Daily Archives: August 26, 2016

TWO PEACE TALKS: COLOMBIA AND THE PHILIPPINES

KOMUNIDAD

August 25, 2016

TWO PEACE TALKS: COLOMBIA AND THE PHILIPPINES

By Arturo P. Garcia

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Two important and significant peace talks occurred in two nations in the world this August 2016. And the whole world was stunned by these

Miles apart but parallel in meaning. One was held in Havana, Cuba in South America between the Government of Colombia and the Fuersas Armadas Revolucionario Del Colombia -Ejercito Del Pueblo (FARC-EP)  and it was successfully concluded.  The peace agreement is due to be signed on September 2016 after four years of talks.

The other peace talks is being held  in Oslo, Noway in Europe between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Philippine Government (GPH) and that is still ongoing.

To understand the significance of the peace talks let us learn about the two conflicts, the longest running in the world. In Colombia it spanned more than 68 years and in the Philippines, 47 years.

The armed struggle was started by armed peasants led by Pedro Antonio Marin Martin alias Manuel Marulanda also known as “ Tirofijo”  ( Sureshoot)  and members of his family. Like many Liberal peasants, rose up in arms not long after they heard the news about the death of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan. the liberal PReddient of Colombia who was assassinated  in 1948.

Initially they were defending themselves from members of the rival Conservative Party and of local police forces. This period is known in the Colombian history as the “La Violencia”.  Many things were written about it by the writer, Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his popular novels filled with”magical realism”.Eventually, Marulanda split with some of his relatives and became part of a column of guerrilla fighters that came under the influence of the  Communist Party of Colombia (CPC) which developed a more proactive role in the fighting, executing more raids and offensive operations.

He took on the name “Manuel Marulanda” in honor of a murdered union leader. Marulanda eventually met and befriended Luis Morantes, also known as Jacobo Arenas, a PCC political cadre sent to the rural areas by the central party structure.

Members of this group later settled in an area known as Marquetalia towards the end of “La Violencia”, keeping their weapons. They distrusted the Colombian Army and government even after a 1953 coup led by General Gustavo Rojas against Conservative president Laureano Gómez. Rojas had offered an amnesty that was accepted by most Liberal irregular fighters nationwide, but reputedly the murder of a few demobilized individuals made Marulanda, his rural comrades and his PCC superiors in the cities uneasy.

After the fall of Rojas in 1957 and the signing of the National Front agreement in 1958 between Colombia’s two main parties, self-sufficient armed enclaves, such as the so-called “independent republics” and in particular a supposed “Marquetalia Republic”, were considered dangerous by the new government.

Pressure from Conservative members of Congress and from the United States led to a Colombian Army attack on Marquetalia, which was eventually overrun during what was termed “Operation Marquetalia” in May 1964.

The Colombian Army’s attack was mostly ineffective, though it did scatter the guerrillas, and most of the survivors reunited elsewhere and later became part of the “Bloque Sur” (Southern Bloc) guerrilla group on 27 May 1964, a precursor to the official foundation of the FARC in 1966. Marulanda and Jacobo Arenas soon established themselves as the main leaders of the new guerrilla group.

The FARC-Ejercito Del Pueblo (EP)  or People’s Army  from 1964 grew in numbers and build liberated guerilla bases the size of Swizerland for more 50 years until the death of Marulanda in 2008. In fact they even threatened to seize the capital of Bogota , Colombia in 2003 but decided against it in fear of  direct American intervention.

duterte-joma-sisonOn the other hand, the New People’s Army (NPA) was formed by the incipient Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) led by Prof. Jose Maria Sison when they formed the the CPP in December 26, 1968 in Mangatarem, Pangasinan.

The departed KM activist. A teacher at Mapa High School in Manila and a UP graduate, Arthur Garcia was assigned to be the interim commander of the newly formed NPA. Garcia had some training in China when he travelled as a visiting student in the late 1960’s. Garcia died in 1970 in an NPA guerilla base in Tarlac.

It was a strike of fate that in early 1969, a distruggled group of Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) under Bernabe Buscayno  aka Commander Dante decided to bolt the HMB under then the corrupt leadership of Faustino Del Mundo alias Commander Sumulong contacted Prof. Joma Sison and that made the formation of the NPA in March 29, 1969 easier.

The NPA started with more than 60 fighters mostly cadres from the old HMB, new recruits from the CPP mostly student activist and professionals who were dedicated to resume armed struggle in the Philippines after a hiatus of more than 40 years.

Commander Dante  became the Commander of the NPA replacing Arthur Garcia.  He was a popular and practical choice because he had the experience as an HMB Commander for sometime and he was from Central Luzon, the base of operations of the NPA during its early year.

The rest is history. The NPA from less than 300 armed men in small guerilla zones In Tarlac, Pampanga,  Isabela. Nueva Vizcaya   and Ifugao, grew by leaps and bounds during martial law to more than 10,000 armed men with 25,000 militia or part-time guerlllas based in the barrios in 1986 at the onset of the EDSA 1 People’s Power Revolution in February 1986. .

To set the history straight, the NPA was its infancy when President Marcos declared martial law in September 23, 1972.  He just falsely alarmed the United States who took his bait, to justify his lust for power and stayed on for more than 14 years after being President for more than 6 years.

The peace talks  between the NDF and the GPH started from the Cory Aquino Regime in 1986 to the Duterte regime in 2016. But of all the regimes from Cory Aquino to President Rodrigo Duterte who was elected in May 2016 , it  seems the chance of achieving peace under President Duterte  is brighter than all the past regimes combined.

But as they say “The taste of the pudding is in the eating.” Let us see what comes next after the end of the peace talks between the NDF and the GPH on August 27, 2016 in Oslo, Norway.

Is it peace or war? Take your choice.

 

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