ANALYSTS sought for comment cited key conditions that the government needs to tackle to determine the fate of the communist insurgency.
The year 2018 marked the existence of both the Communist Party of the Philippines (December 26) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (March 29), for exactly a half century. But the insurgency spans further back in time to at least the immediate postwar era.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte aims to end the insurgency by the end of his term. Mr. Duterte himself had said the rebellion can end by this year, an endeavor that Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria C. Sison said is bound to fail.
Sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science professor Marlon M. Villarin said in a phone interview on Saturday, “The very root cause why the Communist Party survived is simply because of the failure of the government to really address the root cause of rebellion and that is social injustices: their failure to reach the countryside for better opportunities for living, their failure to address and reinforce a genuine agrarian reform.”
Analyst Richard J. Heydarian, when also sought for comment, said, “I don’t think it is realistic to think of their complete extinction unless the Philippines magically becomes an equitable society which is not gonna happen in time soon. But to keep them at bay and to contain them and prevent them from becoming a formidable kind of insurgent group, I think that is doable.”
He added: “You can kill the rebels, but you cannot kill the idea outright. So the ideas will persist. As long as people believe in them, they can come back.”
“(But) I think it is quite realistic to think that in less than a generation perhaps, in a decade or less, we may see the communist movement drawing to verge of extinction, barring any major political transformation in our country. But they will be there as long as long socioeconomic injustice is prevalent on the ground.”
Mr. Villarin, for his part, said, “The Build, Build, Build project is very instrumental. We have to remember that these road projects, these infrastructure projects will not only benefit the national government but also the countryside. And we are now looking at the possibility that it will translate into sustainable livelihood opportunities in the countryside. So when these things happen in the countryside, peace and order will also prosper.”
Also sought for comment, UST Political Science Department Chairperson Dennis C. Coronacion cited “the wrong notion of government officials that the solution to communist insurgency lies at the hands of our military. This solution has failed to address the root causes of joining the leftist movement.”
“Actually, there are government programs in place designed to address the root causes of the insurgency problems in the country. The agencies in charge include the DSWD and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,” added Mr. Coronacion, citing further the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the national government’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) in conflict-affected areas.
On Friday, the Department of Interior and Local Government reported that 8,367 rebels surrendered to the government between July 1 and Dec. 28, 2018. Many of the former rebels were granted benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
Ateneo Policy Center research fellow Michael Henry LI. Yusingco, when also sought for comment, said via email, “I believe the CPP is irrelevant in the broader scheme of things. I do not see them contributing significantly in our nation’s growth. I am utterly perplexed at government’s response to the CPP.”
He added, “On one hand, the government is always saying the CPP is a spent force and the NPA is just a ragtag group of terrorist. And yet on the other hand, they also constantly say that the CPP and the NPA are still serious threats to the country’s peace and order situation. This just seem farcical for me.”
On the always interrupted peace talks, Mr. Villarin said, “The window towards peace talks will always be open to both sides. But the administration is now looking at a different model. For more than five decades, most of our peace talks is always between the national government and the national leadership of NPA. Now, the present administration is looking at a different model. It is now an agreement between the national government and the grassroot leadership of NPA.”
“Kasi tandaan natin (Let’s remember), Joma Sison remains a symbolic leader of NPA. But we have to remember that there are different movements on the ground. Kaya kahit (So even if) Joma Sison is very strong with his words, people are now surrendering their arms to the government because hindi na nakikita ng revolutionary forces ngayon ‘yung essence (they do not perceive anymore the essence). They are now becoming more practical rather than ideological.”
For his part, Mr. Heydarian said, “I think what government is pushing is not peace talk but a surrender agreement with the communist movement….I think there were some sort of historic chance in the past including the earlier months of the Duterte administration. I would even say that if the Mamasapano (tragedy) did not happen, there’s a good chance we would have it in early 2015.”
He added: “The point with the communist movement is that they are internally divided….In economics, we have a principal-agent problem, so clearly we have principals of the communist movement as formally identified and maybe okay with peaceful negotiations. But we have agents on the ground who have contrary interests and they don’t think together. In that absence, the government has two options, to go for an all-out war or divide and conquer them.”
Mr. Yusingco said: “I’m not sure if there is still even a need for a peace agreement between the government and the CPP. If the NPA is simply a ragtag group of terrorists, then the correct approach would be to treat them as such. Why even put the CPP in the same category of the MILF, if they are indeed a spent force?” — interviews by Vince Angelo C. Ferreras