Friday, July 27, 2012

Philippine Political Documents

April 2-8, 2012, The CenSei Report, Vol. 2, The Long Struggle to Silence the Guns of Rebellion,
by Atty. John Carlo Gil M. Sadian, page 4,
October 5, 2007, Armed Forces Journal, Flashpoint: No bungle in the jungle, Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines is getting results, by Peter Brookes,

October 5, 2007, Armed Forces Journal, Flashpoint: No bungle in the jungle, Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines is getting results, by Peter Brookes,

Whether you agree with it or not, it's likely there will be some changes to the current size and shape of U.S. forces in Iraq over the next year. For reasons from the political to the practical, the current troop surge in Iraq isn't going to last forever.

So, as the politicians and policymakers search for a future strategy in Iraq that would be amenable to the American people, Congress, the Pentagon and the White House, it makes sense to open the intellectual aperture pretty wide in the search for good ideas.

In some corners of defense intelligentsia, the U.S.-backed effort in the southern Philippines against the al-Qaida-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group ("Bearer of the Sword") is being touted as the most successful counterterrorism campaign of the post-Sept. 11 period. Indeed, some are promoting Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P) as a model counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN) operation. Although not everyone would agree with that characterization, it's worthwhile to take a look at OEF-P to see whether the strategy and policy might be applied to the ongoing challenges in Iraq — or elsewhere.


When the U.S. counterterrorism operations against the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) kicked off in late 2001, the Bush administration dubbed the Philippines the "second front" in the newly minted war on terrorism. Today, it's more like the forgotten front. But the operation's lack of notoriety isn't necessarily a bad thing. The joint U.S.-Philippine CT-COIN campaign in the southern Philippines is going pretty darn well since the first U.S. troops came ashore in early 2002.

Today, Abu Sayyaf is hardly a household name in America. But the Muslim terrorist group has plenty of street credentials. Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law and some other Afghan mujahedeen from the war with the Soviets founded the group. The ASG also had ties to senior al-Qaida leaders: Ramzi Yousef and his now infamous uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, both spent time in the Philippines after the Afghanistan campaign during the 1990s. The two were involved, to one degree or another, in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Operation Bojinka (the attempted bombing of 11 airliners out of the Philippines in 1995), plots against President Clinton and Pope John Paul II — and Sept. 11.

The ASG's purported goal is to establish an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines and to wrest control of large areas from the grips of the Catholic-dominated central government up north in the capital city, Manila. (The southern Philippines is largely, but not wholly, Muslim. Islam came to the region as far back as the Seventh century, when Muslim traders from India, Persia and the Arabian Peninsula began sailing Southeast Asian waters.)

Although the ASG's publicly spoken aspirations may be limited to the Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, some believe its real desire is of a much grander magnitude. Some analysts think the ASG has ambitions for establishing a pan-Islamic state extending to all of Muslim Southeast Asia, including neighboring Malaysia and Southeast Asian giant Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. The group engages in terrorism and crime, including kidnappings for profit, bombings, beheadings, assassinations and extortion against Filipinos and foreigners, especially tourists. U.S. citizens and OEF-P soldiers number among its victims. The ASG also has ties to al-Qaida's pan-Southeast Asian terrorism powerhouse, Jemaah Islamiya — infamous for the 2002 Bali bombing — and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, another southern Philippine terrorist-separatist group.

Current estimates conclude that U.S.-Philippine security operations have significantly weakened the ASG. In fact, Philippines forces killed the group's leader last fall and two more senior ASG commanders since December. Indeed, once calculated to be 2,000 fighters strong, the ASG has been slowly whittled down over the past 60 or so months of OEF-P operations to an estimated 200 militants today — a 90 percent reduction. As a result, its trademark bus and local market bombings have dropped off, as has its once-lucrative kidnapping for profit practice. Although violence exists, the ASG threat has clearly receded — at least for the moment.

Although the ASG hasn't been eliminated, to what strategy and policy can OEF-P attribute its success so far?

Some analysts credit the "indirect approach" as being key. From the beginning, U.S. forces were involved in "advising and assisting" the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducting combat operations. U.S. forces weren't involved in direct action, other than self-defense. This advise-and-assist role for U.S. forces puts the AFP in the lead; a tactic successfully employed by Australia's military in other regions. The training has increased their combat initiative — which was lacking at the start of OEF-P — and the on-the-job training has developed the skills and confidence necessary for an enduring CT-COIN capability. In addition, U.S. forces aren't only teaching CT and COIN tactics, they're also instructing the Filipinos in collecting, analyzing and fusing actionable intelligence — even when it comes from a U.S. source such as a P-3 Orion or a high-tech Predator drone.

Not surprisingly, a significant effort has been made to win hearts and minds. Successful U.S.-Philippine civil affairs, humanitarian aid and military exercises are enhancing the legitimacy of the AFP and the central government in Manila with the locals. During regular bilateral Balikatan ("shoulder-to-shoulder") military exercises, Americans and Filipinos provide medical services and build badly needed infrastructure in some of the poorest provinces, allowing locals to see a better future for themselves.

Information operations heighten public awareness of terrorism, providing channels to the police and AFP. Indeed, one senior ASG leader was sold out by a group member turned informant, motivated by the State Department's cash rewards program. This newly developed trust between the government and the population is helping to reduce passive support for the ASG among the locals, while increasing the sharing of information, shrinking the group's sanctuaries and disrupting their operations. In addition, in 2002, the Pentagon initiated a program to help the Philippines identify much-needed defense reforms, including policy development, professional military education (directed at CT and COIN) and the professionalization of the AFP.

The defense reforms yielded results. For example, in 2001, Philippine military helicopters were mission-ready 15 percent of the time. Today, those helicopters have an operational ready rate of 80 percent as a result of improvements in maintenance and logistics.

At the national level, steps were taken early on to fully consider unique sensitivities likely to arise with the hyperactive — and always suspicious — Philippine media, the country's influential elite, and contrary, opposition politicians. For instance, although generally pro-American, some Filipinos are still sensitive to the legacy of U.S. bases and America's — not always positive — history in the Philippines, going back to the Spanish-American War.

Even better, not only does the temporary status of U.S. troops comply with the Philippine constitution, which forbids the stationing of foreign troops on native soil, the American military footprint in the Philippines has also shrunk drastically since 2002. During the initial deployment, U.S. OEF-P forces jumped to as many as 1,300. Today, there are as few as 300 American troops in country, reducing the U.S. profile, and more importantly, the perception of an occupation or an unduly long-term stay.

International support has been important, too. On-again, off-again Malaysian-mediated peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have seemingly helped erode that group's support for the ASG — and Jemaah Islamiya.

Regional maritime security cooperation involving neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia has increased, too. U.S. allies Australia and Japan have also pitched in to support the Philippine government's efforts in the southern Philippines.

And despite the ups and downs in the bilateral relationship at the political level — especially when Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo withdrew Philippine forces from Iraq in 2004 — Washington continued its support, demonstrating resolve on the CT issue.


Can any of the Philippine operation's strategy and policy be applied to CT-COIN operations elsewhere, including Iraq? Of course.

Sure, the Philippines scenario is, without a doubt, unique. For instance, at the most basic level, the ASG hides in the jungle and often uses small boats to hop from island to island across the South China Sea. The same, obviously, can't be said of Iraqi insurgents.

The Philippines is also blessed with a boisterous but established democratic government and civil society institutions that support democracy, while Iraq is still struggling for the most basic semblance of a unity government. The scales of magnitude are different, too. The ASG is much smaller, more localized and not nearly as complex as the Iraq insurgency. Plus, the ASG receives no known support from outside powers in contrast with the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq (e.g., Iran and Syria).

