President Rodrigo Duterte was justified in canceling peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF). From the start, the communists demonstrated insincerity, and have applied treachery and deceit in dealing with the government. This bolsters suspicions that the leftists aren’t after peace but a total takeover of the government.
When democracy was restored in 1986, the revolutionary government of then President Corazon C. Aquino released all political prisoners including those from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) led by its chairman Jose Ma. Sison. It was her way of welcoming them back to society.
But what did they do? The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the NDF, intensified its attacks against the government. Sison sought political asylum in the Netherlands where he remains tucked in safety and out of reach of Philippine laws while his soldiers die on the battlefield.
The war between the communists and the state dragged on for decades more which earned for the Philippines the infamy of having the world’s longest-running insurgency. Still, succeeding administrations tried to reach out and offered to sit down and talk peace with the rebels.
Duterte himself aspired to gain the distinction as the only Philippine leader who was able to convince the rebels to lay down their arms. He was confident he would leave a legacy of lasting peace as he was able to establish close connections with the NPA when he was mayor of Davao. Sison was also his professor.
But this aspiration turned out to be for naught as the NPA continued with its offensives even as the peace talks went on. The NDF, which was on the negotiating table cannot feign , having any control on the NPA as both groups are under the command of Sison.
The real reason why the communists refused to observe the ceasefire during the peace talks is the government’s rejection of its proposal for a coalition government. Parties in a negotiation should be willing to give and take on their concessions. But the communists didn’t intend to negotiate, they wanted to impose.
So when they failed to get what they wanted, the NPA intensified its extortion activities as well as ambushes and raids on soldiers and policemen. They also went on explosive attacks, liquidations, and other acts of banditry like kidnapping, robbery, and burning infrastructure, heavy equipment, towers and transport vehicles.
This year, the group killed 64 government troopers and liquidated 70 civilians so far. But the last straw that compelled Duterte to terminate the peace talks was the killing of a four-month-old infant during an NPA attack in Bukidnon. The communists may have underestimated the president but it was a wrong move on their part.
They’re forgetting what they’re up against. They will face a new Philippine Army whose capability was molded in fire by the Marawi crisis. These soldiers are better equipped with new firepower and high-tech gear used in modern warfare. The extension of Martial Law in Mindanao will also work to their advantage.
But even without Martial Law, the Army can still apply harsh measures once Duterte formally declares the CPP-NPA-NDF as terror groups. As it is, rebels are commonly charged with cases under the Revised Penal Code like rebellion, arson, murder, and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Once the communists are tagged as terrorists, the Human Security Act of 2007 or anti-terror law which carries harsher penalties will apply to them. Peace talks will no longer be possible as it is illegal for the government to negotiate with terrorists.
President Duterte should issue the Proclamation branding the communists as terrorists without delay to put an end to the insurgency problem once and for all. For too long have they become a thorn on our democracy and a strain on the Armed Forces, there is wisdom on Tony Stark’s statement that peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy.