Maybe the Aquino administration got something right, after all. Perhaps there is just no talking peace with the homegrown Communists or their armed rebel force, the New People’s Army.
The NPA, through its national command spokesman Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, declared yesterday that it was terminating the unilateral ceasefire it declared with the government of President Rodrigo Duterte effective next week. The rebels said the government had failed to release all the political prisoners whose freedom had been promised and had allowed the military to encroach on rebel-held territories under the guise of conducting law enforcement operations.
Those who’ve been keeping tabs of the on-again, off-again peace negotiations conducted by various administrations with the longest-running Communist insurgency in Asia consider the NPA’s lifting of its ceasefire a sign of bad faith. Not since Cory Aquino, who had to repeatedly fight off rightist attempts to oust her from the presidency in part because she was perceived to be too soft on the Reds, have the Communists been given as much wiggle room as they have under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, after all.
And many believed that Duterte, more than any president in recent history, had the street cred to pull off a permanent peace with the Communist movement. Duterte has long maintained excellent ties with the rebels as mayor of Davao City and even in his short stint as president has bent over backwards to accommodate them.
It was Duterte who openly invited the Communists to join his Cabinet, an offer that has allowed them to secure at least three important portfolios and many other sub-Cabinet positions. And it was Duterte who broke bread with the leadership of the National Democratic Front in Malacañan Palace itself, something no other president has done before.
As far as releasing political prisoners who were given the blanket description of “NDF consultants” by the rebels, Duterte has done a great job of facilitating that, as well. Even in difficult cases involving rebel leaders facing criminal charges, like those that were filed against spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, this administration was able to convince the courts to allow their release, along with dozens of others whom the Left knew had absolutely no chance of getting out of jail under any other administration.
And yet, the NPA has continued its depredations in the countryside, despite its declaration of a truce under a government where they never had it so good. As chief government peace negotiator Jesus Dureza declared this week, the rebels have conducted at least nine attacks on government and private installations and personnel in the past month alone, leading him to suspect that perhaps the members of the NDF politburo that they have been negotiating with in Oslo and Rome may not be capable of controlling their armed partisans on the ground.
Noynoy Aquino, of course, had no such problems. After going through the motions of negotiating with the rebels early in his term, Aquino responded to calls for the release of key Communists by just jettisoning the talks and embracing the Moro insurgents in Mindanao; it was a simplistic and simple-minded “solution,” but the strategy made the dream of peace with the Communist rebels more elusive than ever before.
I still think that peace with the local Communists, who have degenerated mostly into discrete, autonomous bandit-like groups after they lost their ideological moorings with and financial backing from a no-longer-Red China, is still attainable. But unless the NDF and the NPA stop being unreasonable and actually start working for a lasting solution to this never-ending war, it won’t ever happen.
The Communists would be wise to remember that they, too, have a stake in making peace come to pass. Their once-formidable mass base has long been eroded and if war once again erupts, they may find that the citizenry is no longer sympathetic to their unending demands and discredited ideology.
Peace will also stop the steady decline to irrelevance of a local Communist movement that can no longer count on the support of the masses or even support itself without resorting to extortion and other criminal activities. They should understand this, if they don’t understand anything else.
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Just how brave is the former coup plotter, Senator Antonio Trillanes? Not brave enough to confront Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre in the Senate, Trillanes’ own home court, apparently.
Nearly forgotten during the tearful and bombastic Senate hearings last Tuesday on alleged corruption in the immigration bureau was the fact that Trillanes, who originally called for the investigation of the attempt to extort from casino mogul Jack Lam, wasn’t even in the session hall. Aguirre, on the other hand, whom Trillanes had long accused of masterminding the extortion attempt on Lam, was there—and he rebutted the senator’s allegations point by point, while Trillanes was conveniently absent.
This is why the Senate has gotten such a bad rap in recent years as the ultimate forum for the political bullying and trolling that Trillanes does so well. And the fact that he can’t even face the people he so boldly accuses when they arrive to refute him speaks volumes about this “sundalong kanin’s” mettle.