Based on the SOT-WA Operations at NCR Experience

by:Cpt Mario Jose M Chico (QMS) PA

Thrust the Dagger Straight to the Dragon’s Heart

In every fantasy movies featuring monstrous dragons as villain, it is but necessary for the hero to strike the sword to the heart of the dragon to kill the menace. For the very reason that in its heart, is where its strength emanates, and once fatally hit, will cause its demise. Hence, in order to put an end to a known enemy, we must be able to locate its heart, its Center of Gravity, and to thrust the dagger to annihilate the dreaded monster.

Militarily, the Center of Gravity (COG) refers to “the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act.”[i] It was said that the loss of a center of gravity will ultimately results in defeat. It is therefore a must to identify the COG of the enemy to come up with a precise target where efforts and resources will be focused to achieve the end objective of neutralizing the enemy.

For four decades now, the AFP had launched numerous campaign plans but all failed to end the four decade old insurgency. One glaring fact is that, although we have been hitting the enemy, we failed to hit him where he will suffer the most and will cause his downfall. Hence, there is a need for us to ascertain the center of gravity of the enemy in order for us to craft a campaign strategy that will enable us to ‘thrust our dagger’ and give the enemy the fatal blow.

The SOT-WA Background and Lessons Learned

Prior to the conduct of SOT-WA in the NCR in 2006, we have seen a steady increasing numbers of attendees from various sectoral organizations to anti-government protest actions/mobilizations initiated by the CTM front organizations. This had made us adopt a sense of appreciation that the CTM, through their front organizations, has already gained a stronghold of the different sectoral organizations at the NCR.

However, our experience in the conduct of SOT-WA in the NCR reveals the reality that the grip of the CTM front organizations to the urban poor organizations is not as strong as we have perceived to be. After a series of SOT-WA operations at selected urban poor communities where most of the attendees of CTM initiated protest actions, a continuing decline of attendees to anti-government protest actions/mobilizations by CTM front organizations were noted. Notwithstanding the presence of gargantuan societal issues (ZTE Deal, Fertilizer, etc..), still the CTM failed to mobilize a critical mass to oust the Arroyo administration unlike what they have achieved during the EDSA II. Likewise, we have able to discover that a majority of those who are joining CTM front organization-led mobilizations were being paid for their attendance. Hence, it can be deduced that only a minority from these group joined such mobilizations due to ideological belief.

A deeper scrutiny of the CTM front organizations’ mobilizations reveals the active involvement of the students/youth sector. The following were some of the prominent information observed during CTM initiated mobilizations:

1. There has been no single CTM front organization-initiated mobilization in the NCR conducted without the involvement from the members of Student/Youth Sector (S/YS) whether the issue raised was about land reform, labor concerns, urban poor, human rights, etc.
2. Part of the CTM Recruitment Scheme in the S/YS is the ‘immersion’ phase of their recruits to urban poor communities and workers via what they called ‘Serve The People (STP) teams. These STP teams serve as the CTM machinery operating in the urban poor areas tasked conduct AOM effort.[ii]
3. Exposure to the Countryside (CS) of S/YS recruits from the WA. Undeniably, although we failed to account the actual numbers, the S/YS had been, and still is, the biggest contributor of quality cadres in the Red Area. They play multi-roles that contribute to the eventual growth of the NPA regulars in the RAs. As Joma Sison pointed out, “Alam ko na papalaki ang bilang ng mga kabataan na tumutungo sa kanayunan upang sumapi sa hukbong bayan at gumapan ng gawain sa hanay ng masang magsasaka. Sila ay lumalahok sa iba’t ibang gawain sa hukbong bayan, tulad ng gawain sa edukasyon at kultura, produksyon at pagsasanay militar. Sila ay naglulunsad ng panlipunang pagsisiyasat at gawaing masa. Tumutulong sila sa pagtatayo ng mga organo ng kapangyarihang pampulitika at mga organisasyong masa at nagsusulong ng reporma sa lupa at iba pang kampanyang masa.”[iii]

Center of Gravity as Source of Strength

In the Red Area, the CTM’s Guerilla Fronts establish Guerilla Bases (GB) where they perform their strategic task of preserving and developing their forces in preparation for the General Offensive. It is also where the Center of Gravity (COG) of that particular Guerilla Front is located. In these areas, CTM has been utilizing their operational methodology of Indoctrinalization-Politicalization-Organization (IPO) works. While we have already developed a set of parameters in order to ascertain the COG in the Red Area that we have been using in our planning for clearing of GFs, we still have not come up with a definitive guide to pin point the COG of the CTM in the White Area.

The parameters set in identifying COG in the RA cannot be applied to identify the COG in the WA basically due to the fact that in the WA, CTM adopts the Arouse-Organize-Mobilize (AOM) methodology among the broad masses implemented by their front organizations in order to achieve a critical mass they need to launch the General Uprising that will complement the General Offensive coming from the Red Area. As Joma Sison a.k.a. Amado Guererro said: “We should excel in combining legal, illegal and semi-legal activities through a widespread and stable underground. A revolutionary underground developing beneath democratic and legal or semi-legal activities should promote the well-rounded growth of the revolutionary forces, serve to link otherwise isolated parts of the Party and the people's army at every level and prepare the ground for popular uprisings in the future and for the advance of the people's army”[iv].

