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PH: Most rebel-hounded state

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I am not absolutely sure, but all indications point to the distinction that the Philippines is the most rebel-hounded country in the world at present. The fact that there are three rebel organizations that have already attained the status of belligerency (CCP-NPA-NDP, MNLF, and MILF, plus the chronic and pernicious existence of other anti-government forces such as the world-dreaded kidnap-for-ramson Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsa Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Maute terrorist organization which is now believed to have links with the ISIS, there is very little doubt left about the existence of a beleaguering national security menace.

But what is amazingly  a huge source of national pride is the irrefutable fact that despite the seemingly never-ending destructive assaults, sometimes simultaneously, launched by the various rebel forces in the different parts of its archipelagic territory, the Philippines with its extensively experienced and foreign-assisted Armed Forces has maintained its military superiority and political stability with its economy steadfastly and consistently among the fastest growing in the world today. Most likely, there is no other country in our contemporary history that demonstrates this kind of military capability,  tenacity, and resiliency in confronting the multiple threats to its national security. This makes the Philippines, an icon and archetype in the art of defending its internal sovereignty.

But why has the number of anti-government forces actually increased, instead of being contained or reduced despite the sustained all-out  offensives undertaken by government forces against the enemies of the state, its no-ransom policy in dealing with kidnap for ransom groups, and its passionate peace initiatives to  address secesionist  aggression? And why did the three major revolutionary organizations; the CPP-NPA-NDF, the MNLF, and MILF attain the status of belligerence under international law? Here’s the possible expanation:

“Historically, rebel groups seeking to overthrow a recognized government or to secede from a State have sought belligerent status- a legal standing akin to that accorded to a government and bringing the law of international conflict into play for both sides.”- From an article entitled  ‘Belligerent Status’ co-authored by  Edwin Allison and Robert K. Goldman.

So many might be wondering why the Republic of the Philippines appears to be inevitably hard-pressed in negotiating peace with the three major revolutionary governments, namely; the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP-NPA-NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNL), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who have already attained the status of belligerence whether it is admitted or not.

As I have cogently and objectively opined, these three revolutionary organizations by virtue of the fact that they have already forged peace and ceasefire agreements  with the Republic of the Philippines as belligerent parties, have already acquired a political status that makes them co-equal with any sovereign country under the laws of war and the applicable international humanitarian laws particularly those that were promulgated by the  Geneva Conventions starting 1949 “comprising of three treaties and three additional protocols that establish the standard of international law for humanitarian treatment of war.” For this reason, they can not be made to go under the ambit of the Philippine Constitution or be subject to any other domistic or municipal laws.

No matter what the political appreciation and perception of the Philippine Government about the present statehood status of these three belligerent entities, it cannot be denied  that the CPP-NPA-NDF, MNLF, and MILF have succeeded in  acquiring belligerent parity rights  under the peace and ceasefire agreements they signed with the Republic of the Philippines. Inferentially, at present their normal and pacific governmental activities cannot be disrupted. regulated,  or prohibited by the laws of the country they are rebelling against for their relations are now determined or governed not by  Philippine laws but by the terms  and conditions explicitly stipulated in the peace and ceasefire agreements they signed, the implementation of which is being strictly monitored by an Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), particularly in the case of the MILF. Under the existing peace agreements, it can easily be construed that the Philippine government has already granted some sort of sovereign control to the MNLF, MILF, annd CPP-NPA-NDF over their respective camps and areas of operation diplomatically identified, designated, and defined; although this assertion maybe argued against vehemently by those who uphold a different school of thought.

The status of the breakaway faction of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is entirely different for it has not yet gained belligerency recognition expressly or implicitly either from the Philippine Government or from the international community. At present, the BIFF is still considered  as an ordinary rebel organization  like any rag-tag anti-government armed group which can be pursued and hunted down by the Philippine law enforcement agencies  and military units at will and anytime when the conditions demand and the threat to national security becomes exigent,  clear, and imminent in the judgment of any legally constituted command.

However, if the BIFF over time acquires the capability to intensify and maintains its military offensives against the government  for a protracted period  and eventually reach the gravity of a humanitarian crisis, the international community  on its own accord, may again exercise its moral prerogative and mandate to  effect the unrestrained delivery of much- needed assistance and relief services for the victims of war. As in many instances in the past, it be morally compelled or obligated to  mediate, intervene, or facilitate ceasefire or peace negotiations between the rebel and government forces for this purpose. When the Philippine government yields or agrees to suspend hostilities with the BIFF, this automatically opens the window for a bilateral declaration of a truce and eventually the forging of a formal ceasefire  or peace agreement which will elevate the BIFF to that of a belligerent organization enjoying co-sovereign status with the Republic of the Philippines exactly the kind of recognition now enjoyed by the CPP-NPA-NDF, MNLF, and MILF.

In fact, to the best of my recollections, the Philippine Government did not issue any formal statement of recognition of the status of belligerency  to CCP-NPA-NDF, MNLF, and MILF. It was the intervention of the various international humanitarian organizations triggered by the compelling and justifying emergency and life-and-death conditions on the ground, which made it possible. On the part of the   Philippine Government, by the very fact that it agreed to forge ceasefire agreements and  conduct peace negotations with these three major revoltionary fronts, such action gave implicit recognition to their status of belligerency.

Right now, there is no foolproof way of predicting whether the BIFF, the Maute, or even the Abu Sayyaf will attain belligerency status by the intervention of the international community or by explicit or implicit acts of the Philippine government. As it stands, the fact remains that there are so many anti-government armed groups that are actively hounding the country and there is no sure-fire or foolproof gurantee that the Philippine government can completely wipe them out from its territory within this century.   (By Clem M. Bascar)




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