THERE is a sense that the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) have reached some sort of irrevocable impasse with the decision of President Duterte to scrap the peace talks unilaterally.

For many who are keeping tabs of the developments hoping that the costly and painful 48 year insurgency will see its end in this lifetime, the scuttling of the promising talks was a disheartening turn.

There is now a flurry of finger pointing as the propaganda mills of both left and right churn out different versions of the narrative behind the failed peace talks.

The government has capitalized on the February 1, 2017 incident in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, as the primary reason for their departure from the negotiations, citing not just the red’s violation of the ceasefire but also the apparent overkill in the manner of the soldier’s deaths. Reports indicate that they were unarmed and bore no less than 24 bullet wounds each or a full magazine load.

These details have been disputed by the New People’s Army’s North Central Mindanao Region Command in a clarificatory rejoinder issued last February 7. The soldiers were encamped in the hinterland barrio of Malaybalay since November 2016 and their presence and anti-insurgency activities have already been registered as complaints before the GRP panel as violations of the ceasefire.

The soldiers were not riddled with bullets according to the statement but may have decomposed. But they were armed and two of them drew their .45 caliber pistols before the NPA checkpoint, causing the rebels positioned on the side of the road to fire at them. To prove this, they included in the statement the serial numbers of the pistols that they confiscated although the rebels deny taking the missing subsistence allowance of the soldiers.

There is more to the story of the supposed cold-blooded murders that were the bases of the President’s brash decision to pull out of the peace talks and cancel all immunity guarantees for the NDF peace panel. As expected, the details are now in dispute and there are many versions that are being floated before the public. However, since Duterte endorsed the government version of the incident by using it as bases for his government’s unilateral move to pull out from the peace negotiations, it became the narrative that was broadcasted by dominant media.

It did not take long for the propaganda machine to trumpet the supposed treachery of the rebels. From new media personalities riding on the popularity of the president, to a literal army of trolls swarming online on those who dispute the official story line, they have been thorough and sophisticated in their ideological warfare.

There are the usual mindless trolls spewing out the same drivel from one comment section to another. But there are new variations in their kind now using emotive tools to drive home the same point of discrediting the 48-year civil war waged by the rebels in the countryside. They add details of names and places, add a sprinkling of anecdotal evidence, to make their story believable. But when you check their profiles, they are airy and light as one might expect of a troll account.

The whole operations are reminiscent of the same demolition job that was waged against Senator de Lima and the Liberal Party actually - a tactic that has come to be a hallmark of this administration. This president and his administration have no patience for the slow but deliberative processes of democracy where opposition is allowed as a check and balance mechanism.

We have seen this in the costly war on drugs which became the cover and justification for the political defeat of the Liberal Party. Now the guns, both ideological and literal, are now trained at another target – the Left.

This new development is not really unexpected, but troubling just the same for it confirms what everybody feared was the natural inertia of this populist president in Malacañang. His war on drugs, war against the Liberal Party, and now his war on the Left all fulfill the function of amplifying the State’s power and control over the nation through the military.

The corresponding fallout from all of these provides the perfect pretext for dictatorship or a de facto version of strongman militarist rule. His ideological warriors are already whipping up a frenzy of a narrow but fiery type of nationalism that is incognizant of the troubled path and history of our people towards nationhood.

And yet, why do I have a sense that Duterte is merely an animated albeit effective figurehead on what is revealing itself to be a coup of the generals? Remove Duterte from this equation, who do you think will run this nation? The scuttling of the peace talks and the propagation of a blind nationalism seem like the first major move in this unfolding game of the generals.