By SARAH RAYMUNDO
There is no good reason to get all anxious and confused over Duterte taking back the unilateral ceasefire announced only on Monday last week. His troops never heeded it in the few days that it was supposedly operational. Clearly, some factions from within refuse to unite for peace, whatever that means for a reactionary government.
Meanwhile, we must be clear about our struggle for just and lasting peace. It is a historical struggle anchored on the unfinished 1896 revolution of the Katipuneros led by Andres Bonifacio. The revolutionary Katipunan fought Spain’s colonial violence on a national scale. Colonial violence was based on methods that ruled the colonized in the most fascistic ways. It deployed the divide-and-rule policy, legitimated colonial violence through the sword and cross combo, and unleashed a ferocious armed force that rendered communities lifeless and abandoned. The revolutionary triumph of the 1896 revolution over Spanish Colonialism cannot be overstated.
The Pact of Biak na Bato was the first national peace pact between a revolutionary force and its colonial counterpart. It was fraught with contradictions, which revealed the infiltration of colonial interest from within the Katipunan. Philippine society’s class structure was made complex by Spanish colonialism. The Philippine revolution was not exempted from the lines drawn by competing interests. Andres Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesus, Teresa Magbanua, Emilio, Jacinto, Apolinario Mabini, and Antonio Luna, among others, fought against a colonized force from within the Katipunan led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo’s faction would make the Treaty of Paris between Spain and America fruitful and functional on account of the former’s politics of capitulation.
US imperialism’s “benevolent assimilation”and “Pax Americana” dominated the country while Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government was divided between anti-imperialist and capitulationist forces. These conditions paved the way for Philippine Independence based on neocolonial compromise. The Philippine Republic is made up by the forces of neocolonial compromise, those who have ruled through so-called free elections of rulers coming from the same political and economic elite–the oligarchy. Meanwhile, the revolutionary forces have always challenged this social formation that promotes imperialist plunder and semi-feudal exploitation.
Revolution vs Reaction
We are talking about the struggle between the forces of reaction and revolution. The forces of reaction are those who maintain the system of exploitation and oppression through legitimate power that emanates from the Philippine State. The revolutionary forces challenge state power perpetuated through “free elections” of politicians who manage to secure government seats through guns, goons, and gold. Coming from the oligarchy, these politicians are hellbent on using state power to maintain the status quo that favors their narrow class interest over the welfare of the majority. At present, their mortal and fiercest enemies are the CPP-NPA-NDF and the Moro revolutionaries.
On account of this struggle, negotiations for peace are always a possibility in particular junctures. There are favorable conditions for which peace talks may take place.
Founding Chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines clarifies that Peace talks
“may be conducted before the total victory of the national democratic revolution. If the success of these involve a truce between the two contending sides in a civil war of the purpose of uniting against a common foe, or against a certain set of problems, there is mutual adjustment of policies. But the NDFP is not obliged to give up its firm revolutionary principles. Neither can the GRP be expected to change its counter-revolutionary principles (1991).”
Note how the CPP rightly maintains the irreconcilable gap between itself and the GRP. Such is the reality of class struggle.
The current disposition of the Duterte Administration seems to indicate a poor appreciation and understanding of the conduct and stakes of the Peace Talks, which it correctly initiated. This particular weakness on the part of the administration is betrayed by the President’s pronouncements soon after an encounter took place between the NPA and the CAFGU in Davao del Norte.
The NPA allegedly launched a tactical offensive against the CAFGU despite unilateral ceasefire declared by President in his first SONA. The NPA of the Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) released a statement explaining the circumstances in which they were forced to assume a defensive stance against a paramilitary group that was observed to be mounting an offensive attack against the former a couple of days before the encounter. The NPA-SMR further explains that its defensive conduct was meant to save the lives of its members who were under attack by a paramilitary force that was supposed to observe the president’s call for a unilateral ceasefire.
It is the paramilitary that violated Duterte’s “unilateral ceasefire.” This makes the President’s “ultimatum” to the CPP-NPA-NDF misplaced and a hasty pronouncement sans the benefit of data from the ground/battlefield. Instead of releasing baseless ultimatums, the President should instead go after the major forces behind the various paramilitaries responsible for killing the Lumad and forcing them off of their communities. The Peace Talks is one of the promising venues for this purpose. Meanwhile, the people’s war for national liberation and just peace continues against all odds.
The real deal
It is high time that we disabuse ourselves from the assumption that the Peace Talks is a new situation that will ultimately demobilize the New People’s Army and will make the communists work with government. It is not the case that the CPP-NPA-NDF changed its mind about national liberation and democracy so that peace talks is now possible with the Duterte administration. The people’s war for national liberation and democracy is itself a struggle for just and lasting peace.
The Peace Talks is a moment in the struggle for national liberation and democracy. And this moment cannot be a moment of capitulation for the communist forces. Duterte’s current disposition, if not checked, can only validate anew Sison’s statement made in 1991 about the NDFP and government’s conflicting stakes on the Peace Talks versus the government’s: “While the NDFP desires a just and lasting peace on the basis of satisfying the national democratic demands of the people, the GRP simply wants the pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people and to win by peace rhetoric what it cannot win by force of arms and thus preserve the ever violent system of oppression and exploitation.”
Against fantasies of demobilization and capitulation, the Peace Talks must be viewed for its real purpose. It is a venue for human rights and international humanitarian law to be revisited on account of the horrifying violations of the rules of war committed especially by government troops against guerrillas and civilians. It is a venue for comprehensive social and economic reforms to be tackled with government in order to address the roots of armed conflict. If agreements are made and proven to be practicable on both sides, then favorable talks on a truce on the conduct of the civil war will not be so baseless and desultory as they sound at this point.
Free all political prisoners!
For the communist forces, the Peace Talks is about “satisfying the people’s demands for national liberation and democracy.” The Peace Talks does not change the revolutionary movement’s principled struggle against foreign domination and oligarchic rule. So if it is not about capitulation, the first step should be the release of political prisoners who play a crucial role in the movement for national liberation and democracy. Our political prisoners, and we have more than 500, embody the reactionary state’s criminalization of political dissent.
Peace Talks is about negotiating with the revolutionary forces about alternatives. It is shame for any government to talk peace with “criminals.” This is why it can only drop trumped up charges against political prisoners, set them free, and have the NDFP consultants among them negotiate about alternatives without being hampered by government’s criminalization of their political opposition.
Let’s be clear about peace: the release of political prisoners is the first step. Duterte’s ultimatum was a misstep.
Sison, Jose Maria. 2015. “History and Circumstance Relevant to the Question of Peace, May 1991.” Two Articles On the People’s Struggle for a Just Peace. Education Series No. 4. The Netherlands: NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Imperialist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.