It may still be weeks before his inauguration as the 16th president of the Philippines, but President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has already generated enough controversy to occupy the country for the rest of the year through (1) his declaration that he would pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and release all political prisoners as a confidence-building measure; (2) his subsequent meeting — described as “cordial” by observers — with NDFP emissaries; and (3) his alloting four Cabinet posts to individuals from, or nominated by, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
During the campaign for the presidency, Duterte also declared that he was a “socialist” and that if elected he would be the first “leftist” president of the Philippines. Days before election day, he also presided over the release of several policemen who had been captured by the New People’s Army (NPA), while later engaging in a friendly long-distance conversation with his former professor, CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison.
They were “insurrectos” during the late Spanish period, “insurgents” during formal US occupation, and “insurgents” still today.
Echoing the country’s former and current colonizers, the Philippine government calls what the guerillas of the New People’s Army (NPA) are waging an “insurgency.” But more accurately can it be described as a war–and a war that has been going on for over a century.
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.
The “Palparan solution” to armed rebellion has never been a solution at all. As Philippine experience with the rebellions that have been part of the Philippine landscape before and after 1946 has amply demonstrated, it has always been part of the problem.
To the perennial unrest that’s the consequence of an unjust social order, all Philippine governments without exception have responded with the use of state violence. With predictable inevitability, that approach has included the arrest, torture, forced disappearance and killing not only of those who have taken up arms, but also of sympathizers, reformers, and protesters exercising their right to free expression.