Yesterday’s “Apparatchiks”

by Juan L. Mercado

Contrast  is a compelling tutor.  Compare the track records of  talks for peace  by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Communist Party of the Philippines.  Both were intractable insurgencies.

In Sultan Kudarat,  MILF, World Bank and UN  signed “Fasttrac” or  “Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities”. Based in Cotabato City ,  this  three year project  will pool  skills, training, research and expertise for  MILF and government. That’s needed in dismantling the flawed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In ARRM’s  place,  they’ll  cobble Bangsamoro in  southern Philippines.  Priority  agenda item is to craft a  “Basic Law” that  embodies aspirations  of communities across the new body, noted  MILF  chair Al Haj Murad. “Fasttrac” follows President Benigno Aquino’s creation of  a Transition Commission in  December 2012. The commission is now fully staffed.

These steps staunched the bloodshed. Over 150,000 died  in  Mindanao  fighting. Conflict gutted the island’s potential to be the nation’s breadbasket. ’“We must learn to live together as brothers,” Martin Luther King wrote. “Or we are all going to perish together as fools”.

In contrast, the bid to end the 44-year old communist insurgency collapsed.  U-turns by the National Democratic Front “killed”  the Netherlands talks, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda  said.  

NDF  leaders  proposed, in December 2102,  a  “special track”: a draft declaration on peace without preconditions. But in Feburary 2013, NDF jettisoned it’s own initiative . Instead, it lobbed  in three new documents. They’d backpedal into  the old  “Regular Track”  — which floundered for over 27 years now. 

Government should free detained consultants, NDF demanded. In addition, programs like Pamana; Oplan Bayanihan, plus the Conditional Cash Transfer Program be scuppered.

CCP will bail out 3.5 million poor families this year, World Bank reports. These grants keep kids in school (96 percent attend classes), get health check ups, etc.. Seven out of 10 mothers have  medical attention.  Now, the commissars in Utrecht would dump these kids and moms.

“Are we talking to the right people?” wondered  government negotiator Alex Padilla… Do  local communists  leader agree?  Or is  there a disconnect between communist  leaders here  and those half a world away?

The President  thus  seeks a “new approach”. Government  may instead pursue localized peace. It  wants  a “time-bound and agenda-bound”  talks. That’d enlist  help of local leaders and civil society groups.

CPP fielded 26,000 armed men at it’s peak. “People Power” reforms here, party internal purges and sleaze, interlocked with  collapse of communism worldwide. These  whittled down  rebels to less  than 4,000 today.

The party  “withered and splintered”, Australian National University ‘s Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet wrote in “Philippine Human Development Report.”  Ideological  quarrels  and policy disagreements, after “Edsa One” toppled Marcos’  dictatorship, “contributed to splits and splits-within-splits”. These persisted  into the 2000s”.

Studies in Mindanao, Negros,  Nueva Ecija  and Cordillera found most guerrillas and supporters “have neither been CPP members…nor seekers of a communist run state”. Some sought redress from abuse. Most  struggled for rights  to land and human living conditions.

Some guerrilla  groups, in recent years, peddled protection in exchange for cash and other  payoffs. “Customers” range from  corporations, gambling and drug syndicates, government agencies and large landowners, PHDR notes.

Rebels  torched  an  AlterTrade truck, blocked it’s exports of sugar and bananas,  after the Bacolod company bucked a P30-million “tax”. In  Bondoc peninsula, NPAs  backed  landlords  who coughed up “taxes,  instead of  defending  farmers, wrote Inquirer’s Solita Monsod.  Viewpoint dubbed this drill as “Have Gun, Will Travel.”.

There’s no mention of  a  permit-to-campaign fee” in the NPA apology  for their attack on 78-year-old Gingoog Mayor Ruth de Lara- Guingona and companions, wrote Inquirer’s Randy David…“But that is what this is about.”  Indeed,  the Guingona assault came at an NPA roadblock collecting “revolutionary taxes”, Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros pointed out.. “The NPA calls it tax, everybody else calls it extortion.”

These unelected  collectors  fleece  “taxes” wherever their  guns  reach.  They decide who to clip, how much, when and how.  They make no financial reports. “Taxpayers” have no say on how their pockets are to be picked. Dissenters are clobbered  with  truck burning, equipment wrecking, even salvaging.

Time and history  meanwhile  moved on.  Despite a  Manila  May 1 rally displaying  posters of  Marx, Stalin to Mao, communism is in history’s dustbin. “It is glorious to be rich,” Den Ziao Peng said. Aging rebel leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni (a Dutch citizen) wage “People’s War” by fax  Internet to Twitter, from comfortable ramparts of  Holland.  Why  not  from North Korea?, critics snipe.

NDF’s contact, let alone control, over NPA units in backwaters here, are tenuous and crumbling.  Loot  from  “permits to campaign” is not shared. Collapse  of  negotiation means CCP remains black-balled in the terrorist organizations roster, kept by European Union , US and allies.

The compelling tutor  is contrast. Step by painful step, into ploughshares by MILF and government. There are fewer widows. Evacuees are returning, farms cleared of mines and kids  flock to  school..

That  too can be within reach for CCP — only it moves  beyond  yesterday’s apparatchiks  and today’s buccaneers.


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