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On the Offer of Four Cabinet Posts

Posted by butalidnl on 25 May 2016

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has offered four cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). They are that of : DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment),  DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), DSWD (Department of Social Work and Development) and DENR (Department of the Environment and Natural Resources). During the election campaign Duterte had promised to make peace with the CPP and bring them into government.

The Departments
Duterte chose four departments which the CPP could offer to the CPP. While these departments are important, they are not essential politicial, economic or security tasks of the government.

DAR. This department fits best with both the interests and the skill set of the CPP. The Philippines has already had two DAR secretaries from the Left: Ernesto Garilao (1992 – 1996) and Horacio Morales (1998 – 2001).  There are already several lower-level DAR officials who used to be leftist activists.

DOLE. The KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno, May First Movement) and the rest of the progressive labor  movement.may probably be able to provide suitable candidates for labor Secretary. The most left-leaning labor secretary so far was Augusto Sanchex, who was a prominent human rights lawyer before serving as Labor Secretary in 1986 -1987.

DENR. The CPP has a mixed record when it comes to environmental issues. While it sometimes condemns mining companies and loggers for their various violations of environmental laws; the CPP often allows them to operate in their areas as long as they pay ‘revolutionary taxes’. At the same time, the government has a terrible record in appointing Environment Secretaries. Having a CPP nominee in the position may be a welcome change.

DSWD. Corazon Soliman, who served as Welfare Secretary from 2001 to 2005 and again from 2010 to 2016, was a moderate-left activist before becoming Secretary. She has been credited with the successful implementation of the landmark Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program – which gives a modest subsidy to poor families on the condition that their children attend school and avail of medical services. About 4.4 million people benefit from the CCT Program.

Possible Problems
CPP leader Jose Maria Sison has declared that they would accept the offer, and will come up with names of ‘left’ personalities as nominees for the Secretary positions.

The process of actually coming up with nominees could prove difficult, though. In the past years, the CPP had been busy ejecting people from the party who could qualify for such positions;  condemning them for being ‘reformist’ or something similar. Now, the CPP would have to pick candidates from the few cadres it has left who  would qualify for these positions.
If the CPP cannot source nominees from among its ranks, they may be forced to nominate people from outside its immediate circles – maybe even people whom it had previously condemned as reformist.

An even bigger hurdle to the CPP coming up with nominees the  matter of fitting the appointing of four cabinet secretaries into its overall strategy.  It may be too easy to say  that this  is a matter of temporary tactics. However, it would mean a major adjustment in how the CPP does things. Specifically, it has to do with the role of the armed struggle to achieve its goals. While Duterte has not spelled it out explicitly, he expects a quid pro quo for the cabinet positions – that of having a ceasefire and peace talks. A six-year ceasefire would wreck havoc within the New Peoples Army; if it does not have anything to do, its ranks will fade away.

Then there is the matter of the CPP strategy for finally achieving power. Will the CPP accept a negotiated route to achieving its goals? or would it be just a temporary detour from the armed struggle? And what is the use of armed struggle if they could gain a governmental role simply by a political route? Their rationale for engaging in armed struggle is that the ruling classes would violently oppose efforts to change the political and economic system. Questions of strategy are a point of tension within the CPP. The balance between ‘legal’ struggle and armed struggle, and their relationship, has been a topic of internal debate and even splits for decades. The question of the cabinet positions will surely increase these tensions within the party.

Duterte’s policies could also be a sticking point. Bayan (a CPP-influenced mass organization) has already denounced Duterte’s economic policies. A more problematic issue is Duterte’s plan to have the dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Burial Place for Heroes). This would also mean some kind of rehabilitation for him. The CPP may not want to be part of a government that rehabilitates Marcos.

Then comes the problems with security. If the DSWD includes peasants from the CPP mass base in the CCT program, the government will know who they are. After the 6-year period, they may be attacked for being communist sympathizers. Also, having a DAR Secretary may mean that the government military entering CPP-controlled areas to implement DAR orders.And what about the security of the Secretaries themselves and their staffers? They may all need to go underground after Duterte’s term.

