Military chief admits communism is not bad
MANILA, Philippines—Communism is not bad – in fact it’s legal, says the man who currently commands the forces of the Philippine government ranged against communist rebels since shortly after the end of World War II.
Notwithstanding his position, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Oban said he believes communism is not a terrible thing at all, at least as a personal philosophy.
“You know, communism as an ideology is not bad. Actually, under the Constitution, communism is legal,” he told reporters after a news conference on Thursday.
Oban’s statement, while self-evident, suggests a softening in the stance of the military on the communist movement it has fought so long and hard in the midst of renewed peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).. Before the party was reformed along Maoist lines in late 1960s, it was known as the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas.
From 2004 until late last year, negotiations to end the insurgency had stalled after the communists accused the Arroyo administration of instigating the inclusion of the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army on US and European terrorist rosters.
Then in February, formal talks started anew in Oslo, Norway between the government peace panel and the CPP’s political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the Aquino government is hoping to forge a political settlement by June.
That hope may be permeating the ranks of the military and the police as well.
Communists, Oban said, only turn rogue once they pick up a gun.
“That’s our baseline. Our threshold is when a particular person starts carrying a weapon. That’s when we will go after them,” he said. “When they try to overthrow government, that’s when we’ll go after them.”
This week, the chief of the Philippine National Police said in an address to Cagayan Valley troops that perhaps, “our friends in the communist movement” might take a second look at their position and reconsider laying down arms for good.
“Maybe it’s time to think that we can’t forever be killing each other. Both sides get wounded or killed. Even we (the police) get wounded or killed also,” said PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo, using words that contrasted somewhat with the recent actions of the police and the military.
In past weeks, the AFP and the PNP had engaged the NPA in a series of costly skirmishes. One operation in Cagayan Valley led to the deaths of five rebels, including a local leader, and the capture of four others.
Whatever the outcome of the peace talks, for the success of which he expressed optimism, Oban made it clear the AFP would be ready to face and eliminate any remaining threat from the leftists.
He also dismissed speculation that an aging NPA leadership made it imperative on the part of the AFP to finish off what they had started soon before younger, more radical members took the reins.
“The bottom line is, when we’re talking about the armed overthrow of government, we’re ready to face them whether they’re aging or not,” he said.
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