TURNING POINT: A Modus Vivendi that went Kaput

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 13 Feb) – Months earlier they were friends and partners in peace-building. All of a sudden they are called terrorists, and, without warning, an all-out war has been declared against them.

The unexpected turn of events bewilders and throws everyone off the ground. Of course President Duterte was aware that the CPP-NPA was already considered by the US as a terrorist foreign organization (TFO) in the early 2000s, yet as mayor of Davao City he embraced the group and treated them with maximum tolerance. In fact, he was friendly and helpful to them, even exhorting the business community in his turf to pay the NPA revolutionary tax to avoid any trouble. While the police and vigilantes patrolled the streets and hunted and killed petty criminals – snatchers, pickpockets, house thieves and true, suspected or potential drug pushers and addicts like animals in the wild, the terrorists were free to roam the city to make a living unmolested by the police.

The government and the NPA have been locked in running battles for decades. His modus vivendi with this enemy of the state somehow worked. No matter how uneasy it was, the city in his reign had peace and had ceased to be known as the Nicaragua of the South.

For outsiders, his approach in governance, like the mythical durian, smells repugnantly like hell but to Davaoeños and friends, it doesn’t matter because it tastes like heaven. Forget the smell. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so they say.

Thus he was glorified as a peacemaker, a unifier, a master of détente, a model local executive the country badly needs in this trying time. Apparently intoxicated by the perceived success in governing his turf for 23 years, he started to think of expanding his domain to the entire country and share himself as a blessing to the Filipino people.

His vision for a corruption-free, criminality and drug-free Philippines spread like wild fire and engulfed the entire country, razing to the ground alternative visions, reason and truth. Rodrigo Roa Duterte easily captured the presidency of the Republic and without any second thought immediately began duplicating the Davao governance model for the entire country, transporting nuts, bolts and all of the trade to the central government.

While the Reds were generally supporters outside the government in Davao, when Duterte started presiding the affairs of the nation he put Reds or Red-leaning personalities in position of influence, that is, in planning and executing the programs of government. By his own design, the Reds got embedded in the National Security Council, and in other critical agencies that demand direct access to the masses, such as the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, the National Anti- Poverty Commission, the National Housing Authority Administration, and the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, to name a few.

The fortune of the Reds was further enhanced by the President’s flirtation with Communist China, their main patron. The Peace Talk would have sealed the communist’s clutch in the Duterte government without firing a shot.

But something went awry. The government’s unilateral ceasefire with the CCP-NPA was fouled by the ambush and killing by a local NPA unit of some military personnel somewhere in Mindanao, the homeland of the flamboyant head of state. This apparently rubs on his pride. He seemed to consider the ceasefire violation as a violation of his trust. Moreover, this puts him in bad light with the military which apparently was not that enthusiastic on the GRP-CCP-NDF peace talk and the subsequent unilateral ceasefire.

There has been no report of his consulting with the GRP Negotiating Panel or the National Security Council when the President made the impetuous decision of scraping the Peace Talk with the CCP-NDF. It was quick and sudden like a knee-jerk response to a personal affront. Thus the jubilant all-out cry for peace sinisterly tumbled to an all-out cry for war.

What now is he going to do with his communist friends and allies in the government? Would he kick them out, and also order their arrest like the way he did to the CCP-NDF consultants to the peace process? The mercurial President now finds himself in messy, ugly and unenviable situation.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)