MANILA, Philippines — Government claims of communist rebels and sympathizers giving up in droves would be “ridiculous and even funny” except that “serious violations of civil and political rights are perpetrated by Duterte and the military in their intensified drive to produce fake surrenders,” Jose Ma. Sison said.
The founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, reacting to news reports quoting the military as saying more than 2,000 New People’s Army fighters, militia members and mass supporters have given up this year alone, noted a “shift in counterrevolutionary propaganda” from the previous tack that limited supposed surrenders only to guerrillas.
Since early this year, the military has presented hundreds of “surrenderers” to President Rodrigo Duterte, including one event last month that saw him addressing a delegation of more than 200 in Malacañang during which he suggested government forces should shoot women rebels “in their vagina,” sparking outrage among human rights activists, feminists and other quarters.
“The Duterte regime looks ridiculous and even funny by staging the fake surrenders of NPA fighters and their supporters,” Sison, who is now chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said. “But serious violations of civil and political rights are perpetrated by Duterte and the military in their intensified drive to produce fake surrenders.”
“Barangay officials are being persuaded or coerced to call people to meetings,” he added. “Those attending are made to sign attendance sheets, at the back of which is the text of surrender. They are photographed and videographed and misrepresented as taking the oath of surrender and renewing their allegiance to the neocolonial republic.”
He said this was hardly different from the implementation of the government’s anti-drug campaign Oplan Tokhang, during which “people are either coerced or persuaded by barangay officials to surrender as drug addicts for rehabilitation” but with many of them ending up among the thousands of victims of the killings that have marked the “war on drugs.”
Sison warned that in the case of the counterinsurgency campaign, “the list of surrenderers serves as the basis for the military to fulfill their quota of killing revolutionary suspects at the variable rates of P25,000 to P100,000 per head, depending on the rank ascribable to the victim,” referring to Duterte’s recent offers of bounties for slain rebels.
At the same time, he predicted that the revolutionary movement “will become stronger precisely because of the escalation of state terrorism and plunder” even as “the broad masses of the people expect that the NPA intensify their offensives” against the government.