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counterinsurgency

Steeled by Decades of Struggle, the Negrenses Keep the Revolutionary Fire Ablaze

in Mainstream
by Iliya Makalipay

Tears were shed copiously. There was mourning all around as the number of dead bodies in Negros Island continued to rise. And there was justified rage—because these were not mere numbers or bodies.

They were peasants, local government executives, educators, human rights defenders, lawyers. There was even a one-year-old baby. All of them were victims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Duterte Death Squads (DDS).

Stupid as it has shown up itself to be, the tyrannical regime wasted no time in accusing the New People’s Army (NPA) of killing those whom it had tagged as NPA members and sympathizers.

Peasant advocate groups have reported 87 killed from 2017 to mid-August 2019. Forty of the victims were mercilessly slain after Duterte’s Memorandum Circular 32 took effect on November 22, 2018: it ordered more troop deployments in Negros, in the Samar provinces, and in the Bicol region purportedly to “suppress lawless violence.” A month after, in consonance with Memo Circular 32, state security forces launched Oplan Sauron in Negros Island.

Currently, at least 11 regular and special battalions of the AFP and PNP operate in the island, supported by paramilitary groups such as the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) and the RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade). At the height of the killings in July-August 2019, the PNP deployed 300 more members of its Special Forces, further escalating the tension and the abuses.

To justify the massive deployment and brutal military campaign, Col. Benedict Arevalo admitted to media that what was initially passed off as tokhang (“drug war”) operations were actually counterinsurgency actions.

The AFP assumes that the central part of Negros, where most of the killings happened, is used by the NPA as “highway” to easily reach both sides of Negros Island—Occidental and Oriental.

“The rebels are trying to create a base somewhere in the boundaries because it’s very important for them to connect and control both islands. It’s like grabbing Negros by the neck,” a news report quoted Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army.

In July 30, the Provincial Task Force to end local communist armed conflict was formed in Negros Oriental following Malacanang’s issuance of Executive Order 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), headed by President Duterte himself. The move is part of the “whole-of-nation approach” the regime is using to create public perception that its counterinsurgency operations involve the participation of the entire government, civil society, and the civilian population.

Still and all, the victims of these police and military operations in Negros were unarmed civilians.

PERENNIAL MILITARY TARGET

This is not the first time state forces deployed hundreds of troops in the island— intended to decimate the NPA and “wipe out” its revolutionary base there. In fact, every president—from Marcos to Duterte—has invariably aimed, by the end of his/her term, to defeat the New People’s Army and destroy its revolutionary mass base.

During the Marcos dictatorship, Negros was depicted as a “social volcano” waiting to explode. Almost 40 years later, it has remained so because there was never any palpable change in the economic system and the deplorable lives of the poor people. As feudal and semifeudal relations in the haciendas remain and exploitation is stepped up, so is the validity of sustained armed struggle upheld.

In the last few months of the dictatorship, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pointed out Marcos’s inability to address the sugar crisis and its consequent labor unrest and the military’s failure to contain the rebellion that has swept the island because of extreme poverty. The CIA report, dated May 1985, had been declassified and sanitized and was approved for release in 2011.

The report said: “We judge that later this year (1985), Negros may become, after Mindanao, the second politically important island in the archipelago where Communist control rivals that of the government.”

It added: “Despite the trouble looming on Negros, President Marcos shows no inclination to improve the counterinsurgency effort by bolstering the military or dismantling the sugar-marketing empire of his political ally, Roberto Benedicto. … Government efforts that are taken to ease the plight of the sugar workers are largely cosmetic.”

The “fall of Negros”, the report concluded, “would provide an important psychological defeat for the government and further depress morale in the armed forces. It would also confirm to the Communist Party that its long-term strategy is on the mark.”

Now under the sixth post-Marcos president, feudal relations, the centuries-old hacienda system, landlessness, and agrarian unrest are still prevalent. Adding to these social and economic ills are large-scale mining companies that prey on the island’s mineral resources and degrade its environment.

