Drawing the line
After much rhetoric coming from both the teacher and student, President Rodrigo Duterte, the student finally made good his threat to declare the CPP/NPA, led by the teacher, Joma Sison, as a terrorist organization.
We may assume therefore, that for some time to come, there will be no peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.
One ramification of the President’s declaration is that there will be a big increase in the fighting between the CPP/NPA and the armed services of the country. Then again, even before the President made the announcement, we already saw a spike in the number of engagements. One is that encounter in Nasugbu, Batangas wherein the CPP/NPA lost about 15 of its combatants. It was a major loss to the CPP/NPA considering that encounters between government forces and the CPP/NPA do not normally result in huge casualties.
The CPP/NPA also attacked a police station in Misamis Oriental with a reported strength of 200 men but failed to capture the station which was defended by only 23 Police personnel. If the report was accurate that 200 men were involved from the CPP/NPA, it was both a major operation and failure on their part.
The public will also now have to grow accustomed to more frequent skirmishes between government forces and the CPP/NPA. In addition, since the CPP/NPA is now considered a terrorist group, enforcement agencies will now be able to target aggressively the source of their financing which we all know comes mainly from the so called revolutionary taxes collected from some individuals and businesses, whether forcibly or voluntary consisting of money, material and medicines.
One question that might arise however, is the question of media outlets interviewing elements of the CPP/NPA in jungles providing footages of men parading complete with uniforms, arms and flags which could be construed as providing aid to the enemy with free propaganda. This should now be clarified by the government to avoid unnecessary future problems with the media.
The breakdown of the peace process is unfortunate after starting with so much promise, euphoria and optimism. Whose fault was it? When the President was campaigning, he promised peace for the country and to be fair with him he started by appointing many left leaning personalities identified with the National Democratic Front to senior government positions. This even made the police and the military uncomfortable.
Nonetheless, he is the only President in recent times to have done that and the NDF responded by calling the President their brethren. His principal peace negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, even went to the extent of attending one CPP/NPA anniversary celebration to the consternation of some people. This is probably to highlight the desire of the government to make peace.
The President also went a lot further by releasing detained CPP/NPA leaders who are facing criminal charges. Led by the Tiamson couple, they numbered more than a hundred people.
Now that fighting has resumed, the government will again have to look for these people and try to put them back in jail. This will not be easy.
Although the CPP/NPA armed component is only estimated to number around 3,800, all their important leaders are now out and can provide the needed leadership for their struggle. The President is right in saying that he, of all recent chief executives, has demonstrated the most sincerity by doing a lot of confidence building measures which he believed was never reciprocated by CPP/NPA leadership.
Instead, the CPP/NPA continued to conduct raids on government installations culminating in the ambush of a government convoy consisting of personnel from the Presidential Security Group which essentially was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. The lame excuse from Joma Sison was that the NDF does not control all the armed elements of the CPP/NPA.
If this is the case, what specific group is the NDF representing? Why is the government even talking to the NDF at all? It looks like the NDF wants to have their cake and eat it too. The CPP/NPA being declared as a terrorist organization is nothing new.
For the last 15 years, the United States has considered the CPP/NPA a terrorist group but has never made a move against its leaders who are mostly living in relative comfort in the Netherlands apparently as Dutch citizens. This might be because of the on-and-off peace talks between the NDF and the Philippine Government.
But now that the Philippine government considers the CPP/NPA as a terrorist organization, maybe the US government can move against them without any hindrance. Not privy to the decision making processes of the NDF, we do not know why Joma Sison did not reciprocate in kind to all that President Duterte did. With the appointment of many progressives to senior government positions and the release of many CPP/NPA leaders as “consultants”, the CPP/NPA already got so much that they as a revolutionary group were not able to achieve in the last 47 years of revolutionary struggle.
Perhaps it was a miscalculation on their part to think that they can milk President Duterte to make more concessions. It could also be that both sides simply miscalculated driven by misplaced expectations of the moment.
At least President Duterte seems to have acknowledged this in one interview. We are now back to square one. Will the aging revolutionary in the person of Joma Sison have enough time to see his lifelong revolutionary ambition fulfilled as he badly wants? Will the armed services of the country, besieged with many missions, have enough resources to finally finish the CPP/NPA once and for all? The answers to both are not encouraging. Maybe both should just go back to the negotiating table for the sake of the country.