Communists can be Defeated if Arroyo Term is Extended, National Security Adviser Says

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales proposed two possible ways to defeat the Communist rebellion by 2010: first is to craft a really good local government counter-insurgency strategy, or to extend the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Davao Today
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 3, February 17-23, 2008

TAGUM CITY — National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales proposed two possible ways to defeat the Communist rebellion by 2010: first is to craft a really good local government counter-insurgency strategy, or to extend the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He said that Arroyo wishes to finish the Communist rebellion when her term ends in 2010. But with only two and a half years left, Gonzales, said he doubts if the government can achieve it.

“We can do two things to fulfill that,” he said. “We can really craft a good strategy, or we can extend the president if we can’t do it in two and a half years.”

Gonzales talked to local peace executives during the Local Peace and Security Assembly, only days before local officials revived talks about federalism here and the moves to amend the Constitution.

The government supposedly conducts LPSA in different localities nationwide to curb so-called threats of terrorism. According to Gonzales, Mindanao is “special” because of the presence of several armed groups like the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, and Abu Sayyaf group, among others.

In his speech, Gonzales said that it’s “okay” to be a Communist. He said that in the 20th century, rising up in arms against oppression is considered acceptable by societies around the world. But, at the turn of the 21st century, he said, “there is absolutely no excuse for doing (armed rebellion) anymore, no matter what the situation is.”

Arroyo, who was here on the second day, said she extended the term of Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, AFP chief of staff, to continue the momentum in the fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

She confirmed Esperon’s three-month extension on January 26, while attending the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, drawing different reactions.

Esperon was supposed to retire this month based on the military’s compulsory retirement age of 56. With the extension of his term, he will serve until May this year, making him the longest-serving military chief under the Arroyo government.

Traditionally, the Army chief assumes the highest AFP post. Current army chief Lt Gen Alexander Yano’s promotion will be put on hold with Esperon’s extension. Arroyo’s move would also violate Republic Act 1886, which limits the chief of staff’s tenure to a maximum of three years.

Esperon earlier declared that his next 100 days will be bloody. In the first quarter this year, he vowed to dismantle 17 out of 87 Communist guerilla fronts.

The NPA, however, claimed to have stepped-up their offensives in Southern Mindanao, saying that at least 46 were killed on the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) side in Tagum City, Davao del Norte; Boston and Baganga, Davao Oriental; Compostela, Nabunturan; and New Bataan, Compostela Valley, according to a statement by Rigoberto F. Sanchez, NPA spokesperson.

Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna, Eastern Mindanao Command Area Commander, accused the NPA of hitting “soft targets” such as business establishments and carrying out extortion activities. “They want to have money through extortion.” Luna said they’re going to put a stop to the NPAs extortion activities.

But intensified military operations against the Communist rebels only displaced civilians. On January 30 this year, the aerial bombings in Baganga town by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the AFP led to the forced evacuation of 330 families, including close to a thousand children, according to human rights group Karapatan..

Displaced were residents from the boundary of Campawan and San Victor; and Sitio Bagumbayan, San Victor; and 80 families from Cateel, Davao Oriental.

Ata-Manobo families also fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, following the joint operations of the 73rd IB-AFP and the Army Scout Rangers, early last month.

According to the lumad group Pasaka, 17 villages including Tibukag, Purok 31, Paiton, Purok 17, Dalingding, Tibugaw, Natampod, Labuo, Duryan, Tambuko, Mahindang, Nalubas, Lasakan, Sasu, Bagang, Pongpong and Nasilaban were affected. Pasaka also reported that military soldiers encamped in the lumads’ homes and schools, and divested the residents of their properties.

But the military earlier denied this. Later, the 73rd IB recently admitted that the Army Scout Rangers — now reassigned in Bulacan — were responsible for the abuses against the lumads. The military promised to indemnify the victims.

Talaingod Mayor Pilar Libayao and Davao del Norte Rodolfo del Rosario, also denied the incident of forced evacuation in the area.

Meanwhile, Esperon has been visiting military camps in Mindanao to ensure that counter-insurgency plans against the NPA are being implemented.

In Cagayan de Oro, Esperon told the media that the term all-out war implies that it is bloody, violent or involves evacuations. The military’s counter-insurgency approach is a “wholistic war,” involving combat intelligence, civil and military operations; political, economic and social activities of the AFP and the government, he said.

Rubi del Mundo, National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson in Southern Mindanao said the local peace assemblies were only made to boost the morale of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), in the wake of the crippling tactical offensives of the NPA. “(The LPSA) is merely part of the orchestra to hide the series of military losses in the region and elsewhere,” he said. Davao Today / Posted by Bulatlat

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