March 29 marks the 48th anniversary of the establishment of the New People’s Army. It is recognized as Asia’s longest running armed rebellion, with an army composed mainly of poor peasants, joined by workers and educated youth.
The fact that the NPA has outlasted several regimes, including the Marcos dictatorship and two Aquino regimes, shows the need to seriously address the root causes of the armed conflict in the Philippines.
Many military campaigns have been launched by previous regimes, all supported and funded by the United States, yet the AFP has been unable to decisively defeat the revolutionary forces. President Rodrigo Duterte himself has acknowledged many times that the NPA is supported by the poor and thus could not simply be defeated militarily. Duterte somehow understands the basis for the armed rebellion being waged by the revolutionary forces. This has led him to engage the revolutionary forces in peace negotiations.
At the core of the demands of the revolutionary forces are land reform, national industrialization, genuine democracy and freedom from foreign dictates.
The peace talks is an arena where both the GRP and the revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP, can address the root causes of the armed struggle by forging substantive agreements.
The talks have made significant achievements over the past seven months and is expected to move forward with the scheduled 4th and 5th rounds. There is a possibility that agreements on socio-economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms can be signed by this year and next year.
Signining the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms can pave the way for a more stable bilateral ceasefire between the GRP and NDFP.
Successful negotiations on economic reforms will lead to negotiations on political reforms. The possibility of the GRP and NDFP working together for a federal republic has been raised. This entails providing safeguards against puppetry to foreign interests, political dynasties, fascist dictatorship and guarantees on civil liberties.
Duterte can choose to push the peace talks to a favorable and just conclusion through the forging of substantive agreements. This will lay the foundation for a just peace. He may also choose to abandon the talks and take a more reactionary position towards the revolutionary forces.
All things considered, he is compelled by the current economic and political crisis to choose the path of achieving a just peace. Should he choose otherwise, so long as the roots of the armed conflict remain, the forces of revolution will most certainly persist and outlast his administration.
The 4th round of formal peace talks starts on April 2 in The Hague, Netherlands. ###