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Explaining the Sustainability of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army

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Explaining the Sustainability of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army

Francis Domingo

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is confronted by a persistent communist insurgency, the origins of which date back to 1968, when the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced its loyalty to the Maoist precept of “people’s war” and mobilized its devoted military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). The CPP-NPA started with a small group of students and workers convened by Jose Maria Sison, a university lecturer who was profoundly influenced by the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism. The Third World fusion of peasant unrest and nationalism marked by a series of events in the 1960s such as the Vietnam War, the perceived inequities in the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, oppression resulting in social inequalities, the political radicalism that was sweeping university campuses around the world, and the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, further influenced the creation of the militant organization.

This paper argues that CPP-NPA has been able to sustain its activities for the past four decades due to the structural conditions in the Philippine society, particularly the prevalence of extreme poverty and lack of governance in the countryside. Moreover, the CPP-NPA’s steady recruitment pools, persistent ideology, resilient operational security, and reliable sources of money have enabled the organization to develop and expand its influence and operations to at least 1,000 barangays

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is confronted by a persistent communist insurgency, the origins of which date back to 1968, when the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced its loyalty to the Maoist precept of “people’s war” and mobilized its devoted military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). The CPP-NPA started with a small group of students and workers convened by Jose Maria Sison, a university lecturer who was profoundly influenced by the theoretical foundations of Marxism-Leninism. The Third World fusion of peasant unrest and nationalism marked by a series of events in the 1960s such as the Vietnam War, the perceived inequities in the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, oppression resulting in social inequalities, the political radicalism that was sweeping university campuses around the world, and the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, further influenced the creation of the militant organization.[1]

The CPP-NPA’s principal objective is “to replace the current economic and political order in the Philippines with a socialist system”[2] and its main function is “to wage a protracted people’s war to destroy the reactionary state power and the interventionist U.S. imperial forces, protect the people and advance their national and democratic interests.”[3] To achieve its objectives, the CPP-NPA utilizes all tactical means at its disposal: military struggle, mass mobilization, political lobbying, political subversion and International Solidarity Work (ISW) with other left-wing organizations. In addition, the CPP-NPA has announced its intention to engage in peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), although this initiative may have been occasioned by the NPA’s designation by the United States and the European Union in 2002 as a foreign terrorist organization.[4]

Intelligence estimates from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) indicate that the CPP-NPA is steadily losing its military strength. Current estimates reveal that the organization still around 4,000 cadres[5], a drastic decrease from its peak of 28,000 cadres in the mid-1980s. Although diminishing in numbers, the AFP still considers the CPP-NPA as the primary security threat against in the Philippines due to its capacity to operate nationally and its ability to infiltrate various state and private institutions.[6]

With this context, this research shows that CPP-NPA has been able to sustain its activities for the past four decades essentially because of the structural conditions in the Philippine society, particularly the prevalence of extreme poverty and lack of governance in the countryside. Moreover, the CPP-NPA’s steady recruitment pools, persistent ideology, resilient operational security, and reliable sources of money[7] has enabled the organization to develop and expand its influence and operations to at least 1,000 barangays (Philippine villages) and has access to some 5,694 firearms.[8]

Using a framework of analysis adopted from two studies by Kim Cragin and Sara Daly (RAND Corporation) and Cristina Brafman (Defense Analytics Corporation), this article uses four organizational factors (ideology, leadership, recruitment pools, and publicity)[9], seven operational factors (command and control, weapons, operational space, operation security, training, intelligence, and money)[10], and four external factors (geographic features, weak governance and prevalence of corruption, poverty and violence)[11] to analyze how the CCP-NPA sustains its operational activity.[12]

The data utilized in this study were culled from a combination of primary and secondary sources. While primary sources on the CPP-NPA were very limited and almost inaccessible, the author was able to conduct personal interviews with individuals formerly and currently associated with CPP-NPA. The study relied heavily on secondary sources including academic publications, media sources, reports from domestic and international organizations and institutes. Primary sources were utilized to corroborate the information presented by secondary sources in order to provide a more credible analysis regarding the CPP-NPA.

Survival of the CPP-NPA

The academic literature on the history and political dynamics of the CPP-NPA provides three perspectives on how the organization continues to operate. One perspective highlights the failure of the GRP to improve the socio-economic conditions in different parts of the Philippines as a major reason for the continued survival of the CPP-NPA.  The second perspective contends that the insurgency is fueled by political reasons, specifically the CPP-NPA’s objective of replacing the current economic and political structure in the Philippines with a socialist system. Lastly, a third perspective is offered by the former chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), Victor Corpuz.  Corpuz suggests that the inability of the AFP to effectively counter the operations of the CPP-NPA is the main reason why the CPP-NPA manages to sustain its operations.

