Lessons from history about insurgency in the Philippines

Insurgency, rebellion, and separatist movements (Note: I will use these three terms interchangeably.) have always been part and parcel of Philippine history. In this regard, it is no different from other countries and their histories.

Successive Philippine governments have had to deal with several of these movements. In the spotlight are the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its affiliates the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and the New People’s Army. From the southern Philippines, Filipinos are all too familiar with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

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No, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) does not really count as a separatist movement. It is a bunch of extortionists, “Islamic” militants, and a kidnap-for-ransom group. In other words, a bunch of common criminals.

These same successive Philippine governments have also had varying success in dealing with them. Unfortunately, the net result today is that these groups are still very active, very much alive, and very much causing trouble in various parts of the Philippines. And the reason they continue to hound the government is because there are lessons to be learned from that history, that haven’t been applied properly.

1) The insurgency will not die with bombs alone.

The government can bomb as many rebel camps and kill as many rebel soldiers as humanely possible, and yet someone will always take up the flag for the fallen ones. Why? Because, more often than not, the roots of rebellion lie in feelings of abandonment, neglect, or even downright abuse by the dominant power. That dominant power happens to be the national government.

As long as the government keeps using only the stick, but never the carrot, the rebellion, the insurgency, will never stop. The rebels and insurgents need to be given a compelling reason to exchange their cause for something else.

I once read the following dialogue in a book:

“Think about how you handle someone else’s agenda.”
“That’s easy. Come up with a better one.”

The trick now is to come up with THAT better one.

2) Someone ALWAYS splinters.

The national government has overlooked this at least twice in its dealing with insurgents/ separatists. When the government was attempting peace talks with the MNLF, the MILF formed as a splinter group. When the government attempted peace talks with the MILF – and attempted to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, to boot – the BIFF formed.

The point here is not to establish causation, but to establish that there is an unrealized lesson – that talking peace with mainly only one ethnic/interest group in the Mindanao region has always given cause for resentment among the others.

It is another challenge entirely, or course, for the government to get all the concerned groups at a table to talk peace. And yet another to keep them from killing each other. The diversity of the various ethnic groups in Mindanao needs to be taken into account, if the government truly wants to end insurgency/rebellion in the south.

3) Insurgents do not apply the Golden Rule when they talk about “peaceful coexistence”.

Insurgent groups, despite talking about “peaceful coexistence”, have not really matched up their words with their actions. When people let their guard down, they raid a village. They raze a plantation. They extort “revolutionary taxes” from vehicles and transports passing by their “territory”.

They talk about being left alone, and yet they do not return this “leaving alone” to the rest of the community. How do they expect to be taken in good faith?

4) Insurgents operate in a predictable cycle.

a) “Demand” peace talks.
b) Kill a few servicemen.
c) Claim lack of control.
d) Get hunted by government forces
e) Cry foul.
f) Repeat.

This cycle has been employed one too many times already, and yet successive governments continue to play into the separatists’ hands. The funniest part is the “lack of control”; has the government been talking to counterparts who have, in reality, only marginal influence within their groups? How long will the government allow itself to be played for a fool? Why are the insurgents unable/unwilling to discipline their ranks?

Insurgent/rebel/separatist groups see themselves as victims of oppression by the national government. But what is it really? Neglect? Abuse? Oppression? Abandonment? Lack of welfare benefits? A desire to be spoonfed? What they’re really fighting for has become muddled over the years.

One thing remains clear: it is totally unacceptable for them to involve the rest of the population – those who have nothing to do with their armed struggles – and use violence against them, in order to extract concessions from the government.

It is high time the national government be firmer with insurgent groups. People have suffered them long enough.

23 Replies to “Lessons from history about insurgency in the Philippines”

  1. “As long as the government keeps using only the stick, but never the carrot, the rebellion, the insurgency, will never stop. The rebels and insurgents need to be given a compelling reason to exchange their cause for something else.”

    Right on the mark as usual FallenAngel.

    The endless “rebellions” that happen here are really just symptomatic of a people who recognize – however dimly – that the government is NOT on their side. Most governments aren’t, of course, but third-world governments make no pretense about it: as (I think) Benign0 has described it, the government here is just another criminal syndicate.

    While the masses either sullenly accept their lot, and their airheads gleefully vote for their own oppression as long as they’re allowed to waste their lives away on Facebook, there are always a FEW crazies who take out their frustrations with randomly-targeted violence. Testosterone-fuelled teenagers need something other than guns to occupy themselves with. Prodded into more productive directions with “carrots” instead of “sticks”, they might actually be an enormous force for good. Yet the Philippines offers them nothing, and has no plans to do so anytime soon.

