MANILA, DECEMBER 15, 2007 (STAR) By Reinir Padua - A ranking member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the government must exhaust all efforts to end the 38-year Maoist rebellion waged by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

While expressing appreciation for the government’s move to declare a three-week ceasefire with the NPA, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said an effort should be made to work for a lasting ceasefire and end the conflict.

“It should be ceasefire all the time. (They should also declare a) ceasefire in their word war,” Arguelles said.

Arguelles made the statement after President Arroyo vowed to step up the campaign against communist insurgents even after declaring a three-week ceasefire with the NPA.

The three-week Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) is said to be the longest in a while, with past ceasefires only covering Dec. 24 to 25 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.

Arguelles said he has always recommended to the President to initiate a ceasefire with the rebels during the holidays.

“If possible it should be ceasefire all throughout because war is not godly. If possible, it should be ceasefire all the time so we could have lasting peace in the country,” Arguelles said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the NPA, along with the National Democratic Front (NDF) as its political umbrella group, has been waging a communist insurgency for almost four decades, which has resulted in the loss of more than 40,000 lives.

The CPP-NPA-NDF withdrew from peace talks with the government in 2005 at the height of Mrs. Arroyo’s political crisis after the rebels thought that she would be ousted.

The three-week truce was seen as part of the government’s efforts to revive the negotiations, even as the President remained adamant in her resolve to wipe out the communists by the end of her term in 2010.

Last week, Mrs. Arroyo reiterated her call to lawmakers to approve her amnesty proclamation for rebels.

Despite the three-week SOMO, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the military will continue its defensive mode.

Esperon said the AFP will continue its protective patrols and civic-military operations in the countryside during the 22-day SOMO.

“We will continue to conduct prophylactic patrols around our detachments and bases. We will also patrol areas where we think there are known groupings of enemies which are about to strike,” he said.

With the SOMO implemented, Esperon said the soldiers and the rebels would be able to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest.

“We want everybody to feel that peace is better than going to war,” Esperon said.

Esperon earlier proposed a three-year ceasefire with CPP-NPA-NDF to allow the resumption of the stalled peace talks.

“There are alternatives,” Esperon said. “As I said all along, I am willing to go on a three-year ceasefire before we go on peace talks. It’s useless going on peace talks if you don’t have ceasefire.”

But the communists trashed Esperon’s proposal, saying that for the peace talks to continue, the government should first work to remove the CPP-NPA from the international terror group listing of the US and European Union.

Peace talks with the communists began in 1986 but very little progress has been made.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the communists will be forced to talk peace if the NPA is completely wiped out.

“Only the defeat of the New People’s Army can force the Communist Party of the Philippines- National Democratic Front to seriously pursue peace talks with the government,” Gonzales said.

Jesuit priest Fr. Romeo Intengan, one of the co-founders of the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP) with Gonzales, said the military, with steadfast commitment to human rights and improved combat skills and intelligence gathering, will eventually defeat the communists.

Another ranking prelate, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, for his part, expressed his doubts on whether the military can completely wipe out the communists within three years.

“The insurgency in the Philippines is ideological, meaning an ideology dies only with the death of the ideologue,” Cruz said in a statement posted on the CBCP website.

Crus pointed out the communist movement has remained in the country for decades and it would be extremely difficult for the military to attain the objective, even before the three-year deadline imposed by the President. – With Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero

Senators hit GMA proposal to reinstate anti-subversion law By Christina Mendez Saturday, December 15, 2007

Senators vowed to block efforts from Malacañang and the House of Representatives to resurrect the Anti-Subversion Law in an effort to end the 38-year old insurgency waged by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. led the senators in saying there is no need to “resurrect from the dead” the Anti-Subversion Law since it had been supplanted by the Human Security Act and other laws that have already provided adequate protection to the State against threat groups.

Villar said reviving Republic Act 1700 would be “retrogressive.”

