The U.S.-directed Duterte regime has obtained from its rubber-stamp Congress the further extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao to the end of 2018. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People's Army (NPA) are identified as the main target, clearly indicating that the entire Philippines will soon be placed under martial rule.
The gross and systematic violation of human rights in Mindanao will certainly escalate. As the unnecessary and egregious martial rule by Duterte expand nationwides, violations of people's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights will surpass the rate and proportions of martial rule under the fascist Marcos dictatorship. Duterte chose to label the CPP and NPA as "terrorist," imposing martial law and his fascist dictatorship at exactly the same time that the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were advancing at a rapid rate.
The notoriety of Duterte as No. 1 terrorist and butcher of the Filipino people is already well-established, secured on the basis of the mass murder of more than 14,000 suspected users and pushers of illegal drugs in impoverished communities; the destruction of Marawi and death of many of its citizens, and the growing number of assassinations of legal leaders and activists of organizations of workers, peasants, fishermen, youth, women, indigenous people, church people and advocates of human rights and peace.
The objective of the U.S.-Duterte regime is to destroy the CPP and NPA before the end of 2018 by first concentrating attacks on the guerrilla fronts in Mindanao, and then on the guerrilla fronts in Luzon and the Visayas, upon the expansion of martial law nationwide. The regime overestimates the capability of its total armed strength of 170,000 in an archipelago of 115,000 square miles. It exaggerates the psychological impact of terror tactics under martial rule and the effectiveness of U.S. indoctrination, training and equipment.
In comparison to the resources available to Marcos in 1972, Duterte has much less in an underdeveloped, agrarian and semi-feudal economy that is far more crisis-stricken than ever before. Under a continuing neoliberal policy, the economy has become far more dependent on the export of raw materials, semi-manufactures and cheap labor; on the import of basic goods and manufactures for consumption, and on an ever-rising level of foreign debt and taxation to cover trade and budgetary deficits. GDP growth is supposed to be high at 6.9 percent, but most of this goes to the few big compradors and foreign investors, while the working people suffer low incomes, mass unemployment and poverty.
What makes Duterte even weaker as a puppet president of the United States is his total failure in his war on illegal drugs, with the number of addicts rising from 1.8 million in the time of Aquino to more than 4 million now. Worst of all, the truth has come out that he himself is a fentanyl addict and that his close relatives and friends are the main smugglers and distributors of illegal drugs. His promise to get rid of corruption has been exposed as false because it is now absolutely clear that his presidential campaign was funded and assisted by the biggest plunderers, such as the Marcoses, Arroyos, Estradas and the Eduardo side of the Cojuangcos.
The United States is now using Duterte in the vain hope that he can destroy the CPP and NPA, and junk the 1987 Constitution, under the pretext of setting up a federal form of government under his overcentralized unitary dictatorship on top of regional ruling families of big compradors and landlords, in order to do away with the ban on foreign military bases and restrictions on foreign investments. Duterte is a disposable tool of the United States for violating national sovereignty and territorial integrity, national patrimony and economic sovereignty. Like Marcos, he can be ousted by the people through the convergence of various political forces in a broad united front.
The Duterte regime has no moral or political standing whatsoever to claim that it represents the rights and interests of the people. It is already discredited, and will become far more discredited by engaging in the terror tactics already announced by Defense Secretary Lorenzana. These tactics include the mass arrest of legal democratic forces and opposition parties; extortions from businessmen outside of its control; the monopoly of business privileges, and mass murders and political assassinations of suspected revolutionaries or mere dissenters.
When Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, the NPA had only a few guerrilla zones (not yet the size of guerrilla fronts consisting of bases and zones) concentrated in Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Tarlac and Pampanga provinces. Thanks to Marcos and his martial rule, his terror tactics and flagrant human-rights violations drove the patriotic and progressive mass organizations and thousands of activists underground for deployment in the countryside for armed struggle. As in the time of Marcos, the battle cry of the revolutionaries today is: 'People's war is the answer to martial law!'
