THE revolution waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been dubbed as the oldest in Asia. Like many other protracted rebellions, the said revolution has gone through different phases. It is going through another phase now under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. From being embraced, the rebels are now targets.
The recent arrest of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rafael Baylosis proves this. Baylosis should not have been arrested based on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law forged by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDF, which is representing the rebel groups in the long-drawn peace talks.
But the talks have broken down and the President had vowed last year to go after the NDF, the CPP and its military arm the New People’s Army (NPA) after dealing with the Islamic State (IS)-allied Maute group that laid siege on Marawi City. That siege is over and the remnants of the Maute group are on the run. Baylosis’s arrest is among the harbingers of things to come.
The operative word is “among” because government forces started going hard on rebels and groups they accused of being “rebel fronts” early on. In December, George San Mateo, head of the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) was arrested even if he was already in the process of posting bail for a case filed against him. A leader of the Alliance of Concerned Teacher (ACT) was “almost” arrested a few days ago.
Government denied Baylosis’s arrest was the start of the crackdown of NDF consultants in the scuttled peace talks. Some of those consultants, like Baylosis, were already in detention when the President ordered them released so they would be able to really do their tasks. Despite the government’s assurance, I reckon that the NDF consultants are already implementing a pre-planned exit strategy and have returned to the underground.
Many of the NDF consultants are former members of the CPP’s central committee and are already old like the party’s founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison and the NDF’s Luis Jalandoni. Their years of staying in the underground are numbered and they could resurface and be re-arrested later on. But they are experienced, high caliber and senior leaders that could mentor the new generation of CPP central committee members.
CPP senior leaders have gone through the worst phases of the struggle that they have been waging for decades now. Just a few years after the party’s founding in 1968, then president Ferdinand Marcos declared military rule in 1972 and vowed to crush what he called then a “ragtag army.” Not only did the CPP survive, it flourished under martial law.
What the Duterte administration is doing now, the CPP can respond by saying, “been there, done that.” The rebels have survived mainly because the struggle they are waging is about “causes” and not “people.” President Duterte did right early on when he pursued the peace talks. I restate my hope for the GPH and the NDF to resume forging a negotiated end to the rebellion.