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Monday, January 21, 2019

Wenceslao: Reality bites for Duterte, NDF

THE unilateral ceasefire that President Rodrigo Duterte declared with the National Democratic Front (NDF) during his State of the Nation Address last Monday is over--in just six days. That’s how fast reality bit for both the President and the rebel group.

The incident that caused Duterte’s turnaround was the ambush by a unit of the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the NDF-represented Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), on members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), now referred to as the Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA), killing one and wounding three others. His anger came from the belief that his initiative was not reciprocated.

I agree with members of the panels of both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDF that the ambush and Duterte’s taking back his unilateral ceasefire declaration won’t damage much the peace process that both sides are pursuing. I even think the peace talks would be strengthened with this. That is, if both the government and the rebels learned their lessons, they would handle the talks better from now on.

Also, both sides now know each other better.

The President’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire was made when he was still agog over his runaway win in the May 9 presidential elections, his record send-off trust rating and politicians tumbling over each other to join his camp.

It did not help that the CPP put one foot, or okay less than a foot, into the Duterte administration by putting two of its recommendees into the Cabinet after supporting his candidacy in the elections. That must have muddled Duterte’s view of what the NDF is. The NDF is a rebel group, not a traditional political (or trapo) party.

I know the CPP to be objective in its assessment of a leader’s nature using the class line as yardstick. But I have long harbored questions about its handling of the electoral and by extension the parliamentary struggle. This year’s elections were no different. Judging from the acts of its founding chairman, Jose Ma. Sison, the party seemed to have put too much premium on Duterte’s shown friendliness with the Left.

Both Duterte’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire and his taking it back seemed to have caught the CPP off-guard, Now they know that when push comes to shove, the President would not hesitate in going against them.

Sison’s reaction to Duterte’s recent move, which is to push the NDF to declare its own ceasefire, is illustrative.

From praising the President’s leadership virtues, Sison now likened his action to that of a thug.

I am sure that with the recent development, both the GPH and the NDF are looking at each other in a different light. The President will now see the NDF as what it really is, a rebel group that has goals different from what he is trying to achieve in his six-year term. This is a principled group unlike the balimbings that are now populating his camp. More than that, the NDF is an armed group that can’t be bullied.

The NDF, on the other hand, will now see that the shown friendliness of Duterte and his administration has its limits. The alliance only works if nothing substantial is involved. The President is bound to defend the interests of the government, and by extension the bourgeois republic, if he felt that these are threatened. More than that, the NDF should now see Duterte for what he really is, a leader with strongman tendencies.

Meaning that, both sides are now in a better position to restart the talks.

(khanwens@gmail.com/twitter:@khanwens)
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