Outlawing the NPA

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

Our title is a play in words because the New People’s Army is already considered by the government as operating outside the law. Despite their being hunted down, several towns and cities and many barangays have declared the NPA as persona non grata.

The use of this diplomatic term looks nice, but they hardly apply to the NPA. First, the word should be personae which is plural because the NPA are a bunch of armed men and women, not an individual. Secondly, the phrase means “a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country’s government.”

The NPA is not a foreigner but a local person with a different political ideology that he or she enforces by violent means, that is, by killing the opponent. Because of this armed revolt for the installation of a communist ideology that included killing the innocents, the Army classified the NPA as terrorists and hunted them down as such.

On the other hand, a foreigner tagged as persona non grata is only being censured and his diplomatic protection from arrest is removed and thus subject to prosecution once arrested for a crime. The diplomat usually leaves the country posthaste to avoid embarrassment.

Definition matters especially in dealing with an armed rebellion. The way the NPA is tagged in diplomatic terms reduces the impact of the resolutions of the local governments. The NPA should be named for what they are – rebels out to remove and take over the government by violent means. Their field tactics do not discriminate between lawful targets as the military and the police but include civilians. They impose “revolutionary taxes” that the military call extortion because of the coercive methods of collection.

During the Philippine-American war (1899-1907), the Americans changed the definition of the remnants of the Philippine revolutionary government who continued to fight after Aguinaldo’s government collapsed, from “rebels” to “bandits” by passing the Ley de Bandolerismo (Brigandage Law) or Act 518 of 1902. The new classification removed the justifiable political nature of the rebellion into lawlessness and banditry. The rebels got pardoned; the bandits got the death penalty.

The campaign to get local governments to declare the NPA personae non grata is a project of the Army ostensibly to make the community aware that the NPA is an enemy of the people.

The Latin phrase as used means that the NPA is not welcome in the area. Indeed, who does, especially for local government officials but is this tagging method effective? Would the NPA be dissuaded by their being unwelcome? Does this pose a danger to them?

On the other hand, will not this move backfire on the population especially for the local officials and expose them to retaliation? Probably not considering that the towns and cities where the declarations were made are believed free from the clutches of the NPA. However, NPA assassins do not fear being disinvited.

The only way to remove the NPA scourge is to undercut their propaganda against the government. Justice, honesty and competence are the best antidotes to rebellion, especially when that revolt is fueled by an ideology that runs contrary to our Christianity-based way of life. The entire communist propaganda is anchored on the absence of these solid foundations of governance. If injustice, corruption and inefficiency remained so long will rebellion persist.

It looks well that a community has declared the NPA as unwelcome, but this can be deceptive and illusory. The NPA is not deterred by this declaration and even the military can be lulled to believe that the people will take the cudgel for them. It only invites retaliation to prove that the NPA is still around.

A false sense of security is a disastrous posture in a country where armed rebellion has survived for three-fourths of a century and despite the increase in the size of the armed forces. Even several peace negotiations have failed because we are dealing with an ideology that is unwilling to compromise but is committed to the complete change of our way of life.

If there is anything good about declaring the NPA as personae non grata, it is achievement propaganda that can only work when officials administer the affairs of government with the virtues that people expect from them – justice, honesty and competence.