Relatedly, this AOM methodology does not conform to ‘territorial boundaries’ but rather by the sectoral organizations they infiltrate and influence. Analyzing their TTPs in the WA, we can deduce that;

A + O = M

Wherein the effectiveness of their ‘A’ (Arouse) and ‘O’ (Organize) efforts can be measured by the number of people they were able to ‘M’ (Mobilize) during mass actions or protest actions against the government.

The question now is where does the CTM derive their moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act in their AOM effort in the WA?

Armed Struggle and Legal Struggle

“Insurgencies are revolutionary wars that are won or lost based on who wins the support of the local population”.[v] Likewise, Mao Zedong told, “Wherever our comrades go they must build good relations with the masses, be concerned for them and help them overcome their difficulties. We must unite with the masses, the more of the masses we unite with, the better.”[vi] The CTM acknowledges the importance of these idioms the very main reason why they are devoting more time and effort on IPO works than conducting tactical offensives in the Red Area.

The same is true in the White Area as the CTM also stressed the fact that they are waging two classes of struggle as part of their tactics to defeat the government; the Armed Struggle (AS) and the Legal Struggle (LS), with the latter as the primary means of struggle. In one of Jose Maria Sison’s writings published in one of the edition of PRAXIS (Theoretical Journal of LFS), he said that: “Papel ng ligal na porma ng pakikibaka sa mga sentrong urban – Bagamat prinsipal at mapagpasyang porma ang armadong pakikibaka para durugin ang kapangyarihang pampulitika ng mga nagsasamantala at para itatag ang bagong demokratikong kapangyarihan ng manggagawa at magsasaka, hindi ito ang tanging porma ng paglaban. Ang mahusay na pagsasalimbayan ng armado at ligal na porma ng pakikibaka ay lahatangpanig nagsusulong ng rebolusyonaryong tunguhin”.[vii]

Understanding the Role of the Student/Youth Sector in the Philippine Insurgency

Historically, the birth of the CPP from the old merger of CP-SP party was greatly attributed to the contribution of the Student/Youth Sector that have initiated the mass protest actions. “The single event that broke the long period of reaction and began to inspire the resurgence of the mass movement was the demonstration of 5000 students, mostly from the state university, to oppose and stop the anti-communist witch-hunt in 1961”.[viii] From then on, we have witnessed the active involvement of the Filipino youth in the CTM front organization-initiated mobilizations as well as the influx of young, idealistic, dynamic youth in the long list of NPA cadres in the countryside. At one point, Joma stressed the importance of the Filipino youth, “The students/youth are an important force assisting the proletariat in the spread or revolutionary propaganda on a nationwide scale. The people’s democratic revolution cannot be advanced without the participation of revolutionary intellectuals. It is important to rely on the youth in a protracted revolutionary struggle. The mobilization of the youth ensures the continuous flow of successors in the revolutionary movement”.

The Student/Youth Sector as the CTM’s Center of Gravity in the WA

A closer look at the group of people that attend anti-government demonstrations initiated by CPP-NPA-NDF front organizations reveals that they have two definitive purposes. One is because of financial promise to be given after joining the mobilization in which the majority of these came from the urban poor sector. The other reason was those who joined because of their belief that what they are doing is just, and majority of these came from the student sector.

The Filipino youth sector provides the CTM with bright, energetic, and dedicated cadres that proven efficient to arouse, organize, and mobilize thousands of peasants, workers, and students to go against the government. The CPP-NPA-NDF has managed to achieve an effective system of recruitment in the S/YS that has been going on for decades and continuously supplying young, idealistic, and dynamic cadres to the countryside. This is the very main reason why the CTM remains vibrant despite numerous AFP campaigns and hundreds of soldiers’ lives sacrificed to end this war.

With these as premises, the writer suggests the idea that the CTM’s source of strength in its White Area operations is being derived from the active participation of the members of the young, progressive, and idealistic Filipino youth. They, the Filipino Youth, had been the center of gravity of the CTM in regards to their WA operations. It is the particular sector of our society that if we will be able to win, will cause the eventual downfall of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

We can therefore conclude that, the CPP-NPA-NDF was comparable to an engine that has been running for over four (4) decades now, with the idealistic minds and active lives of the Filipino youth as its fuel. Now is the time to remove the fuel and make the engine conks out from running.

