Communists can be defeated if Arroyo term is extended, national security adviser says

Feb. 14, 2008

TAGUM CITY — National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales proposed two possible ways to defeat the Communist rebellion by 2010: first is to craft a really good local government counter-insurgency strategy, or to extend the term of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He said that Arroyo wishes to finish the Communist rebellion when her term ends in 2010. But with only two and a half years left, Gonzales, said he doubts if the government can achieve it.

“We can do two things to fulfill that,” he said. “We can really craft a good strategy, or we can extend the president if we can’t do it in two and a half years.”

Gonzales talked to local peace executives during the Local Peace and Security Assembly, only days before local officials revived talks about federalism here and the moves to amend the Constitution.

The government supposedly conducts LPSA in different localities nationwide to curb so-called threats of terrorism. According to Gonzales, Mindanao is “special” because of the presence of several armed groups like the New People’s Army (NPA), Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, and Abu Sayyaf group, among others.

In his speech, Gonzales said that it’s okay to be a Communist. He said that in the 20th century, rising up in arms against oppression is considered acceptable by societies around the world. But, at the turn of the 21st century, he said, “there is absolutely no excuse for doing (armed rebellion) anymore, no matter what the situation is.”

NOT PEACE BUT WAR. Members of the progressive groupBagong Alyansang Makabayan believe that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Local Peace and Security Asembly held in Tagum recently will bring more wars in Mindanao affecting, mainly, poor peasants and lumads (indigenous people). ( photo by Jonald Mahinay)

Arroyo, who was here on the second day, said she extended the term of Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, AFP chief of staff, to continue the momentum in the fight against the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

She confirmed Esperon’s three-month extension on January 26, while attending the 2008 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, drawing different reactions.

Esperon was supposed to retire this month based on the military’s compulsory retirement age of 56. With the extension of his term, he will serve until May this year, making him the longest-serving military chief under the Arroyo government.

Traditionally, the Army chief assumes the highest AFP post. Current army chief Lt Gen Alexander Yano’s promotion will be put on hold with Esperon’s extension. Arroyo’s move would also violate Republic Act 1886, which limits the chief of staff’s tenure to a maximum of three years.

Esperon earlier declared that his next 100 days will be bloody. In the first quarter this year, he vowed to dismantle 17 out of 87 Communist guerilla fronts.

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