A number of researchers that examined the communist insurgency, particularly Ocampo (1998), Abinales (2006), Ferrer (2007), and Osleson (2007), argue that the lack of effective and sincere governance around the country, which is mainly manifested  by absence of state institutions, the prevalence of widespread corruption, and the inequalities in the country’s political and social systems, are the major factors that contribute to the sustainability of the CPP-NPA. However, more studies indicate that the CPP-NPA insurgency is primarily sustained by political reasons more than other factors. Comprehensive studies presented by Jones (1989), Marks (1996), Weekly, (2001), and Caouette (2004) conclude that the CPP-NPA’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology has evolved into a “universal revolutionary thought” that continues to motivate and justify the activities of the CPP-NPA even after several decades.[13]

A third perspective is offered by Corpuz (1989) who posits that the reason the GRP has not defeated the CPP-NPA lies in the internal problems facing the AFP. Corpus argues that issues like the lack of unity of command, undisciplined troops and inappropriate deployment of troops significantly impede the success of AFP counterinsurgency operations around the country. He stresses that unless the AFP addresses its internal problems and creates a “holistic counterinsurgency strategy”, the CPP-NPA will continue to survive.[14]

Factors Affecting the Sustainability

The CPP-NPA has waged a protracted war against the GRP for nearly five decades. During these past years more than one hundred forty thousand militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed and millions of civilians have been displaced due to these seemingly endless militant activities.[15] To understand how the organization has survived, it is necessary to understand the factors that affect its sustainability.

Ideology

Originally established in 1930, the CPP advocated the universal theory of Marxism-Leninism integrated with the concrete conditions of Philippine society. The ideology raised the level of the Philippine Revolution to a new type of national-democratic revolution in the era of imperialism.[16] However, ideological and political differences between core CPP leaders led to the expulsion of key leaders and the re-establishment of the CPP in 1968.[17] This reorganization, which was led by current CPP Chairman Jose Maria Sison, triggered the creation of an influential ideology based on the combined principles of Marxist-Leninism and the thought of Mao Tse-tung.[18] The reorganization also redeveloped the CPP’s armed wing, the NPA, into a united force composed of old revolutionaries and new members.[19]

In his most significant opus entitled The Philippine Society and Revolution[20], Mr. Sison outlined what he thought to be the major ills of Philippine society (U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism) and the CPP’s plan of action (the people’s democratic revolution). Based on this plan, the CPP would seek to replace the ruling government with a socialist system by waging war in two fronts: a military struggle or protracted people’s war (PPW) which is executed by the NPA, and a political struggle or “national united front” which is implemented by the National Democratic Front (NDF), an alliance of different organizations under the influence of the CPP.[21]  While addressing the CPP-NPA’s military struggle is the prime focus of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)[22], the CPP’s political struggle appears to be a more insidious strategy, allowing the CPP to expose and highlight critical issues[23] that seek to discredit the GRP before the international community.

It was the oppressive social and political conditions during the early 1970s that triggered the rise of political radicalism in the Philippines. These conditions prompted thousands of Filipinos to adopt the CPP’s ideology as viable alternative to the ruling “reactionary dictatorship of the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists.”[24] While a number of national leaders have tried to introduce major political, economic, and social changes over the decades, CPP members claim that these changes never really improved the lives the Filipino masses. The same conditions – extreme poverty and weak governance – continue to plague the country and the past governments have not taken adequate measures to improve these conditions.[25] The CPP ideology continues to motivate its cadres to continue its armed struggle because its main advocacies are still relevant in today’s society. 

The CPP-NPA’s ideology provides an analytical foundation for a discussion on the dynamics between ideology, poverty and lack of governance. True, communism has been a misplaced ideology since the demise of Eastern European communist regimes, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.[26] However, the CPP-NPA continues to survive because of the oppressive structural conditions (extreme poverty and lack of governance) in the Philippine society. These conditions predominantly affect the basic or disadvantaged sectors in Philippine society[27] and even with the introduction of “poverty alleviation programs”, Filipino masses continue to wallow in utter poverty and failure of governance.[28]

In this context, the CPP-NPA’s slogan “to render service to the Filipino people” impels the masses to support and even join the organization because they do not believe that the GRP’s can still improve their lives.[29]  Furthermore, the GRP’s incapacity to provide a coherent and united national ideology gives the Filipino proletariat a reason to seek an alternative medium to express their sense of nationalism and pride. The CPP-NPA’s people’s democratic revolution fills in this ideological void and unless the GRP can effect significant changes in the countryside, the CPP-NPA will continue to wage its armed struggle even if it takes another four decades to attain total victory.[30]

Recruitment Pools

Given that mass support is one of the most essential factors in its sustainability, the CPP-NPA gives utmost priority to the development of reliable recruitment pools. During its peak, core CPP-NPA cadres were recruited from groups of left-wing student activists at the University of the Philippines and peasant rebel leaders from several provinces in Luzon.[31] Currently, people with similar backgrounds continue to join the CPP-NPA for ideological reasons, although social networks are now playing a more significant role in recruitment.[32] However, in contrast to militant Islamic organizations like the MILF, the social ties which the CPP-NPA develop are not usually blood-based and are focused more on the disadvantaged sectors in Philippine society. In reality, the families of recruits who join the CPP-NPA most often contest their decision because of fear for their own personal safety.[33]

