earlier in Eastern Europe. Only China, Cuba, North Korea, and Indochina remained of communism’s once global sweep and threat.
The hammer and sickle turned into a question mark upside down for communism.
But here in the Philippines, the communist insurgency seemed to just continue its merry way, making propaganda and agitating wherever it could, mutating into parliamentary struggle where there was political space, adopting the ways of the bourgeoisie where possible, reduced to banditry in hard-scrabble places, and finding support where it could among the poor and huddled masses yearning to break free.
Meanwhile, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison has continued to hold court from exile in the Netherlands, issuing occasional statements to assure the faithful that he was still alive and kicking.
The challenge of closure
Bringing closure to the Communist insurgency is now the challenge.
President Aquino and the AFP fully deserve congratulations for the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, which is a key piece to closure. Never mind, if they were hiding, as some say, in plain sight, when they were arrested.
With this, the campaign to defeat the CPP-NPA insurgency has turned a corner. From hereon, the campaign now enters the end game.
President Ferdinand Marcos achieved closure in the case of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), when he successfully negotiated their formal surrender to the government.
President BS Aquino’s task now is to achieve the same kind of surrender from the CPP-NPA.
Joma’s statements from Holland are bound to be fevered in the next few days and weeks, vainly trying to snatch some dignity from the jaws of defeat. But the writing is now on the wall. And President Aquino can also read them.
With President Obama due to call in Manila this April, the mood in our capital will be upbeat and triumphal for a while, even if we are staring at setbacks in other necessary battles.