Under Pressure, Filipino Communists Warn They'll Hit Back

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Filipino communist leaders have responded to a U.S.-orchestrated clampdown on their finances by rejecting any further peace talks while President Gloria Arroyo remains in office and warning of increased "resistance" against U.S. military "intervention."

The reaction from the movement's exiled heads comes shortly after a spokesman warned that American forces and interests in the Philippines would be attacked if U.S. troops were deployed against communist fighters.

Officials in Manila welcomed moves by the Netherlands and Britain to freeze funds belonging to the Communist Party of the Philippines and its 12,000-strong armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

The freeze came at the request of the State Department in Washington, which earlier this month added the two linked groups to its list of "foreign terrorist organizations" - a designation that blocks their assets and denies members U.S. visas.

In a statement issued from his exiled base in the Netherlands Tuesday, communist leader Jose Maria Sison said it was "widely predicted" that Arroyo would be voted out of power in 2004 elections because she was a puppet of the U.S.

Socio-economic problems, official corruption and "state terrorism" would also contribute to her downfall, he said.

Sison said a new government under one of two named politicians known to harbor presidential ambitions -- a former education secretary and a senior Senator -- would be more conducive for a resumption of peace talks.

On the other hand, if Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes were to become president, "we anticipate that the peace negotiations would completely collapse," he added.

Sison accused the U.S. of promoting Reyes as an alternative to Arroyo.

Reyes has been an outspoken opponent of the communists and recently called Sison a "terrorist" suffering from a delusion that a communist regime could replace democracy in the Philippines.

Founded by Sison in 1968, the communist movement has been fighting since to establish a Marxist state in the Philippines. Experts say some 40,000 people have died during the rebellion, including a U.S. Army colonel shot dead in Manila in 1989.

By an act of congress, the communist party was unbanned in 1992 although its leaders remained in exile and its armed wing continued its violent campaign.

Arroyo resumed stalled peace talks soon after becoming president early last year, but quickly called them off after the NPA assassinated two lawmakers.

From Sison's point of view, however, the resumption of talks was being held up for reasons he said included an escalation in "state terrorism ... against the people and their revolutionary forces," Manila's endorsement of the U.S. decision to designate the groups "terrorists," and the return earlier this year of U.S. troops to the Philippines.

He accused the government of allowing U.S. forces to "trample upon the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines" and claimed Washington was planning to re-establish military bases.

Key American bases in the Philippines were shut down a decade ago after the Senate declined to renew leases.

U.S. casualty threat

Between February and July, more than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in joint exercises with Filipino soldiers aimed at defeating an Islamic terror group in the country's often violent south.

Hundreds of American personnel remain in the country wrapping up infrastructure projects and a second round of joint anti-terrorism exercises is due to begin in October.

At the weekend, an NPA spokesman warned that any attempt to use U.S. forces against its fighters would be strongly resisted.

"Revolutionary and progressive forces must act to block the aggressive war even before it is launched and thwart it the moment U.S. troops enter the Philippines," spokesman Gregorio Rosal said in a statement.

He said the two groups' blacklisting by the State Department was a pretext to allow Americans to launch an "aggressive war" against the communists.

"Sooner or later, the U.S. is bound to suffer many casualties among American troops, who are all vulnerable targets of tactical offensives" by the NPA, he warned.

Since the end of the last U.S.-Philippine mission, U.S.-trained Filipino soldiers have been deployed in areas where the communist rebels are active, and Sison has called on supporters to mount attacks against government targets, including infrastructure.

In recent days troops have clashed with NPA fighters on several occasions, including a case in which troops intercepted several dozen rebels on their way to sabotage a power plant on Saturday.

In another incident the same day, three NPA members were killed by a military unit attacked a base in the southern Mindanao region.

Army Maj.-Gen. Alfonso Dagudag was quoted as saying the strike was part of the president's new focus targeting communist rebels.

See earlier stories:
US Puts Squeeze On Filipino Communist Rebels (Aug. 13, 2002)
US-Trained Filipino Troops Turn Attention To Communist Rebels (Aug. 8, 2002)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow