If one were to believe the daily drivel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the New People’s Army (NPA) has long been decimated. Thousands have supposedly “surrendered” and “returned to the folds of the law.” It claims that guerrilla fronts have been crushed and the rest of the NPA units are paralyzed. It proclaims that the NPA no longer has people’s support because towns and villages have declared it “persona non grata.” It boasts that people now enjoy a comfortable life because basic services are now being delivered into “NPA lairs.” It brags about development projects and eradicating hunger and poverty. These purportedly portray the victory of Oplan Kapanatagan, which is an extension of Oplan Kapayapaan and patterned after the “whole-of-nation” US counterinsurgency doctrine.
All these are illusions fabricated by Rodrigo Duterte and the AFP. They lie about the number of “surrenderees” that has surpassed their estimated number of Red fighters. Most of them are peasants and minorities forced to raise their hands after being deceived or coerced by soldiers operating in their villages. Not even a percent of those paraded are true Red fighters who were captured or who surrendered. By claiming such a big number of “surrenderees”, Duterte and the AFP are inadvertently proving how the NPA enjoys the deep and wide support of the people in the countryside.
The social services and development projects bragged about by the AFP is a bigger illusion. Where are these services much needed by the people? Where are the irrigation systems, the drying facilities for palay and corn, and other projects beneficial to millions of peasants and minorities? What they offer are substandard housing units for peasants who, after “surrendering,” are coerced to leave their villages. A television set was donated to residents of Lianga in Surigao. A day or two of medical and dental mission, free haircuts, and other gimmickry are conducted by the reactionary government while abandoning public health and other social services. Such programs have long been carried out by local governments but these are now being taken over by the AFP.
The oppressed masses, especially in the countryside, have no illusion about these lies. From their perspective, there is nothing new in the AFP. They are still the armed goons who camp in the middle of their villages and intimidate people. It is the same battalions scouring the mountains and farms in “clearing operations” and disrupting the people’s livelihood. They are the same soldiers who set up a network of detachments to guard large energy projects, commercial plantations and construction companies. Their large combat operations, supported by artillery, aerial bombing and strafing, are the reason why people have left their communities.
Duterte continues to build up the number of troops and weapons of the AFP and its paramilitary in order to intensify its war of suppression. Duterte brags about creating 10 more battalions and one new division, as well as the Brigade Combat Team established in line with US plan. AFP units are also mounting numerous sustained and focused military operations wasting the people’s money. In Mindanao alone, the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command reported launching 128,000 small and big military operations in four regions from June 2017 to August 2018. To sustain these operations, the AFP asks for bigger and bigger budget allocation. The AFP and PNP is Duterte’s priority in the budget.
To satiate the greed of his corrupt generals, Duterte is shamelessly begging from the US for arms, funds and other materiél for the “modernization” program of the AFP. He is also approaching Russia and China pretending to look for alternatives but only with the aim of making the US “insecure” about its alliance with the Philippines in order to “force” it to pour in more funds and brand-new weapons.
Duterte is hallucinating that his AFP can crush the NPA. This will not happen because the AFP is weak and rotten to the core. It is a puppet army that was established, funded and armed by the US. It is ridiculous that its adviser in counterinsurgency matters is the US, a country which has failed to crush even a guerrilla force in more than half a century of wars of intervention around the world (from Vietnam to Afghanistan).
The AFP’s nature, direction and structure is aligned with the interests and needs of the US. It is an army used by the US to suppress the aspirations of the people for national liberation and strengthen US domination in the country. The US establishes and trains AFP units such as the 1st Light Reaction Regiment, two Brigade Combat Teams and other units (Aviation Regiment, Artillery Regiment and others) for its “counterterrorism” and “counterinsurgency” campaign and in order to absorb its second-hand air vehicles and artillery.
The AFP is riddled with corruption, anomalies and intense internal contradictions. The AFP is divided among rival reactionary factions. Its generals scramble funds, resources and privileges to fund their luxurious lifestyle and vices. They race to pocket funds at all levels of the bureaucracy—from pension funds of retired soldiers to salaries of CAFGU forces. They are involved, if not themselves lead, the biggest and most violent criminal syndicates.
The AFP does not have the Filipino people’s support. Moreover, it is detested by the people. The people have long suffered from its brutalities. They cannot forget the grave abuses under the US-Marcos dictatorship and fascist crimes perpetrated in the past three decades. They know how Duterte is surpassing this violence. The AFP, and no other, is the real persona non grata in peasant and minority communities and villages.
While the regime is bolstering the AFP and unleashing its units in the countryside, its list of rights abuses continue to grow longer. The more troops, the worse crime and abuses. They are merely stoking the people’s anger and pushing them to further support and help the people’s army. The toiling masses and intellectuals continue to join the NPA in numbers because of intense persecution, suppression and threats. Duterte is now the number one recruiter of the NPA in the countryside.
The Party continues to expand and strengthen the NPA across the country. Despite large and all-out AFP offensives, the NPA continues to persevere and preserve its strength. It can never be crushed by the enemy because it has deep and wide support of the masses and because it is adept at employing guerrilla tactics.
The illusions woven by Duterte and the AFP will soon be shattered. As the AFP’s war against the people continues and escalates, the more intense the people’s aspirations become to end the fascist brutalities of the Duterte regime. However brutal the AFP’s oppression is, it cannot stop the people’s anger from exploding nor will it prevent the advancement of the armed struggle across the country.