The list of differences goes on and on. But although that list could easily fill the rest of this article, it would distract from the point. Much of the strategy and policy being applied in the Philippines can be — indeed, is already being — used in Iraq at various stages of implementation.

Both operations include direct action by indigenous forces, and efforts at increasing the national government's legitimacy, establishing the conditions for peace and development, and meeting the population's basic humanitarian and security needs.

This is potentially good news. The OEF-P model, if appropriately applied to local conditions at the right time, could serve as the basis for other successful CT-COIN operations in places such as Iraq, or even Afghanistan.

Few would argue that Iraq is fully ready for the Philippine model — and rightfully so. But, over time, assuming progress is made in quelling sectarian violence and rolling back al-Qaida, it's possible the Iraq operation could transition to a Philippine-like indirect approach.

Indeed, as Iraq advances politically and militarily, U.S. operations could scale down into something that looks like OEF-P, where a small number of U.S. forces train, advise, and provide intelligence and logistical support to Iraqi forces. As Vice Adm. Eric Olson, U.S. Special Operations Command's deputy commander, testified before the Senate in April: OEF-P "is absolutely a model. It's a model that doesn't apply everywhere, but it's a model that we ought to apply wherever we can."

That's sage counsel.

In the end, as the admiral alludes, there is no cookie-cutter approach to fighting terrorism or an insurgency. But the success of OEF-P is encouraging. At the very least, it should be examined closely to inform current and future CT and COIN efforts.

Peter Brookes, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow, was responsible for OEF-P policy while a deputy assistant secretary of defense in 2001-2002.

April 2-8, 2012, The CenSei Report, Vol. 2, The Long Struggle to Silence the Guns of Rebellion,
by Atty. John Carlo Gil M. Sadian, page 4,

Center for Strategy, Enterprise & Intelligence publishes The CenSEI Report, strategic analysis and research on national, business and global issues,

After decades of communist and separatist insurgency, will peace agreements ever happen?

In the late 1960s, two distinct localrevolutionary movements rose from the activism that characterized that decade,one ideological (Muslim secession) and the other geopolitical (worldwide communist revolution). Despite the changes in the world since then – including the collapse of Communism as an ideology cum political movement, and the advent of globalization ushering in relative economic prosperity--the Philippines continues to be beset by these local insurgencies of communist rebels and Muslim separatists.

Even though the combined strength of these two rebel forces has not reached a point of posing any real military or political threat to the Manila-based national government, their continuing existence -- as well as the underlying reasons for their resilience -- has hounded six administrations as shown by the unsuccessful attempts to quell these insurgencies with various combinations of diplomacy and force.

Seeking peace with Islamic separatists

After four decades of conflict with Muslim secessionists in Mindanao, thegovernment, during the administrationof Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, appeared to be on the verge of accomplishing a major breakthrough in the peace process when it was announced that the Memorandum of Agreement on the Muslim Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) would be signed on August 5, 2008. The day before the scheduled signing, however, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of the MOA-AD, in response to five petitions questioning its constitutionality.

The Court eventually voted 9-6 to strike down the MOA-AD as unconstitutional.This marked a major setback in the peace process , which goes all the way back to the1970s, when then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos started negotiations with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari.

1968: Two fuses are lit

The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union may only be part of history books for most of us, but for the activists who took part in the public unrest during the pre-martial law era, it certainly was the spark that ignited the rise of a Maoist-inspired communist insurgency in the Philippines. Inspired by the rising unpopularity of American imperialism set against the backdrop of escalating poverty across the country, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was established on December 26, 1968, under the leadership of Jose Ma. Sison.

Earlier that year, at least 28 Muslim volunteers from Sulu who were being trained for a covert commando mission to conquer Sabah were killed by government troops in an attempt to cover up the mission's existence, in what would popularly be known as the Jabidah Massacre. The outrage over this massacre has been widely considered as the catalyst that gave birth to the Islamic separatist movements in Mindanao, pioneer of which was Nur Misuari's Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Early attempts to quell these rebellions.