More than half of the country’s sugar mill and plantation workers are in Negros, earning an average daily income of Php 50-67, a far cry from the mandated minimum wage of Php 300. The glaring reality is farmers go hungry every day, both before and after the much-dreaded tiempo muerto, the idle period between sugarcane harvests.

There is widespread landlessness despite the so-called agrarian reform programs implemented by past administrations. Negros has still at least 600,000 hectares of lands that have escaped distribution under the largely-failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) started by the Cory Aquino government in 1988.

Continued exploitation and oppression and non-implementation of genuine agrarian reform and rural development have been surefire stimuli for resistance—both armed and unarmed. It is for this reason that all attempts by the successive governments to defeat the revolutionary forces have ended in failure.

The Philippine government may have somehow identified the causes of the protracted armed conflict, but it has persistently pursued the wrong solution—the militarist solution of trying to eradicate the symptom—instead of seeking to resolve the root causes.

SERIES OF FAILED ‘COUNTERINSURGENCY’ OPLANS

Interviews with several villagers in Negros Oriental revealed two military operational plans (Oplans) etched deeply in their collective memory: Oplan Thunderbolt under the Cory Aquino regime and Oplan Bantay Laya of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Decades from now, they would remember too the brutality of the military operations under the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan/Kapanatagan.

Despite or because of martial law, Marcos failed. And what the Marcos dictatorship failed to attain, the succeeding “restoration-of-democracy” government of Cory Aquino tried to finish—by using the very same corrupt and abusive state security forces that Marcos had fully harnessed and coddled.

As Cory Aquino wielded her “sword of war” through Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II, Negros became a “pilot area”. A fact-finding report in 1988, titled “Mountain Tempest”, quoted the government as claiming that “the deployment of more troops and the use of more sophisticated weapons…can wipe out insurgency by 1992.” Essentially, Cory Aquino’s counterinsurgency program was derived from America’s “low-intensity-conflict” strategy which, at the time, was also being implemented in Latin America, with incalculable consequences in terms of countless killings and massive-scale human rights violations.

Rev. Romeo Empestan, in his book “From the Struggles of the People and the Church of the Poor in Negros in the 70s to 90s,” recalled that there were four simultaneous localized Oplans implemented during this period: Thunderbolt, Kahilwayan (freedom), Habagat (south winds), and Amihan (north winds). Oplan Thunderbolt would become the most notorious of the four.

Oplan Thunderbolt resulted in more than 30,000 (some reports cited as high as 100,000) evacuees in seven relocation sites. Most of the evacuees were from the now-familiar town of Sta. Catalina and Guihulngan City, in Negros Oriental, where the spate of killings under Duterte is happening. The late outspoken and courageous Bishop of Bacolod City, Antonio Fortich, said the mass dislocation of civilians at the time was “the biggest evacuation in one place in the country since World War II.”

Aside from the regular companies of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), units of the Scout Rangers, Airborne, were used in the counterinsurgency campaigns, along with vigilante groups such as Pulahan (red), Ituman (black), Putian (white), Way Sapatos (literally, no shoes) and the notorious Alsa Masa (Rise up, masses) that arose in Davao City. Private armies of landlords, hiding under the cloak of Philippine Constabulary Forward Command (PCFC) were also employed in military operations.

Upland farmers in Sta. Catalina town recalled seeing tora-tora planes used in bombing their communities, forest areas, and rivers suspected as NPA encampments. Fr. Empestan also mentioned bombings using helicopter gunships, F5 jet fighters, and howitzers. The communities were eventually declared “no man’s land”, a common practice in those days where anyone on sight was shot at by soldiers. At least seven incidents of massacre were recorded. There were burning of houses and parish churches, arrests, ‘salvaging’ (a term used to refer to what is now known as extrajudicial killings), and disappearances.

In a September 1, 2018 statement, Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA Regional Command, described the current military operations in Negros since early 2018 as reminiscent of Oplan Thunderbolt in the late 80’s—the evacuations, bombings, and the destruction of Negros’ virgin forests.

