What are the Prospects for Peace with the NDF?
During the second quarterly meeting of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers last June 22, the Guest of Honor and Speaker was the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Sec. Jesus Dureza. His talk centered on the status of the ongoing peace process, the 5th round of which was suspended by the President due to certain unreasonable demands of the National Democratic Front (NDF) panel. With this suspension of the talks, the NDF consultants previously released by the President risk arrest if they return to the Philippines.
Furthermore, with the forthcoming elections in the Netherlands, the refugee problem has become one of the major election issues. The status of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison and the other NDF consultants are sure to be affected, with the possibility of deportation if this political issue heats up.
Looking back, the peace process has been going on for the last 30 years since the assumption of Mrs. Cory Aquino to the presidency. She created the office of Peace Commissioner and one of her first acts was the issuance of executive clemency to Joma Sison and other political detainees. She announced a policy of reconciliation to heal the wounds of a divided nation.
During the time of President Ramos, 15 rounds of formal and informal talks were held. The NDF demanded the presence of political consultants who were in prison, including Sotero Llamas, for the talks in Brussels, Belgium. They were granted amnesty eventually.
During the time of President Estrada, the GRP reasserted its exclusive right to prosecute, try, and apply sanctions against violators of human rights. The NPA retaliated by abducting AFP Brigadier-General Obillo and two other military officers.
In President Gloria Arroyo’s time, the peace talks were again suspended in protest to the congratulatory statement made by the NPA for the assassination of the late Congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo. The postponement was further aggravated by the inclusion of Joma in the terrorist listing of the US and the European Union. Proclamation No. 137 was also issued granting amnesty to some communist rebels.
In the 30 years of peace talks, the NDF was always headed by Joma. The NDF panels have not been able to make any categorical assurance on basic terms of reference. It only proves the absence of explicit and manifest leadership and control which he claims to wield over the local movement. Probing further, one can easily conclude that the harassment, intimidation and attacks on AFP/PNP personnel can be attributed to infighting within the top leadership, absence of a shared purpose, and sheer lack of discipline among its members. They have diverse and conflicting agenda. The movement is slowly losing its grip on its party members and for it to even survive, it has to transform the organization to a criminal and violent mode in order to generate funds.
Joma administers party affairs by remote control. There is no substitute for person-to-person contact to communicate the message and intentions to party members. Technology only facilitates communication, but it cannot provide the intrinsic value required to demand loyalty from one’s troops. Joma breathes rarefied air and lives in an environment that is extraneous from the realities on the ground where his men operate. He leads a frivolous life supported by foreign benefactors and the contributions from the local movement that are sourced illegally through kidnapping, revolutionary taxes, extortion and other criminal acts. This is the worst form of leadership, when you let your men sacrifice life and limb to feed your whims and caprices, and even worse, when you hide behind the cloak of foreign hospitality and goodwill.
What are the by-products of this type of leadership? It provides the vague interpretation that encourages your men to work for their selfish personal agenda when you lose control, power, and influence. In short, you are inutile. His long absence from the Philippines already makes him an irrelevant representative of the movement. Why are we then negotiating with him in the first place?
What are the implications if a breakdown of leadership occurs? There is an absence of a shared purpose. A diverse and incongruent purpose creates political infighting, power struggle, parochial politics, and organizational inefficiency. Under Joma’s leadership, the movement has become divided, with actions leading to divisiveness. It undertook purges of alleged disloyal party members which split into two factions, the rejectionist and the reaffirmist. The lack of command and control has let loose the appetite of its members to commit criminal acts, like kidnapping, destruction of government properties and installations, collection of revolutionary tax, security protection of political candidates, and the dissemination of propaganda that projects bad image of the country in the international community. There is a clash of leadership prerogative since Joma cannot even compel his people to comply with the government agreement on cease-fire.
When you lose control over your people, you provide a wide latitude of options to your men which they will interpret to their own advantage. It allows them the flexibility to craft their own strategy, to generate resources for the movement through insidious and unscrupulous methods, and to satisfy the greed for personal ambitions. What form of ideology or advocacy does these methods subscribe to?
Leadership begins with values; values beget character that is essential in sustaining the lifeblood of an organization. The advocacy that permeates in the organization defines its quality and standard.
Let us look at what values Joma represents.
• When you depend and take advantage of the coffers of other people to feed your physiological needs and ego in order to advance your political objectives, you approximate the level of a parasite.
• When you advance your selfish ambition by just depending on the efforts and initiatives of your men, that is deceit. When you force people to work for you and take undue advantage of their ignorance, fear, and despair, you rule through deception and ill-will.
• When you impose on your men to commit violence, torture to both destroy lives and generate more party resources regardless of the means, malintention and cowardice are in your system.
• When you destroy the future of people and the future generation, you are an opportunist and a bottom-feeder.
In short and simple characterization, Joma lacks the character to provide the sincerity and wisdom to lead the negotiations.
The GRP is better off undertaking localized peace negotiations on a regional level with NDF leaders. This seems to have greater promise of success as these localized leaders have better control and the real support of their forces on the ground. They are familiar with the local conditions and sentiments of the people.
Regional level talks can provide the opportunity for better confidence-building measures. The problem with a country-wide coverage of the peace process is that each region has its own peculiar characteristics, degree of insurgent affectation, either infiltrated or influenced, hence, must be handled on a case-to-case basis.
The prospects for peace are bright, as both sides continue to persevere and stay on track. Leadership is key, and the NDF may need to take a good hard look at their internal realities if they sincerely want to achieve peace, finally.
The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the M.A.P.
Jaime S. de los Santos is a member of the M.A.P. National Issues Committee, was the Combined Task Force Commander that conducted offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf, the group responsible for the carnage in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur that killed 85 persons and destroyed and razed multi-million worth of properties in 1995. Tactical operations were conducted in the municipalities of Siraway, Sibuco, Siocon, and Baliguian, all in Zamboanga del Norte.