>Kopi Talk Talking peace, again

>After the 1986 people power revolt, Corazon Aquino freed communist rebels and began peace talks with them. The peace initiative was among the factors used by rightist rebels as an excuse for repeated attempts to grab power.

Twenty-five years later, Cory Aquino’s only son has revived peace talks with the same group, whose leaders sought refuge not in a communist country but in the liberal, capitalist Netherlands. The ideology behind today’s rebellion is murky. Communism has been discredited worldwide, and its remaining hard-line adherents are under despotic regimes. North Korea’s Kim Jong-il isn’t an ideal poster boy for communist recruitment.

In the Philippines, the New People’s Army has been reduced to violent extortion, mercenary assassination and banditry. A common public reaction to the revival of formal peace talks is, “What for?” NPA attacks are seen as a law enforcement problem rather than a political one. The nation can simply wait for members of warring communist factions to finish each other off.

And yet the communists have managed to survive without completely losing their image as an insurgent group. This is because they have received periodic injections of legitimacy, courtesy of weak or abusive governments and entrenched systems that breed social injustice.

Oppression feeds insurgencies, and it has been no different in the case of the Philippine communist movement. The NPA and Communist Party of the Philippines were at their strongest during the Marcos dictatorship. The restoration of democracy in 1986 ended state-sponsored violations of human rights to perpetuate a dictatorial regime, but the illnesses in Philippine society needed more than a popular revolt to cure.

The CPP-NPA continued to feed on public resentment against injustice, corruption, and a feudal system that made the rich richer and the poor still impoverished. Certain elements of the Armed Forces further legitimized the insurgency by resorting to extrajudicial methods in the name of national security. If these problems can be addressed decisively by an administration that is promising good governance, the CPP-NPA will be rendered irrelevant and a formal peace agreement unnecessary

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