How President Cory scuttled the Reds during the late 1980s
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-01-04
It’s bad enough that many Filipinos don’t know their real history. It’s worse when idiots (people who do not know the truth) and deceivers (people who know the truth but want to hide it) are distorting the truth. Idiots unwittingly distort the truth by spreading fiction. Deceivers wittingly distort the truth for personal gain or to conceal accountability.

A distorter of the truth reacted by e-mail to your Chair Wrecker’s December 28, 2010 column about the new anti-insurgency policy. He questioned my crediting the late President Cory C. Aquino for breaking the back of Communist insurgency during the late 1980s. This fellow — name withheld to protect the idiot or the deceiver, whichever his problem is — even claimed that economic development, not President Cory Aquino, broke the back of the insurgency in the late 1980s. That assertion alone is indicative of defective thinking.
Economic development does not just happen. It’s the result of good governance, good decisions and the credibility of the ruler.

Part of the Filipino problem of not knowing the historical truth is the inability to fully appreciate the key factors that really broke the back of the Communist insurgency during the late 1980s. This problem of the lack of public appreciation can also be traced to the failure of Philippine media to address the Information Gap.

The broad strokes of the breaking of the Communist momentum during the 1980s were the following:

1. The restoration of democratic space — Insurgencies thrive under a climate of oppression and repression. The US dropped Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in February 25, 1986 because they knew that the Communists could achieve stalemate in 1988 if Marcos had remained in power. After President Cory Aquino restored democratic space, many of the insurgents lost their motivation to continue their Maoist struggle and returned to the fold.

2. The release of political prisoners and offer of incentives — Releasing political prisoners was a convincing demonstration by the Cory Aquino government that democratic space has been restored and will remain. The government upped the ante by offering incentives to rebel returnees.

3. The positive change in national outlook — The Cory Aquino government immediately registered double digit economic growth on its first year in power. A pity that this momentum was sidetracked by coup attempts; most notable were those of the August 1987 and December 1989 incidents.

4. The effective community building program that dismantled the political bases of the Communists — Defeating the insurgency is all about winning hearts and minds. It’s more of a political fight where the military only supports the main weapons of the State — the delivery of vital government services and the engines of economic development.

When the ranks of the Communists were split because of the restoration of democratic space — that marked the time when the Communist “Killing Fields” happened. The Reds were killing their comrades who wanted to return to the fold. At this point, the Reds lost their momentum to achieve a stalemate by 1988. They even resorted to exacting vigilante justice via the notorious Alex Boncayao Brigade. That only backfired on them and further alienated the citizenry.

The coup plotters against the President Cory administration had misinformed the public that the late President was too soft on the Reds and will subsequently be overrun by them. Restoring democratic space isn’t a sign of softness or weakness but of strength. It shows a president with the support of her people and this allows her government to “let a thousand flowers bloom.” The Rightists who were spreading the big lie were in fact the biggest recruiters of the Communists. Militarization drove many Filipinos to the join the Communists.

Filipinos should credit the late Local Government Secretary Jaime N. Ferrer and his Assistant Secretary, the still very much alive and kicking Eleuterio “Terry” Dumogho, for the Local Government Department’s REDO (Rural Economic Development Operation) which proved very effective in dismantling political bases of the Communists. The key to eliminating the insurgency is to deprive them of political bases — the communities that support them.

It was Napoleon who noted that soldiers march with their stomachs. In war, when you deprive the enemy of their supply line — their capability to fight will significantly diminish. In tackling the insurgency, you must deprive them of their political bases — their supply lines. The insurgents cannot last in their lairs without a reliable supply line.

Then Assistant Secretary Dumogho would first survey a Communist political base in order to determine the greatest needs of the community. Once armed insurgents in the area have been cleared by the military, Dumogho would start operating there with his REDO team and they always succeeded in dismantling the Communist political base. Dumogho was a principal contributor to the crafting of the Local Government Code and is a walking encyclopedia on local governments.

Combat methods cannot dismantle a Communist political base. In the Marcos experience, that only promoted the growth of the insurgency. The army can engage the New People’s Army (NPA) in combat but they will not be able to dismantle the political base simply because they’re not applying political solutions. However, a military battalion delivering community development will win hearts and minds and will eventually scuttle the insurgency.
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