Sense of urgency, not stupidity, is the antidote to insurgency
By Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. / The Manila Times
JOSE Ma Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has always referred to the government as a “reactionary government.” In many aspects, it is true because for the past 50 years that’s what the government has been doing. It reacts to every action the CPP does to its armed attacks, systematic radicalization of our children, infiltration of all sectors of the society, including the government and the legislative, to its legal mass actions. He has been very successful in blinding our society to the dangers of what the CPP and its alliances are posing, for each action they make right under our noses. Most of us are clueless that we end up even supporting them. Joma does this through duplicity and its “revolutionary dual tactics.”
This deception went on until the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), which virtually addresses all the different CTG (communist terrorist group) programs, particularly its propaganda machinery. Incidentally, this task falls on the lap of the NTF stratcom cluster and this is the reason why the NTF spokespersons have always been in the limelight for every issue that crops up, the community pantry being just one of them. The government, through its NTF-Elcac, is now at the forefront, proactively addressing possible crisis scenarios instigated by the CTG, even before the situation develops to a serious disaster. But what is the basis of our actions at the NTF-Elcac? Experience and foreknowledge.
This communist insurgency is a protracted one. The CPP-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) acknowledges that they cannot take down the government in a blitzkrieg operation. They have a long-drawn strategy to wear out government forces, exhaust all government resources, until they are ready to strike. To the uninitiated, especially to those comfortably enjoying the comforts of their offices in imperial Manila, no amount of explanation will make them agree that insurgency is a serious problem. To them it is irrelevant and is not worth their time and resources, in other words business as usual. The NTF-Elcac thinks otherwise, and we are joined widely with all the sectors and local government units, which have suffered so much already from the atrocities of these terrorist insurgents.
A key ingredient in the resolution of the protracted nature of insurgency smacks right in the word: urgency. That is to say, before the enemy is able to strike, we should be able to hit them first. This is what is happening with our Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police operations nationwide. A good 90 percent of our armed engagements with the NPA are government-initiated and intelligence-driven. This is the reason NPA members are surrendering in droves.
Last April 28, 17 NPA members surrendered in Mindoro. They were followed by seven in Masbate last May 2. Recent news from Bukidnon states that 17 NPA rebels also surrendered to Army forces. This was preceded by the surrender of 20 in Sorsogon, 33 in Cagayan, and some 87 MBs (militia ng bayan) and SPLs (sangay ng partido sa localidad) in Rizal province. This is the trend everywhere in the country.
At the stratcom cluster, our aim is to be able to respond objectively to brewing issues and be able to explain to the people why we need to do it. While we acknowledge that the CPP is well advanced in the infiltration of our media, hence, all these bad and false narratives against all administrations after 1986, we are trying to play catch-up with a more robust and objective approach to address the many issues they are throwing at the government. Is it suppression of freedom of speech and of press? Definitely not, but this time we call out every fake report and effort to agitate people, especially at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. If we need to expose these personalities and their connection with the underground, for people to better understand the duplicity of these fake advocates, then that’s what we will do — immediately. If we become unpopular because we appear to be unorthodox with the way we do it, then that’s the consequence we should be ready to accept.
Is this red-tagging? No, it is simply re-echoing how Joma identified all these front organizations, including the underground organizations that he exposed in his video message during the 49th anniversary of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Other than the CPP, Sison identified the following as the member organizations of the NDFP Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan (Armas) — the underground organization operating the front organization Karatula; Revolutionary Council of Trade Union (RCTU) — the underground organization of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU); Kaguma of ACT; Kabataang Makabayan (KM) of the YS, including Kabataan, Anakbayan, CEGP, LFS, NUSP; Makibaka or Gabriela; Lumaban of NUPL; Christians for National Liberation (CNL) — running the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP); and Bagong Hukbo ng Bayan (BHB) or NPA.
There were actually 18 organizations identified by Sison, all of these also appear in the NDFP website. So why is this important for us to know?
I would like to explain that by sharing a significant development as far as the NTF-Elcac is concerned. Last Tuesday I was privileged to be invited to a “conversation” with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in their beautiful Caritas office in Tagaytay. It was initiated by our Military Vicariate Ordinariae, Bishop Oscar Florencio, in cooperation with the National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (NASSA), which is under the direction of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Action-Justice and Peace. A lot of ground was covered, including the Caritas funding, human rights and EJK, red-tagging, the RMP and AMRSP, the infiltration of the Church through the CNL, the Tamondok issue, and environmental degradation.
The forum provided an opportunity to clarify issues, especially on how the left uses red-tagging as a defense mechanism to cover their illegal operations; why RMP’s funding was frozen; the identification of a few members of the CNL among the clergy who are unfairly dragging the Church; active partnerships with the government and Church/Caritas, which needed to be continued; and the active role the Church is performing now to help reach out to so many rebels who have now returned to the fold of the law. At the end of the forum, it was agreed that the NTF-Elcac will pursue its plan to institutionalize partnership with NASSA and the Diocesan Social Action Centers (DSACs) for them to be part of the task force at the regional, provincial and even municipal-level NTF-Elcac.
The government in the past did a lot of stupid things which enabled the CPP to perpetuate this conflict for 53 years now. Far from being perfect, the NTF-Elcac has managed to address these shortfalls with a lot of initiatives. Because of the alleged red-tagging, again, by the NTF-Elcac spokesman, of some organizers of community pantries, some senators are moving for the defunding of the NTF-Elcac’s barangay development program (BDP), if not realign the funds to other programs, thus delaying further the resolution of this conflict. Parallel to this, Sen. Franklin Drilon is in fact questioning the quick disbursement of some P10 billion for the BDP.
Now that the government is quick in providing the services that far-flung communities have been expecting; quick in countering propaganda of the CPP; quick in preempting attacks of the NPA terrorists; quick in destroying the CPP narrative; quick in preventing more foreign funding to the underground; hence resulting in the surrender of hundreds of NPAs; the dismantling of their organs of political powers (OPPs); and the impending collapse of these communist terrorist groups, suddenly we see all these efforts to gag the NTF-Elcac spokesman and defund the BDPs?
Has the coming election something to do with all these? Hah! the stupidity of this political conflict. People of the Philippines, unite.