Cory Aquino’s term ended in 1992 with the revolutionary movement surviving the military assaults. Thus, her successor Fidel Ramos—also the engineer behind her two Oplans—only had to continue the same counterinsurgency program Oplan Lambat Bitag III and IV. Oplan Flush Out was its localized version in Negros. It was during Ramos’ term, however, when the government first recognized the need to combine a “non-militarist” solution to the armed conflict—the pursuance of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which produced positive results.

A decade later, in 2008, a Negros version of Gloria Arroyo’s nationwide Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I and II, the Oplan Cut Wedge, attempted yet again to “cut/stop the ability of the NPA to hop from one island to another.” The objective was the same; the mode of military operation was similar.

At least four infantry battalions of the Philippine Army were deployed in Negros, plus a battalion of the Special Elite forces of the Scout Ranger, two division-level reconnaissance companies, plus two companies supervising more than 2,000 CAFGU paramilitary recruits. The fanatic groups such as Pulahan, Ituman, etc. were replaced by two platoons of RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Buncayao Brigade). A breakaway group from the NPA in the 1990s, the RPA-ABB (Tabara-Paduano group) has morphed into a paramilitary group, recently “demobilized” but has vowed to fully cooperate with the Duterte regime. At the start, it posed itself as a revolutionary group.

Simultaneous deployment of military units in a community, akin to Oplan Sauron, was already employed during OBL’s implementation.

In Barangay Guihulngan for example, almost two battalions of Philippine Army were deployed. In another village, some 130 troops were stationed for six months, with a division-level reconnaissance unit on standby in a nearby town.

People were interrogated, threatened and charged with trumped-up cases, the latter as part of the “legal offensive” of the Arroyo regime against its perceived enemies. There was massive recruitment of people to join the Barangay Defense System (BDS). Parallel formations were created in an attempt to draw in those who were members of progressive organizations.

Arroyo’s OBL was patterned after the U.S. 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide that has formally included the “whole-of-nation, whole-of-people” strategy purportedly to complement combat operations. The “whole-of-nation” approach would become the thread in the subsequent Oplans up to the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan (Peace)/ Kapanatagan (peace/tranquility).

A similar counterinsurgency operation was in place when B.S. Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010. As it was still patterned after the US Guide, massive troop deployment was again employed in the island. The revolutionary forces counted up to 30 combat companies in Negros.

But while Aquino continued OBL, the regime highlighted the “shift” to “whole-of-nation” approach to conjure an image of a nation united to battle “insurgency”, even calling it Oplan Bayanihan (a collective endeavor Filipinos are known for) and complemented it with a task force composed of so-called civil society stakeholders.

Nada. What was fervently targeted has never been achieved by any of these Oplans. Obviously, every Oplan has only brought more killings and numerous human rights violations.

Still, the current government insists on the same strategy that has failed over five decades under a dictatorship and five successive presidents.

THE MASSES PROPEL THE REVOLUTION

The Philippine government chose to remain blind and deaf through time, ignoring the fact that the strength of the revolutionary forces in Negros, and elsewhere in the country, comes from the exploited and oppressed poor, especially the peasants and workers. It is their best interest that the national democratic revolution— the key democratic content of which is agrarian revolution— uppermost fights for.

It is thus not surprising that the “poor but struggling masses of Negros” propels the revolution.

The masses played a vital role in the recovery and rebuilding of the CPP and the NPA in Negros in the 1990s. “(They) did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” recalled Frank Fernandez, detained peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDFP). In an article published by Kodao productions on July 8, 2019, Fernandez recalled, “There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994.”

The reason was not because the government’s counterinsurgency’program suceeded but because of the internal weaknesses of the CPP-NPA leadership in the area at the time. Fernandez explained that the movement diverted from the correct line and strategy in the conduct of the people’s war.

