What last straw broke Duterte’s back?

POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr.

Insurgents and the ideologues directing their supposed revolution from the safety of the Netherlands must have pushed President Rodrigo Duterte’s patience to the limit for him to declare as a “terrorist group” the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army.

What proverbial last straw broke Duterte’s back? This is now the subject of speculation by spectators who are not privy to details of the on-and-off “peace talks” that used to be carried out in the conducive climes of the Netherlands – but which have been stopped by Malacañang.

Aside from calling off the talks, the President has proclaimed the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group. This move is intriguing since he was poised just this January to ask the United States to remove from its global list of terrorists Jose Ma. Sison, head of the National Democratic Front umbrella that includes the CPP-NPA.

The term “terrorist” is not an idle tag, but a legal designation/identification under RA 10168, the law that freezes and forfeits the assets or funds of persons and groups designated as terrorists. It also makes it a crime to give funds to terrorists.

RA 10168, also known as “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012,” recognizes terrorism as inimical to national security. It thus condemns terrorism and those who support and finance acts of terrorism.

The NPA brigands sowing mayhem in the countryside while extorting “revolutionary tax” from moneyed individuals and big businesses cannot lug around their collections in sacks or boxes, but hide the pile in secret depositories, including safe houses and banks.

In this material world, even revolutions cannot run without money, lots of it. With the CPP-NPA having been declared a “terrorist group,” the cash flow of the rebels is expected to suffer a slowdown, if not a more serious setback.

The President’s proclamation used in tandem with RA 10168 will make it easier for investigators to track down CPP-NPA hoards and seize them. Relentless sleuthing makes it riskier for financiers – willing or not – to keep the contributions flowing.

• Duterte-Sison relations turn sour

DUTERTE used to refer to Sison in friendlier days as his professor way back at the Lyceum from whom he imbibed not a few political doctrines. The 72-year-old populist leader sometimes describes himself as a socialist (but not a communist).

Lately, however, his relations with the exiled rebel leader have soured -- affecting the once chummy conversations between his negotiators and the coterie of Sison directing the revolution back home from the safety and comfort of political asylum in the Netherlands.

The more visible signs of a falling out include the removal of Cabinet officials representing the Left, Sison’s starting to call Duterte a terrorist and other names, NPA ambuscades and raids that have killed officials, state forces and civilians, the destruction of infrastructure, and the continuing collection of revolutionary tax.

With the wind now blowing in the opposite direction, Malacañang has directed the foreign office to publish the designation or identification of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization, and the justice department to apply with the proper Regional Trial Court for the proscription or declaration of the CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization.

Way back on Aug. 9, 2002, the US designated the CPP-NPA as a foreign terrorist organization on its FTO list. The failure of the Philippine government itself to make a similar listing has stymied US moves to cut the flow of CPP-NPA funds.

Duterte’s finally identifying the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group this week will be a legal boost to the two countries’ cooperation to cut the flow of funds that fuel insurgency and terrorism in the Philippines.

The awakening of Duterte, as it were, to the folly of being soft on terrorism may have been hastened by the five-month war in Marawi City between government forces and Islamic State-inspired rebels. The US and other countries helped cut short the siege.

With the replacement of US President Barack Obama, who had famously rubbed Duterte the wrong way, relations with the White House have improved with Republican President Donald Trump having taken over. This will help firm up their anti-terrorism consensus.

• Time not on the side of Sison gang

THERE is a view that Sison and his group of ageing revolutionaries may soon become irrelevant to the insurgency they pretend to direct – and that the decades-old communist terrorism in the country may wither with the passing of the old guards without a strong crop of new ideologues to replace them.

Some military analysts are studying the indications afforded by the many times when the elders ensconced in the Netherlands did not seem to be able to enforce their will on the scattered warriors on the ground carrying the brunt of the fighting and dying.

It has been noted, for instance, that when the Sison group in exile sometimes agreed on a ceasefire with the Philippine government, clashes with NPAs in the countryside still erupted. The “disconnect” gives the impression that the supposed leaders were not in full control of their men.

Sison, who is based in Utrecht in the Netherlands, is still on the US list of terrorists. This has hampered his movement since he has no assurance that the long arm of the US, aided by the International Police, will not arrest him once he steps out of the safety of his European haven.

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ADVISORY: All Postscripts from 1997 to the present can be accessed at manilamail.com. Follow me on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email feedback to fdp333@yahoo.com

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