Sison and the peace talks
JOMA SISON has been out of the Philippines for almost 30 years and has been living in the Netherlands in self-imposed exile. I have no idea how he supports himself and his coterie. If it is the Dutch government or Dutch NGOs that give him a pension, that’s their problem. If it is the Communist Party of the Philippines that supports him, it should start rethinking the 30-year burden on it that he represents. But whatever the case, it seems he has been living off others for the past 30 years. Who wants to be a sponge for that long?
Another Sison trait that one can question is the ease with which he changes positions. For example, from 1993 to the present, his (or his party’s) position has been that Ferdinand Marcos should not be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. It would be “a grave travesty of justice and monumental historical distortion tantamount to declaring hero a dictator who committed crimes against humanity.”
Yet, very recently, in support of President Duterte’s stand, he has stated, with a straight face, that he now favors the dictator’s burial in the heroes’ cemetery. Why? Because, he said, Marcos is not being buried as a hero, he is being buried as a former soldier. Or, alternatively, the cemetery is a cemetery of “reactionaries.” So, Marcos can be buried there.
Here’s another example. In one interview Sison praised Mr. Duterte for his strength of character, his political will, his commitment. Within weeks, that changed, in connection with Mr. Duterte’s lifting of the unilateral ceasefire that he had declared: Now, Mr. Duterte is too “volatile,” a hoodlum (“butangero”).
Another example, again in connection with the Marcos burial: Sison said the burial was being carried out by “the President of the reactionary government” (meaning Mr. Duterte, right?), while almost simultaneously, he was praising Mr. Duterte as a socialist and a progressive (after all, didn’t he just appoint three members of the Left or sympathizers of the CPP/NPA/NDF to his Cabinet?).
So how come, despite these negative attributes, Sison continues to exercise so much influence? About two years ago, Alex Padilla of the government’s peace panel already said that it seemed Sison was no longer in control of the CPP, the National Democratic Front (its political arm) and the New People’s Army (its armed wing). Why? Because he noticed that Sison would agree to one thing, and then would change his mind the next day, as if his position were being countermanded by the CPP/NPA/NDF on the ground. Is that why he is called “chief political consultant” of the NDF? What does that mean?
Which is why I was glad when I read that the Tiamsons (Benito and his wife, Wilma Austria), incarcerated since 2014, would be provisionally released (by order of the Supreme Court) and given safe-conduct passes to Oslo, Norway, for the peace talks there. Benito is chair of the CPP, and Wilma is its secretary-general. No one can countermand them. In fact, why don’t they hold the peace talks here, instead of in Oslo? They are the true representatives of the party, not Sison, who hasn’t set foot in the country for 30 years.
Another disturbing thing: It seems that the NDF has too much influence on the composition of the government panel. During the Aquino administration, Sison objected to the membership of Gen. Manny Bautista in the panel (because the latter was the architect of the ISP-Bayanihan, which is the military’s most successful program so far against the CPP/NPA). Apparently, he succeeded, because Bautista never became a member. Why is that? Isn’t it a fact that it is the military men whose lives are lost or endangered in the armed encounters—and yet their views are not considered, or other people talk for them? How can that be?
Then, too, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello is supposed to be a member of the government panel. Isn’t he one of the three Cabinet secretaries who are reported to be sympathizers or members of the NDF?
What effect will this have on our negotiations? It seems the cards will be stacked against the Filipino people. General Bautista is a soldier’s soldier, with great experience. Why not put him in the panel? His only drawback is that he is not from Davao.
Additionally, the sincerity of the CPP/NPA/NDF is still in question. Not only were they so slow-moving to declare a ceasefire in response to PDu30’s unilateral move, but also there is a controversy as to who attacked first in the July 27 military-NPA encounter that caused Mr. Duterte to lift the ceasefire.
Did the military subvert the President, or is it the NPA that took advantage? Let us analyze. From an intellectual point of view, who would benefit more if there was no ceasefire? Certainly not the military: The ceasefire gives the soldiers rest, and lifting it brings them back to fighting and dying. What about the NPA? The ceasefire would definitely put a stop to the rebels’ “revolutionary tax” activities, which take care of their resource needs. That is why they seem to want to hold off the ceasefire as long as possible, and are asking so much from the government in return.
From the practical point of view: Two of the militiamen in the encounter were hurt by an IED (improvised explosive device, a land mine). These IEDS take time to be planted. Which means that the action was premeditated by the NPA, which uses IEDs. Also, the Reader must know that these militiamen were auxiliaries—deployed only for security patrols, which are different from military combat operations that use the whole armory (which does not include IEDs).
Conclusion: The military is telling the truth. The CPP/NPA/NDF are lying. This does not augur well for the coming peace talks.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.