Soon after its founding, the CPP wasted no time in laying the groundwork for its ultimate goal of overthrowing the Philippine government. On March 29, 1969, the CPP launched its "protracted people's war" with the establishment of the New People's Army (NPA), with the National Democratic Front (NDF) serving as the CPP's political front organization. However, instead of accomplishing its goal of seizing power from the government, the CPP-NPA-NDF's rise set the stage for an even more powerful government, as then-President Ferdinand E. Marcos would use the communist threat as the excuse for the declaration of martial law.

Also in 1969, on the heels of the Jabidah Massacre, university professor Nur Misuari founded the MNLF, which began a protracted armed campaign against the government in 1970, aimed at establishing an independent Bangsamoro Land. Things took a different turn in 1976, when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi brokered an agreement that led to the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, which introduced the concept of anautonomous Muslim region in Mindanao. On August 1, 1989, under the mandate of the new 1987 Constitution, Congress enacted Republic Act 6734 creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). However, out of the13 provinces and 9 cities that participated in the plebiscite, only the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi opted to be part of the ARMM.

Instead of bringing the Muslim leaders together, however, this agreement further fragmented the MNLF, because some factions within the group preferred independence over autonomy. Thus, a group of officers led by Hashim Salamat broke away and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) to continue their armed struggle for an independent Moro nation in Mindanao.


The junked MOA-AD was not the first agreement entered into by the government with Muslim secessionist groups. Through the intercession of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the Marcos administration sat down with the MNLF delegation and forged the monumental 1976 Tripoli Agreement which provided the framework for subsequent negotiations.

This agreement recognized Philippines sovereignty, but also introduced the concept of "autonomy" for the Muslim areas of Mindanao “within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

When Marcos was ousted in 1986, the task of implementing the provisions of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement fell upon the shoulders of President Corazon Aquino, whose first concern was the overhaul of the entire legal system. This included the drafting of a new Constitution under which the Tripoli Agreement would be implemented. The new charter took effect on February 2,1987, with seven sections touching on the creation of two autonomous regions, one in Muslim Mindanao and another in the Cordilleras.

Peace with the MNLF, but a faction breaks away. Aquino's successor, retired General Fidel V. Ramos, was the one who made the MNLF lay down their arms, through what the MNLF recognized as a "bold and innovative initiative." On September 2, 1996, again through the intercession of Gaddafi, the Final Peace Agreement was finally signed by the government and the MNLF peace panels "as a basis for a just, lasting, honorable and comprehensive solution to the problem in Southern Philippines within the framework of the Philippine Constitution." Note that the peace agreement's penultimate whereas clause states that "the parties affirm the sovereignty, territorial integrity and and the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines." This being inconsistent with their original goal of seceding from Philippine sovereignty, a faction led by Hashim Salamat broke away and formed the group that would later be known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). A month before this peace agreement with the MNLF was signed, President Ramos also jump-started exploratory talks with the breakaway MILF faction as it continued its armed struggle for independence in some provinces in Mindanao. The low-level negotiations continued until Joseph Ejercito Estrada succeeded Ramos, but would adopt a radically different approach. By 1999, the peace talks would collapse under Estrada's all-out war policy against the MILF and all armed groups in Mindanao.

The MOA on Ancestral Domain.

Upon Estrada's ouster in January 2001, Arroyo, his successor, revived the peace process by signing the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks and its Implementing Guidelines on March 24, 2001. After seven years of on-again-off-again talks, the peace panels of the government and the MILF finally agreed on a draft accord on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement (MOA-AD), which was scheduled for signing on August 5, 2008. The most important provisions of this MOA-AD involved the government's recognition of a transitory "associative" relation between the central government and the newly-introduced "Bangsamoro Juridical Entity"(BJE), and the implied guarantee that the government would implement the necessary constitutional amendments to create a framework for the MOA-AD's implementation.


