Posted tagged ‘third party’


May 11, 2008

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

[Writ 07 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

Peace be with you!

On the year of my birth in 1958, my country (Philippines) raged with fiery caldrons of armed hostilities in all islands. The Old Left rebellion was already petering out though, and local millenarian rebellions in other islands were also being check-mated. My father was a young soldier then, and bringing along his experience in Korea plus his scout ranger training, he went about running after rebels and winning accolades. Mind you, my father was even absent on my natality day (July 6), as he was busy running after some armed millenarians in the south.

Well, I was nourished with so many tales of heroism and wars in the islands, beginning with the Americo-Japanese war (it was called ‘World War II’ hmmm), and then the rebellions. In the early ‘60s the Old Left capitulated, and only ‘lost commands’ were the remains of the army divisions and companies of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan or HMB (People’s Liberation Army). We simply called them rebels ‘huks’, a core of which later joined the Maoists to comprise the New Peoples’ Army or NPA.

Then, with the founding of the new Communist Party (Maoist) in 1968 and its armed with New People’s Army in 1969, new rebel offensives turned many idyllic lands into howling war zones. Since then, I never knew of any year in my life when peace prevailed in the islands. There were only short episodes of ceasefires lasting for days to a few weeks at the most. I even visited a rebel camp in Quezon during a ceasefire in 1987, had some photo-ops with the NPAs. Often than not, our history in Manila (signifying the whole of RP) was one of wars.

This is not ‘rumors of wars’ here, remember. Whatever is it that is in the psyche of Filipinos which produces audacious warriors is something else worth studying. General Douglas MacArthur was so amazed at the unbelievable audacity and acumen of Filipinos in warfare that he designated Filipino troops as bridgehead storm troops in his campaigns (World War II, Korea War), much like the ‘Gurka regiment’ of the British Empire. Something in our psyche makes us natural warriors, but hey! this is the era of Information Society, so warriorship must be translated into management acumen, audacity and courage, and not manifest as gun-firing praetorian behavior that belongs to the ancient past.

But surprisingly, in the 1990s, the state was able to prove that ‘cessation of armed hostility’ or COAH was a viable one. First, there was the formal declaration by the social democratic army to cease armed struggle, even as its cadres and troops joined the Cory Aquino regime and surreptitiously comprised the ‘yellow army’.

Then, after a series of failed mutinies and coup attempts, the Reform the Armed Forces-Young Officers’ Union-Soldiers of the Filipino People or RAM-YOU-SFP, was finally settled as the coalition signed a negotiated peace settlement with the Ramos regime. Imagine this surprising development, from a rebel force that bombed Manila and the army camp to smithereens a few years back! I saw with my own eyes the barbarity and economic paralysis induced by actual wars in Manila, with my own eyes! I thought then that war was only for the rural backwoods.  I couldn’t believe the rebels would join the mainstream, but they did!

Finally, there was the negotiated settlement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and its armed wing, the Bangsamoro Army (BMA), also during the Ramos regime. Nur Misuari, head of MNLF, his cadres and troops joined the mainstream. Misuari became governor-elect of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, while 7,000 BMA troops were integrated into both the national police and army. To think that this group once almost won over the war in Mindanao in 1973!

Today we still have the CPP-NPA insurgency and the MILF-BiAF insurgency (Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islaic Armed Forces) to deal with. Talks get stalled every now and then. But chances are that they will be negotiated, based on a win-win formula. What more can make me and my cohorts, and now the younger generations, happier when this happens? I’m sure I’d weep so much with happiness and euphoria when this happens. Finally here we are, respecting each other as brothers and sisters, and decide to ‘communicate, cooperate and collaborate’ (3 Cs) rather than shoot down each other.

An array of methods and strategies were explored no less from many sides to finally make rebels and state sit down together. To name some: face-to-face talk between officially negotiated parties; back-channel talks to reinforce confidence-building; mediation by 3rd parties (friendly states); peace consultants comprising of international law and development experts on both sides; civil society and church support, aside from their role in monitoring the conduct of hostilities and short ceasefires; periodic peace rallies via prayer, concerts, parades, special events by citizens, church, NGOs; peace advocacy by teachers/educators in schools; peace zones declared by all parties in specially designated towns; initiatives by local government units & players at confidence-building; and, mandating rebels sometimes to help in anti-drug and anti-Islamic terrorist campaigns (boosting mutual confidence).

Exasperated to the extremes now after four (4) decades of war, I am so impatient for peace, for a true cessation of armed hostility. I wish that at least one insurgency can be concluded soon before 2010 (presidential election). Maybe the next exec will pick up the task and conclude the remaining insurgency. The next decade can then witness the fruition of a 7-decade campaign to bring RP to developed country status, which I now opine can happen only if the two (2) insurgencies can be concluded.

For our dream of peace in RP, carpe diem! We shall overcome!