IT is very natural for people to disagree with one another. Each human is created unique and distinct or, in a real sense: without equal. E.g., take an event, like a basketball game witnessed by a thousand spectators, and you can expect from them a thousand accounts with variances in perception, understanding, enjoyment and what have you.
Differences should never spawn ill feelings. They are like rains that come in cycles alternating with sunshine. Let us welcome them as opportunities for building healthier relationships, resting assured that the laws of God and of Man are precisely the infrastructure of just and orderly societies. Significantly, as there is a “carrot and stick” discipline for homes and schools, so also is there a system of “crime and punishment” in the wider environment beyond their fences.
Let us therefore acknowledge and accept life’s greatest challenge: to doggedly temper irreconcilable differences, to generously give or give in, or otherwise make sacrifices in order to strengthen or preserve the whole of which we are each expendable parts. Given the cited infrastructure, there’s no reason why peace is not attainable in our blighted land.
Last March 29, the Nationalist People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), somberly observed its 45th Anniversary barely a week after the capture in Cebu of the two highest officials of the CPP-NPA network, along with 10 others. Apart from being a blow to the morale of the commies, the arrests are certain to set back their calendar of armed operations against government buildings and military installations, not to mention populated civilian areas.
In dealing with communist rebels, not to mention their Moro counterparts down south, civilian and military authorities have demonstrated eternal patience. Indeed, legislating, listening, negotiating, giving carrots and bending backwards to spinal discomforts have long become the norms of official policy. But what happens if carrots do not work any longer? Dialog after dialog has not worked. Ceasefire after ceasefire has not worked. Amnesty after amnesty has not worked. Of late, the peace process has ground to a halt…no thanks to the Reds!
Time for the sticks
My personal reaction to the recent arrest of twelve communists in Cebu, including the CPP-NPA Chair, his wife and five others who reportedly comprise the highest Maoist ruling body in the country today, is: “Good. Charge them all immediately with Rebellion. With respect to leader Benito Tiamson and his wife Wilma, Secretary General and Finance Chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, against whom warrants of arrest for Murder and Frustrated Murder had long been issued, their criminal prosecution should commence without delay, unless of course the said crimes were committed in furtherance of rebellion, in which case they should be tried only for Rebellion”.
Ringing hollow is their claim that their arrest would only set back the on-off series of peace talks started over 25 years ago, since it is a documented fact that they have cavalierly derailed the peace talks with constant absences from scheduled meetings, not to mention their programmed forays into traditional targets anytime they choose. Should they be treated any differently from a widowed labandera who got 14 years for robbing and killing a businessman so she could feed her six children?
The Valley of Death
Sure, their alleged love of country is aflame with revolutionary fervor — dig those slogans screamed out with clenched fists! — but hey, non-commies like me are also country-lovers, and they need no strident slogans and clenched fists to assemble, debate and make meaningful headways in the quest for social change! And this they can do as a guaranteed right to use what is known as “democratic free space” — an expanse that includes the polling places, the halls of Congress, the courtrooms, the streets and other open spaces allowed for marches and the airing of grievances.
Revolutionary catchphrases like “Tuloy ang laban!” and “Patay kung patay!” are so scorchingly emotional they set ablaze the valor to “march into the valley of death”; ignominious death, that is, because the struggle of the Tiamsons and their fellow Maoists can never succeed, there having never been a time, ever, when their mindless and unreasonable methods appealed to the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of citizens.
So how can they proclaim themselves “patriots,” when they knowingly and openly oppose the peaceful and democratic ways of the vast number of Filipinos? By doing so, these handful of fully armed commies think they can impose their will upon a hundred million sovereign people. And to think that CPP-NPA Supremo Benito Tiamson is a UP-bred sociologist! One wonders how such anti-people sentiments could be hailed by him and his followers as patriotism.
By Richard James Mendoza
THOSE were some of the words uttered by Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, the wife of Benito Tiamzon, both of whom are the alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as they were asked for some words in an ambush interview. Her complete statement was : “Binabati ko ang Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa ika-45th na anibersaryo nito. Patuloy na lumalakas sa buong bayan. Hindi matalo-talo ng AFP!” (“I greet the New People’s Army in its 45th anniversary. They continue to grow in strength nationwide. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can never win against it!”). It was a defiant statement delivered with full conviction, and it was actually quite inspiring that she is steadfast in her principles even though she has been arrested and placed behind bars.
As the anniversary of the New People’s Army neared, several tactical offensives were launched after the arrests of the Tiamzons on March 22nd, although it is not sure if it was either connected to the aforementioned arrest or to its nearing anniversary. Lightning rallies were also conducted by allied organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the CPP. Members of the revolutionary women’s group the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Free Movement of New Women, MAKIBAKA) staged a lightning rally along Rizal Avenue on Tuesday, while those belonging to the government employees group Makabayang Kawaning Pilipino (Patriotic Government Employees) held theirs at the Divisoria Market on Wednesday.