Creation of the ARMM

As recounted by the Presidential Management Staff in a June 1992 paper, "The Aquino Management of the Presidency," as posted on former President Aquino's official website,, Aquino went to Sulu in September 1986 to meet Misuari personally, and their meeting set the stage for further discussions with Misuari on expanding the groundwork for Muslim autonomy.

In compliance with Section 15, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, Congress enacted Republic Act 6734 in August 1989, creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to be composed of theprovinces and cities who would vote in a November plebiscite on the issue of inclusion in the region.

The plebiscite would be conducted in 13 provinces – Basilan, Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Palawan, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboangadel Norte, Zamboanga del Sur – and nine cities – Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, Iligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga. However, only the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi opted to be part of the autonomous region.

Nonetheless, President Corazon Aquino welcomed the ARMM with high hopes that it would end hostilities in Mindanao.

Bangsamoro Land

According to the MNLF official blogsite, maintained by John Remollo Petalcorin, its director for advocacy communication, Bangsamoro Land "was already a sovereign nation hundreds of years before it was illegally annexed as part of the Philippines in the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines," and then occupied by settlers who were encouraged by the government in the 1950s through the government's Homestead Program.

"There was no land titling system by the natives of Mindanao at the time. The Philippine government took advantage of the absense [sic] of land titles to give away lots in Mindanao to poor farmers and other migrants from other parts of the country," the MNLF ofcial blogsite relates in its History of Armed Confiict

Bangsamoro Land comprises Sulu, Mindanao, and Palawan, and consists of 25 provinces: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Basilan, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Cotabato, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur,Davao Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental,Palawan, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay.


Ruling on the petitions filed by the provinces of North Cotabato, Zamboanga el Norte, Sultan Kudarat, and the cities of Zamboanga, Iligan, and Isabela, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the "associative" relationship between the Philippine government and the BJE. The decision written by Justice Conchita Carpio Morales stressed that "the Constitution does not recognize any state within this country other than the Philippine State, much less does it provide for the possibility of any transitory status to prepare any part of Philippine territory for independence."

Likewise, the Court held as unconstitutional the guarantees under the MOA-AD that the government would implement the necessary constitutional amendments to create a framework for its implementation. According to the Court, the peace panel and the President did not have the authority to make such guarantees, because they do not have the power to propose amendments to the Constitution, such power being vested exclusively in Congress.


Sporadic fighting followed the junking of the MOA-AD, with the year 2008 setting a record-high 30 encounters between government troops and MILF fighters. In an effort to salvage the negotiations, Arroyo declared the suspension of military operations against the MILF on July 2009. The peace talks once again went on-and-off due to questions about the MILF's sincerity in implementing the cease fire agreement. Arroyo's successor, Benigno Aquino III, continued the peaceful approach, and even met with MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, and, two months later, refused to order military operations against rogue MILF forces that ambushed an Army contingent in Al-Barka, Basilan, killing 19
soldiers and wounding 12 others.

As of this day, the peace process with the MILF seems to be at a standstill, with chief government negotiator Marvic Leonen warning both government and MILF panels that the peace process is already on the verge of reaching a "stalemate" because of the generally acknowledged fact that both the government and the MILF could not agree on what constitutes "genuine autonomy." The MILF, for its part, doesn't seem to be disagreeing with the government's assessment, as it apparently wants a Muslim sub-state distinct from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Seeking peace with communist insurgents

Reaching out to the communists.

It was during the administration of President Ramos, a retired soldier who fought communist rebels, that membership in the CPP was decriminalized with the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992. He also reached out to the communists by resuming peace talks with the CPP’spolitical wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF). On September 1, 1992, the Hague Joint Declaration was signed by NDF vice chairman Luis Jalandoni and government emissary Jose Yap with the understanding that “the holding of peace negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles, including national sovereignty, democracy and social justice.

