The Philippines has witnessed an increase in clashes between the government's armed forces and communist fighters while human rights monitors, progressive groups and labor organizers have faced a sharp increase in deadly attacks. The onslaught of repression marks a new stage in President Rodrigo Duterte's declared counter-revolutionary war that resumed following the government's unilateral termination of peace talks.
On Tuesday night, army personnel and air force commandos attacked a detachment of the communist New People's Army after police spotted fighters in Nasugbu, Batangas, south of the capital, Manila. According to the military and local media reports, the attacks claimed the lives of 14 combatants aligned with the clandestine Communist Party of the Philippines.
Fatalities included a suspected secretary and a platoon leader of the guerrilla unit, officials claim. One of two wounded rebels who was captured died in hospital. Five members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines sustained injuries, according to the officials.
For nearly 50 years, the NPA has been waging a prolonged revolutionary insurgency against what it sees as successive Philippine governments that serve the interests of U.S. imperialism rather than poor people and Indigenous communities in resource-rich rural areas.
On Wednesday, Duterte said that he was actively preparing the executive order to designate the CPP as a terrorist group.
“I am preparing now. They are preparing an executive order declaring them terrorists and they will be afforded treatment of being criminals,” Duterte said in a speech in Sual, Pangasinan.
Duterte, who took power last year, ran on a campaign of peace with the communists as well as with Muslim fighters in Mindanao. However, the mercurial leader and confessed fentanyl abuser has proved highly erratic in the course of his relations with the powerful Philippine communists and legal left-wing mass movements.
Duterte signed Proclamation 360 ending peace talks with the communists last week after complaining that rebel violence had continued during the negotiations, citing, in particular, the killing of a four-month-old child who was unintentionally killed during an NPA ambush on a police car. Following the incident, the Maoist guerillas promptly issued a statement expressing condolences for the child's death along with a pledge to take measures to account for the civilian fatality.
In a statement released over the weekend, the Party's central committee accused Duterte of breaking off negotiations in a bid to liquidate opposition to his increasingly violent policies, including the imposition of martial law in the southern island of Mindanao and his deadly police campaign that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of small-scale drug-peddlers and addicts, according to human rights group Karapatan.
“Duterte terminated peace talks amid the rising protest movement against rampant killings in his so-called war against drugs, political killings against activists, widespread death and destruction in the Marawi Siege, aerial bombings, shelling, militarization and all-out war in the countryside,” the CPP said.
On Tuesday, members of a human rights fact-finding mission in Negros Oriental also came under fire from unidentified men in an attack that claimed the lives of Elisa Badayos, the regional coordinator for Karapatan, and peasant organizer Eleuterio Moises. The attack follows a string of mysterious killings of progressive and rural poor peoples' association organizers and activists following Duterte's issuance of Proclamation 360.
“The attack on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless. The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime. Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organizations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to outrightly kill those who dare to question,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
According to Karapatan, 98 politically-related extrajudicial killings and over a thousand illegal arrests from July 2016 to Sept. 2017, plus tens of thousands killed in the name of the war on drugs
Palabay added that “the space for human rights defenders is fast shrinking, as the Duterte regime is finding more and more ways to cripple defenders on the ground who voice out the real situation experienced by marginalized communities victimized by militarization, landgrabbing, and other forms of repression and oppression.”
Such attacks will only force above-ground militant organizers and members of the country's legal left to take up arms alongside the New People's Army, according to Jose Maria Sison. The exiled founding chairman of the CPP is currently the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines or NDFP base in the Netherlands.
“The legal democratic forces and broad opposition have no choice but to develop the underground and encourage endangered activists to become fighters in the people´s army,” said Professor Sison.
The exiled revolutionary also expressed his disgust at the malice, shamelessness, and bloodlust of Duterte, slamming his move to outlaw the members and sympathizers of the CPP-NPA-NDFP as terrorists, “and even such legal patriotic and progressive organizations as BAYAN and its affiliates.”
Duterte Is a Big Liar
Accusing Duterte of serving his masters in the United States, Sison added that the president “expects to wipe out through arbitrary arrests, torture, indefinite detention and massacre of suspected revolutionaries and legal social activists both the armed revolutionary movement and the legal democratic movement, in order to set up a fascist dictatorship in the service of U.S. imperialism and his fellow oligarchs among the big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats.”
Meanwhile, a statement by the CPP Central Committee appealing to the Filipino people to overthrow the “U.S.-Duterte fascist regime” has continued to broadly circulate across social networks, both online and on the ground.
“Every Party member and organization must prepare to engage the Duterte regime in intense battles, accelerate and amplify efforts to organize the people and lead them in waging anti-fascist, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist struggles,” the statement says.
“The national democratic forces must arouse, organize and mobilize the biggest number of people and help build the broadest possible united front in order to isolate, confront and oust the fascist regime.
“The Party must lead the New People’s Army in intensifying the revolutionary armed struggle nationwide. The NPA must continue to wage and intensify guerrilla warfare nationwide in order to inflict powerful blows against Duterte’s fascist machinery.
“By waging nationwide armed and non-armed forms of struggle, the Filipino people will surely prevail over the U.S.-Duterte regime’s fascist schemes.”