By Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr.
A lot has been said about how unorthodox the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has been in handling this fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
To some it is a total surprise, and they are definitely happy that finally the government is speaking up for them, for the misery and violence they have gone through the 52 years of the CPP’s armed struggle.
To the vocal few, they are furious that the status quo has been disturbed because of the stubborn resolve of two NTF-ELCAC spokespersons, now being accused of being “red-taggers,” to persevere in this approach.
Never in the history of this country has the Filipino nation been so roused at seeing the CPP in such a frantic, if not chaotic mode, trying to deflect attacks by the government against all the fronts of the CPP, on all fronts, that is , from the ground, underground and over.
To the initiated and to those who have been following the developments of the underground, they are convinced that the CPP is now in a defensive mode. At this point, they are the “reaksyonaryo.”
And with the CPP actions come the reaction, wittingly or unwittingly, from the different sectors of society who have benefited for a very long time from the exploitation by the communists of our political situation.
The decadence of our political institution is now showing its ugly face, as if to confirm what observers and netizens are saying that this communist insurgency of Jose Maria Sison has indeed succeeded in destroying one of the pillars of our democracy — the Senate.
Fifteen senators were asking for my head and they are willing to take the risk of defunding the NTF-ELCAC because of an allegation we can easily disprove.
Of what import is this issue that the majority of the senators are willing to take the blow of our citizens for a childish act of taking back funds for long-delayed projects necessary to uplift the living conditions of our poor citizens in the farthest recesses of the archipelago?
The Barangay Development Program is touted as the game changer in the government’s fight to win the hearts and minds of our neglected citizens, why, oh why would they withdraw it?
The genocide that will never be
This insurgency has thrived because of our ignorance on how the CPP operates.
We were oblivious of this “revolutionary dual tactics” and this duplicitous nature of this monster, that often we cheered for the activism of “idealists” who demonstrate their passion to defend freedom, human rights, and the like, supposedly in a peaceful way but would end up dead with NPA rebels.
Indeed, we have seen hundreds of young children die in the mountains, some captured by soldiers, or surrendered to the government, members of Anakbayan, Kabataang Makabayan, Gabriela, Gabriela-Youth, League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, National Union of Students of the Philippines, Karapatan, etc.
Those who survived would tell us gruesome stories of rape and sexual exploitation, of murders, within the underground, of child pornography sponsored by CPP cadres for profit and for their foreign benefactors (I shall write more on this next time and let us see if you will not raise hell).
Yet, the senators refuse to hear about it, in spite of the battery of committee hearings, and instead push for a bill criminalizing red-tagging.
The Makabayan bloc in particular, refuses to acknowledge these things are happening, and would not accept the challenge to denounce the violence, in spite of their oath to abandon the armed struggle and pursue parliamentary struggle instead. Of what value is this party list law then?
Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna continues to question our actions of exposing them, accusing us of red-tagging, without presenting evidence. So, what do we call all those dead NPA rebels from the ranks of Jose Maria Sison’s front organizations?
He expects us to present as evidence a dead body of an NPA clad in a Bayan Muna or Anakbayan T-shirt? He wants to stop the NTF-Elcac from effectively countering CPP-NPA propaganda lies, especially with the designation now of six more spokespersons for the task force to do counterpropaganda.
We have challenged these Kamatayan bloc members to an open debate on several occasions so they may explain exactly what they mean with these lies but to this day they won’t face us.
If these young children getting killed are not evidence enough of their organization’s participation in the armed struggle, then what do we make of these latest video messages of Joma where he practically red-tagged 18 of his underground organizations belonging to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines?
Yes, Joma named all of them, from the Kaguma of ACT, Makibaka of Gabriela, Lumaban of NUPL to RCTU of KMU, etc. Not me but Joma’s hubris gave away these underground allies of his.
How the monster was born
The Kabataang Makabayan, for instance, is the CPP party group that is running all these youth front groups of the CPP. Many of these KM members from the CEGP, LFS, Anakbayan, Kabataan to NUSP not only have become political cadres of the CPP-NPA, but some have also advanced to the top, taking various roles in the CPP propaganda bureau.
