Now that the Philippine government will be in an “all-out” war against the New People’s Army (NPA), the terrorist arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, it is worth exploring some lessones learnt from the recent war that liberated Marawi City from similar terrorist elements.
To be sure, a war against the NPA will be vastly different from the Marawi City War which was confined to a relatively small area and involved a very distinct and visible enemy. The NPA are far more treacherous and insidious, are spread across the Philippine archipelago, and have long infiltrated and embedded themselves in the lives of many rural communities in the hinterlands. Not only that, they have entrenched themselves in the “activist” communities of most Philippine universities and exert almost full editorial control over school publications and other conventional mass media operated by these institutions. So such a war will go beyond high-profile combat operations and will require stepped-up intelligence operations requiring close coordination and intelligence-sharing across both military and law enforcement agencies.
There are enough experts in the field that are adept at identifying the options and scenarios that may unfold in the coming months of such a war against such an enemy as well as comment on, and analyse these. As more odrinary observers, the aspect of war that touches the majority of Filipinos is what they see on TV and their social media feeds. This is where the Marawi War seems to have differentiated itself. One significant thing the Marawi War has proven is that Filipinos take great pride in seeing their boys in action. War is, indeed, a great unifying endeavour, and this truism was quite evident in the way this pride in our fighting men and women transcended partisan lines at the height of the campaign to rid Marawi from its terrorist infestation. Except for a handful of rabid bleeding-heart liberals and “human rights” extremists, Filipinos were united behind their armed forces and the police units that contributed to the success of the Marawi campaign.
If, indeed, there was a well-oiled PR machine behind the excellent way the Marawi War was pitched to the Philippine public via the media, we should tip our hats to those who coordinated and vetted delivery of vivid images and compelling stories of our boys in living colour to a Filipino public long-starved for a military win. This is not, of course, to even suggest that the military and police required such excellent PR support to begin with. The army and their police support personnel, were all properly-uniformed and armed, consistently helmeted, and looked superbly-professional and in good form. Female soldiers in significant numbers attested to the professionalism of the AFP as they demonstrate a level of discipline in the ranks that is suitable for the culture of diversity that makes the armed services appealing to female career fighters.
Indeed, the Marawi War was not just a military win, it was also a public relations win. When the public at large stands behind its military, its military fights well. And when its military fights well, a society’s citizens stand firmly behind it. The Filipino public, the police and the AFP need to beat the enemy together.
In the coming war agains the NPA, Filipinos need to stand by their country’s fighters. There should be no divided opinion around the reality that the NPA are The Enemy and are terrorists. In a war, soldiers kill the enemy. This is the only way a war is won — by crushing the fighting ability of The Enemy which, at its simplest, means killing enemy fighters so that they can no longer shoot at Filipinos. Filipinos should not be distracted from the goal at hand which is to crush the New People’s Army. Permanently.
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