AFP Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado recently admitted that the military is having difficulty meeting the deadline imposed by de facto Commander-in-chief Mrs. Gloria Arroyo three years ago, to end the decades-old communist insurgency in 2010. (Philippine Star, 22 June 09) This was after he and his predecessors had repeatedly boasted that the military was on track in achieving the defeat of the New People’s Army (NPA). The lame excuse is that the armed guerillas “are just crisscrossing borders and transferring to another guerilla front” even when the AFP had already allegedly “dismantled” the political and military infrastructures of numerous rebel fronts.
One need not be an expert on military strategy and tactics to know that guerillas by nature employ flexibility and shifting tactics. This is a guerilla movement’s way of dealing with the overwhelming superiority, in terms of numbers and weapons, of the state’s armed forces at any given point. Instead, it makes use of the favorable physical and social terrain in the countryside, i.e. the rugged mountains and remaining forested areas as well as the support of the rural populace, to conduct their type of revolutionary warfare.
Time and again ruling regimes announce the impending demise of armed revolutionary movements in much the same vein and for the same reasons that they belittle the democratic protest movement. The aim is to conjure strength and stability, to foist the illusion of popular acceptance if not support, because government is supposedly undertaking reforms that address the causes of armed conflict and mass protest actions.
Deceptive propaganda works up to a certain point given government resources and numerous levers to manipulate, if not control, the mass media. But reality always catches up and the truth becomes so glaring that the regime’s minions are compelled to eat their words and offer the lamest of excuses or persist in the most egregious of lies.
In the early 70’s, President Ferdinand Marcos declared that the NPA had been “nipped in the bud” after AFP troops seized more than a dozen high-power rifles in a Tarlac raid. But the NPA raided the Philippine Military Academy armory at the end of the year, carting away much more than what was lost in Tarlac.
In the 80’s, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and the Regional Unified Command Commanding General Romeo Gatan vowed to rid Cagayan Valley of the NPA in a year’s time. Thereafter they complained that the NPA refused to come out and engage the AFP in conventional battles.
In the 90’s, AFP Chief Gen. Abadia declared Oplan Lambat Bitag a success and concluded that the NPA would be wiped out by 1995. His successor, Gen. Enrile, declared “decisive victory” over the NPA but candidly admitted that the latter is like a grapevine that could lose its leaves and fruit but would continue to thrive as long as it still has roots.
Then came the current counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, notorious the world over for the deliberate and brutal targeting of suspected civilian supporters, including unarmed activists, for “neutralization”. The latter is military lingo for summary execution, abduction, illegal arrest and detention on trumped-up charges and other tactics to terrorize entire communities and keep them from giving aid and succor to the so-called “enemy”. The AFP documentary “Knowing the Enemy” justified such state terror tactics as the missing crucial piece in the AFP strategy in order to explain away its previous failures.
Frustration and desperation within the AFP leadership was expressed by a ranking general known to be a proponent of extra-judicial killings who reportedly said, “If this doesn’t work, nothing will.” These are the same words of a US Central Intelligence Agency officer in defending “Oplan Phoenix” versus civilian targets.
What the Arroyo regime refuses to acknowledge is the real reason why its “all-out war” policy can never defeat the communist-led armed revolutionary movement. Mrs. Arroyo, her generals (both those in active duty and those recycled into powerful civilian posts) and other Cabinet right-wingers cannot accept that it is precisely the vastly unequal, extremely oppressive and exploitative and, ultimately repressive prevailing social system that is fuelling armed conflict and social unrest. And that no amount of military might nor strategy and tactics can wipe out the people’s legitimate struggles, armed or unarmed.
They deny the reality and refuse to accept the truth even when such is staring them in the face because their own interests are so tied-up with defending and preserving the status quo apart from advancing the Arroyo clique’s particular selfish interests.
Too bad for the reactionaries there exists a homegrown revolutionary movement that presents a clear-sighted, historical analysis of the problems of Philippine society and a matching program to overhaul it.
Whether one sympathizes with it or not, the fact is this revolutionary movement is present and exerts significant political influence. It continues to challenge the ruling system and regime in power at every turn and raises the possibility of overturning the crisis-ridden system one day and introducing a radically different alternative, with an entirely new set of political ideals, principles, values and work ethic not to mention socio-economic program.
Both the promise of profound, sweeping change and the growing actual strength of this movement is what continue to rile the Arroyo regime and unsettle the entire ruling elite.
And should the Arroyo clique, faced with a constitutional limit to Mrs. Arroyo’s continuation in power beyond 2010, resort to outright, wholesale perversion of the remaining vestiges of democratic rule by manipulating Congress and the Supreme Court and by declaring emergency rule, there remains a wide countryside that can provide sanctuary as well as a fighting terrain while hitherto legal, democratic rights and processes are severely constrained.
Senate President Ponce Enrile warns of revolution should the 2010 elections not push through because of failure of the automated electoral system being set up by the Commission on Elections. Mr. Enrile is being facetious because he, as one of the architects of martial rule under the dictator Marcos, knows quite well that a revolution has been and is even now raging nationwide. It finds expression in armed forms in the countryside while seething in the cities and towns in the various forms of protests and mass actions demanding pro-people and democratic reforms. In a society in permanent crisis such as the Philippines, the revolutionary movement is an inevitable and, to many sectors, a welcome offshoot.
Perhaps what Senator Enrile means is that the deceptive trappings of elite democracy in this country will be sundered rapidly, dramatically and irreparably should the electoral circus slated for 2010 be completely disrupted for one reason or another. Revolution then will be more than a theoretical option to many more Filipinos. #