Among the expressed priorities of the new presidency is to end the armed conflict with the communists. The apparent approach is by offering them a major partnership role in governance. Without awaiting the results of formal peace negotiations, the President appointed senior communist cadres to his Cabinet.
This move in effect granted the communists a quasi-coalition status with government. The President even declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the communists.
A subsequent ambush of government troops by the NPA, however, compelled the President to lift his less than a week-old, unilaterally declared ceasefire. Despite the harsh words exchanged between the President and the presumed communist leader Jose Maria Sison, the formal peace talks will proceed.
Among the major reasons why the talks did not prosper during the Arroyo administration was the insistence of the government side to review the agenda of the negotiations which, in the opinion of the security sector, was in actuality a subterfuge, tacitly agreed to by some communist friendly elements in previous government panels to lead the talks toward coalition governance.
At least these days, the establishment of a coalition government with the communists is no longer a much kept secret. Despite the President’s recent public pronouncement that he will not agree to a coalition government with the communists, the fact is, the present government panel will proceed with the talks within the old framework, in effect allowing the formal establishment of a coalition government with the communists, as the end-game of the talks.
What is wrong with coalition governance with the communists? In many democracies as in Europe, coalition governance with communists has become a regular feature. Fortunately for these countries, they are dealing with communists who have long renounced the primacy of armed struggle as a means of achieving state power, and have, in fact, adapted themselves fully, to the ways of democracy.
Will the Philippine communists follow the trend adopted by their comrades in Europe? The talks with the communists, which are about to formally open, will be a good occasion to find out.
Alternative road map
Majority of the top leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) operating inside the country are now in government custody. This is confirmed by the recent request of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the purported political wing of the communists, for a number of them to be released so they could participate in the peace talks.
Why can’t the peace talks be held where they are now? Government can easily provide suitable facilities for talks within their detention area. For those in Utrecht, except for Jose Maria Sison, who continues to be on the international terrorist list, they have been freely traveling to the Philippines, anyway.
Sison claims to be a mere consultant in the talks. His absence should not really matter. The Norwegian third party facilitators certainly will not mind enjoying Manila hospitality. What is important is that doing the talks here will not require the Philippines to bend its laws.
It is a good time to confront some communist beliefs that threaten national security. Many communists all over the world went through this in their respective countries, where they have now become important political players and are effectively co-existing with other ideologically founded political forces. The talks will not bring peace as intended if these beliefs are not confronted and reconciled with once and for all.
Communists in the Philippines continue to believe in the primacy of armed struggle as the means to achieving state power. This belief contradicts the peaceful and democratic norm by which political leadership is determined in Philippine society. The condemnable flaws and abuses in the electoral system cannot justify a shift to the violent means of settling political disputes in Philippine society. The communists will serve the common good if they will include in their negotiating position, the absolute necessity of reforming the Philippine electoral system and the systemic elimination of related abuses in the nation’s democratic tradition.
Party vanguardism is another communist belief that requires discussion and resolution. Filipino communists assert that they are the true vanguard of the people. They do not seek to be freely elected and chosen by them to be their vanguard, because of the presumption that the masses, until after proper communist indoctrination, will be too ignorant to appreciate the wisdom of choosing the absolute leadership of the communist party.
The communist party in China actually rules the state and dictates the affairs of both the Chinese government and people.
The Filipino communists believe that this should also be so in the Philippines. The end game of communists is not simply entering and participating in official governance, but to dominate and use the strategic advantages of being inside government, to eventually bring Philippine society formally, under the absolute dictatorship of the CPP.
Fears and hopes
Despite the absence of any liberated area, the communists have been behaving as a parallel government authority. Sad that even the new President, in his many public pronouncements, have hinted his tacit tolerance, if not approval, of the so called revolutionary taxes the communists are forcing upon the ordinary people and among business people and landowners, both big and small.
The communist kangaroo courts continue to sow fear among the defenseless. They freely establish check points especially in areas where mining and logging establishments are operating, not necessarily to check or stop the improper exploitation of the nation’s natural resources but to exact their collections or share in the booty. Intentionally or not, the new government has virtually recognized this parallel authority of the communists in governing Philippine society.
But this is not where the most serious danger lies. Imposing the culture of death and fear on Philippine society is rapidly becoming an official policy of government. This culture of death, violence and fear is actually compatible with communist totalitarian practices. Recent speeches of the President indicate a serious inclination toward dictatorship. The revolutionary government he was mentioning during the campaign now appears to be a deceptive slogan meant to merely ride the phenomenally growing sentiment of the nation toward authentic revolutionary change.
There is a growing sign of hope in the way some leaders of the Catholic Church are beginning to express their opposition to what is going on in Philippine society today. There are indications that they are preparing for battle, and martyrdom is their weapon of choice.
Martyrdom is a biblical response against humanly undefeatable adversaries. Preparation for martyrdom begins with the realization that opposition could cause the loss of one’s life, and that to save the life of others, one may have to offer one’s own. Dramatic as this may sound, this sense of self-abnegation on the part of some of her leaders may just wake up the Catholic Church and make her realize that directly confronting designs of evil against the people, is an absolute must, regardless of the possibility of victory or defeat.
The quiet whispers among the men and women in uniform indicate that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police will not tolerate a direct communist takeover, or a communist instigated revolutionary government. The recent coup in Turkey should give them pause.
Regardless of intention, a successful coup is better than a failed one. In the Philippine setting, the armed forces have been successful in aiding change of governments by acting as one institution. However, the Turkey experience has shown that the superior firepower of an army can actually be defeated by organized mobs of civilians.
This is what communists in government are preparing for. With at least P130 billion in public funds under their control, they hope to strengthen and position their popular bases against a counter-revolution when they so decide to declare their own.
It is still to be ascertained whether the new President is a practicing communist or not, but what is unfolding is the possibility of his entering into an arrangement with the communists to jointly establish a new dictatorship in the Philippines under the guise of a pseudo-revolutionary government.
How will this be in the end? Will it be a Duterte dictatorship or a communist one?