Letting the wolf into the house
I swear by the hair on my chinny chin chin
I’m gonna find a way to get in
I’m gonna keep hanging around
Till I huff and puff and pull your little house down
…Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs.
The President Elect has offered 4 top posts in DAR, DENR, DOLE, and DSWD to the Communist Party of Philippines (CPP). It’s his prerogative so I’m not questioning the wisdom, but merely looking at the implications. This is unprecedented, anywhere in the world. Has there ever been any country in the world that offers top cabinet jobs to an internal enemy of the state that is still waging an on-going insurgency? This is a bold move that Duterte believes can finally bring peace to the country. Whilst Duterte has personal confidence that he is in control, he has not properly sold this idea to a segment of the population that remains apprehensive. After all, the Philippines is a fierce and robust democracy. There is of course, a bigger segment of the population, both educated and un-educated, who remains in ignorant bliss of what communism actually means.
THE AGENDA OF COMMUNISTS:
In the words of the man himself, Armando Liwanag, Chairman, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (allegedly the pseudonym of Jose Sison, the founding chairman of CPP):
“So long as it resolutely, militantly and thoroughly carries out its ideological, political and organizational building, the Communist Party of the Philippines is certain to lead the broad masses of the Filipino people of various nationalities and ethno-linguistic communities to total victory in the national democratic revolution against US imperialism and the local reactionaries; and bring about the start of the socialist revolution.”
Just what the heck does this mean? Communist lingo can drive one crazy, but they actually mean every word they say and we better pay attention and understand just what the words mean to them.
- Militantly – their struggle is not through the ballot, but through sheer force. As Mao Tse Tung famously said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. They always have a political wing and a military wing. The CPP has the National Peoples’ Army (NPA).
- Broad masses – The communist struggle is not about a small band of insurgents. It is about rousing the whole proletariat mass (working class) behind them to cleanse the economic and political system of the country. The communist struggle in the Philippines has been in stalemate for decades due to their inability to raise the masses to their cause.
- Total victory – there is no compromise for them, no coalition or other forms of power sharing. Their end game is one party government, central planning and a classless society.
- US imperialism – to the CPP, the Philippines is still under foreign imperialism and feudalism. They seek to vanquish this and replace it with a CPP government.
- Local reactionaries – a reactionary is one who longs for the status quo of a past. If you long for the good old days of Marcos, then you are branded a Marcosian reactionary. So who are these targeted local reactionaries? They are the elites, the entrepreneurs, the business class, the intellectual class – these are the people who want the status quo of the capitalist world.
- Socialist revolution – be afraid, be very afraid when communists talk about this. First they get the masses into their cause, then they take over the political system, finally they go about implementing their socialist revolution. For those who want change, CPP will force down your throats 3 basic changes – (1) political change (CPP will be the one and only ruling party), (2) economic system change (central planning – no more businessmen class) and (3) societal change. Socialist revolution is their end game and just what does it imply? Total structural change in our society – there will be only one class, the working class. There will be great upheaval in the land, often brutally violent. A communist master will make Marcos look like a dear old strict headmaster. All these changes are necessary in order to transition from capitalism to socialism.
- Property seizure : Everything belongs to the state. Your factories, your land, your condos, your helicopters — all nationalized and controlled by CPP.
- Re-education or rehabilitation: Kind words for indoctrination or brainwashing. Everybody’s mindset has to be changed. The highly educated and intellectual classes will suffer the most. Who are these people? Teachers, professors, journalists, politicians, aristocratic families, business owners, etc. Pol Pot in Cambodia had a simple solution – herd them to the “killing fields”. He slaughtered millions of fellow Cambodians. The Soviets exterminated the entire family of the Tzar and some aristocrats. The Chinese were kinder, they put them in rehabilitation centers and subsequently released them once they had reformed. Even the last emperor of China, Puyi, was spared. He eventually ended up as a gardener.
- Religion abolished: Yes, there will be no more Catholics, INC, Muslims or whatever denomination.
COMMUNISM A SPENT FORCE AND IDEA?:
The “Communist Manifesto” of Karl Max and Friedrich Engels was a great philosophical work in 1848, relevant in the pre-industrial world of feudalism of the time. The working class, or proletariat, were suppressed by the aristocratic class, the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels foresaw a long class struggle between proletariat against the bourgeoisie, a struggle in which the former would triumph eventually. The world has changed a lot since then. Poverty remains a big problem worldwide, but socialist programs of governments have made capitalism a lot kinder. As an economic idea, central planning has failed miserably.
I expect many readers to ridicule the specter of communism in the Philippines in this modern age. After all, capitalism has already been accepted in communist China and Russia. Well, these countries remain communists politically. Capitalism is not a choice, but an evolution by necessity for the communists.