(That period of disorientation resulted in the breakaway of former members and led to the formation of the RPA-ABB. In 2000 said group engaged in pseudo-peace talks and signed a peace agreement with the Estrada government in exchange for a hefty amount of money. It continued to deteriorate into a paramilitary group, having been involved in numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, victimizing farmers. It has recently signed another ‘peace agreement’ with the Duterte regime and got another Php 500 million purportedly for social services programs.)

Reaffirming the correct ideological, political and organizational line, the CPP-NPA in Negros has since then fully recovered, with the unstinting support of the masses.

As Frank Fernandez said, “It’s time to repay the masses”.

PEASANT WAR, PEASANT ARMY

Repaying the masses comes in three main forms—implementing agrarian revolution, establishing local organs of political power, and pushing forward the armed struggle.

Juanito Magbanua, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command spokesperson, cited the successful 17 armed actions of the NPA in Negros in the first eight months of 2018 as proofs of the “NPA’s increasing capability in launching armed struggle that is integrated with agrarian revolution and base building.”

As early as 2016, the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM or the National Federation of Peasants) revealed that the revolutionary movement in Negros and Central Visayas have confiscated some 2,000 hectares of land, which benefitted at least a thousand farmers. The confiscation and distribution of lands, mostly idle and abandoned, are part of the agrarian revolution being implemented by the NPA with the PKM.

Comprehensive military-politico training of red commanders and fighters were launched to improve their “fighting skill, political capability, combat discipline, and revolutionary militance,” according to Magbanua. Majority of the trainees were peasants while 15 percent came from the petty-bourgeoisie.

Recognizing the importance of Negros island in the overall development of people’s war, Magbanua said the armed revolutionary movement in Negros must “overcome its weaknesses and rectify its errors in order to help frustrate the US-Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan and contribute in the national development of the strategic defensive of the people’s war towards a new and higher stage.”

The last time the island command conducted a training was in 2008 when the AFP implemented Oplan Bantay Laya 2 and shortly after, Oplan Bayanihan.

“The people’s army in the island had to make do with politico-military crash courses in the face of sustained search-and-destroy operations of the enemy until 2013, while prioritizing rebuilding work of the revolutionary mass base thereafter,” Magbanua explained.

At the same time, he added, punitive actions against abusive state forces and criminal elements have been meted out.

In the last six months of 2018, the NPA punished 14 landgrabbers, criminal elements, and intelligence assets of the 303rd Brigade responsible for human rights abuses against peasants, including the killing of activists in the legal organizations. These punitive actions have reduced the AFP/PNP’s capability to “inflict further harm upon the people’s lives, rights, and livelihood within and outside the guerrilla areas in the island,” Magbanua said.

Meantime, Dionesio Magbuelas, spokesperson of the NPA Central Negros-Mt. Cansermon Command, reported that Red fighter burned down some 120 million-peso worth of heavy equipment owned by a mining company. The action, he said, was a punishment meted on the firm for the destruction it had caused on the environment and sources of the people’s livelihood in Ayungon, Negros Oriental.

At the height of the attacks against the masses in Negros, the CPP-NPA central leadership issued a call for the NPA to defend the people of Negros. Magbanua claimed the punitive actions were “long overdue” because killings of unarmed civilians continued to escalate.

The CPP has denounced the spate of killings and numerous human rights abuses against civilians as acts of cowardice. State security forces, it noted, turned their guns against unarmed civilians in retaliation and to cover up for their failure to eliminate the revolutionary forces in the region.

