Philippines: Communist Rebels Step Up Attacks as Ceasefire Ends
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||13 February 2017|
|Citation / Document Symbol||Terrorism Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 3|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Philippines: Communist Rebels Step Up Attacks as Ceasefire Ends, 13 February 2017, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 15 Issue: 3, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/58a31b2d4.html [accessed 29 June 2017]|
A six-month ceasefire in the Philippines between the government and communist rebels recently broke down, putting in jeopardy talks aimed at bringing an end to the long-running insurgency and raising fears of increased guerrilla attacks in the Philippines countryside.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced an end to its unilateral ceasefire with the government on February 1, claiming the government had used the deal to encroach on its territory and had failed to make good on promises to release jailed rebels (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 2). Two days later, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared an end to the government's own ceasefire (Manila Times, February 3). Clashes between the military and the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), ensued (Philippines Daily Inquirer, February 6).
The government has since amped up the rhetoric, with Duterte branding the NPA "terrorists" (Manila Times, February 7). Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana compared the NPA to Abu Sayyaf and warned of "all-out war" (Manila Times, February 8).
The conflict between the government and the communists has dragged on for decades. The NPA, established in March 1969, was initially formed by a band of poorly armed former rebels in villages in central Luzon. The area's struggling peasant farmers were receptive to the communists' message, and the movement expanded rapidly to set up numerous local cadres throughout the island. From there, it spread to the provinces.
The NPA's political philosophy has developed little in the subsequent decades, and its numbers have long since declined. Defense Secretary Lorenzana put NPA membership at about 5,000 in a recent media briefing — more than the army's official estimate of 3,700 members, but far from its Cold War peak of nearly 25,000 (Philippine Star, February 7).
While the NPA may offer little politically these days, it can still cause mayhem in the rural areas in which it operates — largely Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south. Guerrillas abducted four people in Maco in Compostela Valley province on February 5, according to the military (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 10). Fighters also abducted three people, one of them a police officer, and set fire to construction vehicles in Bukidnon province on February 9 (Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 10). A day earlier, fighters killed a soldier in Cagayan province.
Ceasefires between the NPA and the government have been made and broken since the 1980s and there are still prospects for talks. Before the ceasefire broke down, negotiations between the two sides, which may still go ahead, were due to take place in Norway in April. In the meantime, however, the Philippines is likely to see a stepped-up hit-and-run campaign carried out by the NPA.