They are now in different media outfits as editors, columnists, research staff and desk officers of mainstream print, radio or television. These are the people who are responsible for twisting government officials’ statements. They are tasked with perpetuating this “red-tagging” narrative as an assault and a threat to the lives of those “red-tagged” for criticizing the government.
Amidst the controversy on that “stupid” remark I made of senators planning to defund the NTF-Elcac, these senators now want me to vacate my post so I can go back to my field of expertise and focus on fighting the armed group. Really?
Is this how narrow our legislators think of this insurgency? Are they trying to distract me so I will abandon what I am doing?
I’m not indispensable as some of them think. In fact I am ready to go if asked to leave. But doing so now, when the enemy is clearly flinching, including those in Congress whom they have always relied on to harass the government when they are precariously hanging on by the cliff, would be a great disservice to the nation.
It is tantamount to abandoning our people who have supported and trusted their government trying to end this communist scourge not later than yesterday. It might seem a cowardly act in some aspect, but as in a game of chess, sometimes the knight will make the sacrifice so the king can make its move. Checkmate.
As I have earlier said in my preceding column, .
This is propaganda warfare, folks. If for the longest time the government has waged this war ineffectively by simply focusing on the elimination of the armed group, this time it has acknowledged that the bigger part of the effort was to destroy, and not just to counter, its propaganda machinery.
To emphasize that the NTF-ELCAC fully understands what it is doing, it has identified and designated six other spokespersons to talk on social media affairs and sectoral concerns; local government affairs, the Barangay Development Program, and international engagement; international affairs, the peace process, and human rights concerns; mass media engagement and fact-checking; public affairs and information and youth concerns; and legal affairs and Indigenous Peoples’ concerns.
At long last, the government has hit the nail right on the head: Insurgency is propaganda war.
In the past paradigm, the “think” required soldiers to confine themselves to barracks while the generals fiddle to the politics of those who have taken the phrase “civilian supremacy over the military” quite literally.
The Armed Forces send its brass for higher studies in much-coveted schools all over the world, mostly in the United States, only to carry the attaché cases of the elected and appointed civilian establishment that play politics with the communist terror groups and their legal fronts. In acquiescence, they submit to avoid any mistakes until their retirement date.
Not to worry, this principle of civilian supremacy still remains undefiled in our traditions. But the same Constitution that has enshrined it, also mandates that the Armed Forces of the Philippines serve as the protector of the people and the state.
In a stroke of genius, President Rodrigo Duterte, puts into motion a mechanism to enforce civilian authority over the military, but harnesses human resources in the military to assist the civilian authority be effective in its goals and objectives.
The strategy is by no means original, but it had never been made to work because politicians second-guessed it. The classic model is the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The former president BS Aquino III never realized its enormous potency. That is why he failed the people in what will go down as one of the greatest faux pas in Philippine history. Instead of implementing it to the letter in the face of the Yolanda supertyphoon, the village idiot improvised on naming his incompetent favorites.
One of first President Duterte’s landmark reforms was to tweak the NDRRMC to function with seamless collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Has there been any single disaster when the NDRRMC, not been on clockwork precision in the preparation, monitoring, response and rehabilitation of any man-made or natural disasters occurring since July 1, 2016?
The Duterte administration calls this the whole-nation approach to good governance. Today we see it working even against an unseen enemy that is the Covid-19 pandemic.
In our battle against insurgency, we see it in the twinning of the elimination of the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC-Executive Order #70) of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP-Administrative Order #10), in the whole-nation approach now known in the ground as Balik-Loob Program.
ELCAC provides a choice for rebels to either get killed in battle or be arrested. ECLIP invites them to surrender instead, receive amnesty and train with and be equipped by the government for their successful return not just to the fold law, but empowered and free from want.
They cannot do it alone without the barangays that they used to infest, with them, hand-in-glove. Thus, empowered individuals, families and communities, accelerating economic development in the countryside.
This success story must be told. It is a battle for narratives, so the more spokespersons, the better chances of winning what once before was just a vicious cycle.
Nothing has worked before this. There is indeed a better way to achieve peace.
But should you choose to confine our most organized and disciplined institution the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to barracks, let loose only to kill or be killed by enemies who are also citizens of this Republic, out of sheer fidelity to the letter of our Constitution about the principle of civilian supremacy over them, your soldiers are ready to submit.