“It is like going back to the primitive years when we label people as communists and insurgents. It will be a throwback to the Jurassic era when mere membership in a group is ground for punishment when what should be sanctioned are overt illegal acts and not mere organizational affiliation,” Villar said.

Villar said there is no public clamor for the revival of RA 1700, which was scrapped by Congress in the early ’90s.

Two of President Arroyo’s allies – Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joker Arroyo – also called for proponents to review their proposal to revive the anti-subversion law.

Santiago described the move to revive RA 1700 as “a step backward.”

She said RA 1700 was repealed because it infringes on the constitutional right of a person to freedom of assembly and association.

Santiago said the proposal would not even muster enough support from the opposition-dominated Senate.

“The dreaded anti-subversion law cannot be reinstated. That law failed to curb communism, which was its objective before martial law, during martial law and after martial law,” Arroyo added.

Arroyo, a human rights lawyer during the martial law regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, said the “wretched law” had caused untold suffering and torture to many innocents.

“Thus when I was a freshman congressman (of Makati City), I worked hard alongside others for its repeal, among them congressman, now Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. I don’t think he will change his mind. I will fight its revival,” he said.

Some congressmen, for their part, also opposed the idea of resurrecting RA 1700.

“The re-enactment only opens an opportunity for abuse by authorities, which would then serve as a basis for insurgents to go against the government,” Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said.

Biazon said the continued insurgency is not caused by the absence of an Anti-Subversion Law, but by the continued existence of poverty in the countryside exacerbated by social injustice and abuse by government authorities.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson said the efforts to revive RA 1700 is a move backward, and agreed with the observation made by Biazon that the key to fighting insurgency is to address the problem of poverty.

“It also lies in removing the culture of violence that the military and the police are promoting through extrajudicial killings, human rights violations and other abuses,” he said.

President Arroyo on Thursday said she is supporting the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law, which punishes mere membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and all its fronts.

The law was repealed in 1992 through the efforts of then Batangas congressman Ermita, because of its perceived infringement on the constitutional rights of an individual.

Through RA 7636, the anti-subversion law was repealed in September 1992.

A ranking administration lawmaker, Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis, has proposed to amend the Human Security Act and incorporate provisions of the anti-subversion law of 1957.

President Arroyo supported Solis on the proposal to revive the law, saying it would strengthen the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.

Mrs. Arroyo said she was among those who pushed for the approval of RA 7636, which repealed the anti-subversion law.

She emphasized though that as long as communist organizations continue to support armed struggle, they will still be considered enemies of the state.

“If we want to be First World, we have to put a stop to their ideological nonsense once and for all,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

“We have to get rid of them now or get rid of them later. Whatever happens, they must be stopped. But we want to get rid of them now, at least before 2010,” she said.

Mrs. Arroyo vowed to get rid of the communist rebels before she steps down in 2010, but her administration has been widely criticized for heavy-handed counterinsurgency efforts that, according to a UN human rights expert and advocacy groups, include unexplained killings and forced disappearances of left-wing activists, farmers and other critics.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also expressed support to revive RA 1700, which would mean a tougher law against rebellion.

Esperon said the new anti-subversion law should hold supporters and sympathizers of the communist movement criminally liable.

“We need a kind of law that would approximate the internal security acts of other countries who have taken, who have availed themselves of this tool in eradicating or defeating insurgency in their homelands, so if you would ask me if I support a new anti-subversion law, I do, the Armed Forces supports that,” Esperon said after he made known before Congress the military’s legal requirements in the fight against the insurgency.

He said he is leaving it up to Congress to include provisions that would make the campaign against communist rebels a bit more effective.

“Anyway we will leave that to Congress; we have made known our needs so it’s up to them,” Esperon said.

He said the Human Security Act does not give the troops in the field the element of rapidity of movement, citing some legal obstacles such as the payment of P500,000 for a wrongful arrest, which effectively hinders some actions against suspected terrorists. – With Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla, James Mananghaya, Marvin Sy

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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