Military officers of the AFP who are patriotic and progressive are seriously concerned that Duterte is misusing the AFP and PNP, as if these were his personal armies. They are critical of the promotion of officers on the basis of their friendship and personal loyalty to Duterte, but they are most aghast by his termination of peace negotiations between the GRP and NDFP. This happened exactly as their respective panels were about to meet for the fifth round of formal talks in Oslo and sign the drafts of the general amnesty of political prisoners, the coordinated unilateral ceasefires and Parts I and II of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development).
They are worried that Duterte is practically forcing the CPP and NPA to fight back under conditions favorable to them. They are alarmed that the NPA is frequently launching tactical offensives from more than 100 guerrilla fronts on a nationwide scale. Each guerrilla front is usually as large as a district of several municipalities. It carries at various levels the party organizations, the various types of underground mass organizations, NPA units, people's militia, self-defense units and organs of political power. When a guerrilla front is under encirclement and concentrated enemy attack, it is directly and indirectly assisted by other guerrilla fronts.
According to CPP publications, as a result of the Second National Congress of the CPP, the party cadres and Red commanders of NPA companies who are battle-tested and have been successful in operations share their experiences and skills in politico-military training with less experienced NPA units. The victories of the NPA in Mindanao in countering enemy campaigns of encirclement with campaigns of counter-encirclement by one or several guerrilla fronts are well disseminated and utilized in training and in widespread application. The guerrilla forces are now more ready than ever to coordinate, under general guidelines, at the level of the biggest islands (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao), regions, provinces and guerrilla fronts.
The Duterte regime and its military planners intend to use terror tactics similar to those used in the U.S. conquest of the Philippines from 1899 onwards; Operation Phoenix in Vietnam in the 1960s; various oplans under the Marcos fascist regime, and Oplan Bantay Laya I and II in the Philippines from 2001. They plan to unleash the most brutal methods to uncover and destroy cadres and members of rural and urban organizations, and to cut off the links between urban and rural revolutionary forces. Duterte himself has already ranted that he would enjoy ordering his minions to kill, kill and kill.
According to CPP and NPA publications, the NPA units can fight and defeat their enemy by seizing the initiative in a war of fluid movement, involving major tactics of concentration, dispersal and shifting according to circumstances. In close to five decades, they have waged extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever-widening and deepening mass base. They can deliver annihilative blows where their enemy do not expect them. And they can use both annihilative and attritive tactics in order to force the enemy into a defensive mode or guard duties. Some AFP officers have expressed fear that the CPP and NPA are poised to launch tactical offensives against not only the AFP, PNP and auxiliary units, but also the die-hard and corrupt political agents and business associates of the Duterte ruling clique.
Duterte has been boasting of acquiring the latest sophisticated weapons from the United States and other countries. He seems not to know that the guerrilla forces make fun of planes and attack helicopters because they make noise to announce their coming. Any new type of firearms carried by his troops fall soon enough into the hands of the NPA. Thus, such ruffians as Marcos and Duterte are called 'transport officers' of the NPA, aside from being 'recruitment officers.' Military trucks and armored carriers are noticeable from the time they leave military camp and approach from a distance their target areas. They are vulnerable to mines and other explosive devices.
The Duterte regime is confronted not only by the NPA, but also by a broad united front. It cannot violate human rights without being exposed and opposed by respected institutions, including the professional associations, churches, the press, U.N. agencies and the International Red Cross. The anti-Duterte sections of the AFP and PNP are expected to spearhead the withdrawal of support from Duterte and coordinate with the growing mass movement in order to overthrow him in the same way that Marcos and Estrada were overthrown. In such an eventuality, the CPP and NPA would be happy with the limitation of bloodshed and with the resumption of peace negotiations between NDFP and GRP under a new president or a transitory people's commission.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison is Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.