MANILA — The New People's Army (NPA) will lay down its arms if social services and injustices in the country are addressed, Partido Lakas ng Masa presidential aspirant Leody De Guzman said Friday.
Asked how will he address the communist insurgency in the country, De Guzman said that one of his top priorities is to push for a genuine land reform based on the armed rebel group's proposal.
"Tutugunin ko ‘yung lahat ng demands ng mga New People’s Army na nakasulat doon sa kanilang dokumento at nabasa ko lahat, napaka-makatarunangan naman," De Guzman said during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) presidential forum.
(I will respond to all the demands of the New People’s Army that are written in their document and I have read them all, it is very reasonable.)
"'Yung kanilang kahilingan sa tunay na reporma sa lupa, lahat ‘yan ay ni-recognize ni (Ferdinand) Marcos, ni Cory (Aquino), ng lahat ng presidente pero hindi ipinatutupad nang totohanan. Ipatutupad ko nang totohanan ang tunay na repormang agraryo, ‘yung comprehensive agrarian reform," he added.
(Their demand for real land reform, all of that was recognized by Ferdinand Marcos, by Cory Aquino, by all the presidents but not implemented in reality. I will implement real agrarian reform.)
De Guzman added that injustices should be addressed and people like Lolo Narding, a senior citizen who was arrested for harvesting mangoes, should be free.
"Lahat ng mga presidente, tao ay naniniwala na may inhustisya sa ating bansa. ‘Pag mayaman ka, ligtas ka, kapag ika’y mahirap tulad ni Lolo Narding, kulong ka, hangga’t ganyan ang hustisya sa atin ay hindi talaga mapipigilan ang laban ng mga tao at pag-abot sa paghawak ng armas," the labor leader said, referring to an elderly man who was detained for allegedly stealing mangoes.
(All the presidents and the public believe that there is injustice in our country. When you are rich, you are safe, when you are poor like Lolo Narding, you are imprisoned, as long as that is justice for us we will not really be able to stop the people from fighting and reaching for weapons.)
He added that if these issues will be resolved, the NPA would no longer have reason to rebel.
"Kaya tingin ko kapag natugunan natin ‘yung kanilang kahilingan mauubusan ng dahilan ang mga NPA na mahawak pa ng armas dahil naniniwala ako na humahawak sila ng armas, hindi naman dahil sa natutuwa lang sila sa paghawak ng araw kundi dahil may malalim silang ipinaglalaban na problema ng ating lipunan," he said.
(So I think when we meet their request, the NPA will run out of reasons to hold weapons because I believe they hold weapons, not because they simply want to..but because they have a deep-rooted reason.)
NPA is the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which was established in 1968 by political science lecturer Jose Maria Sison. Its goals have been to overthrow the government and establish a Maoist-style communist regime that will end "US imperialism" in the former American colony. Sison has been living in exile in the Netherlands since the late 1980s.
As of 2016, at least 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the military. It estimates the NPA has about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s. They remain particularly active in rural areas of the archipelago, where they are well known for extorting money from local businesses. Their regular attacks on police and military forces also occasionally reach into urban areas.
In 2002, the US State Department designated the communist party and the NPA foreign terrorist organizations.
The communists' support is mostly in deeply poor rural areas of the Philippines. The archipelago has one of the largest rich-poor divides in Asia, with one quarter of its roughly 100 million people living on a dollar or less a day.
- With reports from Agence France-Presse