Communist rebellion in the Philippines
The CPP–NPA–NDF rebellion refers to the ongoing conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the communist coalition of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People's Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
In 1969, the NPA was formed, and the first violent incident took place in 1971. A year later, President Ferdinand Marcos introduced martial law. Until 2002, the NPA received a considerable amount of aid from outside the Philippines, although later developments forced it to rely on support from local sources. Between 1969 and 2008, more than 43,000 insurgency-related fatalities were recorded.
The original Communist Party of the Philippines was established in November 7, 1930 from members of the Partido Obrero de Filipinas and the Socialist Party of the Philippines (1932) with the help of the COMINTERN. It would later lead an anti-Japanese rebellion in 1942 with the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon. By the end of 1954, however, the armed struggle was effectively over. In the years following World War 2, the Lava and Taruc brothers would plead for general amnesty from the Japanese and Americans for the rebellion. Maoist factions within the Party would eventually deem this as a form of ineffectiveness, opportunism and adventurism. They began organizing mass organizations such as Kabataang Makabayan, Malayang Kilusan ng Kababaihan and hosting theoretical studies on Marxism–Leninism–Maoism. They would eventually break off from the old party and form the Communist Party of the Philippines/Marxist–Leninist–Maoist on December 26, 1968. The New People's Army would be established by Amado Guerrero and Bernabe Buscayno as the armed wing of the CPP-MLM. The new Maoist leadership would drop the reformist ideas that led the CPP-1930 to collaborate with the Marcos government and enforce Maoist principles, aimed at creating a socialist state through a national democratic revolution by launching a protracted people's war. Its initial strength was estimated to compromise approximately 60 guerrillas and 35 weapons. It would then undergo a rapid growth under the Marcos regime. The National Democratic Front was then established in April 24, 1973 as the political front of the CPP-MLM, bringing together broad revolutionary organizations which accepted their 12-point program, and building international relations with other communist parties such as those in India and Nepal.
On 21 August 1971, the first act of NPA rebellion took place when NPA militants threw two grenades onto the stage at a Liberal Party rally in Manila, killing nine people and injuring 95 others. Relying on small armed community-based propaganda units, the NPA found itself in an all-out rebellion by 1972. On 21 September 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, which forced the NPA to fight for its freedom. In 1974, the NPA launched its first tactical operation in Calbiga, Samar, when it ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized a number of their weapons.
China provided support to the NPA from 1969–1976. After that period, the Chinese ceased all aid, resulting in a five-year period of reduced activity. Despite the setback, the rebellion rekindled with funds from revolutionary taxes, extortion and large scale foreign support campaigns. Both the CPP and NPA attempted to garner support from the Workers' Party of Korea, the Maoist factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Japanese Red Army, Sandinista National Liberation Front, Communist Party of El Salvador, Communist Party of Peru, and the Algerian military. Financial aid, training and other forms of support were received from a number of the above. NDF-controlled trading companies were allegedly set up in Hong Kong, Belgium, and Yugoslavia. At the same time the Communist Party of the Philippines formed a unit in the Netherlands and sent representatives to Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland, United States, Sweden, and various parts of the Middle East. Despite the massive amount of aid previously received, foreign support eventually dried up following the 1990s collapse of socialist governments worldwide.
Between the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of volunteers, including youth and teenagers from both urban and rural areas, joined the organization. In 1992, NPA split into two factions: the reaffirmist faction led by Sison and the rejectionist faction which advocated the formation of larger military units and urban insurgencies. Through NPA's history, 13 smaller factions emerged from the group, the most notable being MLPP-RHB, APP, RPA-M, RPM/P-RPA-ABB and CPLA. A parallel Moro insurgency created favorable conditions for the development of NPA. During the 1970s, 75% of the Philippine military was deployed on the island of Mindanao, a Moro stronghold, despite the 1976 peace deal between the government and MILF. As of 2000, 40% of the AFP troops continued to engage Moro rebels.
In 2001, the AFP launched a campaign of selective extrajudicial killings, in an attempt to suppress NPA activity. By targeting suspected rebel sympathizers, the campaign aimed to destroy the communist political infrastructure. The program was modeled after the Phoenix Program, a U.S. project implemented during the Vietnam War. According to Dr William Norman Holden, University of Calgary, security forces carried out a total of 1,335 extrajudicial killings between January 2001 – October 2012.
On 9 August 2002, NPA was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States Department of State. A parallel increase in counter-insurgency operations negatively affected the course of the rebellion. Netherlands-based Jose Maria Sison is currently leader of CPP's eight member politburo and 26 member central committee—the party's highest ruling bodies. Despite the existence of the politburo, NPA's local units receive a high level of autonomy due to difficulties in communication between each of the fronts across the country.
Rebel recruits receive combat training from veteran fighters and ideological training by Mao Zedong in: the Three Main Rules of Discipline and Eight Points of Attention; the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. NPA units usually consist of 15–30 fighters, with special armed partisan units of 50–60 rebels serving in a special operations capacity. NPA also formed a limited tactical alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao, enabling the mutual transfer of troops through each other's territory. Between 1969–2008, more than 43,000 insurgency related fatalities were recorded.
In the State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte which happened on July 2016, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire to the leftist rebels. Due to this declaration, the peace talks between the government and the NDF resumed on August 2016. The peace talks were carried out in Oslo, Norway.
In February 2017, the CPP-NPA-NDF declared that they will withdraw from the ceasefire, effective on 10 February 2017, due to the unfulfilled promise by the government that it will release all 392 political prisoners. However, the communists attacked and killed 3 soldiers before the withdrawal, which angered the government and made them declare a withdrawal from the ceasefire also. The peace talks was informally terminated and an all-out war was declared by the AFP after the withdrawal.
In March 2017, the government announced a new truce and the resumption of peace talks, to take place in April. The fifth round is planned to follow in June.
However, on 5 December 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations after several attacks by the NPA against the government. The NDFP, the political wing of the communist rebellion is not included on the proclamation.
Since the early stages of the rebellion, the island of Samar has been considered to be NPA's main stronghold. While Samar represents 2% and 5% of the Philippine population and territory respectively, 11% of all NPA related incidents have taken place on the island. Samar's terrain consists of densely forested mountainous areas, providing fertile ground for the conduct of guerrilla warfare.
An important factor in the spread of the rebellion was the issue of widespread landlessness. Land reforms provided only a limited solution for the millions of Philippine landless farmers. In the case of Samar, 40 landowning clans controlled approximately half of the island's agricultural land. Instances of landowner harassment and violence towards working class tenants led to escalating tensions between the two social groups.
In 1976, NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following vigilante actions against cattle rustling gangs. The following year, NPA transferred agents from Cebu and Manila where conditions were less favorable. The influx of troops enable NPA to form units fully engaged in guerrilla activities. In 1982, an unofficial communist government was formed, solidifying Samar as a communist stronghold. The 1980s downfall of the coconut industry greatly affected livelihoods of many Samaranos, further fueling the rebellion. Between January 2011 and December 2012, a total of 153 insurgency related incidents took place in Samar, resulting in 21 deaths and 55 injuries.
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