December 2006
Political Predictions

Ending the Communist insurgency

This essay was solicited by i Report, the online magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, for its current series on political predictions. The views expressed in the essays included in this series do not necessarily reflect those of the PCIJ or any of its staff members.

LAST JUNE, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced an all-out campaign to bring about in two years’ time the conditions that would result in putting an end to the 37-year-old insurgency waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought (CPP-MLMZT) and the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as the National Democratic Front (NDF), which the CPP-MLMZT controls. The attainment of these conditions is to be pursued through a total approach, consisting of a set of programs and measures-military, police, legal, political, information, diplomatic, and very importantly, the equitable delivery of basic social services, especially to disadvantaged sectors and communities. These programs and measures, taken together, are meant to comprehensively address the insurgency, both in terms of its politico-ideological-military aspect and its socio-economic “root causes.”

Putting an end to the Communist insurgency entails the degradation of the military capability of the NPA to an extent that would strongly motivate the CPP-MLMZT to phase out its effort to seize state power by armed struggle, and to seriously pursue a peace process with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). From the perspective of the GRP, such a peace process should lead to the prompt disarmament and demobilization of the NPA and the reintegration of its fighters into democratic Philippine society.

Some high officials of the Arroyo administration and some political observers have spoken of ending of the Communist insurgency in terms of a legacy of President Arroyo when she finishes her term in 2010. The prospects for ending of the Communist insurgency by 2010 depend on a number of factors. The major ones among these include: continuity in pursuing the above-described total approach to the insurgency; the success of reform and renewal efforts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP); the delivery of social services by government agencies and especially by local government units; and the cessation of collaboration of local government officials and other politicians with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Continuity in pursuing the total approach to the insurgency depends on President Arroyo being able to continue in office until the end of her term in 2010, with a Cabinet that effectively and consistently helps her pursue such an approach.

It looks very probable that President Arroyo will remain in office until her term ends in less than four years. She has survived two attempts at impeachment and a long series of moves to force her to resign or to oust her by withdrawal of support from influential former allies and from the military and the police forces, coupled with recurrent campaigns and mobilizations by her political opponents. Elections for the two houses of Congress and to local government offices are likely to yield a balance of forces in government not much different from that prevailing at present. The opposition and nominally administration senators usually critical of the president’s manner of governance will probably retain control of the Senate. The House of Representatives will probably remain under the control of the administration, though perhaps with a reduced majority, but sufficient to prevent any impeachment move from prospering. Local governments are likely to remain mostly in pro-administration hands. Continuing administration dominance in the House of Representatives and control of most local government units is indicated by the capability of pro-administration local government officials to gather 10 million signatures for the effort at people’s initiative. This reflects a powerful and well-oiled political machinery. While a strong political machinery does not guarantee victory for unpopular candidates, it often does make the difference between victory and defeat for them.

WITH THE resignation of Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., the Cabinet will be more united in pursuing the total approach to the insurgency according to the accelerated timetable set by the president. The Philippine Defense Reform will be implemented, but with appropriate adjustments to a situation of insurgency and to the faster pace set by the president.

Reform and renewal efforts in the AFP are ongoing and doing well. A series of seminar-workshops initiated by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales has helped the AFP recover and reaffirm as its mission the prompt putting of an end to the Communist insurgency. This would then enable the government to devote more resources to effectively address other threats to the security of our country, and by providing a politically secure climate for investment and other economic activities, to bring to fulfillment the vision of the Philippines becoming a prosperous country in 20 years.

Reform and renewal efforts in the PNP are ongoing. The needed focusing of the PNP in the campaign to end the insurgency, especially in its police and legal aspects, will probably speed up and intensify with the deepening cooperation among the authorities of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the leadership of the PNP, the national security adviser, and the increased budget being provided the PNP in order to improve its capability, especially in relation to fulfilling its specific share of the task of putting an end to the insurgency.

The adequate delivery of social services by government agencies and especially by local government units will require an intense and sustained effort on the part of the national leadership to ensure that this gets accomplished. Much of the government bureaucracy and many, if not most, local government officials and functionaries do not yet share a sense of urgency regarding the need to put an end to the insurgency. Hence, they tend to think and act in a “business as usual” way, thus hindering the formulation and implementation of concrete and specific policies and programs to deliver basic social services and to improve the lives of the impoverished majority of the population. National leaders must perseveringly motivate and supervise this effort, and set an example of focus and diligence in this regard.

Another difficult but urgent task for the president and other government leaders working to put a prompt end to the insurgency is to make incumbent local government officials and other politicians aspiring for local public office to stop collaborating with the CPP-NPA-NDF. Such collaboration is quite widespread, and ranges from accommodation in each other’s political slate and machinery, to deliveries of arms and ammunition. These politicians could probably be motivated to stop such collaboration by various measures, some positive, some negative. Positive measures include appeals to patriotism and commitment to democracy, and political support for those politicians committed to the comprehensive anti-insurgency effort. Negative measures could include the filing of cases in court, suspension from office, and withdrawal of administration support for politicians complicit with the CPP-NPA-NDF. Whether such measures, if applied, will work remains to be seen.

If the factors for success in the effort to bring about the irreversible decline of the Communist insurgency by 2010 come to be and prevail within the next year, the chances of this goal being achieved will be high. Otherwise the goal will not be attained, and we will have the insurgency still enjoying vigor by 2010.

Fr. Romeo J. Intengan, S.J. and Norberto Gonzales founded the Philippine Democratic Socialist Party in 1973. Intengan is currently an associate professor at the Loyola School of Theology (LST), Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, where he teaches moral theology. He is also president of the Center for Strategic Studies.