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Communists’ big-guns at peace talks: Our first real shot at ending the insurgency

For the first time since formal peace talks in 1987, the communist insurgency’s real big guns will be de facto part of the actual negotiations: Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, and Alan Jazmines.

Tiamzon had been party chairman for the last decade until his capture in March 2014. His wife Wilma, who was captured with him, had been the secretary general. Adelberto Silva, the party’s Organization Bureau head, had succeeded Austria as secretary general until his capture in June 2015. Jazmines ran the National Democratic Front supervising all the party’s above-ground political struggles. Gamara headed the party’s powerful Manila-Rizal Committee until his capture in 2013.

The communist leaders — twelve of them — were technically consultants to the National Democratic Front per agreement in past peace talks, and on this basis were freed and allowed to go to Oslo to join the peace talks with government, which started yesterday.

This is such a game changer.

It was an unprecedented move by President Duterte to make sure that the insurgents were actually represented in the talks, as he had started think that founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison and his small gang in Utrecht may no longer be accurately representing the insurgents’ views, as he had been away from the Philippines for three decades already. There were also reports that Sison had not been consulting enough with the communist leaders left in the Philippines in the past negotiations.

It was really a bold, move on the part of Duterte, which the communists themselves had not expected, and represents the breakthrough in the peace talks since these started in 1987. Any other president could not have undertaken it since it risked the ire of the military, which has continued to suffer casualties from NPA attacks in the past several years.

Duterte’s move risked the demoralization of the military’s intelligence service, which had worked for many years to capture the communist leaders. This is likely one reason why Duterte in his first two months in power has given speeches to military groups more than his successor Benigno Aquino 3rd did in his five years in office.

Duterte lucky
Duterte of course was lucky to have at his disposal the communist leaders to join the peace talks in the first place. Tiamzon and several others were captured only since 2013.

Off to make peace at airport: Communist leaders Reynante Gamara, Alan Jazmines, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, and Adelberto Silva
Off to make peace at airport: Communist leaders Reynante Gamara, Alan Jazmines, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, and Adelberto Silva

Tiamzon’s group represents the second generation of leaders of the Communist Party, who almost all became communists only through the surge of the student movement in the early 1970s. In contrast, Sison was with the pro-Soviet Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, and he single-handedly recruited his core-group, believing in him as the country’s Mao Ze Dong.

Sison and his “Politburo” were all die-hard Maoists, partly because it was funded heavily by China in its ardor to export revolution during Mao Ze Dong. Among his Politiburo, only Sison actually remains active in revolution, with several of his original comrades killed or have died of natural causes, and three becoming citizens of Spain, Germany and Canada, and living quiet lives.

In contrast, Tiamzon’s Politburo members were recruited through the student movement, by different cadres. While still mouthing their adherence to “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Ze Dong Thought,” they are known not to stick to dogmas, and have instead learned from their experience in actual revolution. Several of them in their revolutionary careers have been through heated debates on the strategy for the Philippine revolution, and had experimented on the late NPA commander Romy Kintanar’s and fiery Manila-Rizal leader Filemon Lagman’s urban model for a political-military uprising.

What would be going for Duterte’s round of peace talks is the personal dimension. Sison has lived in the Netherlands for three decades and appears to have, as most old men do, planted deep roots there. Read his books, and he is living in his own little world, out of touch with Philippine reality — and the world — that he thinks, as he had thought in the 1970s, that a “People’s Republic of the Philippines” would be the glorious outpost of communism in Asia, just waiting for capitalism to collapse worldwide.

Utrecht gang
I don’t think Sison and his Utretch gang were ever really interested in reaching a settlement with government, unless it is one in which he as returned Party chairman shares power with the Philippine President. The peace talks now make up the chance for Sison to be interviewed in media. Why would he ever want this to be ended, with a settlement?

In contrast, Tiamzon and his Politburo have lived in the Philippines for the past 40-plus years. They have seen their “Red bases” rise and fall, they have seen revolutionary flows — as those in Davao and Manila in the 1980s — ebb and forgotten so quickly. They are seeing their rural bases overtaken by even farmers using cellphones and watching television. They have realized that countries that had been more backward than us when they stared to make revolution in the 1970s — countries like South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia — became rich countries even with their class structures.

I believe that Tiamzon’s Politburo would be more realistic and drop Sison’s pipe-dream for a People’s Democratic Republic of the Philippines ruled by the Communist Party, and instead undertake steps through the peace talks for weakening the landlord and oligarchic rule. Some useful role for the Communist cadres and NPA commanders, and I would think they would agree to a settlement, to spend their twilight years in relative comfort and peace of mind.