Choosing a Response
Sison may have declared acceptance of the four cabinet posts; but this does not necessarily mean that the CPP really accepts the offer. It is the actual leaders of the CPP in the country who really call the shots. Sison was only given authority to hold peace talks with the government; actual concessions would need to be made by the leaders in the Philippines.

The CPP’s Central Committee, or more specifically the Secretariat of its Executive Committee, would be the one to make the final decision. Before doing so, they would need to consult some of the lower party organs e.g. the United Front Commission, which will probably be tasked to produce the nominees,  as well as the New People’s Army’s high command. I suspect the NPA will balk at the prospect of having a 6-year ceasefire.
After careful consideration the Secretariat will issue its decision on this matter.

The decision could be within the following range:
Full acceptance of Duterte’s offer. Four nominees will be chosen from among the ranks of its ‘influenced’ organizations.  Peace talks with the government will be started. A ceasefire of limited duration will be declared, as a possible prelude to an extended ceasefire.
The CPP will decline the offer. Disagreement on ssues e.g the proposed burial of Marcos and/or other portions of Duterte’s policies will be deemed incompatible with participation in his government.
Something in between.

I suspect that the CPP leadership will neither fully accept nor fully reject Duterte’s offer. Perhaps it could nominate someone for DAR or DOLE from within its ranks,  but nominate outside progressives for DENR and DSWD. It could agree on a partial ceasefire – i.e. that no large-scale military operations will be undertaken, but that ‘police actions’ by both sides would be allowed (this may be done to appease the NPA leadership). Also, the peace talks could be held both in the Philippines and with Sison’s team abroad.

The way the CPP handles this offer could determine its prospects of building peace with the govenment, including for the period after Duterte’s presidency.






Posted in NDF, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Invest in the Philippines?

Posted by butalidnl on 11 July 2010

Why would foreigners invest in the Philippines? That’s a good question, especially since there are lots of other countries which are trying to attract foreign investors.

Here are some reasons.

Large Population, Big Market
The Philippines has a large population. It is the 12th largest country in the world, with a population of about 96 million people. This is a lot of people, and they can mostly be reached by advertisements in the media. So, this means that, whatever your product, it will probably pay to try selling it to Filipinos. And in turn, this would probably mean that they will need to open at least a sales office in the country. And, for many kinds of products, it will also pay to manufacture these goods in the country itself.

Large Pool of World Class Labor that Speaks English
This is going to probably be why foreign companies would like to set up shop in the Philippines. If they do, they only need to import a few foreign experts, and then avail of the local labor pool. And the labor pool is quite deep, with lots of universities churning out graduates every year, and lots of Filipinos experienced in almost anything (of course, some of these may be abroad).  And  all these have been educated in English. This is not simply English as a subject in school, but English as the medium of instruction in school. We can see this in the fact that we are one of the main countries for call centers; our accent is relatively easy to neutralize.

This means that the Philippines will make a great center for their customer service (as shown by the growing call center industry in the country), and also for things like accounting back-office, or as regional office. The fact that you can source practically all your personnel locally makes it quite attractive. And salaries are still relatively cheap.

Good Infrastructure
The Philippines has relatively good infrastructure. We have a good system of airports  and ports. Our roads are quite good. We have urban mass transit (i.e. LRT, MRT). Electricity supply is regular, with some outages especially during the summer.

The IT infrastructure is also good. High-speed internet is available in our major cities. It is affordable for a lot of middle class families. Mobile telephone availability is practically universal.

Politically Stable
Believe it or not, the Philippines is politically stable. It only looks unstable, specially for those living in the Philippines – with all the rumors and other things you read in newspapers. For one, the homegrown communist movement is more of a nuisance rather than a threat. [See CPP-NPA Helps Maintain Status Quo in the Philippines ] As for the Moro rebels, the government is constantly having a ceasefire with the MILF, while they negotiate a peace agreement.

Military rebels? Kidding? What kind of threat to stability do they pose, when they mostly resort to occupying hotels when doing a “coup de etat”. What kind of coup is that? Besides, the present Aquino government has good relations with a number of military rebel leaders; I don’t expect them to go against the government now.

