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rodrigo duterte

FAILING OPLANS: from Marcos to Duterte

in Editorial

Since 1981, when the Marcos dictatorship initiated Operational Plan (Oplan) Katatagan purportedly “to defend the state” (the besieged fascist regime) from the fast-growing New People’s Army (NPA), each succeeding administration has followed suit. This is understandable, since the planner-implementor of every Oplan has been the same military establishment habituated to martial-rule repressive action.The Oplans have had varying names. Yet all have been aimed at deterring the growth of or strategically defeating the NPA, to preserve the existing rotten ruling system.These were: Corazon C. Aquino’s Oplan Mamamayan and Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II; Fidel Ramos’ Lambat-Bitag III and IV, and Oplans Makabayan and Balangay (which transitted into Joseph Estrada’s truncated presidency); Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II; Benigno Aquino III’s Oplan Bayanihan; and Rodrigo Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Kapanatagan.While each succeeding administration adopted its predecessor’s operational concepts, it added new ones. But all such operational concepts were, invariably, copied from the counterinsurgency guide of the US Army. Although these may have worked for some time in America’s wars of aggression and intervention in different parts of the world, over the long run they have failed to achieve their prime objective: decisive military victory.Instead, these American wars—practically wars against the peoples of the countries they invaded, starting with the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century—have left behind countless deaths mostly of civilians, including children; pervasive human rights violations; displacements en masse of the population; and massive destruction of socio-economic resources requiring decades to recover.Similarly, albeit in smaller scale, these have been the dire impacts of the successive counterinsurgency Oplans on our people—since Marcos’ time to the present—in the undefined arenas of war across the archipelago, mostly in the countrysides and hinterlands.The current Oplan Kapanatagan started as Oplan Kapayapaan in January 2017. The latter was also dubbed as the AFP Development Support and Security Plan 2017-2022, which the Armed Forces off the Philippines (AFP) described as an advance from Aquino III’s Oplan Bayanihan. It adopted the latter’s “whole-of-nation” or “people-centered” approach. Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP bragged, resulted in getting 71 of the 76 (out of 86) provinces deemed to be “insurgency affected” declared as “insurgency free” and “peaceful and ready for further development.”The change to Kapanatagan stemmed from the AFP’s assessment that Oplan Kapayapaan was failing to achieve its targeted goal to defeat the NPA midway of Duterte’s six-year term of office.When first announced by AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal before the May 2019 midterm elections, it was billed as the AFP-PNP Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2018-2022. Madrigal described it as a “medium-term broad plan that shall guide the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) in providing guidelines and delineation of authority while performing their mandated tasks to promote peace, ensure security, and support the overall development initiatives of the government towards inclusive growth.” It is anchored, he added, on the national strategic guidance defined in the National Vision, National Security Policy, Philippine Development Plan, National Peace and Development Agenda, and the 2018 Department of National Defence (DND) Guidance and Policy Thrusts.“The respective strategic thrusts of the AFP and PNP were thus harmonized in this Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2018-2022,” Madrigal said. He called it “a dynamic process to establish greater inter-operability in our continuing operations to address security concerns within our respective areas of concern, including all other productive endeavors wherein we join hands in support of national government initiatives as envisioned by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.”Specifically, Madrigal cited two “salient features” of Campaign Plan Kapanatagan: 1) The PNP shall support the AFP in combat operations involving the suppression of insurgency and other serious threats to national security; and 2) The PNP shall take the lead role in law-enforcement operations against criminal syndicates and private armed groups, with the active support of the AFP.”It was in the Cordillera region where the AFP and PNP first “rolled out” Oplan Kapanatagan, after the May midterm elections. Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat then said: “Because of the effort of the AFP and PNP in preventing violence and any actions of the local terrorist groups in the Cordillera region, we assure that the AFP and PNP will continue to work together through Joint Kapanatagan Cordillera.”He emphasized that the AFP-PNP would carry out “joint actions and plans to ensure a more collaborative effort to address the peace and security concerns, especially in those geographic isolated areas” (the guerrilla zones) in Cordillera. He expressed hope that the local government units and other “partner agencies” would collaborate to ensure implementation of Executive Order 70 and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) it created, headed by Duterte.Gen. Salamat disclosed that at a “national convergence” meeting in Malacañang, all those working under NTF-ELCAC had put all efforts “to come up with a cluster of responses” on the different issues, including “issues that have been exploited by the local terrorist groups” so that the government can respond to them.And how has the government responded through NTF-ELCAC and Oplan Kapanatagan?Recently, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) issued a primer on this two-in-one counterinsurgency plan, titled “Disturbance and Plunder by the State Against the People.” Among others, it points out the following:R(egional)TF-ELCAC Cordillera was formed in July 2019, followed by P(rovincial)TF-ELCAC Mt. Province in September. In the last three months of the year municipal-and barangay-level TFs are targeted to be formed.In September, Nolcom launched military operations in various parts of the Cordillera and Ilocos regions, side-by-side with these joint campaigns by the AFP and PNP: disinfomation, surveillance, psychological war (disseminating false information that the NPA had planted land mines in the mountain areas of Bauko, Tadian, and Sagada towns in Mt. Province); forcible entry into civilian homes purportedly to “collect” firearms kept for the NPA in the communities of Besao town; threat and pressure used on residents summoned to pulong masa to sign up on a memorandum of agreement with the AFP-PNP and a declaration of the CPP-NPA as “persona non grata”; holding seminars and symposia on Duterte’s “war on drugs”; and delivery of “services”, “relief and rehabilitation”, among others.The AFP-PNP also set up detachments within three communities of Besao and one in Sagada, in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). (In the National Capital Region, through Implan/Oplan Kalasag, the NCR version of Oplan Katatagan, the AFP-PNP tandem has also set up detachments in some communities in Caloocan City. Uniformed armed teams engage in red-tagging, harassment, intimidation, while others offer “livelihood programs” to identified leaders and members of progressive organizations).CPDF also says the implementation of Oplan Katatagan and NTF-ELCAC in the region aims to facilitate the entry of energy and mining projects by foreign-local joint ventures that threaten the ecology, and violate the Cordillera people’s right to their ancestral lands. It named the following: Bimaka Renewable Energy Devt. Corp., Hydroelectric Dev’t Corp., Chico River Pump Irrigation Project by China’s CAMC Engineering, Aragorn Power Energy Corp., and Cordillera Exploration Co. Inc.-Nickel Asia of Japan.In sum, CPDF denounces the two-in-one campaign as designed to “pacify and press the people to obey the dictates of the reactionary state.” It calls on the Cordillera people to assert their rights, oppose the campaign through various means, and expose the true intent of the campaign: to crush the just struggle of the oppressed masses.It’s useful to note that, in 1981 the Marcos dictatorship already employed thru Oplan Katatagan the full force of the AFP, the police and paramilitary forces, its “development agencies”, and some civilian organizations. Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan and NTF-ELCAC—backed up by extended martial law in Mindanao and state of national emergency in other areas of the country—can be correctly described as an “Enhanced Oplan Katatagan.” Note further: the Oplan failed—in 1986 the people ousted Marcos.#FightTyranny
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Duterte Wants to Grab Land Reform from the NPA

