THERE has obviously been a mellowing in the verbal exchange between the Government of the Philippines (GPH), represented by President Rodrigo Duterte, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), one of whose leaders is Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison. So it's still a go for the resumption of the peace talks on Aug. 20 in Oslo, Norway.
I sifted through comments in both the traditional and the social media on the peace talks and I thought that there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the NDFP, commonly referred to simply as “NDF,” in terms of organization and ideology. One could not objectively assess the progress of the talks without, say, knowing the relationship between the CPP and the NDF and what the NDF is fighting for.
This is different from the peace talks between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because the said rebel group's goal is less complicated. When the talks began, the MILF's intention was to carve a separate state, a Moro republic, in Mindanao. As the negotiations progressed, the MILF settled for an autonomous Bangsamoro region as laid down by the proposed Bangsamoro Basic law.
So what is the NDF? And what does it want?
The NDF is usually referred to as the political arm of the CPP. In a way this is correct because the CPP, even if officially it is but a member of the CPP, has its cadres exercising leadership position in the NDF. But to refer to the NDF merely as the political arm of the CPP is a narrow description of the rebel group. The CPP is a Marxist organization. The NDF is an ND (national democratic) group with a limited set of goals (more on this later) compared with that of the CPP.
By the way, the armed group that is under the umbrella of the NDF, the New People's Army (NPA), is the military arm of the CPP. In this case, the CPP and no other group exercises absolute control over all NPA units.
The last time I heard, the NDF has 17 organizations under its umbrella. Aside from the CPP-NPA (which is being counted as two: CPP and NPA), you have the Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions (RCTU), Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), Katipunan ng mga Samahang Manggagawa (Kasama), Kabataang Makabayan (KM), Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan (Armas), Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), Christians for National Liberation (CNL), Makabayang Samahang Pangkalusugan (MSP), Liga ng Agham para sa Bayan (LAB), Katipunan ng mga Gurong Makabayan (Kaguma), Makabayang Kawaning Pilipino (MKP), Rebolusyonaryong Organisasyon ng Moro (Moro), Rebolusyonaryong Organisasyong Lumad (ROL) and the latest member called Compatriot composed of overseas Filipino workers.
I don't know the strength of each of the other organizations aside from the CPP-NPA, which obviously is the most formidable group under the NDF umbrella. Note that most of the NDF organizations were formed along sectoral lines (farmers, workers, youth, women professionals, etc.) with the exception of CPDF and Moro. So this is why the NDF and not the CPP is representing the Left in the peace talks. Sectoral demands are best articulated by representatives of the sectors themselves and not by the CPP, with its communist goals.
Again the relationship between the NDF and the CPP is tricky, considering the CPP's ascendancy there, but in the peace talks, the NDF is the better fit, the “tricky-ness” of its relationship with the CPP notwithstanding. [Next: NDF and CPP goals]
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ twitter: @khanwens)