The Hague Joint Declaration laid down four phases in the peace process:(1) human rights and international humanitarian law, (2) socio-economic reforms, (3) political and constitutional reforms, and (4) end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

One of the most valued agreements inthe peace talks with the NDF was the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed on February 24,1995. This provided that “all duly accredited persons as defined herein in possession of documents of identification or safe conduct passes are guaranteed free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in travelling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the negotiations.” Up to this day, the NDF claims that the government has been violating the provisions of the JASIG whenever a member of the CPP-NPA-NDF is arrested, even for criminal offenses not connected with rebellion.

Two years later, in what seemed to be the end to the first phase laid down under the Hague Joint Declaration, the peace panels successfully drafted the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). However, the government rejected the draft and ordered its revision. The government's revised version, on the other hand, was also rejected by the NDF for being "a mutilation and cannibalization" of the original draft.

After a year of further negotiations, the CARHRIHL was finally approved by the NDF on April 10, 1998, and by the Philippine government on August 7, 1998. However, President Estrada reneged on the government’s commitment by sendinga delegation that proposed the deletion and amendment of certain articles of the already signed agreement, most important of which was placing the CARHRIHL Joint Monitoring Committee under the Office of the President.

Seeing the government's proposed amendment as a violation of the Hague Joint Declaration, the NDF withdrew from the peace talks, and Estrada later on declared an all-out-war against the CPP-NPA-NDF. What was supposed to be the culmination of the first of four phases of the peace process fizzled out, causing the collapse of the peace talks. After his ouster, President Arroyo reversed this policy and reached out again to communist rebels.

On February 21, 2011, under the administration of Corazon Aquino's son, Benigno Aquino III, the government and NDF peace panels issued the Oslo Joint Statement with a bold statement that “the draft Comprehensive Agreement on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (CAEHDF) may be completed and signed by the Panels in June 2012.” The CAEHDF is the fourth phase of the peace process as laid down in the Hague Joint Declaration.

The 18-month timetable set by the Oslo Statement will end two months from now. If the parties would indeed come up with a signed CAEHDF in June, it would be a reason to join in the optimism of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles that the peace talks with the NDF will end before 2016. But considering that a signed CAEHDF here would be just the first phase, rather than the culmination of a four-step, 20-year process, we can wish the government panel the best of luck, as we wonder how close to--or how far from-- peace the Philippines will be for it.

Communists driven underground

During the American occupation, one of the political parties that fielded candidates for national and local elections was the original Partido Komunistang Pilipinas (PKP). This left-wing faction of the Nacionalista Party has been legally recognized until October 26, 1932, when the Supreme Court ruled that since "the purpose of the party is to incite class struggle, to overthrow the present government by peaceful means or by armed revolution, to alter the social order, and to commit the crimes of rebellion and sedition," such organization "must necessarily be illegal." Thereafter, the party continued to operateas an underground organization.

In line with this ruling, on June 20, 1957, President Carlos P. Garcia approved the Anti-Subversion Act (Republic Act 1700), thereby formally outlawing membership in the communist party. At the height of public unrest in the 1960s due to the rising unpopularity of the Vietnam War and the escalating poverty across the country, Marxist-Leninist-Maoist intellectuals established the new Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under the leadership of Jose Ma. Sison. The founding of this organization on December 26, 1968 has been touted by the new CPP as the "re-establishment" of the erstwhile communist party, whose major errors they blamed for the almost total destruction of the revolutionary movement in the 1950s.

The CPP established its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), on March 29, 1969 with the goal of toppling the government. The threat of communist insurrection reached a point that the national government often used them as an excuse for flexing the muscles of the military. Indeed, this paranoia became a prelude to the establishment of an eventual authoritarian regime with President Marcos issuing Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under martial law effective September 21, 1972.