Hence, the CPP-NPA’s rank-and-file members come from peasant backgrounds and are motivated not by ideology but by a sense of injustice. General sources of disgruntlement generally relate to land disputes, unjust acts of landlords and local authorities, abuses by government security forces, and various forms of economic inequity.[34] For the underprivileged and oppressed, the CPP-NPA not only acts as a practical alternative for addressing these problems, but also provides a way of earning a living as well as a potential channel to stimulate further social advancement. More than forceful intimidation, CPP-NPA cadres espouse this practical and empowering mindset, which has been the primary tact of the organization’s recruitment since it started four decades ago.[35]

Since cadres are the lifeblood of the organization, the CPP-NPA employs a persistent “vetting” process to ensure the loyalty and determination of its potential recruits. This vetting process is executed in three stages: spotting, social investigation, and actual participation. The spotting stage examines the political views and activities of a potential recruit through an initial discussion with undercover cadres.  This stage aims to establish the potential recruit’s ideological compatibility with CPP-NPA’s. Cadres engage in the social investigation stage to have a deeper understanding of the potential recruit’s background, including activities of family members and links to government employees or officials. This investigation seeks to determine if the potential recruit is a threat or liability to the organization. The last stage entails involvement in actual missions, which may include delivering coded messages to another base area to collecting revolutionary taxes from a large company.[36]

The CPP-NPA’s recruitment patterns are intrinsically related to its ideology and the structural problems of the Philippines society. As discussed previously, the ideology of the organizations attracts the core members or the intellectual members of the organizations while the structural conditions appeal to the majority or rank-and-file members of the organization.[37] The CPP-NPA continues to recruit new cadres from educational institutions because the organization’s empowering ideology provides a viable alternative for the lack of nationalism and corrupt political culture around the country. Hence, the CPP-NPA’s persistent goal of implementing a socialist system of government, where the state controls the distribution of wealth, remains an underlying motivation for idealistic and educated Filipinos to join the organization.[38]

The present structural problems of Philippine society continue to oppress majority of impoverished Filipinos living in rural areas around the country. The rural poor have constantly been a fertile recruitment pool for the CPP-NPA, which enables it to sustain the protracted struggle against a government that appears increasingly unwilling to alleviate these oppressive structural conditions.[39] The CPP-NPA has become the channel used by the rural peasantry to vet their hatred and pursue their violent strategy against the GRP. Unless the oppressive structural conditions in the Philippines are improved, people with ideological or practical motivations will continue to join the CPP-NPA.[40]

Operational Security

The CPP-NPA protects the integrity of its operations through practical operational security measures.[41] These measures are manifested in the organization’s structure and methods of expansion. The CPP-NPA has survived for the past decades due to its resilient organizational structure. The organization is organized into 87 guerilla fronts that are managed by 32 military commands deployed across the Philippines.[42] All of these fronts are positioned in CPP-NPA base areas, which are deeply entrenched in several barangays, covering more than two towns or provinces around the country.[43] Since the CPP-NPA employs a PPW strategy, the key factor for its success is a reliable, genuine, and widespread mass support. Mass support determines the effectiveness of the CPP-NPA’s operational security measures. The support of the masses transforms into a vital reserve of manpower and logistics for guerilla forces, an effective communication system between commands, superior combat intelligence network that enables the CPP-NPA to prepare for potential attacks[44] and most importantly, a “screen” that denies government security forces from gathering intelligence on the CPP-NPA’s capabilities and intentions.[45]

Apart from its resilient organizational structure, the CPP-NPA’s meticulous “expansion work” has allowed it to sustain its activities around the country for the past decades.[46] The CPP-NPA infiltration and control of local areas are undertaken in two phases: organizational work phase and mass work phase. The organizational work phase involves the implementation of initial groundwork of the expansion. CPP-NPA cadres develop initial contacts in barangays and task these contacts to assist cadres in developing new recruits, controlled revolutionary propaganda and security measures.  This initial group of cadres and contacts expands to other barangays in a series of “waves”.[47]

After obtaining initial support from the masses through its organizational work, the CPP-NPA cadres execute the mass work phase. This phase utilizes a wide-range of activities designed to win the hearts and minds of the local masses. Some these activities include social investigation, community-wide revolutionary propaganda, and personalized integration with the townspeople. The ultimate objective of these activities is to acquire the genuine support of the target area. The absence or lack of mass support will weaken CPP-NPA’s operational security measures, exposing its cadres to attacks from government forces, starvation, lack of reinforcement, and eventually annihilation. [48]

The CPP-NPA’s practical operational security measures are reinforced by favorable operational space and strategic geographic terrain. The CPP-NPA operates predominantly in provincial areas and maintains a limited presence in key cities around the Philippines.[49] Given this operational space, the CPP-NPA members rely largely on passive and active support from local communities that protect them.[50] Passive support is provided mainly by communities that are based in “guerilla zones” or surrounding areas that are not tightly controlled by the CPP-NPA.[51]  These communities lend support to the CPP-NPA by implementing a “culture of silence”, were they deny government security forces of any intelligence information.[52] Communities that are completely supportive of the CPP-NPA’s cause actively support the organization by offering real-time and tangible aid. These communities sacrifice their lives either by joining the organization or providing essential operational requirements including intelligence information, logistics, supplies and concealment.

