CPP hits 'vast' military powers under Duterte 'regime'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 26) — The communist group on its 50th anniversary slammed the Duterte administration for granting broad powers to the military but stressed that this could still not topple the armed insurgency.

President Rodrigo Duterte "has given the military vast powers under his regime," the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in its 15-page statement to mark its five-decade rebellion.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now has absolute powers covering practically half the country," the CPP claimed, citing the government's "all-out war" against rebels nationwide, the extension of martial law in Mindanao until December 31, 2019, and Duterte's Memorandum Order 32 which orders the deployment of more troops to the Bicol Region, Samar and Negros provinces, among others.

The CPP said these policies are all tantamount to placing the entire country under military rule, something Malacañang has repeatedly denied.

What civilian-led approach?

The CPP also took a swipe at Executive Order No. 70, which forms a national task force against local communist armed conflict. Duterte calls this his "civilian-led approach" in fighting the rebels.

"Duterte has taken pains to portray his Oplan Kapayapaan counterinsurgency plan as 'civilian-led,' when, on the contrary, the entire civilian bureaucracy is now militarized by being placed under the operational control of the AFP," the CPP said.

It added that the EO only clusters various government agencies with the police and military "to weaponize the entire government against the revolutionary movement, the legal democratic forces and all opposition."

Duterte's move to strengthen the Armed Forces is not only aimed at defeating the rebels, the CPP said, but also to to meddle in and manipulate the results on the 2019 elections. It said Duterte wants to ensure the victory of candidates who would push for his agenda, including charter change to shift to a federal form of government.

Duterte has repeatedly called on soldiers to be neutral and avoid being involved in partisan politics.

The CPP also warned of a coup that could arise from troops "disenfranchised by his (Duterte's) favoritism," leading to the end of his regime. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier denied anyone in the military was plotting against Duterte.

CPP claims steady growth

The CPP stressed that it has remained undefeated by the government, including the Duterte administration which kept missing self-imposed deadlines to crush the New People's Army (NPA), CPP's armed wing.

"This year, they proclaim that the NPA will be completely finished by mid-2019. As in all previous regimes, they keep on moving their impossible deadline," the CPP said.

It said the rebellion continues to grow steadily. "The Party has fortified its position to further strengthen the revolutionary mass movement and lead the NPA in further advancing the people's war."

The CPP said NPA fighters gathered in "fiesta-like assemblies" to celebrate their anniversary on Wednesday, while party members and activists "held meetings and small gatherings under the nose of police and military intelligence agents."

The military, however, said the CPP "has nothing to celebrate and no achievement to be proud of," in the past 50 years.

READ: Communist group has 'nothing to celebrate,' AFP says

The military said the NPA has a 3,700-strong force, most of them are in Mindanao. The NPA was among the lawless groups cited by Duterte in his third request for Congress to extend martial law in the island region of Mindanao.

The police and military are now on full force for possible NPA attacks as the Duterte government refused to reciprocate the CPP's unilateral ceasefire for the holidays and its 50th anniversary.

"The NPA temporary ceasefire has held since December 24 despite relentless military offensives by the AFP," the CPP said.

No peace talks

In the past, the government and the communist rebels accused each other of violating ceasefires, prompting Duterte to terminate the peace negotiations. The government also seeks to tag the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group, but this bid is still pending in court.

The CPP stressed it was Duterte who "completely shut the doors" to the peace talks.

The government is now pushing for localized peace talks, which the CPP refuses to participate in. The CPP dismissed it as "a divide-and-rule tactic and an additional corruption racket."