A GOOD friend emails me regarding my attitude toward Duterte: “No need to go back and speculate on his bad past or whether he cheated to win. Let’s just watch how he runs the country and comment on that when he has taken over Malacañang.”
Taking the advice in good stride, I began holding back on punches, so to speak. Of the five aspirants in the presidential contest just past, there really was only Jojo Binay I could empathize with, both for practical and honest reasons and for sentimental ones. As Vice President, he was the historically-mandated one to succeed to the presidency, and as my pro bono labor counsel, hence a comrade, in the First Quarter Storm, joining him in his struggle for the presidency was the least I could do to refresh the fire and fury of the goodie ole days of revolutionary what-might-have-beens. But with Duterte’s oft-repeated assertions of readiness to make peace with the “Left” insurgency, I can’t refrain from advancing opinions, not necessarily belligerent though toward him. My paramount concern is, how equipped is he in handling such exquisitely delicate domain as diplomacy—the craft of tight wire dancing with political enemies.
President Ferdinand E. Marcos was tops in this class in his prime. At the height of the separatist movement in Mindanao by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), he rightly saw the principle of “party-in-interest” in the conflict. Instead of negotiating directly with Nur Misuari, the MNLF chairman, he dealt instead with Libyan dictator Mouammar Kadhafi, whom he correctly perceived as the Godfather of the MNLF insurgency. He sent First Lady Imelda Marcos, the irrepressible Iron Butterfly who was in her own prime of queenly allure, to a talk with Kadhafi all the way to the secret confines of his desert headquarters. Out of that sojourn, came the Tipoli Peace Agreement of 1976, signaling the end of the MNLF uprising.
The finesse with which Marcos accomplished the Mindanao peace process was impeccable.
It went perfectly well with Sun Tzu’s mandate on how to deal with the enemy: “Know yourself, know your enemies. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” As Sen. Ferdinand E. Marcos, Jr. proclaimed a year ago, “The Tripoli Agreement was succeeding. We had peace. We stopped fighting with the MNLF. But in 1986, it was ignored so that some of the agreements that were finalized in the Tripoli Agreement were not implemented. It fell by the wayside.”
If at all, Bongbong was lamenting an endemic aspect of peace negotiations: they are never meant to achieve forever. As Sun Tzu mandates, “The aim of peace is war, the aim of war is peace.” In Marcos’ own words, it is: “There are no permanent enemies. There are only temporary allies.”
A faction of the MNLF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Hasim Salamat, split from the group, and being thus placed outside of the provisions of the Tripoli Agreement, began its separate armed campaign for secession from the Republic of the Philippines. Hostilities again characterized the relationship between the Philippine government and the breakaway MILF since then, hostilities that found a most profound expression in the all-out war policy of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 2000.
The experience of striking up peace with Muslim secessionists offers a paradigm for approaching the problem of peace with the CPP/NPA/NDF. For one thing, this triumvirate at the helm of the half-century-old rebellion is not a consolidated one. In 1991, Sison issued his document, “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles, Stand by Marxism, Leninism, Mao Tse Tung Thought.” Ostensibly a mandate for widespread rectification movement within the CPP, it actually splintered the Party into warring factions, such as what happened in Central Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao; the NPA blasted to virtual smithereens, its mighty strength of 25,000 regulars all in company formations reduced back to guerrilla formations as were its standing in 1969. The entire Party commission in the Visayas and much of that of Mindanao, too, stood against the Joma dictum and, as a consequence, gave rise to a splinter group calling itself Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (RPMP). Eventually, the group formed its own army, the Revolutionary Party Army (RPA), which ultimately merged with the Metro Manila armed city partisans group called Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) to complete its pretension as a counterforce to the CPP/NPA/NDF and RPMP/RPA-ABB.
Not mentioned in this reckoning are the hordes of followers of Rolando Kintanar, the NPA chief ordered liquidated by Sison in 2003. Prior to his assassination, I had a serious discussion with Ka Jun (Kintanar’s nom de guerre, or one such anyway), in which I asked why he wouldn’t put up with the Sison divisive maneuver when he’d got the guns at his bidding. Ka Jun replied with a sullen look in his eyes, “It will be very bloody.” Evidently, he didn’t choose bloody confrontation with comrades, but anyway risked shedding his own blood. On Jan. 23, 2003, Ka Jun was gunned down by assassins while dining in a Japanese restaurant in the Quezon City Circle. Sometime previous to this, the top hitman of the NPA (the guy was credited with the liquidation of Col. James Rowe, survivor of the Vietnam War, former chief of the Green Berets, and commander of the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) at the time) saw me to pass a warning to Ka Jun that he (Ka Jun) was being programmed for finishing by Joma, and that he wanted to make it clear that he (the hitman) would never do it. The concern of the fellow was that being the army’s top gunman for the job, he would be suspected of doing it once it happened.
As a result of the Sison Reaffirm, the entire General Command of the NPA was purged, along with all forces down the line. Elements in this category are hardcore revolutionaries in their own right. Steeped in deep understanding of the proletarian revolutionary ideology, they could still amount to a fighting army. In Ka Jun’s words, “Marami ‘yan.” It is this “marami” that Duterte would ignore if he thinks dealing with Sison alone would solve the great grievance of the proletarian revolution.
Above are the disparate forces comprising the red revolutionary landscape today.
From his pronouncements, Duterte seems to be of the mindset that solving the communist insurgency is a simple matter of bringing back Sison from his disco-living in the Netherlands, and making him tell the comrades he had abandoned as far back as 1986 to come down from the hills and lay down their arms.
Worst, Duterte would be actually ignoring the genuine revolutionary elements of the “Left” rebellion. I hasten to remind all and sundry that one big reason Ka Jun was assassinated was that up until the 1986 EDSA rising, he was set to implement a program for takeover that radically contradicted the Sison formula of protracted people’s war; Ka Jun’s strategy was a pragmatic, practical and immediately doable and winnable action against the crumbling Marcos dictatorship. Hardly has this fact been talked about, but in those momentous four days in Feb. 1986, Ka Jun was frantically talking the CPP central leadership into implementing his Nicaragua-type of insurrection that would have effectively preempted the EDSA event. Late Friday evening, the 25th, then CPP Chairman and head of the NPA Military Commission Rodolfo Salas, a.k.a. “Kumander Bilog,” finally issued the go-ahead signal for Ka Jun’s advocacy. Alas, but as luck would have it, by next day, the 26th, the US kidnapped Marcos and family for exile to Hawaii—paving the way for the Cory takeover.
Ka Jun perished but none of the ideals he stood for did. These ideals continue to seize his hordes of followers with. Many of them may no longer be even strong enough to fire a .45, but definitely they retain their gift for imparting ideological education among the masses. It is this gift that they will surely pass on to the current young by which thereby to concretize in their own lifetime the truth of what Stalin said: “Theory itself becomes a matter once it is absorbed by the masses.”
Two main lines in the “Left” revolutionary movement—the Sisonite dogmatic plagiarized never-ending protracted people’s war and the innovativeness inherent in Ka Jun’s advocacy for achieving victory in the here-and-now—contend for presidential concern. The challenge to Duterte is to correctly determine which, of the two, is rice and which is ersatz.