In addition to a favorable operational space, strategic geographic features prevent government forces from easily accessing the organization’s base areas.  As mentioned earlier, the CPP-NPA is organized into several guerilla fronts that are located in provinces that are composed predominantly of rugged terrain and mountainous areas.[53] Due to these geographical conditions, government security forces, for example, have not been able to challenge the sizable CPP-NPA presence in Compostella Valley, Mindanao since the use of armored personnel carriers in this region is severely limited.[54] Moreover, the inaccessible geographical conditions where CPP-NPA base areas are situated hinder government security forces from acquiring much needed combat intelligence therefore diminishing the effectiveness of their operations.[55] Without sufficient combat intelligence, government security forces will not be able to overcome its main objective – to effectively consolidate control over CPP-NPA infiltrated areas.[56]

Money

The CPP-NPA would not have sustained their PPW for the past four decades without reliable sources of money. Government security agencies project that from 1987 to 2007 the CPP-NPA earned a total of PHP 7.22 billion or USD 144 million from various sources of funding.[57] The CPP-NPA raised this projected amount from two key resources: revolutionary taxes collected from the peasant masses, big and small businesses, and politicians around the country; funding provided by foreign funding agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[58]

The CPP-NPA considers revolutionary taxes as a legitimate form of payment for services (fighting for land reform, providing security from abusive security forces and developing livelihood projects) that the organization renders for the Filipino masses around the country.[59] Revolutionary taxes are collected through efficient CPP-NPA subversion and extortion activities. In some rural areas, barangays are required to submit a percentage of their internal revenue allotment to CPP-NPA commands controlling the area. In addition, well-off villagers are also required to pay a percentage of their annual income as well.[60]  Moreover, CPP-NPA cadres empower and recruit disgruntled employees in private companies[61] and use them to communicate the organization’s financial requirements. The CPP-NPA influences employees to denounce oppressive company policies and instigates violence to destabilize business operations if they do not provide satisfactory revolutionary tax.[62] During national and local elections, the CPP-NPA demands substantial “permit-to-campaign fees” or “campaign contributions” from politicians to allow them to operate in CPP-NPA controlled areas. If these demands are ignored, death threats are usually issued, followed by more direct violence.[63]

The CPP-NPA has been receiving an estimated annual income of PHP 260 million or USD 5.2 million from foreign funding agencies and NGOs. From this amount, thousands of dollars were donated by religious organizations such as the Australian Council of Churches and United Methodist Church of the United States during the past two decades, while more than a million dollars was collectively provided by other communist movements based in East Germany, Hungary, and Yugoslavia during the late 1980s.[64] Moreover, substantial funds are also raised by the CPP-NPA’s ISW activities. The CPP-NPA through its NDF generates funding from worldwide liberation movements and leftist groups through its ISW activities. When the NGOs under the NDF solicit funds for legitimate livelihood and development projects in the Philippines, majority of the funds (60%) are transferred to the CPP and only 40% of the funds are allotted to the actual project.[65]  The CPP-NPA’s reliable and secured access to money has allowed the organization to develop and sustain its activities for the past four decades. The CPP-NPA continues to collect millions of dollars from revolutionary taxes and NGOs.

The ability of the CPP-NPA to collect substantial amounts of money from various financial sources with evident impunity may be ascribed to the GRP’s insufficient and inept compliance with or non-observance of international standards of counterterrorism finance (CTF). CTF standards rate each country in terms of four aspects: legal frameworks to address terrorism financing; multidimensional approach in monitoring financial transactions; administrative structure to implement CTF policies; and the actual enforcement CTF policies.[66] While the Philippines has the legal framework to support CTF policies, it however has yet to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to CTF, and still lacks the administrative capacity to implement permanent CTF measures around its territories.[67]

While the Philippines has started implementing selective CTF policies since 2001, the US Department of State still considers it a “country of primary concern” in respect of money laundering and financial crimes.[68] Even with new CTF policies, the CPP-NPA’s resilience and creativity have enabled it to continue generate substantial funding from foreign and local sources due to the prevalence of widespread corruption and ineffective governance by the GRP vis-à-vis its compliance with CTF standards.[69]

Prevalence of Poverty

As mentioned earlier, massive and extreme poverty in the Philippines as manifested in the disparate distribution of wealth and control of natural resources is one of the root causes of the CPP-NPA’s armed struggle.[70] The goal of improving the socio-economic conditions of Filipino masses in numerous regions nationwide continues to be a motivating factor for CPP-NPA cadres to sustain their armed struggle against the GRP. While the present GRP still believes that underdevelopment is the root cause of the armed struggle, CPP Central Committee remains adamant that “It is rather the extremely oppressive and exploitative semicolonial and semifeudal system which causes underdevelopment that generates the armed struggle.”[71]

What appears to be the dismal failure of the GRP to alleviate poverty and improve the lives of the Filipino masses for the past four decades is chronicled in the recent poverty report released by the Philippine National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB). The NSCB Report shows that the size of poor population for all disadvantaged sectors of Philippine society has increased between 2003-2006.[72] The NSCB’s finding was also validated by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) latest Asian Development Outlook which reported that prior to the global economic downturn, poverty incidence in the Philippines already increased from 30% in 2003 to 32.9% in 2006.[73] Juxtaposed to these findings is the CPP-NPA’s observation that the implementation of the US “imperialist policies” such as “neoliberal globalization, liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization” has further exacerbated the current socio-economic conditions in the Philippines. These stark conditions and oppressive policies support the development and sustainability of the CPP-NPA because they add credibility to the organization’s objectives and increase its recruitment pools and sympathizers.[74]

