P1 B for anti-insurgency: What was Arroyo thinking?
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-06-22
EVEN our Inquirer colleague Amando Doronila could not find it in himself to agree with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she announced that she would add one billion pesos to the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to crush the communist insurgency in two years. Doro, as he is called, has been one of the more sympathetic opinion writers when it comes to the Arroyo regime. But on this point, even he could only cite the many flaws in Arroyo’s latest anti-insurgency approach.

Doro also saw a dangerous drift in this new policy development that the Arroyo regime has taken --one that harks back to the failed repressive policy of the Ferdinand Marcos regime. He saw the possibility that this combat escalation against the communist insurgency could well be Arroyo’s last card in her attempt to remain in power amid the questions on her legitimacy.

Of course, I agree with Doro. In fact, I would ask why it took him so long to see finally the Arroyo regime in this light.

The truth is there are too many lessons learned from failed anti-insurgency campaigns as well as successful ones. The Marcos anti-insurgency campaign was an utter failure, and the approaches of President Ramon Magsaysay and President Corazon Aquino were successful in splitting the “Red sea.”

Marcos relied on military solutions and he unwittingly became the biggest recruiter of Reds, which is exactly what is happening to Arroyo now. On the other hand, the anti-insurgency campaigns of Magsaysay and Aquino were successful after restoring people’s faith and trust in the government.

Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile was quick to blame Cory Aquino for the failure to stamp out the communist insurgency because Cory released what Ponce-Enrile described as “hardcore” communists from prison. That is sheer poppycock, especially coming from one who was Marcos’ defense minister. The facts are that the iron fist policy Ponce-Enrile implemented for Marcos promoted the growth of the communist insurgency, and the democratic space that Cory Aquino restored and the good faith she displayed in releasing communist prisoners were what caused dissension in the ranks of the Reds.

In fact, the biggest reason the Ronald Reagan administration shifted support from Marcos to Cory Aquino on Feb. 24, 1986 was that it was alarmed that the communist rebellion had grown immensely. The Reds were poised to attain a stalemate by 1987 if Marcos, who was their best recruiter, stayed on.

It was in Cory’s time that the communist rebels suffered a major split. Impressed with the new democratic space, many of their comrades wanted to give the new government a chance. They yearned to be back with their families. Eventually, the Reds started suspecting each other and that resulted in their version of the killing fields (the mass graves of the Khmer Rhouge of Cambodia).

Following up on the gains of the Cory Aquino administration, Fidel V. Ramos was well on the way to negotiating a peace deal with the National Democratic Front, Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army. Both sides were happily looking forward to ending the strife.

It was during the tumultuous reigns of Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the communists got a boost and started to grow in number and expand again. It is no coincidence that since 1998 the Philippine economy has faltered and the misery index has risen like never before in our history. Communism thrives best in a climate of economic depression and state repression.

Magsaysay, a president who was not known for his intellectual prowess but for his heart for the masses, best summed it up when he said Communism was an idea and the only way to fight an idea was with a better idea. He fought the communists on one hand and on the other offered a “new deal” for those who would turn a new leaf. That was what led to the surrender of Huk Supremo Luis Taruc.

Magsaysay won a political -- not military -- victory against Communism.
Realizing that the Huk rebellion was basically an agrarian issue, he gave rebel returnees land while his administration restored people’s faith and trust in the government.

Sadly, Madame Arroyo neither has the financial resources nor the people’s faith and trust in her government with which win the war against the communist insurgency. The more communists her administration kills, the more the insurgency will flourish. The more billions of pesos it takes away from social services and education, the more the misery index rises and consequently the more communists are recruited.

Legitimacy of the Arroyo presidency is a major factor that fuels the communist insurgency. The situation is no different from that in Iraq, where the US and its allies have failed to defeat the Iraq insurgency, which is fueled by belief that what has replaced Saddam Hussein is a puppet government of the United States.

In case Madame Arroyo bothered to check, the US has spent over 280 billion dollars (based on congressional appropriation) to finance the Iraq misadventure and all that money has not stopped the insurgency there. Killing the head of the insurgency does not equate to ending the insurgency.

After spending over 280 billion dollars, there is no victory in the foreseeable future in Iraq for the US and its allies. All the talk in the US regarding the Iraq war is about a pullout -- now or later -- and not about a military victory.

We don’t even have 200 billion pesos to spend for an all-out war against our insurgents! So, what was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo thinking?

You may e-mail William M. Esposo at: macesposo@yahoo.com

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