I have known some graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) whom I consider brilliant, including some classmates and faculty colleagues at the Asian Institute of Management. But the spokesman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), General Antonio Parlade, reminds me of a joke that military intelligence is an oxymoron. He is almost a caricature of the concept. Especially when he described idealist Patricia Non’s pioneering community pantry project in Maginhawa, Quezon City as satanic. Providing food for the needy through these community pantries, he has claimed, is communist propaganda. An accusation that Patricia Non and her many cooperators have of course denied.
How did we come to this? As far as I know, communism is no longer illegal in our country. However, this regime seems to have shifted its targeted enemy from being the users or dealers of illegal drugs to being “red.” I guess it has given up on the earlier bloody war as unwinnable.
If the enemy is communism, then why is our President so obsequious toward the world’s top communist leader, Xi Jinping? China is not only an ideological foe, it is actually trampling on our sovereign territories, claiming these as their own, despite the UN Arbitral Tribunal’s declaration of China’s claims as false. China is truly an enemy of our State.
The post-EDSA Constitution of 1987 was to have liberated our political environment to allow for freedom of beliefs and of speech from left to right, so long as no laws are violated. The party-list system enables various ideological persuasions to participate in shaping our government’s policies. We are supposed to have returned to a liberal democracy governed by the rule of law, and no longer of man (as in the deposed Marcos dictatorship).
Why does it feel more and more today like paranoid authoritarianism?
A PMA roommate of Parlade’s describes him as an outstanding officer who is very “focused” and “righteous.” It seems to me that he actually has tunnel vision and is dangerously judgmental. Of course, Parlade has been officially “gagged” by NTF-ELCAC Vice-Chair Hermogenes Esperon, following profuse public complaints about Parlade’s vocal paranoia. But the officer is still in his spokesman post, despite the issue raised by Senator Franklin Drilon that Parlade is occupying a post reserved for civilians. It is interesting to note that the NTF-ELCAC chair happens to be no less than President Rodrigo himself. Go figure.
When my old friend, the late Horacio “Boy” Morales, then chairman of the leftist National Democratic Front was hiding in my house during the Marcos regime, he made a remark that I find meaningful today. “When you no longer have the support of the people,” he said, “that means your politics is wrong.”
The Communist Party of the Philippines, it seems to me, no longer has the support of the people that it had during the Marcos era. Its ideological leaders live far away in Denmark. Jose Maria Sison’s little red book, which I scanned ages ago, did provide an enlightened analysis of the ills of Philippine Society that probably has changed little. There is plenty of reason for discontent among our people, the majority of whom are living below the poverty line, and about a third of whom experience periodic involuntary hunger. The gap between the rich and the poor in terms of income and lifestyle is probably the greatest on the planet. We have some families listed by Forbes magazine among the wealthiest on earth. There is indeed enough reason to see that the system is wrong, and to hope or wish for alternatives.
Granting for the sake of argument that there are leftists who are in the parliamentary struggle, then why is that bad? Shouldn’t that be encouraged, or at least tolerated as an alternative to the armed struggle of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army? Leftists are allowed to participate publicly in European elections. Some of the happiest people on earth live in the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. And many socialist or “leftist” policies have brought about free education, healthcare and unemployment insurance for all citizens. There seems to be little obscene display of wealth. No wonder they are happy.
Since China has become a good friend of our government today, I doubt that they would be providing support to the Communist Party here. I doubt that the NPA rebels are motivated by Marxist ideologies. The majority are probably just powerless, discontented, and jobless; and welcome the opportunity to belong to an organized rebel group and carry a gun. I suspect that in order to support themselves, they have become plain bandits, and their local leaders extortionists who collect protection money from mining firms and other big businesses that need to be on their good side. And, yes, with these abuses, they no longer have the support of the people.
It is these illegal activities that the government through its military should go after. Espousing leftist and/or nationalist positions in political and public life should be encouraged, or at least tolerated. The system is plain rotten. It makes sense to raise issues against injustice and social and economic inequities. And you don’t have to be a “dirty” communist to do these.
The military needs to have a radical reorientation on who the enemy really is. It is certainly not the ordinary housewives who merely want to help their neighbors in need. Remember the legend of the Good Samaritan? Aren’t we glad that Patricia Non’s initiative is being replicated around the country? We are really such a kind people.
Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and Fellow of the Development Academy of the Philippines.