PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte was Jack-of-all-trades in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday. But I would focus on his most important announcement: the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The NDFP represents the communist-led rebellion in talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH), meaning that it speaks for the war’s core, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Duterte’s move is wily because it painted the NDFP into a corner, a predicament that is essentially of the latter’s doing. During the campaign for the May 9 presidential elections, the CPP, through its founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, made it appear like the party was Duterte’s willing dance partner. And when Duterte won and asked the CPP to submit names for at least two Cabinet posts, it obliged. The CPP is, by all intents and purposes, in government. Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration is Duterte’s way of forcing the CPP to reciprocate his initiatives.

The NDFP’s response was mild. Its spokesperson Luis Jalandoni, in a statement posted on, merely welcomed Duterte’s move while vowing to carefully study the declaration and come up with an appropriate response. Sison, who is officially the NDFP’s chief political consultant, came up with a non-answer, expressing appreciation for Duterte’s initiative.

The response was expected, though. The NDFP was apparently not prepared for it and, considering the decision-making process within the revolutionary movement, had to wait for its leadership’s collective decision. For such things as crucial as a ceasefire, that has to be tackled not by the NDFP leadership but by the CPP’s Central Committee, or the one running the day-to-day affairs of the party, the smaller Politburo or the Secretariat.

And I don’t think the members of the party’s Central Committee or its standing committees are based in the safe haven of Ultrecht, the Netherlands like Sison and Jalandoni are.


Take this from one who once went through some of the worst that the rebellion could offer.

When I was young and clueless, I romanticized the revolution. There came a time when I thought joining rallies and clashing with anti-riot policemen were no longer enough and I wanted to be where the heart of the struggle was: in the countryside. So I ended up organizing farmers into collectives and improving their lot. That was heaven. Until the struggle intensified.

When the violence erupted, I realized the truth in what a leader of the Chinese revolution said about revolution, that it is “not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery” and that “it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.”

I remember an old farmer, who had become more of a surrogate father than a brother-in-arms, approach me when the killings and the pillage reached their village, prompting the people to leave their farms and their houses. “What should we do now?” he asked me, teary-eyed. I could not answer him because I was clueless as he was.

When I was a young activist the dream of building heaven here on earth for the exploited and the oppressed obsessed me that I vowed to die finding ways to make it a reality. If waging a revolution was the way, so be it. But when what we started became a conflagration, there came episodes of weakness when I thought: “if only building utopia wouldn’t be bloody.”

( twitter: @khanwens)