PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations still needs the imprimatur of the court to make it legally binding. But even without that, what has become apparent is that the Duterte administration is gearing for an all-out war against the communist rebels.
Judging from the way the government’s war against illegal drugs has been conducted, violence could characterize this all-out war against the insurgents. While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) refused to be drawn into the war against drugs, this time around it is expected to take the lead. Can its conduct be different from the way the Philippine National Police (PNP) went after those linked to the illegal drugs trade?
In the war against drugs, most of those victimized were the open targets, meaning drug addicts and street pushers while the big traders who are mostly hidden have not been touched. In the anti-insurgency campaign, the visible targets are the ordinary folks considered as part of the CPP-NPA mass base and militants in legal organizations accused of having ties with the communists. Will they be the targets instead of the CPP cadres and NPA fighters who are mostly invisible?
In the war against drugs, thousands were killed supposedly for battling law enforcers and thousands more died in the hands of so-called vigilantes. But the bloodletting became counter-productive in the long run because the indiscriminate killings tainted the image of the Duterte administration especially among human rights advocates. Will this happen in the all-out war against communist rebels?
Battling the CPP has always been tricky not only because it has a military arm in the NPA but also because its members are embedded among the ordinary folks that it organized as its mass base and in the organizations that are sympathetic to it. Not all of the ordinary folks and members of supportive organizations are radicals; many of them are moderates that could be driven into radicalism if they are targeted like the radicals.
The indiscriminate manner that the Marcos dictatorship waged its war against the CPP-NPA was one of the reasons why the insurgency blossomed under it.