FOR undertaking a comprehensive campaign to eradicate — finally, the nation hopes — the 52-year-old Maoist menace in the country, Rodrigo Duterte has emerged as the country’s boldest president ever. By doing so, he is also the most perspicacious and the least “pulitiko” (as I will argue in this column) as he has torn down the disguises — the “fronts” such as the Red party-lists — the communists have been wearing since their party’s founding in 1968.
In the post-EDSA I era, none of its five presidents have taken on the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its private army, so ridiculously misnamed the New People’s Army (NPA), which explains why we have the longest-running insurgency in Asia.
Corazon Aquino of course embraced the communists, continuing her husband Benigno Aquino 3rd’s alliance with communist ideologue Jose Ma. Sison and his Red conspirators established at the very founding of both the CPP and the NPA — which was in the Cojuangco-Aquino clan’s Hacienda Luisita in the late 1960s.
One of Cory Aquino’s first acts as President was to release communist party founder Sison and other top Red leaders — many of whom were captured at the cost of many lives of the Republic’s armed forces. Sison would flee the Philippines in 1987, pretend to be a persecuted legal opposition in order to be given asylum by the Netherlands, from where he would reclaim the party chairmanship with the new alias Armando Liwanag.
As former ranking party cadre Nathan Quimpo would relate in his book Subversive Lives, that while Sison had an “unseemly proclivity for chasing skirts and going to discos” in Utrecht, he did manage to expand the CPP’s international network so that NPA leaders got to be trained in Palestinian Liberation Organization camps and to procure arms from various sources overseas.
Whether wittingly or unwittingly, Aquino allowed the appointment of party cadres in the Bureau of Customs at that time so that they were able to smuggle the most advanced assault rifles through the regular Manila ports, hidden in steel drums mislabeled as containing fertilizer.
It was the Constitutional Convention of 1987 — all of whose members were appointed by Aquino — that drew up a constitution that called for a party-list system in Congress, which has allowed the CPP to have their disguised minions become members of our House of Representatives. As a result, these Reds even draw salaries and other forms of funds from us taxpayers, to be used in their conspiracy to topple democracy.
Aquino’s successor Fidel Ramos, a cousin of the strongman Marcos, headed during most of martial law the Philippine Constabulary that went against the Maoists, and whose intelligence units, like the dreaded 5th Constabulary Unit, captured Sison and most communist leaders.
But Ramos proved to be a puppy by Cory’s lap, agreeing to release these Maoists. As president, he kept on offering peace talks to the communists and did little to weaken the Maoist insurgency, mostly echoing the liberals’ line that it would be economic development that would defeat the insurgency. Under Cory and Ramos’ administration, the NPA killed 4,395 of the Republic’s soldiers, according to the military records on death-in-combat relatives’ benefits, a bit more than the 4,253 Armed Forces casualties from 1975 to 1984, or during Marcos’ rule.
Because of his nationalist rhetoric or the Left’s assessment that he could be easily used, Joseph Estrada was supported by the Communist Party, its fronts and leftist leaders. Estrada for instance appointed former National Democratic Front leader, the late Horacio Morales Jr., as Agrarian Reform secretary and other former CPP leaders in sub-secretary positions. His adviser for political affairs, Rolando Llamas was a former CPP leader who became a leader of the “pink” forces, or those who broke away from the party, such as Akbayan, whose most well-known member is its chairman, Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Rather than against the NPA, Estrada unleashed his military on the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), overrunning its main camp Abubakar. Estrada’s war against the MILF gave the NPA much breathing space to recover their lost bases in Samar and Mindanao.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — whom a close aide in the 1980s very nearly recruited into the party or its National Democratic Front — thought she could reach a peaceful settlement with the Reds. The CPP called off peace talks with Arroyo, claiming that she did not do enough to convince the US not to put it in its global list of terrorist organizations. However, the relentless attacks by the Estrada-FPJ and then Yellow forces against Arroyo as well as the continued threats of coups against her after the heated elections in 2004, weakened her political base so much that she decided not to undertake an all-out war against the communist insurgency.
Aquino 3rd continued his late parents’ alliance with the Reds and undertook peace talks, that he nearly gave them a status of belligerency which by international law would have given them the same legitimacy as a sovereign state.
The talks only served to advance the CPP’s portrayal, especially abroad, as still a force to be reckoned with and with the international community recognizing it as an organization party with legitimate demands, when the reality was that it was a terrorist group. CPP and NPA cadres were given “safe conduct passes” to move all over the country to coordinate their forces without fear of being arrested. Every CPP or NPA cadre arrested claimed they were “consultants” in the peace talks.
Duterte early in his regime gave the Reds the opportunity to prove themselves as reformists willing to work within the democratic system, even appointed ranking former or current CPP leaders to head departments, such as former top Negros NPA leader Judy Taguiwalo as Social Welfare and Development secretary.
But when the NPA attacks against government forces continued, Duterte called off peace talks and launched a total campaign against the Reds, creating an institution for this under Executive Order 70 issued in December 2018 — the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac). This is composed of 10 department secretaries, heads of the military and security agencies, and two representatives from the private sector.
Its mandate is to undertake a “whole-of-nation” approach to totally defeating the Reds. The task force’s mandate is not just to undertake intensified military campaigns against the communists but launch such efforts as an intense information campaign to unmask them and socio-economic development programs in areas that they control.
Duterte is the first president ever in the post-EDSA era to undertake such a comprehensive campaign to dismantle the CPP-NPA, the last such insurgency in Asia.
He is even bolder than President Ramon Magsaysay who ended the first communist insurgency here in the 1950s led by the pro-Soviet Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. But behind Magsaysay was US military might and the CIA to help him. Duterte is also even braver than Marcos, who after all imposed a dictatorship and didn’t have to worry about an opposition or a media sympathetic to the communists — as there are in the case of Duterte, trying to block his campaign to end the Maoist rebels.
Duterte has proven to be perspicacious — probably as he had long dealt with the communists in his many years as Davao City mayor – that he knows that the CPP-NPA will never give up its arms willingly and would merely exploit peace talks to strengthen itself, as it has done under the past four presidents.
And as I pointed out at the outset of this column, he has proven to be the least pulitiko by undertaking an all-out war against the CPP-NPA.
The party-list system that started in 1995 as well as the masses the CPP-NPA controls through fear or persuasion make up a sizeable base of electoral support. Going by the last 2018 elections and the votes for the top Red front Bayan Muna, this could total 1 million votes, a command vote, as the CPP will just order its organizations’ network to support particular candidates. The past four presidents before Duterte wooed the CPP, and so did many politicians including those in the Senate to give them these votes.
Duterte doesn’t care. Neither does he care about the yakkity-yak of international bleeding-heart meddlers. All he cares about is the total defeat of this 52-year-old Red terror.