All-Out War

It’s good that the Arroyo administration has lessened talks about decimating the rebellion led by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in ten, five, even two years. As a peasant organizer for eight years, I can say with certainty that it just won’t work. The national democratic revolution has grown to a level that a military-led solution is no longer feasible.

Besides, compared to previous governments, the Arroyo administration can be considered among the weakest. It is facing opposition from without from factions of the ruling class and from within from the renegade and discontented segments of the police and the military. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is barely surviving, so how can her government ever dream of winning the war against a rebellion deeply rooted in all the regions of the country?

This does not mean that government cannot gain “successes” in its so-called final war against the CPP and its instruments, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front. The all-out war will constrict the democratic space and possibly force momentary setbacks in the revolution until it again adjusts to the changed circumstance, if it has not adjusted already by now.

In this, I remember the years of the “gradual constriction” strategy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the governments of then presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos in the 1980s. The military at that time solicited the help of anti-communist vigilante groups like Kadre and Tadtad, while forming the more legal Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units.

The guerilla front in Cebu at that time encompassed the so-called Central District (The mountains of Talisay, Toledo, Balamban, Cebu City, Consolacion and Liloan). The relentless assault by the military, police and vigilantes and the failure of the local CPP leadership to adjust resulted to the destruction of the infrastructure built painstakingly since 1979.

Of course, it happened at a great cost. The fighting was fierce and blood was spilt from both sides. Peasants, especially in the well-organized revolutionary enclaves in the hinterlands of Cebu City were displaced, evacuating to the lowlands and to Bohol and some provinces of in Mindanao. Most of the cadres and full-time organizers of the underground had to retreat to the newly opened front in mid-north Cebu.

It was the end of what some CPP cadres used to joke then about the “Golden Years” of the Central District. And it convinced me that, yes, as Mao Zedong said, a revolution is no dinner party. Those who went to the countryside thinking that war was like what they experienced while watching action movies woke up rudely to the fact that there was no joy in violence, only pain and tears.

Apparently, the rebels eventually learned from the bitter experience and adjusted to the changed circumstance, judging from the expansion and strengthening of the new guerilla front in the Mid-North District. It is already 2006 and despite reports of military successes in the anti-insurgency campaign there, I doubt if government can say it has totally dismantled the underground infrastructure in the area.

It has probably become a cliche to say that the roots of the rebellion is poverty. I would like to discuss that in future blogs based on my experience with the peasants, many of whom have become family to me. But there is another observation before I close.

I am sure there have been a number of attempts by the CPP leadership to recover the lost territories in the Central District. And they probably failed so far. I would say this is partly because of the changed circumstance in the area, one that has become observable through the years.

The construction of the Trancentral Highway from Cebu City in the east to Balmban in the west has resulted in the opening of satellite roads and therefore easy accessibility. There’s visible economic growth there, as peasants now find it easier to sell their produce (lowlanders even now go up there for cheap buys). The objectionable point, though, is the entry of speculators and business interests despite the declaration of the area as an environmentally protected zone.

What I am saying is that, because of the changed situation, I doubt if guerilla war will ever be viable again in the Central District. That, I would say, is worth pondering for those who think they can end the rebellion using merely the barrel of guns.

–Candido O. Wenceslao

July 18, 2006

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