According to the first whereas clause of the proclamation, martial law was declared because of elements that have "entered into a conspiracy and have in fact joined and banded their resources and forces together for the prime purpose of, and in fact they have been and are actually staging,undertaking and waging an armed insurrection and rebellion against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in order to forcibly seize political and state power in this country, overthrow the duly constituted government, and supplant our existing political, social, economic and legal order with an entirely new one whose form of government, whose system of laws, whose conception of God and religion, whose notion of individual rights and family relations, and whose political, social, economic, legal and moral precepts are based on the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist teachings and beliefs."

Instead of stopping the communist threat, Marcos used Proclamation 1081 to go after all his political rivals, communist and non-communist alike.Throughout his term, the leaders and members of the CPP-NPA and other non-communist members of the political opposition were subjected to warrantless arrests, enforced disappearances, unexplained deaths and other human rights abuses. Marcos was eventually ousted and replaced by President Corazon Aquino, whose husband had been jailed by the Marcos government on charges of association with the communist rebellion (and murdered in August 1983, as he was returning to Manila from exile in the U.S). During her term, nothing substantial was done regarding the CPP-NPA except for the signing of cease fire agreements that eventually collapsed due to her support for the renewal of the Bases Agreement with the United States.



MANILA, AUGUST 26, 2008 (STAR) By Christina Mendez - Senators yesterday blamed the government for failing to cut the ties of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which aims to establish a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia using MILF camps in Mindanao as training ground and staging points for attacks.

The lawmakers also asserted that MalacaƱang must pursue peace talks with the rebels but this time with transparency and a new set of negotiators.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Senators Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon and Francis Escudero said the alleged terror links between the JI and the MILF give the authorities more reason to go after the separatist rebels.

They also raised questions on the government’s inability to thwart the rebels after it attacked several areas in Mindanao following the bungled signing of the Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) early this month.

The senators made their stand known after National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales claimed that rogue commanders of the MILF have strong ties with extremists, including the JI, and would continue to sow terror even when a final peace agreement is forged with the separatist group.

“I’ve been wondering why after nearly 40 years, the military has not yet cut the supply line of the Moro secessionists,” said Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights.

Pimentel said the problem with the MILF will not end once the government tags the group as a terror group, arguing that the full force of the law should be brought to bear against the MILF leaders to demonstrate the government’s resolve in exacting justice for the killing of innocent civilians and soldiers.

New MOA, new negotiators

But the lawmakers agreed that the government should continue the dialogue with the MILF, fix the shortcomings and strengthen the peace process.

“The peace process is just like a marriage – we have to continue the dialogue,” said Gordon.

“Amid the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and the continuous debates on the botched MOA, it is important to prepare and educate those who would be involved in the peace process,” he added.

“We have to realize that at the end of the day, we are all Filipinos living in one country. And as far as I am concerned, there is only one homeland,” Gordon said.

Pangilinan and Roxas said the government must draft a new MOA and assign new negotiators if it were to continue talking peace with the MILF.

Sen. Edgardo Angara said those who negotiated with the MILF lacked transparency and consistency.

Roxas also stressed that there must be unconditional laying down of arms before renegotiations could resume.

“New negotiators – those who are better-versed in the tenets of consultative and pluralistic democracy – must be appointed,” he said.

Angara said the problem now was that the agreement was initialed before any feedback mechanism was established and thus it had become difficult for the government to pacify the MILF when the deal was not signed.

He said the government could wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the issue or withdraw from it ahead of a ruling.

Communist links

Gonzales yesterday said the intelligence community is looking into recent reports that the groups of MILF commanders Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar alias commander Bravo are receiving funding assistance from the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

“We are taking these reports seriously,” Gonzales said.

He said some of the reports were based on communications between these MILF groups and local NPA leaders and sources but he did not elaborate. He said the action of the NPA was apparently upon orders of top communist leaders.