No major threat to the interests of foreign investors are on the horizon. It is safer to invest in the Philippines, than to do so in places like Thailand or Indonesia. Of course, this doesn’t cover all the country – take the case in point of Western Mindanao, with its Abu Sayyaf – but it is generally peaceful, and stable in the rest of the Philippines. So, for foreign investors: just keep out of the Abu Sayyaf areas, and it’s alright.

Posted in NDF, Philippine economics, Philippine politics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

CPP-NPA helps maintain status quo in Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 1 April 2008

The CPP-NPA is supposed to be working to overthrow not only the present government, but also the entire ruling system, and replace it with a peoples democratic state (or something like that), which will eventually lead to socialism. Thus, it is against foreign control of the economy, the power of the landlord-dominated elite, and corruption in government; and as such should be the No. 1 enemy of the present ruling elite. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your political leanings), the CPP-NPA is not very effective in doing its work of destabilizing the Philippine political system. It very much seems to be doing the exact opposite – that of helping to stabilize the country’s political system.

What do I mean? Well, for starters, the present government treats the CPP-NPA more as a nuisance than as a threat. It doesn’t even bother to try negotiating peace with it. Why should it? It’s activities are hardly destabilizing, hardly even annoying. NPA local attacks are just that – local – and it has no national, or even provincial significance. But it is not only their negligible impact that leads one to conclude that they are a not a force of instability.

Let us look at some of the reasons for concluding that the CPP-NPA is helping to maintaining the status quo in the Philippines.

It serves as an outlet for disgruntled people.
Since the CPP-NPA still is able to recruit disgruntled people, many of them intellectuals; it effectively removes them from the “agitated masses”. When the CPP-NPA actually led massive demonstrations, etc. such as in the Marcos period, these disgruntled intellectuals’ energies were directed towards the “masses” – they led demonstrations, influenced the media, etc. Nowadays, with the CPP-NPA a marginal force, the withdrawal of these people from the mainstream actually reduces the overall temperature (or “average agitation”) of the mainstream, effectively cooling things down.

The CPP-NPA disrupts the work of grassroots NGOs and peoples organizations which are not affiliated with it.
In its attempt to be the leading force of the opposition, the CPP-NPA attacks the grassroots work of groups it consider to be its rivals – and sometimes quite literally, by murdering their local organizers. This effectively weakens the overall impact of the work of opposition groups locally and nationally.

Their goals are more modest than what the people want and can get.
The CPP-NPA’s specific goals are often less radical than what the people want or can achieve. A good example of this is in the case of land reform: in Central Luzon, agrarian reform activists together with pro-reform officials at DAR were able to negotiate with landowners to a crop division of 75-25 (i.e. 75% for the farmer, 25% for the landowner). This compares favorably when compared to the NPA’s aim of “terciong baliktad” which means 2/3 – 1/3 division (and thus giving the farmer only 67%) of the harvest.

Its opposition to mining in the Philippines is clearly less advanced than that of the Catholic Bishops. The bishops oppose mining throughout the country, while the CPP-NPA is only against certain mining companies. One might even suspect that they are opposed to those firms who refuse to pay the CPP-NPA “taxes”.

Their agenda is watered down as a result of their presence in Congress.
The CPP-NPA is present in Congress through its front parties e.g. Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis. But instead of using their position to undermine the ruling system, they often help to protect it. Take for instance their opposition to the reduction of “pork barrel” allocations. The CPP-NPA benefits from pork barrel allocations either directly (through projects in their base areas) and indirectly (through kickbacks). They don’t want their lucrative source of funds to dry up!

During elections, they behave more like trapos.
During elections, the CPP-NPA do their best to make the maximum financial gain. Foremost is their policy of charging campaigning fees for candidates who want to campaign in their areas. This usually results in the traditional politico having campaigning access to these areas, while the more idealistic (and less rich) candidates or parties not gaining access.

Going beyond the campaigning fees, the CPP-NPA also makes all sorts of alliances with traditional politicians, which often extend beyond the campaign period. Thus, we would see alliances with landlords and the NPA against farmers groups.

All in all, I cannot help but conclude that the CPP-NPA is no longer the radical group that is determined to bring down the corrupt Philippine political system. Those wanting radical change would need to find other ways of doing so.

Posted in NDF, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »