IT HAS BEEN 47 long years of rebellion- in fact, our Red rebellion is the longest such revolt in the whole of Southeast Asia. It has cost 30,000 lives in a fratricidal war that had no victors- only deaths.
Through six presidents – from Marcos, Cory Aquino, Estrada, GMA and Benigno Aquino- the NDF(National Democratic Front)- CPP(Communist Party of the Philippines ) and the armed component the NPA ( New Peoples Army) – had openly defied many government punitive missions.
The fact that they are still here – though down to 4,000 partisans, proves they are hard to beat and their ideology deathless. They are like the Vietcongs of Vietnam.
This resulted in a huge DND (Department of National Defense) budget, year in and year out, with the Red rebellion used to justify its huge cash allotment at the expense of socio-economic projects. Some investors have shied away from the Philippines (through the years) ,too, conscious of the fiscal and military burden to a nation fighting a war that cannot be won in the field.
After several Peace Missions starting from the preliminary talks during the Cory regime to her son’s (Noy), none came close to fruition to what the Rodrigo Duterte administration has achieved with the Reds in about six months of the presidency.
Chief peace panel negotiator for the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) Silvestre Bello III told media that the bilateral peace/ ceasefire agreement has been moved from October 28 to December 10 to thresh some issues. Government had earlier insisted on “No Anmesty for political prisoners without a bilateral ceasefire.” Will they sign on December 10?
The GRP and the NDF had earlier declared unilateral ceasefires last August.
The breakthroughs (fortunately) have been on the common outlines agreed for social, political and economic reforms. But the advancement of these talks are predicated on the release of about 430 political prisoners , promised by the government to the NDF. Some 1,300 such political prisoners had been released in the past administrations.
Bello said the GRP is aware of the objectives and commitments but would not give a timeline ( at first) for the release of the political prisoners. They “will be released in batches with 40-50 of them” possibly freed by the Christmas season.
There are Boholanos in government jail custody who are considered as “political prisoners” . The militant groups had petitioned government for their early release “as they have waited for so long for their freedom. Each day in prison is like a lifetime to them,”
Will these prisoners be home for Santa Claus and selfie themselves at the Christmas tree for the coming holidays?
There are wrinkles on the cardboard, to be sure. Senior NDF Adviser Luis Jalandon based on Norway said the peace process can be derailed due to the “human rights violations” in the anti drug campaign and more painfully, the stealthy burial of the dictator and thief Ferdinand Marcos under the Duterte regime.
The left bore the brunt of the Marcosian purge in his reign of 14 years as a dictator under Martial Law. The economy was pillaged to bankruptcy.
Bello, however, on the other hand- assured the “Marcos burial issue” will have less significant impact on the peace process. Which is which?
Note, however, that the president has appointed four members of the left into his Cabinet: Judy Taguiwalo (DSWD Raphael Mariano (Department of Agrarian Reform), Liza Masa of the NAPC (antipoverty commission) and Joel Manglungsod of the Department of Labor. To the man, all left oriented Filipinos have the vilest protest language hurled against the Marcos burial at the Pantheon of Heroes.
How will the coalition hold amid this tug of war in principles? There are also many in the military vehemently but quietly against the burial . For one, the only military general to become president Fidel V Ramos has openly hit the president DU30 for his complicity in the dictator’s burial.
Will the guns be silenced, finally- or was this just a truce? It would be a damn pity if the the war starts again. At the peak of the rebellion there were 26,000 armed partisans ready to engulf Manila from the countryside during the Marcos regime. We dread that kind of scenario to ever happen again.
In fact the unlamented dictator was dubbed “the greatest recruiter ” for the NPAs because due his misrule and abuse- these pushed many to accept the violent route to change and joined the rebel movement.
Even during Cory’s time, after all political detainees were ordered released, there were also preliminary peace talks with the Reds. It smoldered into an even warmer issue when the Philippine senate voted out the two American bases from the country.
It was halted when the Cory government failed to recognize the ceasefire declaration of the NDF-CPP. Some success was also merited in the FVR regime with the opening of the opening of The Hague Declaration that ended in two confidence building agreements, namely, the JASIG and the CARHRHAL.
Due to conflicts, not much was seen during the short-lived presidency of Joseph Estrada. When GMA took over in 2001, talks resumed but was halted as abruptly with the assassination of Rep Rudy Aguinaldo allegedly by the NPAs. Two murders of key communist leaders in the Philippines were also foisted on the back of the Communist Party founder Jose Ma Sison.
After a three year halt, it was resumed in 2004. This was black-balled, however, by the US canonization of the NPAs as “terrorists” and the impending arrest of Sison abroad for political assassination charges.
In the Pnoy era, informal talks were resumed but were scuttled when the Reds demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners. Then Duterte.
Yes, today, after 40 peace talks and 20 “agreements”, there seems to be a sense among the GRP and NDF sides- that with trust built on each other- the room for lasting peace may yet come true.
From his admission, Duterte claims that while he is not a communist, his orientation has always been left of center.
Therefore, with such a mindset, the NDF probably finds this as a rare chance in history to advance their bid for reconciliation and societal reform as they see a president advocating a strong , independent foreign policy from America, a long-time enemy of the left , especially at the height of the Cold War.
Almost half a century of war is tiring, cruel and divisive for the nation.