Tempered in fighting one armed counter-revolutionary campaign after another—from the Marcos-era martial rule, through Operation Thunderbolt, and the more recent Oplan Bayanihan that deployed at least 30 combat companies in the island—the NPA in Negros has vowed unwaveringly to defend the masses against the intensifying militarization and fascist attacks of the Duterte regime. ###

#PeasantMonth
#ServeThePeople
#JoinTheNPA

—–
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NPA CONFRONTS BRGY. OFFICIALS IN LAMOGONG, MANJUYOD

in Statements

23 August 2019

A unit of Mt. Cansermon Command-NPA confronts barangay officials in Lamogong, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental. This is in response to the call of the residents of Lamogong against the anti-people and counter revolutionary policies recently implemented in the barangay headed by Brgy. Captain Arsenio Cadiente. He directed residents to secure ID from town proper. He wants to enforce ID system in the barangay and track movement of residents in an exercise of his town dictatorial rule. It can be remembered also that Mr. Cadiente denied that Teodore Casido, 49, his wife Rhea Casido, 31, Benan Cadelina, 61, and Danny Casido, 41, who were illegally arrested last June 28 as residents of his barangay and subscribed to the AFP theatrics that they are NPA red fighters. He has a habit of red-tagging his own residents thus putting their lives in danger.

This only proves the desperation of the AFP as they are using civilians to go against the armed revolutionary movement.

If the military had their way, they want the nationwide imposition of Martial Law. While a nationwide declaration is not yet in place, the AFP established a National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency. In Negros it is known locally as Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC). Through this task force, civilian authority of the reactionary government will be under the authority, control and meddling of the military. Under the Local Government Empowerment Cluster of the task force, they wish to transform the different agencies of the reactionary government as one big machinery for surveillance against the revolutionary movement, including democratic organizations red-tagged in counter-insurgency. They want to project that the national task force and its local counterpart is supported by the people. What they fail to understand is that no amount of token programs can solve the armed conflict. As long as they continue to neglect to address the root cause of armed revolution, the national task force and all counter-insurgency program is doomed to fail.

May we remind local officials to be wary and critical of the orders of the AFP and PNP. Are these policies really for the benefit of the people especially to the victims of militarization in the countryside or for counter-insurgency measures? The people can easily unmask these programs for they know the true intent of the fascist AFP.

May our local officials keep in mind that an elected post has term limits but the revolutionary movement will persist as long as there is oppression. Do not use your position to further oppress and suppress the people. Even the dictator wannabe who sits in Malacañang will not be in power for long.

As always, the NPA is ever-ready to punish the most rabid fascist perpetrators and defend the people. We are ever-determined to advance the people’s war to victory. ###

Ka Dionisio Magbuelas, Spokesperson
Mt. Cansermon Command
New People’s Army – Central Negros

#FightTyranny
#ServeThePeople

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Weaponizing the Civilian Bureaucracy

in Countercurrent
by Pat Gambao

Poverty, with its attendant injustices, is the root cause of the protracted armed conflict. On this basis the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH), now under the rein of Rodrigo Duterte, have engaged in peace negotiations.

But when the Duterte regime arbitrarily terminated the peace negotiations it took a complete turnaround. It now points to the armed conflict—read the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA)-NDFP defensive armed struggle —as the cause of poverty and non-development in the country.

Indeed, it is a convenient excuse for the regime to train its guns and utilize various war resources against the revolutionary movement and the masses supporting it. Everywhere, and anywhere now, the Duterte regime sees “Red” and employs “red-tagging” to justify its clamping down against a wide range of legitimate oppositionists, critics, and ordinary civilians.

Taking off from the failed counterinsurgency program of his predecessor, Duterte took a tight grip of Benigno S. Aquino III’s “whole of nation approach” (WNA) embodied in the latter’s Oplan Bayanihan. The “whole of nation approach” readily suggests a semblance of the whole nation—the entire civilian bureaucracy, government-owned and controlled corporations, local government units, plus nongovernmental formations denoted as “other stakeholders” — mobilized against the people’s democratic revolution.

Specifically, the WNA embarked on weaponizing the civilian bureaucracy and boosted the power of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This means blatantly placing the civilian agencies and services of the reactionary government under military centralization.

Under Duterte as strongman, a civilian-military junta, all but in name, is more apparent than ever.

From the beginning of his presidency in 2016, he has continually appointed to key positions in his cabinet and agencies retired high-ranking military and police officers. After a year, in 2017, there were already 60 former AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) officials in the civilian bureaucracy.

