NPA out of step with the times, should pivot to peaceful means
Even as the Senate investigates alleged red-tagging of Leftist groups, one thing seems evident — that terrorism and criminal behavior have become unacceptable political tools in modern times. Testimonies made there recently implicated the New People’s Army (NPA) in extortion and destruction of telecommunication towers, among other things.
Jeffrey Celiz, a confessed NPA intelligence officer, testified that the armed group collects money from private firms engaged in various infrastructure projects. He said the NPA remits some P400 million annually to Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), who lives in exile in The Netherlands. The amount is about 60 percent of the extortion income, and the rest supposedly funds local operations of the NPA, the CPP’s armed wing.
His testimony does not surprise Filipinos, who have been hearing about these dastardly acts of the NPA for decades. Its attacks on telecommunications towers, alone, turns off people frustrated with slow internet service and poor connectivity. The country only has 20,000 towers but needs 50,000 more.
No wonder that Leftist groups do not want to be associated with the NPA. That Maoist guerilla organization, which was established in 1969, is responsible for the deaths of 10,000 soldiers, policemen and civilians, the government said in a 2018 statement to the United Nations.
“The CPP-NPA has been committing the same brutal atrocities like Daesh. The CPP-NPA’s influence is far-reaching having entrenched itself through international solidarity networks in local and international organizations, severely undermining the Philippine state’s ability to address the threat they pose in pursuit of their aim to take over the state by armed struggle,” according to the statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte has arguably done more than any president to appease communists, including appointing people who had been associated with them to his Cabinet. President Duterte eventually became frustrated when peace talks stalled. And in 2017, he declared the CPP and NPA to be terror organizations by virtue of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012. The Palace also cited that the United States had designated them as terror groups in 2002.
The CCP argues that neither it nor the NPA are terrorist organizations, pointing out that they are not in the UN Security Council Consolidated List. They even go as far as claiming that terrorism is “anathema to the principles of the CPP.”
If that were true, why was the CPP blowing up critical infrastructure and extorting money under the guise of taxes? Why does the NPA continue killing people? The public also learned in recent years that the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971 was actually perpetrated by the NPA, even though the communists tried to assign the blame on President Ferdinand Marcos.
No to red-tagging
Of course, we do not agree with red-tagging. But as mentioned by former ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao in several columns, Mr. Sison himself red-tagged more than 80 local organizations as communist fronts in 2001, when he organized the International League of People’s Struggles or ILPS.
Naturally, any political tag cannot be confirmed by mere listing on the ILPS website, even if it is attributed to Mr. Sison. But that fact does corroborate suspicions. In their defense, Leftist groups should publicly renounce terrorism and other methods of the NPA to achieve their political aims. There should be no doubt as to where these so-called progressives stand on violence and criminality.
The NPA itself should walk the talk if anyone is to believe its claim on terrorism. If it is truly against that now, it should, as the cliché says, return to the fold of the law. Its members should surrender their arms, disband and pursue peaceful and lawful means to realize their objectives.
We concede that the government is imperfect. Poverty and inequality persist today. But refusing to recognize the democratically elected government and continuing with guerrilla warfare in pocket territories present obstacles to development and are unlawful.
Democracy has flaws. But at least it requires leaders to obtain consent from the people they govern. We give no such consent to the NPA or to any group that threatens people for supporting a legitimate government.