Issues regarding communist insurgencies in the Philippines are once again the talk of the town as the country prepares to elect its next chief executive. The current administration has been aggressive in addressing problems associated extreme leftist groups and their armed counterparts. Definitely, the next head of government would inherit these successes as the military gains momentum to proactively respond to such challenges. However, the next administration cannot afford to rest on its laurels as the varied realities of the Philippine society and the economy are changing in both predictable and volatile ways.
When taking a look at Philippine history, one will find that guerilla warfare and socialist-inspired movements were never strangers to Filipinos across the archipelago. The Hukbalahap, which were an organized group that vehemently opposed Imperial Japan during the Pacific War, were adept in committing “ambuscades” even after the Commonwealth years came to an end with after the Philippines was granted independence by the United States. It was during the Magsaysay years when the Hukbalahap issue came to a conclusion. Roughly a couple of decades later, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) obtained dangerous firearms and had the ability to raise an army of thousands of armed personnel which threatened the internal stability of the country. Nevertheless, the Philippines persisted in its attempts at addressing the threats of communism.
Taking a look at these two situations, there is a common denominator underlying why such movements gained ground in the Philippines, and this lone reason connects one predicament to another. This common denominator is poverty. This issue is most visible in the geographically-isolated areas of the archipelago where farmers engage in subsistence-based agriculture and till farmlands of limited productivity, thus further lowering down their earning potential. It is also exacerbated by graft and corruption, which leads to further degradation and decay of communities in the country’s rural areas. As a result, these places become susceptible to communist propaganda and turn into ideal breeding grounds for civil disorder. For a man who has nothing to lose and everything to gain, the promise of a utopian society is difficult to resist.
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However, world history has shown that socialism and totalitarianism had failed to uplift the lives of people living under such regimes. The National Socialists of Germany ended up seeing their nation divided by the four European powers. The Communists of the Soviet Union experienced the feebleness of their political economy for decades until the Red Banner was taken down from the Kremlin. Following the fall of communism, Soviet satellite states behind the Iron Curtain adopted free enterprise and transformed themselves into liberal democracies. The façade of an equal society faded and compelled Communist China to adopt economic policies that liberalized their markets, albeit packages as “Socialism with Chinese characteristics”. Even the great British luminary Winston Churchill denounced the lethal flaws of communism, quipping that there would be a shortage of sand in the Sahara if these communists are in charge. This quote even serves as a reminder to the Czechs in Prague about the failures and the abuses endured by the Czechoslovaks prior to the Velvet Revolution.
Friedrich Hayek, the renowned author of “The Road to Serfdom”, has been quick to note that socialist states have abandoned economic and political freedoms in various methods. With respect to the market, losing the ability to own land and capital destroys an individual’s capability to freely engage in economic activity. Furthermore, centralized government planning creates big governments that end up curtailing personal freedoms, which give birth to a totalitarian system that overrides the rule of law through tyranny. Unfortunately, a highly centralized government system is what these communists salivate over, while disabling the uplifting nature of the market. Everybody becomes equally poor, powerless, and miserable.
In the Philippine setting, the highly-restrictive 1987 Constitution that constrains free enterprise makes capitalism work less efficiently and becomes less effective at lifting families out of poverty. Foreign investors are hesitant to create businesses in the Philippines and, instead, pour financial resources into other more attractive locations in Southeast Asia. The protectionist policies of the current constitution makes the Philippines a laggard when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment. The lack of competition makes monopolistic and oligopolistic companies complacent and at liberty to deliver substandard services to the Filipino people. It creates an unhealthy market where mutual abuse exists between producers and consumers. To make matters worse, the CPP-NPA engages in actions that make these investors lose confidence thus perpetuating economic hardship in far-flung areas that need these employment opportunities the most.
Thus, the challenge for the next administration is to reform the constitution that will liberalize the market, while wisely strengthening the government’s powers to uphold the rule of law and encourage competition. If the next set of leaders aim to end these insurgencies for good, creating an environment that lets families break away from intergenerational poverty by becoming participants in free enterprise with the least amount of government intervention becomes a prerequisite. Making every Filipino household financially secure is a national imperative that ought to be pursued relentlessly. When every Filipino buyer of goods and services enjoys strong purchasing power, the economy grows and the financial market becomes bullish, creating more chances for the marginalized sectors of the society to escape the dehumanizing pangs of poverty. With a vibrant consumer-based economy, the every Filipino has the potential to participate in wealth creation.
Creating a wealthy Philippines requires a healthy market composed of rich producers and rich consumers. Through wealth accumulation in the free market, there will be an abundance of financial resources that can be utilized to directly confront and address such acts of terrorism committed by these various extremist groups. An insurgency-resilient country cannot be built overnight, but progress along these lines will necessarily be backed by a solid economy. When such a formidable nation is formed, these communist insurgencies increasingly become irrelevant and are set on the road to dissolution.
A no one who enjoys the fun things of life in private.
A believer of freedom, capitalism, and conservative brand of politics.
A no one who cares less about popular public opinion.
A believer that life can be better, if every one is a tad more responsible.