Sunday, January 22, 2006

Resurgent insurgency

This story was taken from

Resurgent insurgency
First posted 01:12am (Mla time) Jan 21, 2006

EVEN AS the Armed Forces of the Philippines can't seem to shake off the monsters haunting the organization -- corruption, political meddling, restiveness in its ranks (the Magdalo mutiny is only one manifestation), among other things -- the New People's Army seems to be quickly regaining lost ground.

Only last Jan. 15, communist guerrillas raided the provincial jail in Batangas City to spring nine of their comrades in what was, perhaps, the most daring, brazen and well-planned NPA attack in recent years. The rebels, wearing military uniforms, pretended they were on a mission to turn over two prisoners and arrived at the provincial jail on board several vehicles, one of which bore a government plate. On the same day, NPA rebels ambushed a military convoy in Motiong, Samar, killing four soldiers and wounding eight others. Earlier on Jan. 6, rebels took over the police station in Albuera, Leyte, and carted away 30 firearms. In a separate attack launched that day, the guerrillas killed five policemen and three civilians in Claveria, Masbate. Last Jan. 2, armed men believed to be NPA rebels killed the police chief of Matnog, Sorsogon, and two other persons.

The January attacks are apparently a continuation of the NPA offensive that started after the Arroyo administration suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (Jasig) in August 2005, following the Communist Party of the Philippines' (CPP's) refusal to resume peace negotiations. NPA spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal has boasted in an interview that the communists have initiated more than 200 attacks since then. Most of the attacks took the form of ambuscades of security forces and raids on military detachments or camps, paramilitary outposts and police
stations, a number of them staged almost simultaneously or within hours of each other, albeit in different places.

The NPA attacks are worth noting not only because they are coming with greater frequency and with increasing boldness but also because they seem to indicate the rebel forces' growing strength and the wider popular support they are getting. Rosal has boasted that the latest attacks "were mere curtain raisers," and vowed that "more solid blows will be dealt upon the fascist forces to heighten the fall of the despotic US-Arroyo regime."

Rosal explains the Maoist insurgency's newfound strength by saying their guerrilla fronts have "mastered the strategy of consolidating forces to successfully carry out the desired goal in tactical offensives ... a plus factor to their growing strength and combat capabilities."

Such mastery, if indeed the communist militants have achieved it, may have greatly improved the success rate of NPA attacks. But the government would be better served if it looked elsewhere to find out from where the NPA's renewed energy springs. Rosal says one factor that has helped ensure "successful guerrilla offensives" is the widespread support of the masses. But why would the masses be drawn to an ideology that has been discredited by the decline and fall of the Soviet Union, by China's -- and more recently Vietnam's -- increasingly successful experiment with capitalism, by recurring famines in North Korea, by supply shortages in Cuba, and most painfully, by the "killing fields" that Pol Pot created in communist Cambodia in the 1970s and by the CPP-NPA's own bloody purge of its ranks in the 1980s? Why would the masses side with "enemies of the state," when the government says it has cleared the runaway of obstructions and the economy is ready for takeoff?

Could it be that the Filipino masses have not heard or do not appreciate what their government is doing for them? Or is it because, despite the administration's frequent reaffirmation of its intention to improve their lot, a growing number of Filipinos remain poor and hungry?

Widespread poverty is bad enough. What makes the situation worse is continuing government neglect and inadequate basic social services, coupled with military abuses and violations of the human rights of ordinary citizens. If the resurgence of the communist insurgency is anything to go by, then we may be back to where we were during the final years of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. That was the time when the government earned the well-deserved reputation as the principal recruiter for the NPA.

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