The foregoing discussion shows the relationship between poverty as a factor that sustains the CPP-NPA and other factors such as ideology and lack of governance.  The extreme poverty that pervades a significant number of Filipino proletariat tend to support the Marxist-Leninism-Maoist ideology being advocated by the CPP-NPA to achieve its ultimate objective of replacing the current capitalist system with a socialist system where the state controls the distribution of goods, the means of production and provides equal access to resources.[75] For Filipinos who are part of the disadvantaged sectors of society, this socialist system is a promising alternative to the current oppressive capitalist system where 30% of the Filipino population lives under the poverty line.[76] Hence the CPP-NPA ideology still motivates people because successive governments have failed to improve the lives of the Filipino masses.[77]

Poverty is a direct result of lack of governance. According to ADB’s latest Asian Development Outlook, the prevalence of extreme poverty stems from the incapacity of the GRP to address several crucial socio-economic factors: high population growth rate and unemployment rate, corruption, inefficient government bureaucracy, and poor physical infrastructure.[78] These socio-economic factors comprise the underlying reasons that impelled the formation of the CPP-NPA four decades ago.  Regrettably, these problems continue to plague the country until now. In addition, the lack of governance which is manifested in GRP’s incapacity to deliver efficient law enforcement capabilities has spawned related significant issues such as abuse of those in authority and power, violations of human rights, inequity, corruption, and delays in the administration of justice.[79] These critical issues and other aspects related to the lack of governance to the sustainability of the CPP-NPA will be discussed in detail the succeeding paragraphs.

Lack of Governance

As in the case of the MILF, the lack of governance around the Philippines is one of the main factors that drives the armed struggle of the CPP-NPA. The continuous inability of the GRP to uplift the lives of Filipino masses is the main motivation for the development and sustainability of the CPP-NPA.[80] Fililipino workers and peasants based in the countryside remain committed to the advocacy and strategy of CPP-NPA because they believe that the organization can better address their socio-economic problems than the present ruling government.[81] Like the MILF, the CPP-NPA also considers the absence of state institutions and the prevalence of widespread corruption as manifestations of the lack governance in the country. More importantly, the CPP-NPA also considers the inequalities in the country’s political and social systems as significant manifestations of the lack of governance.[82]

The lack of governance is evident in the absence of effective government institutions in a significant number of rural areas in the Philippines. According to the latest Global Economic Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the absence of government institutions is one of the key problems affecting the country’s development.[83] The GRP’s inability to manage effective government institutions (especially in the countryside) has allowed the CPP-NPA to develop parallel political and military institutions. In areas where the CPP-NPA has developed a concentrated presence, it is seen as the only organization that can maintain order through its “Revolutionary Courts”.[84] In regions like Surigao Valley and Zamboanga del Norte where CPP-NPA has been able to completely displace the government[85], it has established itself as the only entity capable of providing critical public services (protection from government security forces, equal distribution of wealth, development of livelihood, and fighting for land reform).[86]

CPP-NPA also considers the prevalence of widespread corruption as another manifestation of the lack of governance in the country. The CCP-NPA asserts that continuous unchecked corrupt practices translate into the GRP’s abuse of power and violation of human rights. In a recent special issue of Ang Bayan,[87] the CPP Central Committee reports: “Acts of corruption include the bribery of Comelec officials to fake the votes for Arroyo and cohorts in the 2004 and 2007 elections, the cutting into all major business contracts requiring approval of public officials, overpricing of all government purchases and infrastructure projects, misuse of government loan guarantees.”[88]

Furthermore, the questionable human rights track record of the present government was highlighted in the findings of the Melo Commission Report[89]: “There is certainly evidence pointing the finger of suspicion at some elements and personalities in the armed forces, in particular General Palparan, as responsible for an undetermined number of killings, by allowing, tolerating, and even encouraging the killings.”[90] While the recommendations presented by the Commission appear to be effective, (as shown in the reduction of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances) Karapatan[91] maintains that there is “no significant shift in the internal security policy of the government” and that the present government’s commitment “to uphold human rights is “plain rhetoric and grandstanding, not a genuine pursuit of justice.”[92]

The third and most important manifestation of the lack of governance is the structural problems affecting the country. The CPP-NPA’s primary handbook, Philippine Society and Revolution, insists that US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism are three main problems of the Filipino people. While the book was written four decades ago, the arguments propounded by Sison still seem to be applicable in today’s society.

