Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘NPA’

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.






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Can “Bangkok” Also Happen in Manila?

Posted by butalidnl on 20 May 2010

With the Thai army dispersing the “red-shirts” from their positions in Bangkok, some people ask whether or not Manila is also ripe for a Bangkok-like class struggle. After all, they say, there is also a big gap between rich and poor in the Philippines. And Thailand and the Philippines are sort of comparable in terms of size, stage of development, etc.

Safety Valves
Well, I don’t think so. The main reason for saying so, is that the Philippines has various “safety valves” that the Thais do not have. In the first place, come the OFWs. People who are not able to find jobs in the country have the option of going abroad. Filipinos are very much able to go abroad to work, compared to the Thai (who don’t speak English, and thus aren’t able to work abroad en masse). Thus, we can say that the option of working abroad is one of the safety valves in Philippine society.

The second safety valve, ironically, is our home-grown communist insurgency. Why would that be?  People who are particularly mad about the present system have the option of joining the NPA in the countryside. Despite various efforts, the NPA remains restricted to countryside operations, where they face local challenges e.g. armed right-wing groups etc. The NPA does not retain that much left-over energy to fight in the cities. And the CPP-NPA is actually already coopted into the political status-quo and will not do anything to really threaten it.(see: CPP-NPA Helps Maintain Status Quo in the Philippines)

And then comes elections, which are particularly popular for Filipinos. Our elections “work”, in the sense it brings about a relatively peaceful transfer of power (though still within the ruling elite). Despite everything, elections are part of a system of patronage, even of (temporary) dissent, and it does let off so much of the pressure in the system.  The circus atmosphere of elections also distract people from their pressing problems.

And the people still believe in elections. They still think that change is possible through the electoral process. If only good leaders get chosen, the country will improve. They believe a lot more in elections than revolution or other extra-constitutional means to change things. Military coups don’t really make it in the Philippines – the only successful coup (if you could even call it that) was the 1986 “People Power” revolution.

It is only when the result of elections are not respected, that Filipinos opt for more violent means. This happened in 1986, when Marcos attempted to thwart the election result in his favor. And, sad to say, again in 2001 when a middle class “People Power” revolt overthrew Erap Estrada; effectively negating his landslide victory in elections. This gave rise to”EDSA 3″ where many poor people demanded the return of Estrada to power, and ended up in rioting that reached Malacanang. We can compare EDSA 3 to “Bangkok”, because it was a revolt of the poorest segments of the population; however, EDSA 3 failed miserably, and one factor in this was the lack of leaders.

Can EDSA 3 Happen Again?
Perhaps. But it will not be successful, especially because many of the people who could be their leaders are now involved in elections, or in NGOs, in the countryside (as NPAs) or abroad. The main mass of people tend more to the pro-election, gradual reform of society – revolution or urban uprising are just not attractive.  There is no way that they will be able to sustain an uprising in the city for weeks, even months.

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Permits to Campaign

Posted by butalidnl on 22 February 2010

The New People’s Army (NPA) is again selling Permits to Campaign (PTCs) to politicos who want to campaign in the areas they control. The NPAs charge fees depending on the position that is being campaigned for. So, presidential and senatorial candidates would need to pay more.

These PTCs are instruments that go against the development of democracy in the Philippines. In the first place, only the richer candidates can afford such PTCs. So, if the NPA-controlled area is large, and only the richer candidate could campaign there, then it will be the richer candidate who will have a better chance of winning. And this candidate, once he becomes an official would have an additional reason to be corrupt – to recoup his PTC fee. Thus PTCs are promoting corruption.

In many cases, the poorer candidate is the better one – the more principled, more democratic, less corrupt. Thus, the NPA with its policy of PTCs is indirectly promoting the victory of the more corrupt politicos.

In the second place, the charging of fees for PTCs is a corrupt practice in itself. It is actually trying to “cash in” on the fact that the NPA has armed men in the area. It is not different, in essence, from warlords who charge politicos to go into their areas. And, with the PTCs, do the NPA also offer to “campaign” for the politicos with the PTCs?  Campaigning done by armed men is really not very democratic. Who will dare vote against them?

Of course, we could say that since NPA-controlled areas are not that many, national politicians could afford to ignore these areas. But this would mean that politicians are then indirectly influenced in order to avoid rural areas, and simply concentrate on the urban areas which they can access. This is also bad for democracy, since democracy presupposes that all citizens count, not only those in urban areas.

And if NPA-controlled areas are not so significant for national politicians, they might make up a considerable proportion of the voters for some local politicians. This would mean that the NPA would be promoting the election of corrupt local officials.

And after the elections, what then? Well, the NPA could say that they are independent of the politicians who got implicit support during the elections. But how true is this going to be? Do you think that the NPA will only be cozy with these politicians during election time? I think this whole practice of PTCs will skew NPA actions in the local areas for years. And, what about revolutionary change and the peoples welfare – do this go down the drain also?

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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 »