in Countercurrent

by PINKY ANG

On the 31st anniversary of the failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) last August, President Rodrigo Duterte spewed lies against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). Preening before the media while giving out Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA), he boasted he would finish the CPP-NPA-led revolution.

But this put-on picture—Duterte distributing CLOA < click >, Duterte tough-talking on Hacienda Luisita < click >, Duterte feigning concern for the future generation caught in the armed conflict < click >, Duterte promising land reform alongside crushing the 50-year people’s war < click, click >—is phony and old (he isn’t the first president to pose for it). It also defies logic and history.

Save for a fleeting period when he was talking peace with the communists, Duterte has done nothing but the opposite of land reform and national industrialization.

On the verge of signing with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) what would have been a landmark agreement to redistribute land for free all over the country, he scuttled the talks in 2017. Since then, he has made no bones in taking the well-worn path of his most despotic predecessors in Malacañang.

No Philippine president in history has truly implemented land reform nor attempted to jumpstart national industrialization spurred by a genuine land reform program. On the contrary, their so-called land reform programs sought only to placate the masses even as land remained in the hands of a few. From the bitter experiences of peasants, every land reform program by the Government of the Philippines had more loopholes than grounds to actually distribute land. And even when some eventually got distributed, it somehow got back soon enough to landlords.

Duterte merely continued the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program begun under former Corazon Aquino. Despite decades and a succession of presidents and CARP extensions, it is still far from attaining 100-percent distribution of its already narrowed target. Under Duterte, distribution is at the slowest, poorest pace.

DAR records show that the Duterte administration, in its first three years in office, was able to distribute to farmer-beneficiaries only 91,776 hectares of agricultural landholdings. That’s an average of 30,592 hectares a year. His land acquisition and distribution (LAD) pace was only 8% of that of the Fidel Ramos administration in its first three years. Ramos was top performer among the previous presidents.

Here are the comparative LAD accomplishments of Duterte’s predecessors in the first half of their terms:

  • Corazon Cojuangco Aquino: distributed 452,074 hectares from 1988 to 1990, or 150,691 hectares a year;
  • Ramos: distributed 1,113,019 hectares from 1992 t0 1994, an average of 371,006 hectares annually;
  • Joseph Estrada: distributed 379,905 from 1998 to 2000, or 126,635 yearly;
  • Gloria Arroyo: distributed 313,778 hectares from 2001 to 2003, averaging 104,593 hectares per year;
  • B.S. Aquino III: distributed 320,916 hectares from 2010 to 2012, or 106,972 hectares each year.

Data: Dept. of Agrarian Reform land distribution accomplishment in 2016 to June 2019 is 2,920 hectares on average per month under Duterte,

less than the July 2010 to 2015 monthly average of 8,254 has. reported by DAR under Noynoy Aquino;
9,407 has. under Arroyo in January 2001 to June 2010,
and 11,113 has. monthly average under Estrada.

There is a raging armed revolution in the Philippines because peasants and the basic masses, including sections of the middle class and local small capitalists, thirst for land reform. They yearn for the greater prosperity of industrialization that genuine land reform will naturally stimulate, and for the assured just distribution and sustainability of this prosperity because of the socialist perspective of the national democratic revolution being waged by the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

Over the years, the masses especially the poor peasants have been supporting and joining the NPA because they have seen in its programs and its achievements the solutions to feudal and imperialist oppression. This is the movement that truly promises and will deliver thoroughgoing change for the better.

Duterte is striking a very wrong stance with his CLOA distribution and counterrevolutionary war cries. His threat to crush the people’s democratic revolution is a threat to derail developments in actual land reform being implemented by the peasant-based NPA. It’s a threat as well to delay the country’s national industrialization. This is not acceptable to the Filipino masses who continue to suffer a life of misery under the landlord-comprador and imperialist puppet presidents including Duterte.

Another president who posed with CLOAs amid counterrevolutionary war cries was Joseph Estrada. In Bondoc Peninsula, after a series of successful NPA tactical offensives there 20 years ago, he vowed to crush the revolution movement. He became the second president to be ousted through the people’s peaceful direct action.

“WHOLE OF NATION” AS MARTIAL LAW UNDERCOVER?

By this time, as commander-in-chief, Duterte has already issued one too many orders— declaring and thrice extending martial law in the whole of Mindanao; declaring a state of emergency to quell “lawless violence” and issuing Memo 32 to deploy more troops in Samar, Negros island and Bicol; utilizing the so-called “whole-of-nation” approach that harnesses the entire government (national and local) plus civil society organizations in a bid to end the 50-year armed conflict. Clearly though, his actions contradict his boasts against the CPP, which his government shrilly tries to demonize and misrepresent as a puny force being deserted by droves of supposed surrenderers.

But, like the failed land reform program, Duterte’s “whole-of-nation” approach is just another war plan his predecessors have long applied and failed on. It is like the wolf appropriating the voice of the innocent so it can freely enter homes to devour and kill.

Duterte is turning the entire government bureaucracy including civilian sectors into a counter-revolutionary surveillance and black propaganda factory. Its services are being deployed to feed into the coercive military and police troops cracking down on legal democratic mass organizations, and their allies here and abroad. While this government is raining bombs and lies, it is restraining flow of information about the revolutionary movement. It is banning media interviews and coverage of revolutionary groups.

Duterte is trying to revive the monsters of Marcos’s martial law, but not quite succeeding at muzzling the freedom of association and freedom of the press. He goes all-out with K-12 miseducation that’s washing off traces of patriotism and prompts for critical thinking among the youth. All the while he is pushing for military partnership with schools to abet surveillance and intimidation of critical students and teachers.

PR-labeling all these as “whole-of-nation approach,” Duterte dreams about finishing off the CPP-led revolution but only through a one-sided, reality-defying, blood-drenched misrepresentation of life on the ground.

For this brutal fantasy, his office wants to double its intelligence budget to P4.5 billion in 2020, or bloat it to half as big as the total budget of the Office of the President. His minions in Congress seek to add more teeth to the anti-terror law they euphemistically call as Human Security Act. His regime and the US government have agreed to locate a regional training center for combating insurgency and “terrorism” in Cavite. The military consistently receives from the US technical and intelligence support, training and equipment for countering the revolutionary groups.

Yet, amid the Duterte regime’s one-sided diatribes against the CPP-NPA, some truths still inadvertently emerge. Some from his own big mouth. Duterte himself can’t deny the public support for the communist revolutionaries.

After all, he wooed the Filipino voters into electing him president by cultivating appearances of being friendly to the CPP- NPA. His campaign ploy has confirmed that candidates gain popularity by calling themselves “leftist” or “socialist”; by promising peace talks with the communists; and by taking up issues articulated by or identified with the Left. For example, the call to assert Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea vis-à-vis China’s aggressive intrusion into and grabbing of maritime areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones.

Past presidents and presidential candidates publicly pretended to ignore the existence of revolutionary mass bases in the countryside, even when they were impelled to engage in peace talks. They fumed whenever “security concerns” delayed their visits to some locales, when candidates can’t simply enter guerrilla zones. They evaded disclosing the fears expressed by multinational corporations over another government operating clandestinely in the Philippines, which, unlike the reactionary government, calls them to task for their plunder and rights violations.

Perhaps Duterte, who claims to know a lot about the revolutionaries, panicked after he realized that the neocolonial institution he leads wouldn’t tolerate his slight deviation from the usual conduct of puppet presidents. Or, perhaps as a true neocolonial leader of landlord and comprador class (albeit with lesser money in his hands?) he panicked at his first-hand confirmation of the depth and breadth of the Left’s mass support.

Whatever, even when he was firmly following the tradition of imperialist puppetry of those who got to become temporary residents of Malacañang, he still inadvertently slips up, revealing in his ramblings the good things the CPP-NPA have been doing. For example, land reform.

But it would be political suicide for Duterte, or for any local government executive and for the AFP, to say outright that he is against land reform. To “win hearts and minds” and bar more people from supporting the revolutionaries, Duterte and his cohorts have to put deceiving masks to their war plans.

NPA: THE TRUE ARMY OF THE PEOPLE PUSHING FOR GENUINE LAND REFORM

The NPA is largely a peasant army. Its support and troops mainly come from the poor peasants who comprise about 70 percent of the Philippine society. As the army of the revolutionary people led by the CPP, the NPA is waging a revolution against the imperialist stranglehold on Philippine society. It aims to end this stranglehold by dismantling the puppet government that orchestrates and secures it to benefit the landlords and compradors. In the process, the NPA, under CPP leadership, is resolving with ever growing number of people the roots of poverty, landlessness, feudal exploitation, agricultural backwardness and the stunting of industrial development.

Ever since the CPP-NPA-NDFP began waging an armed revolutionary war, it has been pushing for genuine land reform. It is deriving greater strength the more it works to organize and help peasant communities undertake land reform.

The NPA is not just a military force. It is arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the masses. It is starting and helping the peasants into organizing and running the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka or PKM (National Peasants Association), and other revolutionary mass organizations based in rural communities.

These organizations conduct campaigns for land reform suited to their capacities. The more masses organized into revolutionary groups the more they could undertake land reform and enjoy its fruits. The more they cherish and bolster the NPA underpinning their successes.

A PKM leader correctly said recently, as the national democratic revolution advances, the PKM shall be able to give more lands to poor peasants. Lands confiscated from landlords and agri-business corporations are given to beneficiaries free of amortization. The CPP-NPA also punishes the most despotic landlords.

Contrast this to the misery of intensifying feudal and semi-feudal exploitation, and one sees the futility of discouraging the masses from supporting the NPA. In time, their level of organization and experience approaches the building of bigger and bolder organs of political power in communities. This may start small with humble benefits, but as a PKM leader said, it is enough for PKM chapters to withstand the hardships and tragedies of counterrevolutionary wars.

In revolution they have hope. And having tasted its benefits even from the early stage of strategic defensive of the protracted people’s war, they would not easily be swayed by phony pictures and declarations.

Thanks to the NPA, the country’s peasants have had a taste of what it’s like to be in a truly democratic government—at least, the local underground government they are building up every day, campaigns after campaigns for land reform. What it’s like to govern themselves, to elect tried-and-tested leaders among themselves, to work the farm sustainably, to share and enjoy its fruits among themselves and not let it become the sole entitlement of landlords, to help plan and execute appropriate farming techniques and technology.

The organized peasants are also doing their share in thwarting the imposition of imperialist-led “reforms” and programs.

The NPA has functioned to truly harness the power of the people in working collectively for each other’s economic and political gains.

“The comrades in the NPA are helping us come up with policies and guidelines in the land distribution, especially on who should be prioritized—those landless and those who lack lands to till,” said Ka Iling, a peasant leader who participated in a local agrarian revolution conference in 2017 held at a guerilla front in the north. It was a joint project of local members of the CPP, the NPA, and the various revolutionary mass organizations in the area.

All over the country, PKM and other collectives of revolutionary groups, without fanfare, have tackled problems of landlessness, conducted land occupation, palit-tanim (changing crops) to have something to eat even as they are forced to plant cash crops. They have struggled to reduce land rent and usurious rates. They have formed cooperatives to work the land more efficiently, buy their needs, and sell their produce lessening the dominance of traders-landlords-usurers.

Almost a million PKM members have benefited from the CPP and the NPA’s maximum agrarian reform program: more than 44,000 hectares of land have been confiscated and redistributed all over the country. Millions of others have benefitted from the campaigns for lower land rent, lower borrowing interest rates, just share in proceeds of harvest, increased farm gate prices, and eliminating traders’ trickery when farmers’ produce are weighed and priced.

Their support services include training and workshops on organic farming, construction of mini dams for free irrigation, installation of hydroelectric and solar or wind-powered turbines for post-harvest drying or processing, among others.

All these and its further development are what are at stake in the counter-revolutionary war waged by the Duterte administration.

THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION ON A WINNING PATH

Farmers call Duterte a hypocrite for pretending to care about the future generation while doing his best to kill their best prospects today.

He was quoted as telling the CPP-NPA, “We cannot go on this way. We have been fighting for 53 years. Maawa kayo sa susunod (Have mercy on the) coming generation.”

