When the highest official of the nation paid homage to the death of the lowest military element like the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), what does it say?
Panggong Komonad, in a convoy with his other CAFGU comrades, while on their way back to their camp to comply with Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire with the Reds as announced on his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 25 2016 was killed in an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA).
The NPA owned up with the attack. They did it, they say, in active defense. The CAFGU militiamen, according to NPA continued their operation against them and ignored Duterte’s ceasefire declaration.
Duterte’s order being “ignored”? Huh!
No one defied Duterte’s order since he assumed his presidency.
So pissed off that the CPP-NDF-NPA didn’t reciprocate to Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire, but responded instead by killing one of his soldiers, Duterte asked: “What is this? Are we into this truce or not. Are you jamming with me? I acted in good faith. I hit the ground running. I skewed my way from the usual course, just for us to have peace; and this happened”. Duterte demanded an explanation.
Then Duterte gave an ultimatum: If the CPP-NDF-NPA didn’t reciprocate for his call of peace, at an appointed time, he will revoke the ceasefire.
“Balik tayo sa away, yan ang gusto ninyo e di sige,” Duterte said.
Duterte revoked the ceasefire.
Despite the rankled rhetoric, though, both camps – Duterte’s peace negotiator and the Reds wish to continue their talks in Oslo on August 20 – 27 for the formal peace negotiation.
Two things could be plucked out from this event:
- The CPP-NDF-NPA use again as leverage their traditional projection of strength to bargain for their demands.
- Talking about Duterte’s soldier, even the smallest of them counts.
Traditionally, from the time of President Cory Aquino down to the Presidency of P’Noy, whenever an impending peace talk loomed, the CPP-NDF-NPA raised up their ambuscade activities. They raided police and military detachments. And they broke down public utility infrastructures.
If, indeed preliminary talks happened, soon enough, as it always occurs, choke points get in the way – for example, trading accusations of treacherous violation of protocols.
The onus, as always, fell to the rebels: because their sincerity is always in question. Just like what just happened with Duterte, which was then a familiar phenomenon, during the time of the five previous presidents.
Of course, Duterte, apart from his personal knowledge of the previous failure of the peace talks, had been briefed now of the much deeper analysis of why peace talks with the Reds always fail.
In preparation for any eventualities, Duterte has to nourish his deep love for his army. He visited the military camps boosting the morale of his soldiers. He ingrained in them, just like him, his intense patriotism. He imbued loyalty for the country’s flag as represented by their Commander-in-Chief. And in return, Duterte will do everything in his power to make their lives comfortable and well-taken care of.
He will double their salaries. He will build for them a well-equipped hospital. He will provide them with the best fighting equipment.
He even intuited how much he spends when fatalities or injuries occur for each of his armies: For death, it’s 250,000 pesos, for personal injury or suffering, 50,000, for the wounded 100,00, which as he said, if there is peace, that money could be spent for the poor.
When Duterte visited the wake of Panggong Komonad, the CAFGU militiaman killed by the NPA, his visits symbolized that even the smallest cog of his army matters. Every one of them counts.