    Therefore, as I predicted elsewhere, the killing will simply continue, and escalate, until the chance of redemption is long gone. At that point some foreign power will take over the country – most likely the Chinese, possibly the Americans – and the country will be right back in the 19th century again. Two steps forward, a thousand or so backwards seems to be the rule here.

  2. poverty becomes the weapons of communism. they used the poor to side on their ideologies to take over the Philippines. they plunder the wealth of the nation to create poverty. they doped the people, they targeted the OFW’s remittances. this is the yellow dynasty, chopping the nation as promised to keep the throne. luisita is worth dying for.

  3. president duterte should not just ignore congress and the SC. he should totally ignore the 87 constitution because it was designed to steal hacienda luisita. that farmland belongs to the farmers ever since the spaniards came to the Philippines. it was sequestered from them without any reason. the pilipinos has been fooled by the slogan ‘ pilipinos are worth dying for’. it is not.

  4. The Philippine government is weak and corrupt. Most of their arms and equipment are obsolete; given as a second-third-fourth hand basis by the Americans. The insurgents are better armed.

    Most of these insurgents, are affiliated to rascal politicians; who use them as “tools of convenience “, to bully their political opponents; promote their political agendas; and win elections…

    Look at the unholy alliance of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis, with the Communist Party of the Philippines; and maybe with few Muslim rebels. The Aquino/Cojuangcos are hacienderos…the CCP has political agenda of all properties/lands owned by the state… it is really a strange political bedfellows …

    Why did that idiot Aquino allowed the Mamapasano massacre ? It is an enigma; up to this day, why these people involved in the Mamapasano massacre are not talking…the U.S. /C.I.A., which they serve, may had been involved…

    Political ideologies; religious ideologies; etc…may have played a part on their struggles. But, I think : it is just a front. Look at how NPA Supremo Jose Ma. Sison, who is living in exile in the Netherland.

    A revolutionary, who eats the best Swizz chocolate; wear the best Armani suit….

    For the Muslims; it is power and money…they are used/tools by/of amoral politicians, to cheat in elections.
    This is the reason: all rebellions, and the Muslim rebellion will never go away…

    It is our choices: if we kick all these rascals out ; or, do we have the “stomach”, to live with them !

    1. salagintong bukid,

      I do not know if our current administration will ignore and violate 1987 Constitution, to rewrite the old 1973 Constitution or 1935 Constitution.

  5. The insurgency in our country had been started way back at the time of the Spanish colonization in our country. Then and now those insurgents had failed to fight for their cause and even got worse, it even divide them & fought against our own people besides the foreign invaders from Spain, USA & Japan just like what it did to the Katipunan sides when it divided the Bonifacio & Aguinaldo factions, the Communist Party of the Phils. when it divided the Maoist NPA and Leninist NDF and finally the Moro rebels when it divided the MNLF & MILF. As you could see, our rebels have a divide & conquer mentality thing and they even cause a great division to our country instead of unifying it for the sake of nationalism and love of our country. They only love on their own and giving a power hungry pride. The movie, “Heneral Luna” once said the real enemy of the Filipinos is our own and not the foreigners, and this the REAL problem in our country . So this will be a greater challenge for our president and our fellow Filipino people.

  6. salagintong bukid,

    No wonder if our current administration will suspend 1987 Constitution, after ignoring and violating it, to re-establish 1935/1973 Constitution.

    1. @propaganda boy that’s true and it really needs an overhaul to our current constitution. I’d just found this website from Filipiknow.net and there are many, many flaws that you could find on 1987 Constitution and it might shock you on some of them especially on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) side.

      If President Duterte should change our current constitution, then the newly proposed constitution should be adopted from Switzerland & Singapore’s constitutions, both a federal-type and an autocratic but a good democratic system style of constitution.

  7. For the sake of ultranationalism and conservatism. We should get rid of foreign invaders and rebels in the Philippines.

  8. @Propaganda Boy,

    But loyalists wanted to bring back 1973 Constitution with unlimited war powers after lifting of ML, extremes of presidential authoritarianism or hyperpresidential system (a parliament without a parliament?) with unicameral legislature, and nationalism (if not ultranationalism) and conservatism in and to re-establish 1973 Constitution to re-write and replace the Aquino-infested constitution with limited ML powers. (Just like it had in China, Eritrea, Venezuela or North Korea with hyperpresidential system)

  9. We are tired of “yellow-infested.” Maute terrorists. The “yellow-infested” ISIS troops had already attacked France, UK and Germany; it needs to be suppressed and oppressed.