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. This is the grand opening line of the Communist Manifesto. This is their creed, embedded in their souls. Inherent in this quote is the idea that the war against imperialism and feudalism never ends in human history. It means they are in a constant state of war with us. This is a mindset that those dealing with communists need to understand. Communist parties in free world countries all vow to pull down their legitimate governments by force. Jose Sison said so himself, shrouded in his communist speak-talk.The CPP rhetoric may be dated. Their economic concepts, grounded in theory and practice that germinated world proletarian revolutions in the mid 1800s, no longer apply today. But the flame for political dominance remains strong.
While each administration thinks in terms of 6 years, communists in opposition think in terms of a hundred years. The original Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP-1930) has been around since 1930s. Men totally committed to their ideology conduct themselves with such fanatical dedication that is difficult to comprehend. Such is the nature of the beasts. The leadership is hardcore, the followers or cadres are indoctrinated. They can bear absolute deprivations and physical hardships for years in their struggle for their cause. These are people that cannot be bought out. (The Islamic religious fanatics are in the same vein.)
Communism is very much alive, to think otherwise is sheer folly. Exactly the way Sam the Sham sings it, the communists are hanging around, finding a way to get in, and they will huff and puff and blow the Filipino house down, if given the opportunity.
NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET :
“I am a socialist, not a communist”…. Duterte
Just what exactly do these 2 terms mean – socialist, communist? We can understand this from the perspective of economic and political systems:
In economics, we ask the questions – Who to produce? What to produce? Who to distribute to? Who keeps the wealth created from production?
The pure Socialist lives in communes – everybody shares in all properties, in the production, decides what to produce, divides the goods equally, and shares the wealth created equally. Everybody wins.
The Communist says nobody owns any property and everybody owns all the properties. Huh? The state owns all properties on behalf of all citizens. The government (meaning THE Communist Party) decides what to produce, citizens take their allotted share of whatever is produced, the state keeps the wealth generated (if any) on behalf of all citizens. Families of members of The Communist Party win.
The Capitalist says the ones who own the production resources produce, they produce what the market wants, the products go to those with the means to acquire them, the profit belong to the one who takes risks – owners of the production resources. The businessmen win.
In politics, we ask the questions – what is your ideology? What is your form of government?
Socialism is just an economic system, and there is no country that is pure socialist. It exists only in some small religious cult communes. Socialists exist with capitalism. Unbridled capitalism unfairly tramples the lower working class and so some socialist policies are introduced to re-distribute wealth. Communism, on the other hand, is both an economic and political system. So where does Duterte stand here? He is a socialist democrat. Well, every democrat is basically a socialist, it’s a question of how much to the left one leans. Duterte seems to favor more re-distribution of wealth, i.e., he is more left-leaning.
The Communist ideology is simply a classless society. We are all WORKERS, there are no entrepreneurs or businessmen. Production is collaboration between the government and workers. There is only one party, The Communist Party, that governs the country. Card holding members of The Communist Party elect members to the Politburo, the policy making and executive committee of the party. The Chairman is the supremo.
The Democratic ideology is freedom of choice and universal suffrage. The voting electorate gets to select their leaders through the ballot. There is plurality of political parties. The form varies, but generally the winning party or candidate runs the government.
By all accounts (economic ideas, ideologies and form of governance), communists and social democrats are at odds with each other. How on Earth will Dept Secretaries from the CPP, seeped in central planning dogmas, align the direction of their departments to the market-oriented objectives of the administration? Here is just one illustration to underline this dysfunction. Duterte wants a more friendly open market policy to bring in foreign investors that will create more jobs. One major factor foreign companies look out for is a co-operative and disciplined, and let’s admit it, a subservient workforce. CPP sees foreign economic participation as imperialism and sees organized labor as a tool for agitation to serve their purpose.
CPP in Duterte’s cabinet is just a marriage of convenience. So what is Dutere’s motive? He has said he is not a communist. He has bank accounts, he owns cars, he owns real estate – so he can’t be a communist. Duterte’s daring olive branch approach is his way of showing trust and desire to bring communist members back into the fold of the Filipino family and achieve peace at last. It is an honest desire on his part but borne of a misplaced familiarity with the beasts. Jose Sison, the aged leader of the CPP who is living in self-imposed exile in The Netherlands, was Duterte’s university lecturer. In Davao, Duterte has a communication line with the local communist operatives and rubs shoulders with them occasionally.
THE OLIVE BRANCH:
Back in 2007, President Gloria Arroyo offered amnesty to the communists. The offer was rejected as the communists saw a “clear deception and cheap political gimmickry” by the government and that the amnesty was just another money-making scheme wherein the implementors would pocket funds to be given to “ghost” rebel returnees. Billions of pesos were budgeted for the scheme so the cynicism in light of systemic corruption in the country is understandable.
