Fidel Castro’s death and some cutting comments from some world leaders have shown that the ideological divide remains even after the Cold War had ended, the Soviet Union fallen apart, China turned mercantilist, and Cuba reconciled with the US (and the West) after a rupture of 54 years. The divide seems to come much more alive in our own country as President Rodrigo Duterte’s communist coalition partners try to fast-track a post-Cold War communist regime to supersede our ailing democratic and republican state. Some of them seem to see DU30 as a possible remake of Castro in our part of the world.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Ecuador President Rafael Correa were all uniformly positive about Castro. Pope Francis was prayerful, and US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were conciliatory and statesmanlike. PDU30 was adulatory. But US President-elect Donald Trump was unforgiving and minced no words.
To him Castro was “a brutal dictator who oppressed his people for six decades. His legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” he said. He called Cuba a “totalitarian island,” although he wished its people well. In Canada, critics ridiculed Trudeau for calling Castro “a larger than life leader who served his people for nearly half a century.” In Scandinavia, former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt dismissed Castro’s communist regime as “neither a political nor an economic model. RIP.”
A historic gesture
I have a gentler view of Castro. I met him at the 105th conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Havana on April 1-7, 2001, and he brought the house down when he said, “Today, I am going to make history. I am going to speak for ten minutes and no longer.” Castro was known for his long speeches; his 269-minute speech to the UN General Assembly in 1960 was exceeded only by Krishna Menon’s eight-hour filibuster at the Security Council in defense of India’s position on Kashmir in 1957.
Castro allowed for the possibility that he could be a Christian, if by that term one meant someone with a social vision. In 1996, he visited St. Pope John Paul II in Rome, and in 1998, he received the Holy Father in Havana. At the renewal of baptismal vows, the congregation’s response “Creemos”—-“(we believe”) rose to the skies. Apparently fearing the people could become more Catholic than Cubans, Castro had the city walls painted with signs, saying, “Creemos en Fidel, Creemos en socialismo, Creemos en la revolucio” –“We believe in Fidel, we believe in socialism, we believe in the Revolution.” But he reinstated Christmas as a national holiday for all Christians.
Cuba and the US normalized relations on July 20, 2015, brokered by the Vatican. Obama became the first US president to visit Havana since 1928.
Castro’s effect on DU30 and Trump
Trump’s hostile view of Castro could influence his attitude towards DU30 who seems to idolize the Cuban dictator. While DU30 has expressed open admiration for Trump with the same intensity as his disdain for Obama, his eulogy of Castro as one who “asserted his nation’s dignity and self-worth” may not endear him to Trump, especially if it becomes very clear that he not only wants to “separate” economically and militarily from the US but would also like to replace his barely functioning democratic government with a communist revolutionary regime.
The problem would promptly disappear if Trump decides to turn his whole US global policy inward while DU30 pivots full steam ahead to Beijing and Moscow. They would then have nothing to do with each other. But what if Trump sees, from a rereading of the literature, “the evident fitness of keeping the Philippines” as an American ally? Or if DU30 decides that with Obama gone, his reasons for “separating” from the US no longer exist, and that he could strike a better deal with Trump? What happens then to Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr’s proposed communist revolutionary government?
The Evasco project
Aside from DU30’s current war on drugs where more than 700,000 “users” have surrendered to the police, and close to 5,000 suspects have been killed without due process or adequate documentation, Evasco’s project is the only one into which the goverment seems to have poured all the necessary time, energy and resources. This appears to have at least four major steps.
First, the decision to appoint members of the CPP/NPA/NDF into the Cabinet and other agencies, ahead of any peace agreement, which is still being negotiated.
Second, the decision to hold peace talks no longer between the NDF and the government panel as such, but rather between NDF-1 and NDF-2, to negotiate the terms of surrender for the Philippine government.
Third, the massive use of government personnel and resources to organize the Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change) as the communist-led political party that would help the “Supremo” run the revolutionary government. The KP’s first massive nationwide activity is scheduled to be held in Manila today by a red-shirted mob brandishing the slogan, “Save the Republic.”
Fourth, the conversion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is the protector of the people and the state under the Constitution, and components of the CPP/NPA/NDF into a revolutionary army to enforce the mandate of the dictatorship. The first step is the formation of the Philippine Constabulary as the equivalent of the Presidential Guard in some authoritarian governments.