  10. @Propaganda Boy:

    You have at look at the CPP-NPA affiliation with the Aquino Cojuangco political axis; connect it to the alliance of the Maute /ISIS group; to the destabilization/impeachment works against Pres. Duterte.

    You can unmask the people behind the shadows, who are orchestrating these events/rebellion. I know some holdouts in the U.S. /C.I.A. , loyal to Obama and Hilary Clinton are involved in this destabilization…Trillanes and his Magdalo clowns are the implementors of this evil plans !

  11. ISIS ideology came from the Islamic ideology of Al Queda. During the term of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and during the administration of former U.S. Pres. Obama.

    These two people wanted to overthrow the regime of Pres. Bashar Al Assad of Syria. So, they implemented a coup d’ etat against Pres. Assad, arming all those against Pres. Assad of Syria. The coup d’ etat was not successful. So, the U.S. armed the Turkish Kurds, to help those who wanted to overthrow Pres. Assad.

    Former U.S. Sec. Dept of State Hilary Clinton, then armed the Sunni insurgents of Iraq, to help overthrow Pres. Assad. These Iraquis armed by the U.S. , fought Pres. Assad. Then, formed the ISIS Caliphate in Syria and Iraq. The ISIS Caliphate is headed by Al Bagdhadi.

    The same as what happened in Lybia. They overthrew Pres. Kadhafy, then the Lybian civil war broke out.
    ISIS expanded to Lybia. More problems for the U.S.

    It is not surprising, if the U.S. /C.I.A. , has a hand in the ISIS expansion in the Philippines. Anyway, they have willing servants here like: the Aquino Cojuangco political axis; Trillanes and his Magdalo group; other political opportunists; etc…

    There are still Hilary Clinton and Obama loyalists in the , U.S. /C.I.A. and other U.S. intelligence networks. These people are leaking to the U.S. Press, classified information, against U.S. Pres. Trump.

    We have to be all vigilant, that our country will not turn to another Syria or Lybia !

  12. @ Propaganda Boy, i think it might be better for the pilipinos to be ruled by the 1935 constitution. it’s been 81 years since it’s be delayed. let’s see how it works. prosecute first the crimes done to the people in the 87 constitution and then swith to 35 or a parliamentary system. what’s going on in the philippines will continue unless they distribute hacienda luisita to the real owners the farmers. i hope president Duterte knows all about this…the cry of the farmers their land. only then the Philippines can move on.

  13. crystal meth users are all liars. they’re the soldiers of satan. satan is in crystal meth. the pilipino people will continue to finished what president Duterte has started, kill satan.

  14. seems to be the yellow rats are all scrambling hand. to hand nowadays to save their poofs. yellow dynasty is done..finished. they will all go behind bars with visiting hours for the public 7 days a week.

  15. the yellow dynasty will stage anarchy, watch. if there’s a reasonable doubt to convict, they must convict. they must not forget the people is watching or they might face a citizen’s arrest. the pilipinos are just watching they might go out in the streets and arrest all yellowtards once they make a mistake to spin a reasonable doubt for conviction. morales and sereno now in hot seat.

  16. Maybe it’s time to stop looking back and assuming our future can only be based on our crappy history. Yellowtards, Marcos and all this nonsense now with Duterte. We come ass backwards at nearly everything because it’s the easiest option, no need to think up something new, but the future of our society is too important. Bickering like school children doesn’t solve anything, just adds to the frustration. Shouldn’t we decide what kind of society we want for ourselves and our families, and for future generations, then work positively towards something achievable. I think it’s been done before…

  17. “Shouldn’t we decide what kind of society we want for ourselves and our families, and for future generations, then work positively towards something achievable. I think it’s been done before…”

    Like when or what period in our history?! I’m not expecting a right or wrong answer. Just an honest personal answer in your opinion!

    1. Reworded sentence then…

      I think aiming to achieve something better has been done before in many countries and times, rather than the way we handicap ourselves by focusing on our own dismal past and assuming that’s our future too….

  18. @Vex: Finally. A Filipino who gets it. Exactly. Look to the future, make a plan, fix what’s wrong, and stop arguing about whose fault it is. Now, why didn’t you run for president?

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