Philippine Communists living in the past » Manila Bulletin News

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By Getsy Tiglao

Getsy Tiglao

Just like the Japanese stragglers of old, Philippine Communists need to get out of the jungle and start living in the real world. Communism as a political belief has all but collapsed worldwide, but here the local Communists are stuck with their outdated and discredited ideas on how to change society.

There are only five countries in the world that are still considered as Communist states: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cuba. North Korea, some scholars have argued, is more of a cultish-monarchial state than Communist. The rest of the group are Communist in form but their economic and political systems have been evolving and moving towards a more capitalist, democratic system, especially the economic superpower China.

China, beginning in 1978 under Deng Xiaoping, undertook market reforms with “Chinese characteristics.” The result was unprecedented growth that continues to this day, with the country’s economy seen growing 6.8 percent this year. Its civil laws continue to evolve with forms of private ownership now being allowed.

Before China turned capitalist and abandoned its policy of exporting its Communist ideology, the local reds had looked up to the Communist state for inspiration and for actual political, financial, and military support.

In the late 1960s up to 1970s, Communist Party of the Philippines leaders even stayed for training and indoctrination in a secret compound in Beijing that housed Communist insurgents  from all over the world, as recounted by academic and former party cadre Dr. Mario Miclat, in his book “Secrets of the Eighteen Mansions.”

Perhaps the most famous incident in China’s support for the CPP was its financing and provision of arms shipments for local Communists fighting the government. The first shipment of arms aboard the MV Karagatan reached Palanan, Isabela, in early July, 1972, with its cache of over 1,000 M14 rifles, thousands of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, communications equipment, and other war materiels.

Thanks to the efforts of the Philippine military, the local Communists were stopped from turning over to their armed wing, the New People’s Army, the huge cache of weapons. Initially, it was the Philippine Constabulary command in Isabela under then Lt. Edgar Aglipay who commandeered the MV Karagatan (the rebels had left the ship, presumably to set up camp), and later the Philippine Army finished the job by battling the Communists to submission in Digoyo.

The Communists tried again to bring arms for the NPA in 1974 but it was another botched operation. The vessel MV Andrea was on its way to Sanya Naval Base in Hainan to get the automatic rifles and other war materiels donated by China. But the ship sank in the South China Sea, not surprisingly since it was captained by a young student activist who had no skills in seafaring and worse, suffered from motion sickness.

The MV Karagatan arms smuggling, plus the bombing in Plaza Miranda in August, 1971, masterminded by CPP founder Jose Maria Sison (as affirmed by Miclat, former senator Jovito Salonga, and investigative journalist Gregg Jones, among others), were among the incidents that convinced then President Ferdinand Marcos that the Communists might gain headway in the country and  led to his decision to impose martial law on September 21, 1972.

Fast-forward to 1986: Joma Sison was released from prison by then President Corazon Aquino, in an attempt at national reconciliation, but the Communist leader soon fled the country for the Netherlands where he has been living the “Dutch lifestyle” for the past 30 years. Meanwhile, his comrades have been fighting a protracted battle here that they cannot ever hope to win, especially now with the strong support being given by President Rodrigo Duterte to the military.

Duterte, like previous Philippine presidents, began his administration with high hopes of achieving a peace deal with the Communist rebels. Much to the chagrin of the military, Duterte released from prison the top CPP leaders, including Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, to serve as consultants to the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

The peace deal was doomed from the start. The NPA in the Philippines appeared to be working independently of the CPP leadership with their repeated clashes with military and police, and their brazen attacks and destruction of private property. The NPA also continued their extortion of private businesses such as mining companies located in the countryside by collecting “revolutionary taxes.”

But according to Duterte, the final straw was when he read the working papers for the proposed peace agreement. He was surprised to find that the Communists wanted a coalition government.

“I looked at everything. It sums up like this, it looks like a coalition government. That’s what I said in a statement to the press: I cannot give you what I do not have. It is a portion of a sovereignty which nobody can own except the Filipino people,” Duterte said in a speech shortly after issuing Proclamation No. 360, which officially terminated the peace talks with the CPP-NPA and their political arm, the National Democratic Front.

One wonders why Duterte had to issue an official proclamation to end the peace talks. He could have just announced it in media, leaving him the option to resume it if conditions improved. Clearly, he wanted to send a message to the military – who were wary of the Communists in the first place – that he was serious in ending the talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF, now back to their status as terrorist groups.

Duterte has repeatedly assured the public that he will build a stronger military and police force to protect the people, and ensure the nation’s security. The Armed Forces intends to mobilize an additional 20,000 fighting men to its ranks. New arms and equipment are also planned to be purchased for the military, in addition to those that have been donated by Russia and China.

The Philippine Army estimates that the NPA fighters number only 3,000 and it is confident that it can finally beat the Communists, now that Duterte has removed the proverbial gloves from the military.

Wisely, the government is also looking at stopping the funding source of Communists, notably the mining companies and other businesses that have been paying “taxes” to the NPA in exchange for protection. Duterte has warned that it will close down mining companies that continue to support the enemy of the state.

Duterte told the communists, many of whom are still hiding out in the countryside: “We have been fighting for 50 years. You want another 50 years? I have been pleading for peace. Eh sumobra kayo eh (you asked for too much).” The President has advised the military to prepare for more “virulent” encounters with the NPA.

Indeed, the time for talking is over, and the Philippine military now must act to eliminate once and for all this Communist scourge.

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