If he was indeed a man of mercy, he could have helped signal the end of armed fighting early into his term. When he terminated the peace negotiations in 2017, the two sides were on the cusp of signing an agreement prompting the Philippine government to implement a genuine land reform.

A clearly-defined mutually coordinated ceasefire would have followed.

As such, even before the massacres occurred in the hacienda land of Negros, or before the killings of peasants all over the country have reached a staggering number of victims (more than 200 as of August 2019 since he became president), the Duterte government could have halted the fighting. For the first time in history, it could have led to the neocolonial government helping resolve the peasant demands which are at the root of the prolonged armed conflict.

Instead, Duterte only confirmed the correctness of the people’s war as means to dismantle the neocolonial government by armed force. His regime has acted true to form in deploying more troops against the peasant-based NPA fighters. Duterte himself acted true to form like the other neocolonial leaders before him. He vowed to sell to highest bidders the fertile lands being defended by the peasants with their very lives.

His agricultural secretary accused the farmers doing bungkalan for survival that they have no rights to the land they should have owned already. He has also been approving with alacrity the appeals of landlords to defeat the farmers’ demands for land distribution. This includes the lands in Hacienda Luisita already ordered for distribution by the Supreme Court.

Duterte admits that “it’s not only about gaining a foothold in those areas,” referring to hotbeds of revolution like Negros, for example. In Sagay City where peasants awaiting CLOAs were massacred by paramilitary troops in October 2018, farmers have been forced to leave and go hungry as troops continue arriving to secure the landlords’ “lawful” ownership. How could the Duterte administration think they could win over these farmers?

Duterte himself admits it is not enough to just bring soldiers to guard the land. “Kunin mo na ang initiative sa komunista (Take the initiative from the communists). What they’re parlaying is land. Eh di unahan na natin. Bigay na natin [ang lupa] (Then let’s move ahead of them. Let’s distribute the land already).”

From the puppet leader who has repeatedly uttered lies and shamelessly admitted to uttering lies, the only true thing he revealed here is that the initiative on land reform is with the communists.

Ever since, the puppet government bowing to imperialist masters has only been reacting to the peasants’ demands for land with bogus land reform programs. The imperialists profit so much from dumping their surplus agricultural products here, while pushing their manufactured products, too. As long as the domestic industries are pushed back and stunted, they have a captive market. The landlord and comprador classes, meanwhile, win big in corruption, buy-and-sell profits, fat contracts and commissions. But the masses grow poorer and hungrier by the day.

Four years ago before Duterte, the poorest 50 percent or 11.4 million Filipino families subsisted on just P15,000 or less per month (P500 or less per day for a family of six). After tax and price hikes amid the lowest wage grants and the worst job generation in the post-Marcos period, the people are definitely worse off today under Duterte. Meanwhile, thanks to his economic policies, the net worth of the country’s richest and the profits of the largest corporations have ballooned.

“Crisis generates resistance,” as CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison titled one of his recent books. The peasantry had launched uprisings and died in bigger numbers before, without the communists to guide them. Now that they have tasted agrarian victories and glimpsed the best future in advancing the national democratic revolution, with socialist perspective, they have hope and will not likely give up on that.

Duterte’s “whole-of-nation” mantra for what he strains to approximate as martial law stands no chance. His human rights record already stinks with blood and many have recoiled from it, even the ordinary people in other countries.
His publicly paid troops who perform services for the landlords, oppress the peasants and the indigenous peoples, will continue to earn the people’s ire and mistrust. Duterte’s minions can conveniently dismiss their war crimes as “shit happens” and “collateral damage”. Before the media, Duterte can shed tears when his troops suffer defeat in legitimate combats with the New People’s Army.

