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Media should stop romanticizing the NPAs

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Getsy Tiglao

Getsy Tiglao

By Getsy Tiglao

 

I don’t know why in this day and age, Philippine media continues to romanticize the criminal and terrorist group known as the New People’s Army (NPA). They put on the front page photographs of these Communists, in effect giving this rebel group millions of pesos worth of free publicity.

Editors are quick to pixelize violent images of crime scenes on both print and on television, but then they unthinkingly showcase photographs of armed NPA cadres – the same people who won’t hesitate to shoot down a Filipino soldier, policeman, or any politician or businessman who refuses to pay their illegal “revolutionary taxes.”

It’s been 50 years since the creation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). By this time, the members of media who in their youth may have been sympathetic to the Communist movement, should have realized that Communism is a failed ideology. Even the People’s Republic of China, which has a unitary Socialist-Communist government, grew and developed only after adopting capitalist and market reforms starting in 1978.

They should also know by now that the CPP was the one behind the Plaza Miranda bombing on August 21, 1971, as testified by many witnesses, including former cadres. Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the CPP, wanted to trigger a revolution but what he caused instead was a declaration of martial law in the entire country.

Parts of Mindanao and the Visayas continue to be poor and undeveloped because of the presence of the NPAs. Investors are reluctant to build industries in far-flung areas because of the likelihood that the communists will attack them and destroy their property and businesses if they don’t pay the communists’ extortion fee.

Despite this, Philippine media still devotes long and fawning interviews with Sison, the CPP’s propaganda leader who is enjoying the good life in Europe. Local media publishes glamorized portraits of young pretty NPAs with their Macbooks without the slightest awareness of the hypocrisy of it all. They are unwittingly sending a message to the youth that it’s cool to be a Communist cadre. Yes, the girl says, I am an NPA but I love Apple!

The fact is that Communist cadres are always on the run from the military. They trod through miles of dirt and jungle, eat mainly camote and old coconut (niyog), and suffer through bouts of malaria, diarrhea, and various illnesses,  including tuberculosis. Their teeth fall due to malnutrition and bad hygiene.

If they don’t surrender to government, they are eventually killed in an encounter or shot by their fellow Communists when they cleanse ranks. This is the reality, and not the idealized version being promoted by Communist propagandists, aided in part by mainstream media. Is this really the future that newspaper and television executives want for our youth?

The goal of the CPP is to overthrow the government through violent means, mainly guerrilla warfare. Thus their armed wing, the NPA, has been behind many ambushes of soldiers and policemen. The Duterte administration gave up on its talks with the Communists last year due to the non-stop NPA attacks that resulted in the deaths of many, including civilians.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has long identified the CPP-NPA as a serious threat to our democracy. I believe that our military has the smarts and capability to defeat the Communists. The problem has always been the lack of support to the AFP and the general reluctance of leaders to order a full-scale campaign against the rebels.

This is slowly changing though as President Rodrigo Duterte, despite his socialist leanings, has seen the crucial role of the AFP in keeping the republic intact. Military arms and equipment are now being upgraded. So are the salaries and benefits of our men and women in uniform.

Imagine if the AFP had failed to win the war in Marawi. We would have had a city within our country controlled by the decapitation-happy Islamic State.

Many Philippine presidents start out with a desire to enter into peace negotiations with the Communists. But then they always leave the negotiating table feeling frustrated and betrayed.

The Duterte administration is only the latest to try, and fail, to reach an agreement with a group that has no genuine desire for peace. Really, now, how can you expect government to agree to a deal where the NPA will not lay down their arms?

Media people should start looking at Communist groups for what they really are – as a threat to our democratic society.

Unfortunately, local media has taken the adversarial role of the press to the extreme, forgetting that it also has a role in building a nation. There is no shame in helping your country grow and develop so that millions of Filipinos can be lifted out of poverty. What is shameful is helping criminals and terrorists in their goal to overthrow a legitimate government through violent means.

Editors, reporters, publishers, and newspaper owners should rethink their practice of promoting – inadvertently, I hope – the Communist ideology. Our media people should think deep and hard as to which side they want to win.

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