The CPP-NPA-NDF Deceptive Recruitment in the S/YS

The AOM methodology employed by the CPP-NPA-NDF has been successful in agitating the minds of the Filipino youth, and has made joining the armed struggle as the only solution to solve our societal problems. Utilizing the systematic and deceptive mode of recruitment through their front organizations, and capitalizing on societal issues that affects our way of life, the CPP-NPA-NDF has; by far, mobilized thousand of Filipino youth to join their two forms of struggle, the legal and armed struggles. It is also worthy to note that their recruitment have gone down to the level of high school students as evident by the chapters of LFS and ANAKBAYAN being organized in secondary schools not only in NCR but also in other regions. These developments were even praised by Joma Sison saying, “Ako rin ay nagagalak ay inoorganisa na ang LFS sa mga magaaral sa highschool”.[x]

Common to the basic characteristics of the Filipino youth are their being inquisitive and adventurist. The more intellectually challenging and exciting a thing is, the more they try to engage themselves into.

The deceptive recruitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the student/youth sector capitalized in challenging the intellect of the students and by providing an environment of secrecy (e.g. giving of code names, telling them not to tell their parents what they are doing for the ‘kilusan’ because their ‘level of awareness’ are not equal, the books they are reading is way above the average students, among others) as they get engage deeper in the organization. Hence, from being a mere student activists recruited by a CPP-NPA-NDF front organization in their university, the poor victim has become a party member of the CPP. A situation that was never discussed to him/her right at the very start that he/she was recruited by the front organization, a situation that he/she never ever dreamed of the very first day he/she has entered the university.

The Challenge: Rechanneling S/YS Activism to Nation Building

“A victory is that plus the permanent isolation of the insurgent from the population, isolation not enforced upon the population but maintained by and with the population.”[xi]

Since we are dealing with youthful idealism, our actions should start at the point in time where we can best achieve positive effects of channeling these idealism the way we envisioned it to be. There are certain ways that we can address the problem that will help eradicate the menace of our society that has been victimizing the Filipino youth since its inception on 1968, the year the CPP was organized by Jose Maria Sison.

To channel S/YS idealism from negativism to positivism is to create a situation that will challenge the intellect and crave for excitement and thrill of the Filipino youth, in order to capture their interest to participate in worthy societal activities.

There is also a need to formulate a systematic and sustaining awareness campaign exposing the evils of the deceptive recruitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF that will eradicate the thrill and excitement factors and will make such recruitment ineffective to the S/YS.

The challenge for the Philippine Army with its vast resources is to find ways on how to redirect their idealism, since it is not possible to take it away, from the active minds of the Filipino youths. We need to create a systematic approach of channeling youth idealism from a destructive mode of embracing the armed struggle espoused by the CTM, to a productive mode of participating in nation-building activities in partnership with government entities, legitimate peoples/private organizations, and non-governmental organizations.

In order to finally achieve an end to this over four (4) decade-old insurgency problem, we must be able to transform the passive mode of the majority of the Filipino youth to become active catalysts of change. Only by achieving this feat we will have an environment, where the youth themselves, will protect their fellow youth from becoming unknowing victims of the deceptive recruitment of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

The challenges to finally put an end to this insurgency problem are well defined. What we need is to accept to ourselves that the facets of war have drastically changed, and we should not be left behind!

In doing so, bear in mind that…

“No chess player has ever found, nor is any likely to find, a sure way of winning from the first move. The game contains too many variables even for one of today’s nerveless electronic computers to plot out a guaranteed checkmate”.[xii]

**This article was written by: Cpt Mario Jose M Chico (QMS) PA

The author rose from the ranks and a proud member of OCC Class 20-2000. Prior to his designation as Chief, Combat Service Support Branch at 3rd Army Training Group, TRADOC, Philippine Army based in Cebu City in 2010, he was the Chief, Force Integration Branch of OG3, Philippine Army. He also served as the Intelligence and Operations Officer (S2/S3) of the CMO Battalion, CMOG, PA concurrently as the Operations Officer of the Joint CMO Task Force-NCR, NCRCOM, AFP operating at the National Capital Region. He also served as Public Information Officer and Chief, DPAO, 8ID, PA in Region 8 and Company Commander of Alfa Co., 52IB (CAFGU), 8ID, PA in Samar and Leyte Islands.

i] 6-35, FM 3-0 Operations Headquarters Department of the Army, 27 February 2008

[ii] LFS Memo “Programang integrasyon sa batayang masa sa bakasyon” dated 17 March 2009

[iii] Task and Prospects of the Filipino Youth, by Jose Maria Sison, LFS Praxis, November, 2005

[iv] Amado Guerrero, Specific Characteristics of our peoples war, December 1, 1971

[v] Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory & Practice by David Galula, 1964

[vi] On the Chungking Negotiations", October 17, 1945, Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 59.

[vii] Praxis:Theoretical Journal of the LFS, Task and Prospects of the Filipino Youth, November, 2005

[viii] The Gestation of the CPP, 1959-68, Armando Liwanag, Chairman, CC-CPP, November 6, 1993

[ix] Philippine Society and Revolution, Amado Guerrero, 1970

[x] Praxis:Theoretical Journal of the LFS, Task and Prospects of the Filipino Youth, November, 2005

[xi] Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory & Practice by David Galula, 1964

[xii] Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory & Practice by David Galula, 1964

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