The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a few months ago announced its supposed goal to end the communist rebellion in 2018. That’s easier said than done, of course. In return, during its 49th anniversary celebration on December 26, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced as its supposed goal the “overthrow of the Duterte regime” in 2018. That’s also better said than done.
The CPP’s Central Committee, as is its practice, issued an anniversary statement and calls that are mostly substantially the same as in previous years. The difference is that the target now is President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. And it is its assessment of the policies and status of the Duterte government and its attitude to it that is important in the statement.
The founding celebration came a few weeks after President Duterte declared the CPP and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups. The declaration, though, still need to go through the courts, a process that could take years to resolve. But names do not matter much because wars are decided out there on the field and other arenas.
What I find interesting in the CPP statement is the recognition that 2018 would be crucial because of the all-out war that the AFP and some units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are preparing to wage against it. The government strategy, it said, would be to concentrate the attacks “first on the guerrilla fronts in the eastern and other Mindanao regions and then on Luzon and Visayas.”
This could place in the proper context the decision by President Duterte to extend the imposition of military rule in Mindanao for another year. This, though, is not unprecedented because the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos tried to quell the communist rebellion when the country was under martial law in the ‘70s. I am sure some veterans of that war are still active CPP cadres and leaders.
Still, this all-out war would be a new experience for both the AFP and PNP elements and NPA red fighters. The two sides are peopled by young recruits who were not even born yet when Mindanao became a battleground between the Marcos forces on one side and the CPP-NPA and Muslim secessionists led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the other side.
As expected, the CPP urged its elements to intensify guerrilla warfare against the military and police, but what is interesting is the call for the conduct of “punitive operations against the worst plunderers and corrupt officials, political and crime associates, and death squads of the Duterte regime.” This to me is interesting because the CPP has not been active in “punitive actions” since the heydays of the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) and other partisan units in urban areas.
A sense of confidence could be gleaned from the CPP statement in its call for its leading committees to start planning for its 50th anniversary celebration next year. That means it is not about to oblige the AFP and end the rebellion it is waging in 2018. Which is why I reiterate my hope that the two sides would resume talking peace instead of pounding the drums of war.