By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras
and Arjay L. Balinbin Reporter
AS THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) celebrated its 50th founding anniversary on Wed., Dec. 26, Malacañang tagged its five decades of armed movement against government as a “failed rebellion.”
“The fifty years of Joma (Jose Maria C.) Sison’s rebellion speaks for itself. It’s a failed rebellion. It only resulted in the loss of lives of Filipinos especially the numerous young students who were killed in ambushes, skirmishes, battles and in sickness in the hills, who could have served their country well in pacific and productive means, as well as the destruction of properties,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.
He added that rebel surrenderees have been “coming in droves responding to the call of the government to return to the fold of the law, while Mr. Sison remains ensconced in his ivory tower of comfort and luxury while his comrades die for a lost cause.”
“No wonder the forces on the ground no longer follow him, hence his regular rants against PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) to give himself the appearance of relevance,” the spokesman said.
On the other hand, Mr. Sison, who has been living in exile since 1987, said the revolutionary movement “has grown strong” under the Duterte administration.
“Duterte is the best recruiter of the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army) because he outrages the people…. The revolutionary movement has grown strong because it has the correct line. It has described correctly the kind of situation and society in the Philippines, and it has a program,” Mr. Sison said in an interview with the ANC channel.
The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP.
Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry LI. Yusingco, however, opined that Mr. Sison’s more than 30-year residency in the Netherlands has significantly weakened the movement.
“Obviously, the legacy of the CPP-NPA is utter failure. I think their supreme leader stayed overseas far too long to the chagrin of his comrades suffering in the mountains of the Philippines. Sadly, I think the perception of the cadres that the communist leadership was living in comfort in Europe undermined the movement itself. Ultimately, I believe the steady rise of the middle-class sealed the communist movement’s path to failure,” said Mr. Yusingco in an email to BusinessWorld.
Mr. Yusingco added, “I expect the CPP-NPA to suffer a big blow under the Duterte-led AFP. But I see the total demise of the movement within the decade as more Filipinos enter middle-class status. They have been practically irrelevant the past two decades anyway.”
Meanwhile, the CPP’s Northern Central Mindanao Region (CPP-NCMR) group boasted about its series of recent attacks against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“Since December 6 up to 16, the AFP has suffered almost 30 casualties, counting the 28 killed and wounded in the boundaries of Agusan del Sur and Misamis Oriental. Spread through the ten days, the AFP had suffered at least three casualties per day,” said CPP-NCMR Spokesperson Norsen Manggubat in a statement on Tuesday, Dec. 25.
“The said incidents proved the incapability of the US-Duterte regime and its armed forces to fail the intensifying people’s armed resistance,” he said.
The CPP Central Committee, in another statement on Dec. 26, also dismissed government pronouncements of ending the communist movement by next year.
“Their claim last year that the NPA will be defeated before the end of 2018 has been frustrated and proven a big lie. This year, they proclaim that the NPA will be completely finished by mid-2019. As in all previous regimes, they keep on moving their impossible deadline,” the CPP said.
Meanwhile, the AFP pointed out that the NPA violated the CPP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration for Christmas after one Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit member was wounded during an encounter between a nine-man government squad and 20 rebel members in Rodriguez, Rizal on the eve of the CPP’s 50th anniversary.
Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos, Jr., commander of the Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade, said the government troops were conducting security patrol when civilians informed them about the presence of NPA rebels.
“This is a violation of their self-imposed ceasefire and a clear manifestation that their fighters no longer recognize the authority of their so-called leaders,” said Mr. Burgos in a statement.
The CPP declared a unilateral ceasefire from 12:01 on Dec. 24 to 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 26 and from 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 31 to 11:59 p.m. of New Year’s Day.
Asked for comment, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said the communist rebels have failed to achieve their goals in the past 50 years.
“Definitely, they failed to realize their desired end as a revolutionary organization. Because their movement remained purely ideological and not progressive in social movements, they might seem critical with their legal front but that doesn’t show meaningful or practical solutions concerning social inequalities as the very bedrock of their struggle,” said Mr. Villarin in an online message to BusinessWorld.
Mr. Villarin added that boosting the economy and developing infrastructure in the countryside would help in combatting the rebellion.
“If the Duterte admin[stration] will fail to translate his Build, Build, Build programs into a sustainable socio-economic opportunity in the countryside, the CPP-NPA will continue to attract and find homage for their revolutionary existence,” he said.