Will the communists take up Duterte’s offer and what will the conditions be? Is it possible to have a working arrangement with the communist party wing without a solution for the military wing? Duterte wants the communists represented in the cabinet first, and then followed by peace talks. In other words, give away the bargaining chips first and then negotiate.
From the legal perspective, the CPP is not an underground party ever since the anti-subversive laws were repealed in 1992. But the military wing of the CPP, the New People’s Army (NPA), is a different story. This is branded as a terrorist group by the US, UK and other countries, as well as under the Human Security Act of 2007 (RA 9372). Obviously, the CPP has to disband the NPA if it accepts participation in Duterte’s cabinet. The touchy legal question remains whether CPP can take up the cabinet posts first and then negotiate peace over the next few years.
The incoming administration has to learn, like all previous administrations before them, that in many aspects of governance, all angles need to be carefully studied first before anything can be promulgated or implemented. If it can be done within 3-6 months, let’s all cheer them on.
WHO ARE THE COMMUNISTS?:
The CPP is but one faction. There are several other parties, such as :
- Komiteng Rehiyon ng Manila-Rizal (KRMR)
- Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa – Pilipinas (RPM-P)
- Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa – Mindanao (RPM-M)
- Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP)
- Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP) in 1998.
- Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) and organized the armed wing Rebolusyonaryong Hukbo ng Bayan (RHB).
The National Democratic Front is their umbrella body, but not all parties are in the front. They are split on ideological grounds. The CPP is driven by MLM (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) thoughts whilst the others are for Soviet modern-revisionism ideals. Ideologies aside, the splinters are basically driven by personality and regional loyalties. Jose Sison is the iconic guy, but how much control does he really have over the others, not to mention the armed guerrillas in the mountains?
As to the NPA, are they really card waving indoctrinated communist cadres who are absolutely disciplined? Or are they a rag-tag bunch of bandits, refugees of the law and thugs, who are absolutely ill-disciplined? The reality is probably a mixture of both. No one knows what the size of this force really is. Conflicting estimates put it between 3,000 – 6,000. Their activities over the past few years are in hit-and-run, ambush tactics against the armed forces, assassinations, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, collecting revolutionary taxes. Their hold on terror has prevented economic growth in their spheres of influence. The pressing question is, are we dealing with organized insurgencies, or is it actually a big law and order problem?
Is Duterte’s approach legal and inclusive as far as all the parties are concerned, and able to bring the arm carrying cadres in from the cold?
The Bangsamor Basic Law (BBL) that seeks to gain peace in the Islamic region in Mindanao is in limbo at the moment. The BBL was negotiated with the Moro Islamic Liberaton Front (MILF), but there are several other factions which did not participate in the peace talks. If peace is eventually realized, we can expect divergent factional interests to rear their ugly heads. Can we expect the same factionalism problems with the communists?
CPP AS THE FIFTH COLUMN:
A fifth column is an organized group of nationals that works by covert and clandestine ways to undermine the country from within.
Communists are very good in underground organizations. They create cells, indoctrinate cadres, and the propaganda machinery ceaselessly seek to degrade the governing administration. So why has the CPP not been a roaring success in creating mass uprisings? I belief events overtook them. Communism has its roots in the HUK movement in late 1930s. After World War II, the Philippines was on its trajectory of democracy and economic growth and it soon became the “Pearl of Asia”. Prosperity and the growth of a middle class is anathemic to communism. There was a brief groundswell of membership in 1980s during the days of Marcos dictatorship when repressive human rights activities by the regime drove many idealistic young Filipinos into the mountains to join the NPA. In the last few decades, communist insurgency efforts have been restricted to occasional sorties against the government troops, and punishing commercial players in outlying areas that do not pay them taxes. They sure cause pain and suffering to locals caught in between and they hold development of the countryside at ransom. By far and large, communist sympathizers are few. For decades, it has been basically a stalemate for the communists without any means to reach the masses.
The offer to join the Duterte cabinet presents the communists with the golden opportunity to recalibrate, re-energize, re-strategize and re-organize. More specifically, the 4 departments offered on the silver platter are, by a stroke of divine grace, the very holy grail the communists seek. Now wait a minute, Duterte had communication with Jose Sison, he was even caught on video in one of these sessions. Most likely there was no divine hand after all. Sison probably asked for these departments :
– Dept of Agrarian Reform (DAR)
– Dept of Labour and Employment (DOLE)
– Dept of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
– Dept of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
The significance of these departments to communists is glaringly right there in our face! These are the very departments that connect them to the broad masses, the hotbed that they want to dive into. Here they can sit to cajole, agitate, build sympathizers, indoctrinate insidiously, build cells, infiltrate organizations, promote programs that will make them champions of the people, etc. The sweet jewels they crave for are the student and labor unions, which are easy prey to their propaganda machinery, easily infiltrated, where lots of social ills can be primed to full advantage. The path to communist victory is often lined with dead unionists.