Although US military bases were dissolved more than a decade ago, the CPP-NPA maintains that US imperialism continues to prevail in the Philippines through the joint Philippine-American military exercises in Mindanao. While official objectives of these military exercises are limited to enhancing the operational capabilities of both Philippine and US military forces and implementing civil-military operations in Mindanao[93], yet, evidence gathered by media and other institutions have proven that the US military forces are in fact engaging in actual offensive military operations against militant groups in Mindanao. [94] While the joint military exercises do not directly represent manifestations of US Imperialism, it demonstrates the willingness of the present GRP to undermine the Philippine sovereignty at the expense of US interests.[95]

Indicia of feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism have characterized the Philippine economic system decades before the forming of CPP-NPA in 1968. At present, the landlords and bourgeoisie continue to dominate the political and social systems. Badges of feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism are vividly illustrated in the composition of the Philippine House of Representatives. During the last four congressional terms (1987-2004), an average of 60% of elected representatives belonged to the economic elite (landlords and big business owners).[96] Since the economic elite has control of almost all critical areas of the Philippine Congress (political parties, policy-making, appropriation of funds), crucial legislation like the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 has been tailored to protect the assets and interests of the economic elite.[97] Although the Party List System was introduced in 1998, the CPP-NPA believes that these measures are not enough, and that the lack of governance will only be addressed by sustaining the CPP-NPA’s strategies: PPW and the national united front.[98]

Conclusion

The main factor that sustains the CPP-NPA insurgency is the GRP’s failure to provide effective governance in the most destitute areas in the country.[99] The absence of reasonable structural conditions (effective government institutions, low poverty incidences, minimal corruption, respect for human rights and an egalitarian-driven social structure) has resulted to widespread oppression and neglect that continues to fuel the armed struggle of CPP-NPA. The other factors – ideology, recruitment pools, operational security, poverty and money – are all derived from the inability of the GRP to extend effective governance around the country.

Sincerely tackling the lack of governance by effecting programs and reforms that actually uplift the lives of the Filipino masses will permanently weaken the CPP-NPA insurgency. Consistently extending basic government services rural areas around the Philippines is a crucial strategy in countering the ideological propaganda and eliminating the recruitment base of the organization. The CPP-NPA’s main ideology, which espouses the establishment of a socialist system, will become irrelevant once the programs and reforms of the GRP improve the conditions in the rural areas. In addition, the improved living conditions in rural areas will influence the Filipino masses not to join the CPP-NPA, drastically reducing the organization’s recruitment pools.

There are several militant organizations that operate in the Philippines, however the CPP-NPA is the most relevant organization to examine because of its proven ability to learn and adapt to the changing security environment in the Philippines for the past decades. While the GRP has been persistent in searching for a practical resolution to the different armed conflicts around the country, it has yet to find appropriate strategies that will the CPP-NPA. Therefore, it is imperative that academic and government institutions continue studying the structure, activities and dynamics of the CPP-NPA in order to learn how the organization adapts and understand how to address the future challenges posed by the CPP-NPA.

End Notes

[1] Gregg R. Jones, Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1989),  pp. 5-6.

[2] Peter Chalk, Angel Rabasa and others The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment.(Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2009), p. 57.

[3] Alfredo B. Saulo, Communism in the Philippines: An Introduction (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2002),  228.

[4] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 57.

[5] Armed Forces of the Philippines, Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” (Quezon City: General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, 2010), p. 10

[6] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 58.

[7] Interview with CPP-NPA Political Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[8] Chalk, et. al.,The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 58.

[9] Cragin, Kim and Daly, Sara A. (2004). The Dynamic Terrorist Threat: An Assessment of Organization Motivations and Capabilities in a Changing World. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, pp. 25-26.

[10] Ibid, pp. 25-26

[11] Kittner, Cristiana C. Brafman. (2007). 'The Role of Safe Havens in Islamist Terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol.19, No.3, pp. 307 – 329.

[12] The term sustain or sustainability is defined as the ability to maintain the necessary level and duration of operational activity.  See Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2009).  Joint Publication 1-02 Department of Defense Dictionary of Associated Terms. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, p. 341

[13] Caouette, Dominique. (2004). Persevering Revolutionaries: Armed Struggle in the 21st Century, Exploring the Revolution of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, New York: Cornell University, pp. 588-489.

[14] Corpus, Silent War, pp. 137-181.

[15] Marshall, Andrew. (2007). The War with No End. Time Magazine. Accessed on 19 July 2009, available at: http://www.time.com and O’Neil, Maureen. (2008). Mindanao Armed Conflict Report 2008. Project Ploughshares. Accessed on 19 July 2009, available at: http://www.ploughshares.ca/

[16] Armando Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution (Manila: Aklat ng Bayan, 1970), 16 .

[17] Sison, Jose Maria. (1989). The Philippine Revolution: The Leaders View. New York: Taylor & Francis, pp. 41-46.

[18] Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, p. 32.

[19] Sison, The Philippine Revolution, p. 47.

[20] Sison wrote this book under the name Armando Guerrero.

[21] Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, Chapter 3; Ferrer, Miriam C. (2007). The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines. In Tan, Andrew T.H. A Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency in Southeast Asia. United Kingdom: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 407-414.

[22] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 64.

[23] Such as extrajudicial killings, violation of human rights, graft and corruption, electoral fraud.

[24] Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, pp. 96-97.

[25] Interview with CPP-NPA Political Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[26] Caouette, Dominique. (2004). Persevering Revolutionaries: Armed Struggle in the 21st Century, Exploring the Revolution of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, New York: Cornell University, p. 1.