To this day he continues to fill up other offices, particularly strategic ones, with ex-military officials, such as the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). Recently, he appointed Gringo Honasan to head the Information and Communication Technology department, replacing another military officer Eliseo Rio, Jr. who stays as undersecretary. Duterte also named Royina Garma, Cebu’s chief of police as new head of the Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office (PCSO). There are now at least 80 former military officials in various executive offices and government-owned and controlled corporations.

In the guise of Cabinet reorganization, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 67 placing more agencies under military supervision in two departments. The EO purportedly aims to “strengthen the democratic and institutional framework of the executive department,” and eliminate “roadblocks and impediments” in pursuing the government’s agenda. Among these agencies are:
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos – transferred to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
Philippine Commission on Women – transferred to DILG
National Youth Commission – transferred to DILG
National Anti-Poverty Commission – transferred to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – transferred to DSWD
Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor – transferred to DSWD

The move was followed by Executive Order No. 70 which created a National Task Force (NTF) to provide mechanism and structure to the WNA approach. President Duterte nominally chairs the task force with his national security adviser as vice chair. Certain cabinet members, agency heads, the AFP chief of staff, and two representatives from the private sector sit as members.

More telling, Duterte appointed the notorious retired Colonel Allen Capuyan as executive director or head of the NTF national secretariat. Capuyan’s notoriety dates back to the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, when he headed Task Force Gantangan, which carried out a vicious “internal security plan” against the Lumad (indigenous people) of Mindanao. With his recent appointment as NCIP chairperson, Capuyan now holds two significant offices, one for “counterinsurgency”, the other to facilitate the entry of big business in IP areas such as mining and plantations. Like a number of Duterte appointees, Capuyan has been implicated in a multi-million-peso shabu trade.

More insidiously now, government services are organized into several “operational clusters” (obviously a military parlance), namely: (1)Government Empowerment Cluster; (2) International Engagements Cluster; (3) Legal Cooperation Cluster; (4) Strategic Communications Cluster; (5) Basic Services Cluster; (6) Livelihood and Poverty Alleviation Cluster; (7) Infrastructure and Resource Management Cluster; (8) AFP-PNP Peace and Development Cluster; (9) Situational Awareness and Knowledge Management Cluster; (10) Localized Peace Engagement Cluster; (11) E-Clip and Amnesty Program Cluster; and (12) Sectoral Unification, Capacity Building and Empowerment Cluster.

These clusters serve to support military operations against the revolutionary movement as well as groups and personalities perceived to be opposing Duterte.

Legal Cluster

Take the case of the Legal Cluster. Apart from the justice department, which has control over the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and prosecutors, the cluster consists of government security sectors such as the National Security Council (NSC), AFP/PNP, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), Intelligence Group of the PNP, the NBI, and the NCIP. The latter was thrown into the cluster apparently to watch over Lumad communities and other national minorities who are deemed prime recruits of the NPA.

With the termination of the peace talks on November 23, 2017 and Duterte’s Proclamation No.360 declaring the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations, the legal cluster immediately set into action. The DOJ followed with a list of 656 names alleged to be “terrorist” leaders and members of the CPP-NPA including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and former chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The list was later trimmed down to eight, but only after arrests had been made and several NDFP consultants incarcerated.

To replace Arroyo’s notoriously-vicious but inept Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which filed trumped-up cases against her critics based on planted evidence and false witnesses, the Duterte regime formed the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA). Victims of this new body are NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis, and Rey Casambre. Ladlad and Casambre are still under detention awaiting trial of their cases. Baylosis, however, has been freed after his arrest was deemed illegal, rendering the consequent case filed against him null and void.

Under IACLA, a remnant trumped-up murder case initiated by IALAG in 2006 was revived against the four progressive former legislators, dubbed by media as “Makabayan 4”: former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, former Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. and former National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza, and former Anakpawis Rep. and former Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano. Warrants of arrest were issued against the four. However, the trial court judge found no merit in the case and summarily dismissed it.

