Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president described in the West as a “populist,” has shown his class allegiance to the big landowners and mining interests in the Philippines by unleashing his military against the New People’s Army. The NPA, formed in 1969, had declared a unilateral ceasefire last August, when the National Democratic Front of the Philippines entered peace talks with the government.
At the end of January, the NPA announced that government killings of four peasant and Indigenous leaders were forcing the group to end its ceasefire, beginning Feb. 10. But the government showed no interest in preserving the ceasefire. On the contrary, since the NPA announcement, Duterte has designated the group as “terrorist” and his soldiers have launched offensives in several areas, killing and arresting people suspected of being insurgents.
The U.S. organization BAYAN-USA explained in a statement the background to the government’s offensive, calling the killing of peasant and Indigenous leaders “politically motivated,” adding that “the Philippine government unveiled its new counterinsurgency plan Operation Plan Kapayapaan (Peace) at the end of January, giving a new name to an old campaign of attacks targeting activists defending their land, livelihood and fundamental human rights. BAYAN-USA condemns the establishment of Oplan Kapayapaan and demands justice for the killings of Venie Diamante, Veronico Delamente, Alexander Ceballos and Wencislao Pacquiao by suspected private henchmen of mining corporations and landlords backed by the state.”
BAYAN-USA chair Bernadette Ellorin explained that “the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can try to repackage its counterinsurgency programs with nice-sounding names like ‘Bayanihan’ and ‘Kapayapaan,’ but this is nothing but a marketing ploy. At their core, counterinsurgency programs employ violence, intimidation and lies meant to smash dissent and uphold the status quo. The dubiously named ‘Oplan Peace’ is the exact opposite of peace.
“Diamante, Delamente, Ceballos and Pacquiao were protecting their people from the incursions of big palm oil plantations and mining corporations. They had every right to stand up for the people’s right to land, food and work — the very things that build a foundation for genuine peace in the Philippines.
“BAYAN-USA also sees the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program as one reason the New People’s Army decided to terminate its unilateral interim ceasefire with the GRP [Philippine government], which went into effect last August when peace negotiations began between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the GRP.
“The AFP’s continuing occupation of indigenous people’s communities, illegal arrest and detention of activists on trumped-up charges, and active military operations under Oplan Kapayapaan are sabotaging the efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Philippines. If the Duterte administration is serious about peace, it should scrap all counterinsurgency programs including Oplan Kapayapaan, rein in its AFP, and pursue the fundamental socio-economic and political reforms that are needed to address the grave inequity that is at the root of the armed conflict in the country.”