[27] Philippine Law defines farmer-peasants, fisherfolks, workers in formal and informal sectors, indigenous people, women, senior citizens, victims of calamities, urban poor, cooperatives and NGOs as disadvantaged sectors or basic sectors in Philippine society.

[28] National Statistical Coordination Board. (2009). 2006 Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors. NSCB Website. Accessed on 27 July 2009, from: http://www.nscb.gov.ph.

[29] Interview with CPP-NPA Political Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[30] Espejos, Edwin G. (2008). 40 years and counting: The Communist movement in Mindanao. Newbreak Online. Accessed on 19 July 2009, available at: http://newsbreak.com.ph.

[31] Jones, Red Revolution, pp. 5-6.

[32] To sustain their declining ranks, CPP-NPA has also resorted to the recruiting of minors, targeting the student networks in colleges and universities around the Philippines. See Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. (2004). Child Solider Use 2003: A Briefing for the 4th UN Security Council: Open Debate on Children and Armed Conflict. London, United Kingdom. Retrieved on 18 August 2009, from: http://www.child-soldiers.org.

[33] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[34] Santos, Soliman M. (2005). Evolution of the Armed Conflict on the Communist Front. Quezon City: Human Development Network Foundation. Retrieved on 29 March 2009, from: www.hdn.org.ph, p. 2.

[35] Osleson, Jason T. (2007). Protected People’s War In The Philippines: A Persistent Communist Insurgency. Unpublished master’s dissertation, US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, United States, pp. 54-55.

[36] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[37] Marks, Thomas A. (1996). Maiost Insurgency Since Vietnam. London: Frank Cass & Co. Ltd., p. 144.

[38] Interview with CPP-NPA Political Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[39] Osleson, Protected People’s War In The Philippines, pp. 54-55.

[40] Interview with CPP-NPA Political Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[41] For a comprehensive discussion on the organizational and operational structure of the CPP-NPA see Marks, Maiost Insurgency Since Vietnam, pp. 99-105 and pp.154-167.

[42] CPP Information Bureau. (2009). List of NPA Commands. CPP-NPA Website. Accessed on 16 August 2009, from: http://www.philippinerevolution.net and Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 58.

[43] Corpus, Victor N. (1989). Silent War. Quezon City: VNC Enterprises, p. 33.

[44] Ibid, p. 39.

[45] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009

[46] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, p. 58.

[47] Corpus, Silent War, p. 38.

[48] Ibid, p. 33.

[49] U.S. Department of State. (2004). Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003. Retrieved on 28 October 2009, from: www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2003/, pp. 118-119.

[50] Bard E. O’neill, Insurgency & Terrorism, 2nd Edition.  (Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, 2005), 94-95.

[51] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Osleson, Jason T.   (2007). Protected People’s War In The Philippines: A Persistent Communist Insurgency. Unpublished master’s dissertation, US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, United States, p. 18 (note 38).

[54] Ibid, p. 65.

[55]Abisin, Bejay. (2003). Compostella Valley Encounter: NPA Guerrillas Outmaneuver Army Troopers, Inflict Heavy Casualties. Bulatlat Website. Accessed on 18 August 2009, available: http://www.bulatlat.com/news/3-22/3-22-compostela.html.

[56] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, pp. 143-144.

[57] Jennings, Matthew, Alcover, Jun, et. al. (2008). Atrocities and Lies: The Untold stories of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines: National Alliance for Democracy and Freedom Foundation, Inc., pp. 200-201.

[58] Ibid, pp. 187-188.

[59] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[60] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia.

[61] The CPP-NPA commonly collects revolutionary taxes from transport companies, large plantations and telecommunication firms.

[62] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[63] Chalk, et. al.,The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, pp. 60-62.  In 2007 alone, the CPP-NPA earned an estimated profit of PHP 19.40 million or USD 380,000 from political contributions. For an extensive discussion on the CPP-NPA’s financial cash flow see Jennings, Atrocities and Lies: The Untold stories of the Communist Party of the Philippines, chapter 6.

[64] Fisher, Richard D. (1988). A Strategy for Defeating Communist Insurgencies in the Philippines. Asian Studies Backgrounder # 84, The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved: 22 August 2009, from: http://www.heritage.org/ research/asiaandthepacific/asb84.cfm.

[65] Jennings, Atrocities and Lies, pp. 192-194.

[66] Croissant, Aurel and Barlow, Daniel. (2007). Terrorist Financing and Government Responses in Southeast Asia. In Giraldo, Jeanne and Trinkunas, Harold. Terrorism Financing and State Responses. California: Stanford University Press, p. 220.

[67] Ibid, pp. 213-219.

[68] US Department of State. (2009). International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume 2. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Retrieved on 22 August 2009, from http://www.state.gov, pp. 49-53.

[69] Croissant, Terrorist Financing and Government Responses in Southeast Asia, p. 224.

[70] Marks, Maiost Insurgency Since Vietnam, pp. 90-91.

[71] CCP Central Committee. (2009, March). Win greater victories in the people’s war. Ang Bayan. Special Issue, p. 5.

[72] National Statistical Coordination Board. (2009). 2006 Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors. NSCB Website. Accessed on 27 July 2009, from: http://www.nscb.gov.ph.