This cluster is likewise working for the legislation of repressive laws, specifically amendments that would water down the Human Security Act (HSA).

International Cluster

The International Engagement Cluster was also set to work. Government security officials were sent “on a caravan” abroad for two objectives: 1) to counter the effective information campaign by human rights organizations critical of the Duterte government’s human rights violations — tagged by the regime as “CPP fronts”— and 2) to “cut their ties”with foreign governments, the United Nations, and international solidarity groups. The trip was an intelligence mission as well as a psyops aimed at maligning the CPP-NPA-NDFP and leaders of the progressive legal organizations. However, its main aim was to sever financial assistance coming from foreign agencies and governments to human rights defenders and legitimate NGOs branded as “communist fronts.”

Earlier, Duterte tapped the state’s own civilian agencies to do surveillance. For one, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued in November 2018 Memorandum Circular Order 15 giving itself the authority to look into the finances of NGOs. It sought to know their sources of funds purportedly to track “money laundering to terrorist funding.” The said Memorandum likewise provides that SEC could ask the police and military to investigate the NGOs without prior notice.

Also, a news report, dated June 3, 2019, quoted Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as saying in his tweet: “Over a month ago I fired off a memo to all our European embassies to tell their host governments to clear any and all donations to their NGOs in the Philippines with the DFA. Or we will deregister them in the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission]. If that hasn’t been done do it now.” He did not provide details. His statement came after Duterte claimed that foreign governments have been supporting so-called communist fronts.
The Philippine government, through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), has submitted to the EU and the Belgian embassy in the Philippines documents supporting claims that NGOs are used to funnel funds to the communist movement.

Immediately, international NGOs who have long supported organizations such as human rights watchdog Karapatan and Lumad school ALCADEV (two of those red-tagged organizations) countered the government’s accusation and firmly stood by their support to these organizations.

After the “international caravan” in January, the Duterte regime sent another group last June 2019 as a follow up to its lobby effort to discredit people’s organizations, specifically, human rights defenders and the Lumad in Mindanao. The Duterte government, spending millions of people’s money, sent its apologists/defenders to Belgium and New York (where they were met with protest actions) and at the recently concluded 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. To the regime’s chagrin, the UNHRC adopted the Iceland-initiated resolution calling on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to make a comprehensive written report on the human rights situation in the Philippines to be discussed in the next UNHRC session.

Communications Cluster

Under the Communications Cluster, promotional work for the Duterte regime also includes demonizing the revolutionary movement as “terrorist”. Duterte’s fear of the revolution has extended to media being critical of his regime, with personalities being red-tagged, placed under surveillance, harassed, arrested or killed. In three years, 13 journalists have already been killed. The Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network reported that from June 30, 2016 to April 30, 2019, a total of 128 cases of threats and attacks against the media have been documented. The attacks were unrelenting. From the “Red October” plot to the egregious “Oust Duterte matrix,” clearly the administration is not on a “wait and see” mode but rather on an overactive frenzy. The goal: mass intimidation. The regime is deploying all weapons in its arsenal to police even the opinions of the public: from the employment of a massive “troll army” and other forms of astroturfing or the attempt to bloat supposed public support for policies, resulting in an era where genuine reports and fake news are difficult to tell apart; the ramped-up surveillance of perceived critics of the administration; to imposing martial law in Mindanao, and similar thinly-veiled military efforts in provinces in the Visayas and Luzon.

Alternative media such as Bulatlat, Kodao, Pinoy Weekly, AlterMidya Network and others have been victims of worse cyberattacks known as DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) where their sites have been repeatedly attacked, apparently for reasons that they have boldly criticized the regime and covered even developments in the revolutionary movement.

Also, libel and criminal cases are filed against mainstream media with threats of revoking their registrations and franchises, such as in the case of Rappler and ABS-CBN.