The reports, if true, is “worrisome” since the combined efforts of the radical extremist groups could prolong and spread the fighting in Maguindanao province to other parts of Mindanao, Gonzales said.

The security adviser said the communist rebels are aware that they are not capable of launching large-scale attacks and hold villages, which the groups of Kato and Bravo are capable of carrying out.

Gonzales said the Department of National Defense is pushing for a parallel investigation into the possible diversion of foreign aid to the MILF to fund military operations through the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, however, said such diversion of foreign funding was not possible.

Dureza said the World Bank administers the foreign development assistance through the BDA.

“With their (World Bank) checks and balances, I really doubt if there is such diversion,” he said in a telephone interview.

He said the aid so far given by foreign donor groups is not so big and is only used for training and “capacity building.” He said the bulk of the development aid from foreign sources would come after the forging of a final peace agreement.

Common criminals

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said the recent MILF atrocities might be considered as acts of terrorism, but charging the rebels with violations on the Human Security Act (HSA) is not their primary concern at the moment.

In a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, Teodoro said security and law enforcement agencies of the government are presently concentrating on gathering evidence for criminal cases that were filed against Kato and Bravo.

“For me it falls under the non-legal or general definition of terrorism, but our Human Security Act has specific processes that need to be followed, and I think in the proper time that would be addressed,” he said.

But charging the MILF commanders under the HSA is something that is being looked into and studied by the Anti-Terrorism Council and other concerned government agencies, he clarified.

Teodoro earlier said the charges filed against Kato and Bravo already carry maximum penalties under existing laws on common crimes such as multiple murder, arson, and robbery.

“Tagging them as a terrorist group involves a very meticulous and tedious process, which lies on the basis of identifiable evidence which would identify specific participation of individuals, so that’s a very specific process and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, on the other hand, said a ceasefire is possible only if the MILF leadership surrenders the three rebel commanders who led the attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Surrender is a simple criterion for a ceasefire because if you do not take a position against these kinds of crimes, these murders and massacres against innocent civilians, you cannot claim to be a part of these talks,” Puno told reporters after inspecting the destroyed school and residences in Kolambugan town.

Puno said justice should be served first before any peace talks could proceed between the government and the MILF Central Committee.

Calls for peace and sobriety

In a related development, United Nations (UN) agencies in the Philippines, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), appealed yesterday for peace, calm and protection of all civilians as the conflict between government troops and the MILF in Mindanao continues.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), an inter-agency agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making involving UN agencies and their non-UN humanitarian partners, expressed serious concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Southern Philippines.

“It is with great concern that we witness the deteriorating humanitarian situation in various parts of Mindanao as a result of the recent upsurge in conflict. Many civilians have lost their lives and many more are at risk,” said the IASC in a press statement.

The United Nation World Food Program (WFP) will be providing 250 metric tons of rice worth $207,000 to another 10,000 newly displaced families (approximately 60,000 people) from the provinces of Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan for at least one month due to the growing insecurity brought about by continuing clashes.

As this developed, at least four civil society organizations from Mindanao have separately filed their interventions before the Supreme Court against the petitions of North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Pinol and others for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the MOA-AD.

Atty. Zainudin Malang, peace process analyst of the Bangsamoro Center for Law and Policy, identified the civil groups as the Muslim Legal Aid Foundation, Inc. (MUSIAF), Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), Consortium on Bangsamoro Civil Society, and the Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Justice.

MUSIAF, an organization of human rights lawyers who have been extending help to victims of conflict, filed their intervention on Aug. 14.

MPC, a tri-people conglomeration of 50 organizations advocating a negotiated resolution to Bangsamoro grievances, filed their intervention on Aug. 20.

The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, a large network made up of 100 affiliate NGOs and POs engaged in peace-building programs in the conflict affected areas of Mindanao. – With Aurea Calica, James Mananghaya, Paolo Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edu Punay, Sandy Araneta and Jose Rodel Clapano

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