[73] Mendoza, Teresa. (2009). Philippine Economic Profile. In Lee, Jong-Wha. Asian Development Outlook. Mandaluyong City: Asian Development Bank, pp. 251-252.

[74] Marshall, Andrew. (2007). The War with No End. Time Magazine Online. Accessed on 19 July 2009, available at: http://www.time.com.

[75] Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, pp. 97-98.

[76] Virola, Romulo A. (2008). 2006 Official Poverty Statistics. Proceedings of NSCB Press              

Conference on 2006 Poverty Statistics. Philippine National Statistics Coordination Board. Accessed on 24 August 2009, from: http://www.nscb.gov.ph.

[77] Marshall, The War with No End.

[78] Mendoza, Teresa. (2009). Philippine Economic Profile. In Lee, Jong-Wha. Asian Development Outlook. Mandaluyong City: Asian Development Bank, pp. 251-252.

[79] Santos, Evolution of the Armed Conflict on the Communist Front, p. 2.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, pp. 60-61.

[82] Guerrero, Philippine Society and Revolution, pp. 67-68 and pp. 79-92.

[83] Schwab, Klaus and Porter Michael E. (2008). The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009. Switzerland: World Economic Forum. Retrieved on 25 August 2009, from: http://www2.weforum.org, pp. 276-277.

[84] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, pp. 60-61; For more details on the CPP-NPA’s methods of discipline see Saulo, Communism in the Philippines, pp. 229-230.

[85] Rabasa, Angel, Boraz, Steven, et. al. (2007). Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, p. 129.

[86] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009

[87] The official newsletter of the CPP Central Committee.

[88] CCP Central Committee. (2009, March). Win greater victories in the people’s war. Ang Bayan. Special Issue, pp. 6-7.

[89] The Melo Commission is an independent group of experts formed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to investigation the rampant killings of media workers and activists around the Philippines.

[90] Melo, Jose, et al. (2006). Repot on Media and Activist Killings. Mello Commission, (Manila: Office of the President).

[91] Karapatan is an alliance of human rights organizations committed to the defense of people’s rights and civil liberties in the Philippines.

[92] Hilao-Enriquez, Marie (2008). 2008 Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines. Quezon City: Karapatan. Retrieved on  6 August 2009, from: http://www.karapatan.org/resources/report, pp. 9-10.

[93] Docena, Herbert. (2008). Unconventional Warfare: Are US Special Forces Engaged in an “Offensive War” in the Philippines? In Abinales, Patricio N. and Quimpo, Nathan G. (eds.) The US and the War on Terror in the Philippines. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, pp. 59-61.

[94] The Philippine Constitution prohibits foreign military troops on Philippines, unless covered by a treaty that is concurred by the Philippine Senate.. For more on the legal objections to the US military deployment see Simbulan. Ronald. (2002). US Military Intervention in the Philippines: A New Phase. Proceedings of UP Forum on Balikatan Exercises.  University of the Philippines, Manila.

[95] Burgos, Arlene. (2003). Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison by Kyodo News. National Democratic Front Website. Accessed on 27 August 2009, from: http://www.ndfp.net.

[96] Colonel, Shiela, Chua, Yvonne, et. al. (2004). The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and We-Born Dominate the Congress. Quezon City, Philippines: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, pp.47-49.

[97] Ibid, pp. 40-41.

[98] Interview with CPP-NPA Operations Officer (disengaged), Metro Manila, 8 August 2009.

[99] Chalk, et. al.,The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, pp. 63-65.

 

About the Author(s)

Francis Domingo is a postgraduate student at the Department of Politics and International Relations of University of Reading. He was member of the faculty of International Studies at De La Salle University from 2010-2013. Prior to joining academia, he worked as military analyst with the Office of Strategic and Special Studies (OSS), Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Comments

Dayuhan

Fri, 10/04/2013 - 10:41pm

I agree with the premise that failure of governance is a primary driver of the NPA's longevity, but I'd caution against the belief that this can be addressed by extending government services. In my (fairly extensive) experience in the rural Philippines, it is not poverty and lack of services that drives people to rebel, but direct oppression and abuse, chiefly perpetrated by feudal elites that completely dominate political and economic life and are effectively above the law. People don't like poverty, but poverty alone does not inspire rebellion. Expectations of Government are typically very low, and lack of services alone also does not drive rebellion. What drives rebellion is the land-grabbing, harassment, and imposition of the will of the masters using coercive force, either in the form of personal militias or by using the coercive power of the state, which is often very closely connected with the local powers.

If the GRP seriously wants to resolve the governance deficit, trying to deliver services will not be sufficient. The edifice of impunity has to be broken, and the provincial elites have to be brought within the rule of law. That means dismantling the private militias, taking decisive action against military and police officers who cut side deals and use their resources to support the private programs of the rural elites, and determined prosecution for crimes already committed. The potential of the rural Philippines cannot be realized unless the feudal elites are brought to heel once and for all. There is no soft and cuddly way to do this, it will require confrontation and the will the use force.

The real challenge of reforming the rural Philippines is not bringing bandits and rebels within the rule of law, it's bringing the government within the rule of law. Do that, and the bandits and rebels will fade away.