There are some who suggest that a solution for the NPA in a peace effort is for the armed cadres to be assimilated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). No better Trojan horse could be built outside of Aegean lands. Imagine military intel, strategies, tactics and sensitive information are shared and exposed to a force whose loyalty to the state is not yet assured. What a tragic game of poker to play with the lives of our soldiers and security of the nation.
People’s Republic of China has been supportive of communist insurgents in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines for decades. A great limiting factor in the past was due to an impoverished PRC. Arms aid from China was not really exciting, but even then, the NPA has received some weaponries. It was not until Deng Xiaoping decided to open up China that Lee Kuan Yew was able to extract from the wily old Chairman an understanding that PRC will stop supporting communist insurgents in Asean. What then is the importance of PRC now? The CPP is Maoist and thus China-looking. It’s a no brainer where the CPP will look to for support. This is a dangerous point in the Philippines’ history. Firstly, China is now a rich modern nation, thus the level of support should they wish to provide, is unquestionably serious. Secondly, the West Philippines Seas quarrel would definitely make China take a hard look at the CPP’s future role in Philippines, one that would obviously be more co-operative towards the mainland. If it suits their needs, President Xi would, in a heartbeat, renege on Deng’s pledge of non-interference with local communist activities.
It seems the CPP has attached some conditions for taking up the offer, specifically the release of political prisoners from which they have since back-tracked. What is important is that there must never be any secret deals and Duterte has said his administration will be transparent, so that is re-assuring. To Duterte, his initiative is an honest attempt to bring peace. CPP has said they can work with nationalist capitalists even as peace negotiations resume and take some time. To the communists, Duterte’s offer is the golden opportunity for their struggle for a socialist revolution. The name of the game is deceit as a means to an end.
Peter Lavina, spokesman for Duterte, has regularly mentioned they will select competent, efficient and effective persons for the cabinet and that there are equally qualified candidates from the CPP. Of course we can’t argue with that. However, of paramount importance is the need for the candidates to always work in the best interest of the nation. Therein lies the dilemma of CPP. If they sit in the cabinet, they must uphold two critical canons of the Philippines — universal suffrage as guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution, and The Bill of Rights. Their ideology is in conflict here, so to remain in Cabinet means they are being dishonest to the Filipino people.
As the next administration gets into the serious business of running the country to give the people a better life, will the wheels turn smoothly with 4 cogs that are totally out of sync in ideals, objectives and economic visions?
No matter what sheep’s clothing they try to put on, calling themselves nationalists, socialists, progressives or even democrats (North Korea is officially called Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea), a communist is a communist. That is why countries like USA are so paranoid about communists they have a Communist Control Act that bans communists parties, and there was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt in the 1950s. That is why in all peace settlements or amnesty arrangements, the communists must disband their armed wing, surrender their arms, and all cadres must dis-avow to overthrow the government by force. In contrast, the Philippines seems rather nonchalant about communists.
Do the CPP cabinet appointments portend an eventual Philippines turning Red? Extremely unlikely, in fact probably never. Simply because the Philippines, despite all our faults, has been a robust democracy for much too long, and whilst poverty remains a problem, there is no proletariat class being trampled under the feet of the bourgeoisie. So then what is the fuss? CPP leadership in the 4 juicy departments will lead to communist infiltration in many levels of Filipino society and put them in a good position to agitate and make demands. Whilst a power grab is unlikely in the foreseeable future, much turbulence can be expected, particularly in student activism and industrial peace. For that alone, vigilance is called for or economic progress will be set back several years. Another question mark is the passing of the baton to yet another administration after 6 years. Will there be a continuation of the precedence of reserving 4 cabinet posts for the CPP? And if not, what then?
As regards the NPA, they must disband and surrender their arms. All CPP and NPA members must pledge allegiance to the constitution and dis-avow the use of force to overthrow the legitimate government. There is no Option B. Not to do so place the Duterte dalliance with the CPP illegal under the anti-terrorism laws.
Anyone trying to analyse Duterte’s bold plan, with attendant risks, should put these into perspective – (1) have strategies and tactics to contain the armed groups ran out of steam and ideas? British tactics in fighting communists in the Malayan jungles were laudable and worth emulating, but I wonder if their military annals were studied by the AFP. (2) The headcount of both political and armed wings of all the communists in Philippines is anybody’s guess. I wonder if there is any intel on this. Let’s say we put it at a high 20,000. With 20,000 on the left and 100 million Filipinos on the right, the surrender of 4 cabinet posts seems to be a case of giving too many chips away.
After decades of fighting and staring at each other through jungle clearings, the Philippines government has blinked. Left to the student and his teacher on the chessboard, who is going to be the tiger, and who will ride the tiger?