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FASTLANES: No more Christmas deaths

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 December)—While most of the world rejoiced in the birth of the Messiah in a manger somewhere at the crossroads between Europe and Asia or the coming in of Santa through holes in the roofs to bring gifts, whatever, war looms in several parts of the world.

We need not look far into Palestine where over a hundred died in airstrikes in central Gaza, but in cool idyllic barangay Can-ayan in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon where 10 souls believed to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) died in armed battle with the Philippine Army.

These deaths happen because there is an active armed conflict. The only way to prevent these from happening is to de-escalate them.

De-escalating armed conflict can either be pursued on humanitarian grounds or for a more sustained political settlement of the sources of the armed conflict.

As a peace advocate, every death of an armed combatant, be they soldiers or rebels, is no cause for celebration. It becomes aggravated when civilian lives are involved.

The deaths in barangay Can-ayan happened because there was an active armed conflict between the government of the Philippines and the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Perhaps, after almost six decades, it is time to ponder and ask where this communist armed conflict has brought us. Perhaps, after almost six decades, it is time for the PH government to exercise its sovereign powers to end this conflict at the peace table.

Last November, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. explained in a PTV 4 documentary the need to finally shift the paradigm of the AFP from internal defense to external defense out of reality and necessity. Gen. Brawner explained that the NPA is a spent force. That the military has tactically and strategically routed its forces.

A former high-ranking cadre of the rebels agrees. Based on the assessment of this former rebel leader and think-tank, the strength of both the legal and underground left is now akin to pre-1970s, or for those familiar with the writings of the late Jose Maria Sison, like the Philippine Society and Revolution, the current state of the revolutionary forces had regressed to “early substage.”

One of the issues debated then by the national democratic left that led to bitter splits in the late 1980s to the early 1990s was whether the armed struggle reached the stage of stalemate, where they thought to have the capacity to seize power and abandon the strategy of encircling the cities from the countryside. A series of blunders by the leadership, like the boycott call to the 1986 snap election, distanced the Philippine left from the popular anti-dictatorship movement. A bloody internal purge that resulted in the execution of around a thousand cadres almost decimated the underground left in the early 1990s.

(The CPP was established by Sison on Dec. 26, 1968. Its armed wing, the NPA, was established on March 29, 1969.)

Heightened Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and geopolitics have also necessitated the shift of the AFP to external defense. With the internal threat to the republic put out, it is high time to focus government resources on building a credible national defense against external aggression.

We welcome President Bongbong Marcos’s pitches on peace. First, he had outlined an amnesty program for rebels returning to the fold of the law. Then, the joint statement of the government and the communist rebels on their intention to resume peace negotiations.

Both these pitches to peace have been dismissed by the vice president.

We ask: Are we not yet fed up with Filipinos killing fellow Filipinos?

We understand where the vice president is coming from. No more threats from the rebels, no justification for intelligence, and confidential funds. Right?

A broad peace constituency of groups and individuals who genuinely want peace must evolve. This movement must bring the interest of peace to the front and center of this PBBM administration’s agenda.

I long for the time when people of no political color take the stage to demand peace and say no to whatever destabilization attempts. This movement may be latent, maybe just there, waiting to bloom.

We need fire starters and leaders for this. Anyone?

Meanwhile, we reiterate our wish, our aspiration to an end to Christmas deaths.

[The writer, a former journalist, is the convenor of Pinoy Aksyon (Pilipino Aksyon for Governance and the Environment). He can be reached by email: bency.ellorin@gmail.com.]

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