Basic Services Cluster

Government agencies providing basic services and programs are clustered together—the DSWD, Housing, TESDA, Education, OPAPP, NAPC— almost all under military domination.

The target of these services and programs are said to be the strongholds of the NPA. Schemes are aimed at plugging the support of the communities to the armed revolution, as well as to draw surrenderees from the people’s army. It is intertwined with the reactionary government’s programs for surrenderees, the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), and “localized peace engagement.” All of these schemes are ridden with deception and corruption.

The E-CLIP has turned out to be one of the regime’s milking cows, because millions of pesos end up in the pockets of military officials. For one, there have not been, if not a few, genuine surrenderees. Most of the so-called rebel returnees were ordinary civilians threatened, coerced and/or herded in plazas and presented to media as “surrenderees”. The Task Force Balik-Loob is said to have spent Php 520 million to Php 715 million in 2018 supposedly for the 8,000-11,000 “NPA surrenderees”—figures that are way beyond the regime’s own estimated current number of NPA members.

Sectoral Cluster

The youth, workers and urban poor groups have been identified as among the breeding grounds of the revolutionary movement. But, among the many sectors, the Lumad of Mindanao and other indigenous people’s groups have been the actual target of the sectoral unification cluster because they reside within the guerrilla fronts in Mindanao and Cordillera.

As planned, the militarized government institutions aim to lure the indigenous peoples with socio-economic programs and pretend to enhance their culture, whereas in fact they rob them of their ancestral lands for the benefit of foreign transnational corporations engaged in mining and oil palm plantation. It is small wonder that martial law was declared and extended in Mindanao where the Lumad and the Bangsamoro carry out revolutionary struggles in defense of their ancestral lands.

The age-old divide and rule tactic has always been employed by the State and is manifested through the “creation” of fake datus, initiated by the NCIP, who become conduits in the plunder of ancestral lands. The existence of AFP-backed paramilitary groups not only divides the indigenous people’s communities but has also caused countless human rights violations among those who stand their ground in defense of their ancestral lands and right to self-determination.

The NTF-ELCAC’s latest bid to subvert the Lumad’s right to self-determination was the order to close 55 Lumad schools in Southern Mindanao based on fabricated information that these schools have been teaching communist ideology to Lumad children. The Philippine government has not spent a single centavo on these schools, yet it has the gall to rob hundreds of Lumad children of their future.

In the end, weaponizing the civilian bureaucracy will only worsen the crisis within the regime and doom it to failure. On one hand corruption, patronage and inefficiency will mar the implementation of the regime’s “counterinsurgency” program as proven many times in the past; on the other hand, the regime will create more enemies than friends as it fails to silence the revolutionary movement and the broad opposition.

By now, more victims of the regime, threatened or otherwise, are joining the ranks of the revolutionary underground and the NPA. On the legal front, even organizations of different political persuasions are closing ranks and have become more emboldened in raising real-time and long-term issues against the regime.

Duterte has got it all wrong. The problem is not the CPP-NPA-NDF. It is still poverty, stupid. Duterte, like his hero Marcos, poorly understands the problems of Philippine society as their lens are clouded by their own self-interests to perpetuate themselves and their families in power.

Duterte’s ambitious and vicious reverie to crush the revolution, sustain “peace” and rule like the grand dictator will never succeed no matter how he masked his counterinsurgency program—earlier named Oplan Kapayapaan and now, a more off-key Oplan Kapanatagan— with a weaponized civil bureaucracy and deodorized by rhetoric of “development” and “humanitarian.” The convoluted reasoning, that the armed conflict is the cause of poverty, and the non-development peddled by Duterte and his armed minions to deceive and win over the people will blow on their very faces.

For as long as the root cause of the armed conflict is not addressed, for as long as the semicolonial and semifeudal state of the Philippine society stays causing abject poverty to and unfettered bondage on the masses, for as long as repression and oppression persist, all of the US-Duterte regime’s schemes are bound to fail. The revolution, which the masses look up to as their sole salvation, will continue to rage and advance to greater heights. #

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