Both of the lightning rallies mentioned, including the one that I’ll narrate next, called for the release of the Tiamzons and the other political prisoners, as well as calling on the people to celebrate the NPA’s 45th anniversary.
The clash at the Peace Bridge
Last Thursday another lightning rally was held, this time led by the Revolutionary Council on Trade Unions (RCTU) alongside the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth, KM), the PMST as well as COMPATRIOTS (Revolutionary Movement of Our Compatriots Abroad and Their Families), all which are allied organizations of the NDFP. It looked to be a grand finale of sorts, as the NPA’s anniversary neared. At the same time though, a group of Moros were holding a prayer vigil celebrating the recently-signed Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) at the historical Mendiola Bridge.
While a representative of the RCTU was reading its group’s statement, the Moros began to shout at the marchers who thought that it was a show of disrespect against them. As soon as the road traffic became empty, the latter began to run against the activists which resulted in a minor riot. The NDF force was outnumbered and was forced to run away from the scene. Some of them, including the media, were caught along the ensuing scuffle that resulted in injuries. It was only after the intervention of the Imams and the police that the melee was contained. At the time, the activists had already fled from the place.
After the confrontation, a certain “Mario”, perhaps from the RCTU, was interviewed by the media about what had just happened. He said that they came from Bustillos Street and that they didn’t mean anything disrespectful to the Moros and issued a call for our Muslim brothers to unite against their common enemies, which he mentioned as the Aquino government, US imperialism, bureaucrat-capitalism, and feudalism.
It’s hard to point fingers here; where to place the sole blame on the incident. While some courtesy could have been shown by the marchers for the Muslims who were reading the Quran as part of their program by minimizing their chants, perhaps our Muslim brothers shouldn’t have bothered to pay too much attention to them, since all they did was read their own statement. The revolutionaries would probably have marched onwards Recto Avenue after that. As of this writing, I’m waiting for the statements of the parties involved, as well as the statement of the present administration.
These tactical offensives and lightning rallies, despite the fact that the third lightning rally disastrously degenerated into a bad riot, are most likely meant as a show of force by the revolutionary movement to the Aquino regime in light of the arrest of the Tiamzons and their companions, as well as celebrating the 45th anniversary of the New People’s Army.
The Aquino regime is boastful of its so-called achievement in arresting the Tiamzons despite the fact that the arrest violates the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which the current administration along with the peace panel regards as “irrelevant” in the peace talks. They argue that they are ineligible because “…that would mean they can wage war and violence against government and when caught, claim Jasig protection and expect to be released,” as said by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda sometime ago.
He may sound like he has a point, but it’s quite shallow. Isn’t it precisely because the CPP-NPA-NDFP is waging a protracted armed struggle against the government that they are involved in peace talks? The GRP, through the likes of Ging Deles and Alex Padilla, are narrow-minded in their view about the peace talks. They believe that one should surrender first before talking about peace. How does that solve the question of peace? How can that kind of attitude address the root problems of poverty? But what can one expect of the Aquino regime in resolving the question of peace if he himself has sided time and time again with the side of the exploiters and oppressors?
Yet, there may still be some shred of hope in resuming peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. In an article written by Andreo Calonzo of GMA News, “PHL govt, communists can still break impasse in peace talks – analyst”, “Rey Casambre, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center, said both parties should immediately discuss their disagreements, through informal talks, to remove impediments to the peace negotiations.
“Both have repeatedly announced they are open to peace negotiations. Neither one has issued a notice of termination to the other party… The impasse can be broken if both parties agree to consultation and/or informal talks to discuss the alleged violations and the disagreements, ” Casambre said at a press briefing Wednesday.
However, I doubt the GRP would press on with the negotiations given the actions that it undertook. Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the CPP, said in a report, “Joma Sison on Tiamzons’ arrest: It may be the last straw“
“I hope that the President will think hard about what he’s doing. While he might believe that he will benefit more from arresting and imprisoning political consultants, truth is, it is better for the country when peace negotiations continue. Does he want to be known in history as the President who killed the peace negotiations?” Sison, who has been in exile here for years, explained in Filipino.
Contradictions arise out of a society where the exploiting class thrives on the hardships of its people; where the only known definition of peace is the peace of the cemetery. Perhaps the only way to resolve the Aquino regime’s contradictions is for the so-called leader to be ousted by a genuine mass movement. Then a transition stage shall take place for a new societal order that shall truly serve the people and not just a few.