Wenceslao: Lessons learned

THERE are two things I like regarding recent developments on the issue of community pantries. One is National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon issuing a gag order to Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade and Communications Secretary Lorraine Badoy of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The other is seeing military personnel bringing trucks of goods to the now popular Maginhawa, Quezon City community pantry set up by former student activist Ana Patricia Non.

On the gagging of Parlade and Badoy, I say it was the best thing the government could do short of kicking out the two from NTF-ELCAC. The two are supposed to be spokespersons of a body with lofty goals. I say “lofty” because even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. could not end the communist insurgency during his time as a strongman. Can the Duterte administration succeed where Marcos failed?

Parlade and Badoy should have taken to heart the great Chinese tactician Sun Tzu’s advice: “know your enemy and know your friends, and you can fight a hundred battles without danger of defeat.” Is Non, known to her friends as Patreng, a cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP? Is the setting up of community pantries a grand CPP design against the Duterte administration?

I say the phenomenon of “red tagging” stems from the lack of basic understanding of communist goals and the CPP strategy and tactics. Any former CPP cadre worthy of his former affiliation could tell, just by listening to Patreng’s answers to media interviews, that she is not “linyado,” meaning that she is not mouthing the CPP line of national democratic revolution. That is precisely why she was able to conceive of the community pantry idea. Doing works of charity is not in a communist cadre’s list of priorities.

I say issuing threats in the form of “red tagging” would not end the communist insurgency. The one who is “red tagged” would instead see the futility of working for change under the current democratic setup, forcing him or her to wage armed struggle. Why do you think the membership of the New People’s Army or NPA grew under the Marcos dictatorship? And why did its membership lessen under the administration of former President Fidel Ramos?

Instead of “red tagging” the Maginhawa community pantry, the military leadership ordered its civil-military unit to bring goods so the pantry can serve more people. I say that act exhibited a better understanding of propaganda work. It showed that the military is capable of compassion and is not the ruthless thugs they are painted to be by insurgents. It reminded me of what a military commander did decades ago when women workers of a furniture maker in Mandaue went on strike. Instead of threatening the strikers, he gave them flowers.

Ending the armed conflict cannot be achieved by using force alone. Threats and intimidation won’t work too. That’s among the lessons we can mine from decades of military rule in the past.