The statement of former President Rodrigo Duterte describing the passing of CPP/NPA founder Jose Maria Sison in the Netherlands at the age of 83 was quite apt.
His death is indeed the end of an era, 53 years to be exact, and he died true to his beliefs. A revolutionary till the end.
When he coalesced his CPP with the Bernabe Buscayno’s NPA in Capas, Tarlac to form the CPP/NPA in March of 1969, who would have thought that it will still be going on to this day.
He was captured by the government in La Union in 1977 and spent nine years in prison until released by the government of President Cory Aquino in 1986.
He went into voluntary exile in 1987 to the Netherlands and lived there until his passing. Although the CPP/NPA has stated so many times that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization, he was unquestionably the guiding spirit and the rank and file of the organization had always looked up to him.
His passing, therefore, has a huge impact on the CPP/NPA.
The question now is what happens next?
Will Sison’s death open up a window wherein a meaningful dialogue with the government can now be realistically pursued?
It is a tantalizing opportunity for both sides.
If it will happen and a peace deal can be signed, the Armed Forces can now devote its resources to modernizing and improving its external defense capabilities.
That would be a huge dividend.
But the government will have to wait to see what will happen to the CPP/NPA whether the struggle for leadership as a result of Sison’s passing will be violent or peaceful and straight forward with the new leaders already in place.
History tells us that leadership strugglers within the CPP/NPA are sometimes violent. Who will take over from Joma Sison is anybody’s guess.
Whether it is true that the Tiamzon couple Benito and Wilma really died last August as the Philippine Army claimed, the remains had been unverified.
So we have to assume that both will be in contention unless newer faces will appear to take over.
Then we have to ask whether the new leader will be a hardliner or a moderate more willing to participate in a dialogue.
It will probably take a couple of months for this to happen or even longer but it is worth the wait.
Hopefully, the government will take this as an opportunity to initiate a dialogue. Secretary Carlito Galvez, the peace adviser to the President already said that it is just waiting for the right opportunity to open talks with the CPP/NPA.
Let’s hope that when the new CPP/NPA leadership is in place, the government will look at it as an opportunity.
It is time to have peace in the country; 53 years of fighting is a long time.
When I first put on the Constabulary uniform 53 years ago, one of my first deployments was actually as the Operations Officer of the then 51st Constabulary Battalion operating in Capas, Concepcion, Bamban, Tarlac and Mabalacat, Pampanga.
In fact, we used to conduct operations in the exact place where the CPP/NPA was founded which, if I remember correctly, was in Barangay Murcia, but I cannot be too sure.
I have been retired from the service for 19 years and the government is still fighting the CPP/NPA.
It is now one of the longest insurgencies left in the world.
Surely, if the Colombian rebels and IRA were able to sign peace deals with the Colombian and British governments respectively, the CPP/NPA and government should be able to find common ground for an agreement for the sake of the country.
I have always thought that the best opportunity to have signed a peace deal was during the Duterte administration.
If there was one Philippine leader who understood the culture within the CPP/NPA, it was former President Duterte.
In fact, he recruited some individuals with leftist orientations into his official family. Joma Sison should have grabbed that opportunity.
Had he done this, he probably would have accomplished at least a small portion of his revolutionary objectives but perhaps Joma was someone who operated on an all or nothing proposition.
Still, he should have been satisfied with a small beginning.
After all, a journey of a thousand miles as they say starts with the first step.
President Duterte was only asking the CPP/NPA to freeze their military operations while the talks were going on.
Unfortunately, the CPP/NPA leadership found it hard to oblige and the dialogue was cut abruptly never to resume while Duterte was president. It was a missed opportunity.
But by all indications, the new president is willing to resume the dialogue which presents another opportunity.
Will the CPP/NPA grab it?
Let us hope that when the new CPP/NPA leader is in place that he or she agrees or gives serious consideration to a peace dialogue.
May Jose Maria Sison finally rest in peace.
Merry Christmas to one and all.