They will keep on getting what they deserve from the people’s army, if they don’t stop standing in the way of genuine land reform, democracy and real prosperity for the majority of the people. #

#PeasantMonth
#ServeThePeople
#JoinTheNPA

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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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Have we got the government we deserved?

in Editorial

The midterm elections of 2019 have come and passed, as in previous ones, tainted with doubts over the results and assumptions of machinations by those in power.

As cynically expected, the Duterte regime emerged “victorious”. Almost all of its candidates were declared winners, with its most loyal vassals – the omnipresent presidential assistant Bong Go and the comedian former Philipppine National Police (PNP) Director Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa – making it to the top-6 circle in the senatorial race.

Now the President has got the supermajority in the Senate, aided by the comebacking election of scions of political dynasties, the daughter of a deposed dictator, a known plunderer, and a celebrity wannabe.

The opposition Liberal Party has been crippled, as the Otso Diretso senatorial slate did not win a single seat. And progressive candidate Neri Colmenares – who notably consistently engaged the administration on timely and popularly-supported issues throughout the campaign period – saw his votes in the 2016 elections shaved by 1.7 million votes. “Duterte magic?” asked a skeptical election analyst.

Having retained a clear majority in the House of Representatives, Duterte has openly dictated a term-sharing scheme for the Speakership in the 17th Congress: the first 15 months on the rostrum for Representative Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, and the remaining 21 months for Representative Lord Velasco of Marinduque. Before this arrangement, Duterte’s son Paulo (elected Davao City congressman) and daughter Sara (reelected Davao City mayor) unabashedly displayed their own power-tripping by forming a “Duterte Coalition” in the House to back up comebacking Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab for Speaker.

The sole positive aspect of this election was the tenacity and resiliency with which the progressive partylists belonging to the Makabayan Coalition defiantly withstood and prevailed against the sustained, vicious, nationwide attacks and deceptions used against them by the military-bureacratic machine of the Duterte regime.

To a considerable extent, the voters rejected the regime’s open campaign of “zero votes for the Makabayan partylists,” aimed at dislodging the progressives from their congressional seats held since 2001. Bayan Muna won the three maximum seats allowed by the law, while Gabriela Women’s Party, Act Teachers, and Kabataan Party won a seat each. Only Anakpawis fell short in attaining the number of votes for one seat. The Makabayan bloc, the real consistent opposition in the House, remains intact.

The state machinery was slyly at work before, during, and after the elections. Its most brutal attacks were aimed at progressive candidates and partylists – ranging from killings, arrests and trumped-up charges, harassments and threats, to interminable red-tagging. Brazenly disregarding the clear prohibition by the Constitution, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines openly engaged in electioneering, campaigning against the progressives even on election day. Vote buying was more massive and rampant than ever. And the much-assailed automated election system (AES), used for the fourth time, recorded the worst incidences of malfunctions that appeared to have been intentional, not accidental (as one IT expert remarked).

Nevertheless, the elections are over and as the winners claim, “The people have spoken.”

Really?

WHAT FALLACY

The elections are meant to be a democratic exercise. The exercise is said to be a great equalizer – rich or poor, everyone is entitled to only one vote. But that is the fallacy of the ballot-box equality. In a class society like the Philippines, the machinery of the state is lodged in the hands of a few, of the rich and the powerful. The great majority is, in reality, represented only in name in these processes and has no real say in the turnout of the elections.

In truth, elections only make it possible for the ruling class to use democratic institutions in furthering their own interests. They have the economic, political, and armed means to use power practically at their whim. This is no democracy at all.

The much-touted “free, fair and honest elections” aphorism is an illusion. Practically anyone who is of age and has the mental capacity can run for public office, but only the moneyed elite can successfully run a campaign, or simply resort to vote buying. The people can choose their representatives, but again only from among the moneyed and the elite. Even if asked to vote wisely, many people are bribed, fooled, hoodwinked, cheated, or forced to vote even for the most undesirable of their oppressors. People want a peaceful election, but threats, intimidation, and violence abound.

