‘Non-stop,’ ‘all-out’ war grinds on vs CPP-NPA
AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) - September 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Once again, President Duterte on Tuesday ordered the AFP and the PNP to pursue an “all-out war” against the CPP-NPA. This time, he told reporters in Malacanang, there would be “no stopping” in the fighting and that he would not accept any surrender.

Answering a reporter’s query on the difference between this new order and the current one he had earlier ordered – and all those ordered and carried out by previous administrations – Duterte explained in his quaint Filipino style:

“Walang hintuan. Walang hintuan. Magpalit-palit yang isang batalyon diyan na walang gamit na wala masyadong kalaban… Pagka bone-weary na ang mga sundalo, palit na naman. Tuluy-tuloy. At kung maaari, lumaban sila nang husto kasi hindi ako magtanggap ng surrender.”

“Gusto ko, kung maaari lang, tapusin ko sa panahon ko,” Duterte added, apparently unsure his wish could be fulfilled during his term of office ending in June 2022.

And for good measure, the President reiterated his vow – as regards his controversial “war on drugs” and the enhanced counterinsurgency campaign – to assume full responsibility for how the police and the military conduct the all-out war. Reassuring the policemen and soldiers, he said:

“You just do your duty in accordance with law. Ako ang mag-amin sa lahat. I take full responsibility. Ako ang magpapreso. Ako ang magharap ng ICC. Wala silang problema – sine-safety ko na sila kaagad.”

 (By saying that he would face up to the ICC, Duterte showed he remained conscious of the probability that the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, would eventually look into the complaints/information submitted to the office of its chief prosecutor in 2017.  The complaints pertain to the thousands of killings related to his war on drugs and to mounting cases of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in counterinsurgency campaigns. Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, has announced her determination to conduct a preliminary examination of the complaints/information. However, the Duterte government has repeatedly said it would not allow her entry into the country.)

Here’s how the PNP chief and the spokesman of an AFP regional command have responded to Duterte’s latest order:

• PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde declared: “Police operations against the armed components of the communist terrorist movement will be swift and relentless, just as it will be lawful and judicious.”  [Note: A Department of Justice petition to declare the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization is still pending hearing before a Manila Regional Trial Court, as required by the anti-terrorism law or the Human Security Act of 2007].

“The final push to end local communist armed conflict will be firm and decisive under the guidance and direction of the national leadership,” Albayalde added, referring to the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), headed by President Duterte himself. Duterte created the NTF by issuing Executive Order 70 on Dec. 4, 2018.

• The AFP would not hesitate to use all its “might” to carry out the order, said the AFP Southern Luzon Command spokesman, Lt. Col. Dennis Cuna. However, he clarified:

“Our primary weapon in this all-out war really is the cooperation with all concerned government agencies, LGUs (local government units) and NGO (nongovernment organization) and the synergy that created harmonious efforts which address the issues and concerns of our people, especially at areas where interventions are badly needed.” He mentioned building infrastructure, providing economic assistance, and “other services.”

Does his Tuesday order related to what Duterte warned on Aug. 27: that in the coming months there will be a “very, very radical change in the behavior of the government” and “it will be not really bloody but there will be, at least, a little trouble for our country”?

Without any prodding by a reporter, Duterte recalled how he had gone “out of my way” to open up with the Left revolutionary forces whom he now wants to be smashed.

“I appointed communists – hard-core communist members – in my Cabinet,” he said. (The CPP leadership at the time made it clear no CPP active member could join the Duterte government. It was the NDFP peace negotiating panel that recommended well-known personalities in the progressive mass movement for appointment to positions in the Duterte government. Ultimately they were all squeezed out and forced to resign.)

“Then I initiated [peace] talks,” he went on. “Dito sila sa Palace, the Tiamzons even. Pumunta sa Davao, nag-dinner kami. Kaibigan, no personal hatred. Pero hindi kami nagkaintindihan.” He cited the issue of a “coalition government” as a source of disagreement. Since mid-2017, when he suspended the talks for three months, he had made it clear that he could not agree to a coalition government. He continued:

“Sabi mo hindi coalition government.  Pero yung mga JASIG, yung agreement na previous [Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CAHRIHL?], pag ipasok mo yan sa fabric ng national laws natin, pati Constitution, parang ang labas coalition talaga.”

Apparently Duterte misinterpreted, or over-read, the term “joint and separate responsibilities” of the two parties in the implementation of agreements signed in the course of the GRP-NDFP peace talks as connoting a coalition government. Fact: The negotiating panels had clearly agreed on the principle that, as partners in the peace negotiations, both sides assume joint responsibilities in ensuring the full implementation of every agreement; at the same time, each side assumes separate responsibilities on fulfilling specific aspects of the accord. 

This principle of “joint and separate responsibilities”is quite known and acceptable to the peace advocacy groups that have supported the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and have been pushing for their resumption since Duterte “terminated” the talks in November 2017. They urge the implementation of the CAHRIHL, so that violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, committed by either party in the course of the armed conflict and mostly affecting civilians, can be appropriately addressed by meting out sanctions on the erring party and recompensing the victims.

They gathered last Thursday at a Sto. Domingo church meeting hall, led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and other Catholic and Protestant bishops, and reviewed the history of the peace talks. They spurned “all-out war” for historically having inflicted death, destruction and misery among the people without resolving the armed conflict. Ringing small bells, they chanted in unison: “No to all-out war! Yes to peace talks!”

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Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com

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