Duterte has cleverly appointed Tiamzon’s comrades into high positions in his government, very significantly peasant leader Rafael Mariano as head of the Agrarian Reform department, a body officially tasked to undertake what had been the communists’ top agenda, the end of tenancy in the Philippines.

I don’t think Mariano will report to Tiamzon that his post has been a useless one. His experience will instead open the possibilities for Tiamzon’s group on how to work within a democratic system, rather than spending their resources — and lives — in trying to violently overthrow government. After 40 years, I think they aren’t that stupid to believe that that will ever happen in this day and age.


This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Joeri

    Ulyanin na ang mga kumunistang yan. Sino pa ang makikinig sa kanila kundi mga bata pa ay ulyanin na rin! Alam nila yan. Kanya nga’t makikipag-usap na; aba’y may makukuha pang bilyon-bilyon para sa “rehabilitasyun” nila kung magka pirmahan. Dangan nga lamang ay nag Martial Law si Pres Digong nang mambulabog ang Maute sa Marawi – ang bagong kontra bida. At nakasilip na naman ng pagkakataong umatras-umabante ang mga ulyaning kumunista sa peace talks. Diktador daw ang Pangulo, so teka muna. Talagang mga ulyanin na.

  2. Panch

    The communists should now think what their new strategy should be. If we look at the photo above, these leaders of the communists joined their struggle when they are still college students. Look at them now, they have grown so old yet their “cause” is nowhere to go. Raising their hand with closed fist at their age… hindi na bagay…. nakakaawang tingnan.

  3. Rudi Miranda

    Bobbi, thank you! However, the analogy ain’t something new. Hesusmaryosep totoo ba ang aking naririnig at ang nababasa mula sayo? Pastilan! Papayag kaya ang mga bagong ‘apparatchiks’ na naroroon sa konkretong condition sa revolution, whatever? Ain’t really a picnic! What can the spirit do if the flesh is weak and old?

  4. litocruz

    I have always stated that President Duterte is smart. Along the road to peace there are hurdles. We cannot let our guard down now …we have to support our President…

  5. L A

    Surely, there will be behind the scenes discussions of ideas betwwen Tiamzon’S politburo and Joma unless Sison will still be able to unilaterally dictate his mantra to the group and disguise his dictatorship with democratic centralism. But hardened as they were with the realities on the ground what with the advent to the cyberage where the power of information is now in the hands of the masses, I am sure that Tiamzon and Adel will be able to temper or even discredit Sison’s protracted struggle with new ideas that can be availed of while the Politburo pursues their parliamentary struggle. For all we know, there might even be a break up within their ranks. Indeed, the Dee Gong was a good strategist when he risked allowing Mr. Bento to link up with the Plaza Miranda Bomber.

  6. Ignacio Balbutin

    The communists should realize that their dinosaur age old ideology will never work in any given society. Red Khmers was able to overthrow the government of Cambodia and the result was a horror. They killed thousands upon thousands of professionals and almost destroyed their country had it not been for the intervention of Vietnam. The communist giants, China and Russia prospered only when they revert to capitalism. Now it is fair to say that there is no more communist countries in this world because all have adopted the capitalistic system to prosper. So the communist party of the Philippines should not hope to install a communist government but instead come down from the hills and returned to the mainstream society. If the peace talks is successful they should lay down their arms otherwise there will be no peace if they continue to bear arms. In a democratic society only the police, the army and other para military units has the right to bear the arms.

  7. Na Me

    While looking at that airport photo, I thought I’m seeing a group of principIed leaders who lived as they believed. I hope the experience, lessons from the past and what is happening in the world will be factored- in into our own common goals. Wisdom and experience should match the practical efforts to build our country. Continuous learning and adjustments, corrections and adaptations can be used create our own “hybrid system of governance” that borrows the best from the world, and do away with the bad, wasteful and do not work.

    Long live Pilipinas.

  8. AB

    Thank you for this contribution. This strategy of inclusion and negotiation is worth trying. We might even end up with a less lopsided social structure, although it must be said that this is not something that any government by itself can accomplish.

  9. Jose Bonifacio

    President Rodrigo Duterte, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize Award. Nomination was submitted to Hon. Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute (8.23.16).
    More news on the nomination will be posted after news releases are sent out.

    1. Akuimo Batusayan

      If ever he becomes successful with this peace attempt and win the Nobel Peace Prize, I’m sure that Pres. Duterte will not attend the awarding. He doesn’t have a stomach for it.

    2. nimrod

      Amazing , who would have guessed that in just 50 days of his administration DU30 would be nominated?

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