The Philippines has one of the longest-running communist insurgencies in the world. Maoist-led guerrillas have been fighting to overthrow the duly constituted government in Manila for more than 50 years.
Communism as an ideology has been repudiated across the world, except in some countries, like North Korea.
Russia and China had long abandoned the political and economic doctrine that aims to replace private property and a profit-based economy with public ownership and communal control of the major means of production, like farms, mines, and factories.
These countries have embraced the market-driven economy, reducing the poverty incidence and improving the quality of life of their citizens.
However, political control still exists. Dissent is still banned.
In the Philippines, there are really very few ideologues who faithfully believe in Karl Marx and Mao Zedong’s higher and advanced form of socialism.
A large majority of people who are taking up arms, which the government labels as “Communist Terrorists,” are not really Communists or terrorists. They are just victims of injustices, inequality, government neglect, and to some extent, poverty.
During the repressive Marcos years in the 1970s and 1980s, there were rampant abuse by state security forces—the military and the police.
The people were forced to turn to the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), which carried out swift justice.
Poor people in the countryside applauded the NPAs because land grabbers, cattle rustlers, petty thieves, rapists, and abusive soldiers and police officers were instantly punished.
The people also got tired of the rebels because of the same abuses they had committed against poor communities, including exacting revolutionary taxes and meting death sentences in kangaroo courts.
The sad fact is there is still injustice in the country. The tip of the scales tilts in favor of the wealthy and the powerful. There will be rebellion in the country unless the justice system becomes fair, swift, and effective.
The state of the justice system in the country is best illustrated when the 34-year-old driver of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) deliberately ran over a security guard directing traffic near a shopping mall in Mandaluyong early this month.
The police failed to arrest the driver and impound his vehicle after private security at a gated village in Quezon City prevented law enforcers from doing their jobs in pursuing the man behind the hit-and-run incident.
If the suspect was living in a poor community, the police could have barged into his home without a search or arrest warrant, and handcuffed and brought him to the nearest police station.
If he tried to resist arrest, the police could shoot him dead. “Nanlaban daw kasi.”
In another incident much earlier in Pangasinan, an old man was thrown behind jail even without criminal charges and an arrest warrant for selling 10 kilos of mangoes from his neighbor’s trees.
In another example of swift police action, a group of protesting jeepney drivers were jailed for violating the government’s coronavirus pandemic protocols in Caloocan City.
Students and some journalists were arrested without due process in Tarlac for witnessing farmers’ protest.
There are more instances of injustices done on poor people. The rich and powerful, meanwhile, get off easily.
Imelda Marcos, the former lawmaker and mother of the incoming Philippine leader, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., never spent a second in jail even after she was convicted of corruption by the Sandiganbayan.
The SUV driver was allowed to walk free from the national police headquarters after giving a press conference with his parents because of a technicality in the country’s justice system.
The police can hold him up to 36 hours after a crime has been committed unless criminal charges are brought against him in a court of law.
He surfaced to own up the crime after 10 days when the police could no longer touch him.
If he was really sincere in seeking an apology to the shopping mall guard and was not evading the crime, he could have surrendered to the authorities hours after the incident. If his parents were responsible citizens, they should have volunteered to give him up instead of protecting him from arrest.
The driver’s mother even complained that they had sleepless nights worrying about the future of their son.
Her anxiety and apprehensions are not misplaced because her son faces a very serious criminal charge—reckless imprudence resulting in frustrated homicide or murder and abandonment.
He could be meted a jail sentence of 12 years to 20 years and ordered to pay fines, including shouldering the hospital bills and potential loss of income of the shopping mall security guard.
The authorities’ kid-glove treatment of the SUV driver has inflamed ordinary people’s sentiments to denounce the country’s justice system.
It illustrated that the country’s laws could not be enforced on the rich and the powerful. Due process is observed when the rich and the powerful are at the receiving end.
Death is instantaneous for the poor as shown by thousands of suspected street-level drug dealers, couriers and users who were killed in Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal and bloody drug war.
Bongbong Marcos’ unpaid income tax issue was swept under the rug and his family’s bigger unsettled estate tax issue was considered an election issue by his political allies, including the potential leader of the upper house of Congress.
It seems the laws, made by lawmakers who belonged to the upper crust of society, were passed only to protect the rich and punish the poor.
This is an ingredient that fuels the insurgency in the country.
Retired general Jorge Segovia had first-hand experience in fighting the communist insurgency in the Davao region during his time as the army commander in Mindanao.
He addressed the insurgency problem through a holistic approach of combat military operations and civil-military operations through medical and dental outreach and nation-building activities in remote villages in the Davao region.
During these civil-military operations, he noticed the people did not fall in line to get medical and dental checkups but crowded the legal desks where civilian and military lawyers were giving advice or answering questions on community problems, like land disputes, petty crimes, and even domestic problems.
Back then, Segovia believed the decades-old insurgency problem would be solved if the country’s justice system was effective, fair, swift, and better than those of the NPAs.
Davao has remained the hotbed of Communist insurgency despite Duterte’s all-out war policy and the red-tagging operations of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
The communist insurgency will continue to be the next administration’s headache as it could shun away potential local and foreign investments in the resource-rich but poor areas in the countryside.
There can be no peace and development as long as the root causes of the insurgency are not addressed properly.
Military operations and the NTF-ELCAC’s red-tagging will not solve the problem.
The insurgency problem will be better addressed if inequality in opportunities, neglect of poor communities, and injustices in society are removed.
To borrow a quote from the late Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim: “The law applies to all, otherwise none at all.”