Exercises in futility

Duterte with soldiers

At about the same time that the peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were concluding back channel talks in Utrecht, the Netherlands, during which they agreed to return to the negotiating table, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was bombing communities in areas whose residents, it believes, either harbor the New People’s Army (NPA) or are supportive of it in various ways.

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Self-fulfilling prophecy

The unfortunately named Magdalo group — the Magdalo was the Katipunan faction that murdered Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna — identified with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has a point. It doesn’t do anyone any good for the Philippine government (GPH), particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and President Rodrigo Duterte on the one hand, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on the other, to be throwing accusations at each other at this time when the peace talks between them have been suspended and are in grave danger of once again being abandoned, as they were during the Corazon Aquino, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III administrations.

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Same old, same old

PROBABLY with the approach of the new year in mind, but certainly because of the occasion, President Benigno Aquino III announced during the 75th anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a supposedly new counter-insurgency strategy meant, said AFP spokesmen, not only to defeat “the enemy,” but also to “win the peace.”

By “the enemy,” all Philippine governments since that of Ferdinand Marcos has meant the New People’s Army (NPA), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which commands it, and the alliance of various revolutionary groups known as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of which the CPP is a part.

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Clear and present danger

WE CAN all sleep soundly each night in the certainty that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is on guard and watching over us. Regardless of such technicalities as due process and human rights, it is at this very moment protecting us not only from explosives experts pretending to be health workers, pregnant mothers and nine-year old girls able to carry and even fire M-16 assault rifles taller than themselves, but also from trade union leaders, community activists, lawyers, church people and even a botanist or two.

Like that other model of selfless, honest and efficient public service, the Philippine National Police, the AFP’s job is also to serve and protect. Neither always says who they’re protecting and serving, but they do occasionally mention something called “the people,” by whom we can reasonably surmise from their near-common histories and current actions they mean the hacenderos, the warlords, the foreign mining companies and the other worthies who have made this country such a heaven for themselves by making it hell for the 90 million others who have to live in this archipelago of fear. After all, there’s a rumor that even your friendly local warlord and hacendero are human, too. Think Ampatuan. Think local officials who mastermind the assassination of journalists. Think certain Philippine presidents.

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