There are no more reasons for Lorraine Badoy and former general Antonio Parlade to scare the public about the Communist menace. These two rabid anti-communist mouthpieces have been arbitrarily linking political and show business personalities to the Maoist-led guerrillas without any sound basis.
They screamed and panicked as if the Communists were about to overthrow the government when the real situation was really
very far from the scenario they were trying to picture.
Maoist-led guerilla activities have gone down and mass actions in urban centers led by left-leaning organizations could not muster enough numbers similar to what happened during the iron-fisted Marcos regime.
But Badoy and Parlade would want to bring back the memories of the 1950s when former US senator Joseph McCarthy was on a rampage, accusing people of links to the Communists at a time when the Cold War was starting at the end of the Second World War.
At that time, the old Soviet Union was rapidly expanding its influence in Eastern Europe and Communist China helped North Korea when it tried to invade Seoul in the 1950s.
In the 1970s, the Communist menace was real in Southeast Asia and several states fell like dominoes, like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, but the Reds were stopped from marching in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
At that time, University of the Philippines professor Jose Maria Sison revived the Communist Party of the Philippines more than a decade after the agrarian-based Hukbalahap rebellion was quelled by former president Ramon Magsaysay in the 1950s.
The Communist insurgency grew bigger during dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ repressive and corrupt regime from 1972 to 1986. Just before he was removed from power in a near-bloodless popular uprising in February 1986, the military said the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels had a guerrilla force of nearly 26,000.
The communist insurgency affected at least 20 percent of the country’s 42,000 villages or barangays. The New People’s Army rebels were operating and engaging the military in large company-size formations in some provinces, like Samar, Davao, Quezon, and Negros Occidental.
Trained urban hit squads, called Sparrow Units, roamed freely in Metro Manila and Davao City that many police officers refused to wear uniforms when off-duty.
But that was a generation ago. After Marcos was removed, succeeding governments, from that of the late Corazon Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte, succeeded in pushing back the Communist insurgency through a combination of the government’s left and right hand approaches of intensified military operations and development approaches to drain the pond of water that breeds insurgents.
After Duterte stepped down from power in June 2022, one could not simply understand why Badoy and Parlade continued hyping the anti-communist rhetoric. The government was clearly winning against the insurgents as the military made vast improvements in its fighting capability against the NPA rebels.
It has better battlefield awareness through drones and other intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment. It also has modern helicopters and fixed-wing assets armed with precision-guided bombs and short-range missiles.
The military displayed its awesome firepower when it killed top NPA leaders – Benito Tiamzon and Willma Austria – in Northern Samar as they tried to escape by boat.
The rapid decline in the Communist guerrilla forces could be attributed to Duterte’s creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), an improved version of the anti-insurgency strategy developed by former president Fidel Ramos in the in the 1990s – the clear-hold-consolidate-develop (CHCD) strategy.
Hermogenes Esperon, a retired general who served as Duterte’s National Security Adviser, learned a lot from the Ramos-era counter-insurgency strategy.
Except for engaging the rebels’ political arm, the National Democratic Front, the NTF-ELCAC did not believe in peace negotiations. It was scrapped in 2017 but the government has an amnesty program for rebels who wanted to surrender.
At a recent NTF-ELCAC meeting, chaired by National Security Adviser Dr. Clarita Carlos, the military boasted that it had further cut down the NPA strength to a little over 2,100 fighters in 24 guerrilla fronts nationwide. The rebels had 1,800 firearms, mostly small arms. The Islamist militants in Mindanao had more firepower, like home-made sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and crew-served weapons, like mortars and heavy machine guns.
When the NTF=ELCAC started in 2018, there were still about 4,000 fighters scattered in 89 guerilla fronts or bases of operations nationwide.
In four years, the Armed Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro, said, the military has succeeded in dismantling 65 guerrilla fronts. Only 24 guerrilla fronts remained but the military was targeting to dismantle 19 guerrilla fronts within the year.
Bacarro is confident the remaining five guerrilla fronts in at least 154 barangays in the provinces of Samar and South Cotabato would be cleared within his three-year term.
The NTF-ELCAC has poured billions in development funds to barangays affected by the insurgency but it was still uncertain if the people had felt the improvements in their lives.
The improvement in military operations was more felt in the far-flung rural areas as air force planes bombed rebel lairs, but the civilian government’s role in the NTF-ELCAC remained lacking.
On paper, the NTF-ELCAC was a sound counter-insurgency strategy. Even former vice president Leonor Rodredo found the concept effective.
However, Badoy and Parlade gave the NTF-ELCAC a bad name for red-tagging everyone. There was overemphasis on military operations that rural development was left behind.
Like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, the Philippines can put behind the insurgency problem under the second Marcos administration if it pours more funds to develop the rural areas with more roads, schools, and clinics.
But the most important is to improve the social justice system, remove corruption, and hold accountable absentee local officials.
There will be a never ending cycle of rebellion in the country as long as the civilian government does not address the root causes of insurgency – inequality, neglect, and injustice. Even if the government pours billions of pesos in development funds, it will mean nothing to the ordinary Filipinos if they feel alienated and the government is too distant from them.
The military has been successful in decimating the rebel ranks but as long as the conditions for taking up arms remain, there will be no end to insurgency in the country.