Since he came to power, DU30 has visited the various military camps, talking not just to the officers but to all the men, promising them salary raises and sharing with them ribald stories, in an apparent effort to gain their confidence and win their loyalty to the person of the President and Commander-in-Chief.
Whether this is succeeding remains to be seen.
The most powerful man in the Cabinet is not the Foreign Secretary who theoretically ranks first in the hierarchical order, nor the Executive Secretary who, although a mere staff officer rather than one with a Cabinet portfolio, is known as “the Little President,” in that everything that goes to or comes from the President is coursed through him. Rather it is the otherwise innocuous Cabinet Secretary in the person of Evasco, who supervises 12 strategic government agencies, including the one headed by Vice President Leni Robredo as member of the Cabinet.
Evasco is an ex-priest who joined the CPP and NPA. Captured by the government, he was prosecuted by then city prosecutor Duterte. But instead of being turned by Duterte, he was the one who apparently turned Duterte, who made him his chief of staff when he became mayor of Davao City, and helped him become mayor of Maribojoc, Bohol later on. He ran DU30’s successful presidential campaign, and is the one calling the shots at the KP whose national officers and regional coordinators are all CPP members.
DU30 has announced a ceasefire with the CPP/NPA/NDF to get the peace talks going, but the latest statement from the communist cell in Utrecht is that there would be no ceasefire until all the political prisoners from the Left are released. This is but another way of NDF-1 trying to outmaneuver NDF-2. More than the ceasefire, military experts are insisting that the CPP/NPA/NDF agree to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate into the mainstream as the necessary preconditions for a successful peace agreement. This would be similar to the Nepalese model, where the Maoist forces agreed to the DDR formula as the basis for entering the political mainstream. So far the Nepalese model has worked.
How sincere are the communists?
In the case of the CPP/NPA/NDF model, however, it appears they have no desire to give up their armed struggle or their quest for a communist state. Since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the thrust of their struggle has not changed despite the fact that many of their members had already entered the political mainstream upon the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law. Under the DU30 administration, the terms of the engagement have changed in their favor. Whereas, they used to be outside the government wanting to break in, they are now inside waiting merely for the chance to gain control.
DU30, who describes himself as a socialist, seems to offer the key for them to take over. With his reputed personal popularity propelling the project, they have every reason to feel success is inevitable. But God in his mysterious ways may have something to say here.
What happened in Peru and in Malacanang
In Lima, Peru, we have it on the best authority that PDU30 passed out or “collapsed” before his final APEC official dinner. This is why he failed to attend the dinner and the final commemorative shoot and had to be represented by Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. Evasco and his undersecretary Delfin “Dale” Cabrera were meeting with a private group in Malacañang when they received the urgent bulletin from Lima about what happened. I heard of this story on the same day but decided not to write about it then.
Then two days ago, on Monday, it happened again. I had not intended to write about it, but although there was no breaking news report about it, Malacañang issued a lengthy denial. Communication Secretary Martin Andanar was quoted as saying “there’s nothing wrong with the President. We would like to assure our people that the President is in good physical and mental health. He is strong and agile and can stand the responsibilities and demands of the presidency.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella for his part explained that the President had to cancel previously approved meetings with some Bangladeshi officials, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Chief Justice Renato Puno, Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari and officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines because of some “pressing matters,” which were not mentioned.
It was normal for Andanar and Abella to deny what happened. They did it with conviction——and I don’t blame them—- for they were not at the Borloloy building when it happened.
According to our best sources, it happened in the morning without any warning. The President was reportedly in a huddle with Evasco, Cabrera and Bong Go when he suddenly lost his balance. Cabrera caught him as he threatened to fall, and he was quickly assisted by the others. The President was then taken to infirmary where the doctors checked him.
He appeared on TV later, where he looked well. But it is not enough for the press secretary and spokesman to issue a statement. There should be an official medical bulletin to inform the nation about the exact state of health of the President.
With this incident known to those planning to impose a revolutionary government, they will now be working double time. If they believe the President could go anytime, they will want to be in place before anything happens. They cannot possibly allow the constitutionally mandated successor to take over in case the President goes, for that would throw them out of power, unless they are able to forge a new arrangement with the successor or they wage a violent struggle against him or her. This is where the nation should be now. We should act as one, to prevent the hijacking of the presidency and the constitutional order.