The government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will be negotiating for peace in the Netherlands but, here at home, fighters from both sides will be engaged in the almost half-a-century war with nil possibility of a cease-fire.
The military has vowed to continue its conduct of combat operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) around the country, unless it is ordered by President Duterte to halt such, despite the meeting of both sides in The Hague.
Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto C. Padilla Jr. said that, in the absence of a directive from the Commander in Chief, the ongoing operations by soldiers against the rebels will not be stopped.
“Since there’s no specific instruction from the Commander in Chief, it is very clear that we cannot declare a suspension of offensive military operations on our own,” he said.
Just days earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it was set to issue a unilateral cease-fire for its armed wing in preparation for the resumption of the talks scheduled from April 2 to 6 in the European country.
But on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the NPA on Wednesday, the CPP ordered its armed fighters to intensify its war against the government and beef up its recruitment in the countryside.
‘Failure to deliver’
It noted that, despite his eight months in office, Duterte has failed to deliver his promise of change to the Filipinos, making him no different from his predecessors.
“This is a sad development granting this is truly their real intent. Why? Because it is an indication of an expansion program that ironically runs counter to the essence of the ongoing peace talks,” Padilla said in reaction to the intensified war by the rebels.
“It also belies the real intent of the group. They really do not desire a long, just and lasting peace for the country,” he added.
Padilla said that, in the absence of orders from Duterte to cease operations, the soldiers will continue their combat operations against the rebels while both parties are meeting in the European state, hoping to hammer out an agreement on social and economic reforms.
Padilla said the previous cease-fire has been used by the NPA to regroup and recruit new members.
“They are just using this as a way to recruit or rest and regroup because they are now having difficulties,” the military spokesman said.
Just two days before its anniversary, the NPA made a show of force by parading its young and new recruits near Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the military, where the rebels hold a drill and sang the communist anthem.
But Military Public Affairs Office Chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said those who showed up for the parade were merely communist sympathizers and not young fighters.
“Our reports provide that those who pulled out the lightning rally are paid NPA sympathizers, supporters and front organizations posing as NPAs,” he said.
Arevalo described the NPA as no longer a force to reckon with compared with its previous standing.
“We will decimate their ranks by neutralizing their armed component, help integrate surrenders to mainstream society and relegate the recalcitrants as police matters to deal with,” he said.
The rebels are not the only concern of the government, however, but even groups that are legal and politically aligned with the CPP, like the Kadamay, whose more than 6,000 urban-poor families have occupied a government housing project in Pandi, Bulacan.
The government, through the National Housing Authority (NHA), has blinked from its earlier threat of evicting the illegal occupants of the government’s socialized housing project, some units of which have been reserved for soldiers and policemen.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said they share the observations that the Kadamay group is being egged for its actions, but they were leaving it up to the NHA to investigate it.
Carlos appealed for fairness in the processing and approval of applications for housing beneficiaries, saying the policemen-beneficiaries were following processes.
The rebels said that, while they are willing to engage the government in talks and sign a peace agreement, they are also wary of the dangers of “pacification” as a result of a prolonged cease-fire “without substantial gains for the Filipino people”.
On the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the NPA, the CPP also issued a communiqué about the outcome of its second congress that was held in a guerrilla zone, wherein the constitution of the CPP was amended.
Among others, new provisions were added to allow members of “foreign fraternal parties assigned to work within the scope of the CPP” to become communist members and for party members, who have reached the age of 70, to retire from work, but retain party membership and receive subsistence support and medical assistance.
A new provision was also approved specifying the formation of advisory committees to which cadres who have opted to retire can be organized into.
“To ensure the vigor and vibrancy of the party, a provision was introduced specifying that steps be undertaken to ensure that the Central Committee shall have a balance of young, middle-aged and senior cadres,” the communiqué said.
The CPP said it also elected new members of its Central Committee for a five-year term during the meeting, wherein more than half of the newly elected Central Committee members are young and middle-aged cadres.
It said that this was made to ensure that the leadership of the party will “remain vibrant, tightly linked with the lower levels of leadership and capable of leading the practical work and day-to-day tasks of the party, especially in waging revolutionary armed struggle”.
The CPP said it was the first time in its nearly five decades that the congress was attended by about 70,000 members.
“The second congress was composed of 120 delegates, both attending and nonattending. Of those who attended, around 30 percent were above 60 years old, while around 60 percent were in the 45 to 59 years age bracket, while 15 percent were 44 years and younger. The oldest delegate was 70 years old. The youngest delegate was 33 years old,” it said.
“Reflecting the relative size of the party’s membership, cadres from five Mindanao regions constituted around 45 percent of the regional delegates; while those from Luzon constituted 40 percent; and the Visayas, 14 percent. The other delegates represented the party’s central leading organs and its commissions,” it added.
Image credits: AP/Bullit Marquez