When Otso Diretso lost to Duterte, some sectors started calling the voters “bobotante”. The system, not the people, is the culprit. Elections in a semifeudal and semicolonial society are a hoax and fraud is a common occurrence.
Democratic laws and institutions are ample in this Republic claiming to be a democratic state – but only in form, not for real. Human rights are enshrined in the Constitution but state officials are the first to violate, dismiss or disregard the laws. Duterte is a prime example. There are three branches of government for check and balance. But the ruling regime regards all the key posts within the president’s appointing authority as juicy positions to reward its loyalists and supporters.

The minority rules and the majority suffer. That is the meaning of democracy in a semifeudal and semicolonial country.

Despite this rude reality, it is important for the people to participate in the elections as a way to experience and develop their consciousness about how rotten the system is, and what fundamental changes need to be done. The elections become a training ground for the development of revolutionary consciousness. It makes people realize that democracy is lip-service and that the voice of the people can be suppressed or manipulated at any time.

Even elected officials whom the people may initially have felt were true to their promises can turn out to be corrupt, or worse, to be tyrants as in the case of Duterte. The ancient Greeks invented the term tyrant to mean agents of the people who became dictators.

In some cases, progressives and reformers are able to gain power or concessions but only in a limited or temporary sense, and as generally defined, may be tolerated or allowed by the ruling system. Again, this is more an exception than the rule; and exceptions do not make the rule. Once the ruling regime unleashes its full terror, there is no more room for democratic pretensions and all arenas for open people’s participation are deemed closed.

PURSUING DEMOCRACY

Be that as it may, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has even more reason to pursue democracy not just in form but in substance. Its significance – the rule of the majority – is aimed not just in politics but more so in the economic sphere.

In the Philippine context, this means liberating the most numerous, yet also the most oppressed, class – specifically the farmers and agricultural workers who comprise 70% of the population – from oppression and exploitation by a privileged minority.

Hence to stand its ground democracy must be rooted in the economy, which means satisfying the demand for land reform of the landless majority. This means addressing their economic and social problems to effect changes in their class position in Philippine society. This means liberating the country’s productive forces to define their own existence towards justice and prosperity. For too long, widespread landlessness has engendered gross poverty and inequality not just for the peasantry but also for other oppressed classes.

Hence in waging the people’s democratic revolution, the struggle for land takes precedence over all other demands of the people. This is basically an agrarian war. The peasants, in alliance with the working class, have to wrest control of the land from the ruling elite as a means to end poverty and inequality. This is a struggle that may be bloody, because the most reactionary class, the landlords, will not take this sitting down when their land monopoly is challenged, or private property is subdivided and distributed among the tillers of the land.

In due time, as the revolution advances the will of the majority shall find expression not just in the economy but in politics as well. One who holds economic power wields political power. Hence the dominant position of the great majority must be secured for the flowering of true democracy.

Revolutionaries are aware that the quest for democracy does not stop with the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution but shall be carried on to the next stage, the socialist revolution. Ultimately the working class becomes the majority of the population, and the dominant class as well. The leadership of this class will find expression in a proletarian state until such time that the people can govern their own lives with no more need for classes or states.

As Lenin put it, it is not the bourgeoisie but the proletariat who can make democracy happen.

True enough, in the Philippines and through the leadership of the proletarian party, the CPP, changes are becoming more visible in many guerrilla fronts in the country.

Emboldened by the revolution, the peasants in the countryside are not just taking up arms to fight for their rights; they are building their own organizations and setting up organs of political power. Elections are called in a truly free, fair and honest manner; the ballot is treated as sacred; representatives are selected from their own ranks and are subject to recall when they err.

Group meetings, mass assemblies, education sessions, deliberations, consultations have become as common as farming. The people are involved in governance as well as in policy-making. Even matters related to production is no longer just an individual or family decision but is addressed by the entire community.

Once the majority of the people gains the power over their own lives – that will be democracy. And that is what the ruling class fears most: an awakened citizenry schooled in the ways of democracy.#

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