Munich (1)

Published by rudy Date posted on April 12, 2011

Last week former President Gloria Macapagal rroyo—in one of her first TV interviews after leaving the Palace—publicly expressed her doubts that she would get fair treatment from the Aquino administration.

This was a straightforward statement, one that is reasonably supported by all the gems of PNoy-style impartiality we’ve seen so far—from his threatening to impeach the Chief Justice, to his creating a Truth Commission as his very first executive order, to his running after the Ombudsman with “zero pork” text messages to his minions in the House. If this is the way he treats her presumptive allies, can he be expected to treat the lady herself any better?

This is why I was surprised by the indignant response over the weekend from the Palace spokesman, the normally even-tempered lawyer Edwin Lacierda. I was particularly amused by two of his statements:

• “[Mrs. Arroyo] apparently has no faith in the Constitution and the rights enshrined in it.”

• “If she feels she cannot expect a fair treatment under this administration, that observation is borne out of how she treated her political allies during her administration.”

The second statement is a real classic of ad hominem reasoning, one that speaks poorly of whatever law school the young man matriculated at. The first statement, though, may betray a somewhat more insidious line of thought—that the President and the Constitution are one and the same. I do hope this was simply an example of infelicitous speech, and nothing more sinister than that.

***

The reason I worry these days about the quality of the President’s appreciation of—and loyalty to—the Constitution is the way he’s been coddling the various Left groups, some of whom make no secret of their disdain for the document and the political system it protects. These groups are no longer on the other side of the Palace fence trying to ram through the gates with fire trucks. Many of them are already inside the Palace, cozily ensconced in the very heart of the Philippine state.

Principal among these groups, of course, is the armed faction of the Maoist Left. Two weeks ago, on the 42nd anniversary of the establishment of the New People’s Army, its political masters in the Communist Party of the Philippines issued marching orders for the so-called people’s army to—according to the news report—“continue building its ranks and accelerate its war until it reaches a strategic stalemate with the government”.

According to the CPP in its email to news organizations, “the NPA has already accumulated a critical mass for bold intensification of guerrilla warfare and advance toward a higher stage in the people’s war… The people’s army must relentlessly launch tactical offensives in order to seize new weapons for creating new units, to increasingly change the balance of forces, and to move from the stage of strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.”

The strategic stalemate might be likened to a “tipping point” in the Maoist theory of protracted guerrilla warfare from the countryside, when the slow accretion in numbers of the people’s army over a lengthy time period finally reaches strategic parity with the State’s security forces. The absolute number of total guerrilla forces may still be fewer, but if they are able to move about with relative freedom in, say, battalion-sized formations, then they are able to engage government forces in positional battles with increasing frequency and odds of success.

At this tipping point, the character of people’s war changes, fairly quickly, from one that is primarily guerrilla in nature—hit and run—to one that is more and more conventional, based on fixed positions and the ability to hold territory indefinitely. It is a sweet spot where accretions in quantity bring about qualitative change–followed by the momentum of the third and final stage of strategic offensive and, of course, “historically guaranteed” victory.

***

The strategic stalemate has been predicted by the insurgents before, as far back as the declaration of martial law in 1972, when the forced evacuation of many urban-based cadres and activists to the countryside led to a bulge in the numbers of the people’s army. The euphoria was short-lived, however, as the government crackdown on the Left—assisted by self-imposed purges that may have killed almost as many of their own comrades as the military did–decimated much of their ranks during the martial law years.

Talk of strategic stalemate resumed in the last few years of the Marcos regime, when the groundswell of popular discontent against the dictatorship—like a rising tide that lifts all boats, to misuse a Reaganite expression from an entirely different context—also boosted the fortunes of the Left. But again the air was let out of their tires, by Edsa One—a wholly peaceful transition that reportedly left empty-handed an entire battalion of Red fighters deployed into Manila, and that delivered State power into what turned out to be just another branch of the country’s elite.

So it is hardly a surprise to read these truculent statements again from the NPA on yet another anniversary of their founding. What is alarming, though, is to be hearing such belligerence this year, when the peace process has resumed in Oslo. What are we to make of an opponent that openly continues to wage war while supposedly talking peace?

In this latest round of peace talks, what is bemusing to me—and perhaps alarming as well—is the fact that the government panel is dominated by former members of the Left, with not one military representative leading the panel, to my knowledge. As old comrades face each other across the negotiating table in Oslo, we hope the ones representing our government can answer questions like those below, if we are to believe that the peace process is anything more than a moro-moro:

• Who among the representatives of the insurgents are really authorized and empowered to bind their comrades to any agreements forged? If the founding and putative party chairman, Jose Maria Sison, styles himself as just the “chief consultant” to the other side, should we rely on the signatures of anybody else other than him?

• Why did the government peace panel abandon the principles of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration which the previous administration insisted upon as a precondition for negotiation? These are United Nations-approved principles which acknowledge government’s leverage against an insurgent opponent that clearly does not have the upper hand. Without them, the NPA, as noted earlier, can continue to wage its war throughout the entire negotiation. With neither a ceasefire nor an enforceable timeline in place, the government side enjoys no advantage at all commensurate to its superiority in the field.

• Why did the government so readily accede—as early as last February—to the execution of two framework agreements as the entire objective of the peace process, even without the leverage that should have been provided by DDR or a ceasefire on the ground? I’m referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, targeted for completion by September this year, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms, targeted for next February.

Can we take an advance look at the draft documents? Should we be worried about being sold down the river by these two agreements?

***

(E-mail gary.olivar@censeisolutions.com)

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