By Priam Nepomuceno and Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison (File photo)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) does not see any threat levels rising with the recent passing of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria “Joma” Sison in the Netherlands.

“Ngayon po wala naman kaming nakikitang problema or pangamba dahil sa pagkamatay ni ‘Joma’, in fact tuloy-tuloy po yung pagbaba ng bilang ng kanilang mga kasapi at saka mga supporters. So patuloy din po na bumabalik loob yung kanilang mga armadong, yung mga combatants nila at saka yung mga supporters nila, yung mga mass bases and even some members of the underground mass organizations (We do not see any problems or threats coming from ‘Joma’s death, in fact the number of their members are on the downswing along with their supporters. This includes their armed components, their combatants, their mass bases and even members of the underground mass organizations),” AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said in a radio interview Sunday.

This came as the CPP declared a 10-day mourning period following Sison’s death and ordered its forces to stage “tactical offensives” against government troops.

He also added that the death of the CPP chair would possibly help or give the country a chance to gain peace.

“With the death of ‘Joma’, now palagay ko baka mas makatulong pa ito para magkaroon tayo ng kapayapaan sa ating bansa. Of course we don’t want to celebrate the death of a person because we respect the dead and we also pray na sana yung mga tao na dating hawak nya ay magkaroon na rin ng enlightenment para pumili ng tamang landas kung paano tayo magkakaroon ng mga pagbabago sa sosyedad without resorting to armed struggle (With ‘Joma’s’ death, I think this would help us to have peace in the country. Of course we don’t want to celebrate the death of a person because we respect the dead and we also pray that people formerly under him will find enlightenment to pick up a better path to have societal change without resorting to armed struggle),” Aguilar said.

Disintegration of rebel ranks seen

In a Laging Handa briefing Monday, Aguilar said Sison’s death could cause the further disintegration of the insurgents.

“Of course it will further weaken the underground mass organization as they claim that Jose Maria Sison is their ‘teacher and guiding light’, this means they will lose also their sense of purpose, their direction, and (it) will lead to demoralization among its members, disintegration and hopefully to the end of the armed struggle,” he added, when asked about the possible impact of the CPP founder’s demise.

Aguilar also declined to comment on Sison’s possible replacement.

“I think the problem is within the organization to find a new leader of his quality, that’s not, for us, it is also an opportunity to engage their leaders at a tactical level,” the AFP spokesperson said.

However, he added that finding Sison’s replacement is a difficult task as a lot of the leaders in the insurgency movement are already neutralized.

Aguilar also refused to comment when asked about the AFP’s stand regarding the possible burial of the CPP chair in the Philippines.

“We cannot speculate yet on what’s the decision of the immediate family of ‘Joma’, maybe we should ask them first where they want to bury the remains of Professor Sison,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Aguilar scored the CPP’s order to attack state forces.

“They are so irresponsible and reckless in their statement by completely disregarding what our peaceful communities want and deserve – peace,” he added.

PNP not keen on holiday truce with Reds

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is not keen on recommending a suspension of police operations against the communist insurgents amid the death of Sison and the forthcoming CPP anniversary.

In a statement Monday, PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said continuous law enforcement and public safety operations would proceed while they are maintaining an active defense posture against terrorist actions and criminal activities for the holiday season.

“We regret that the Filipino people was shortchanged with the sudden demise of Joma Sison, whose death came even before he can be prosecuted and made to pay for his crimes,” Azurin said in a statement.

While Sison’s death extinguishes his criminal liability under the country’s laws, Azurin said all other accused in charges faced by the late communist leader would continue to undergo prosecution under the justice system.

“We had wanted to hear his testimony in open court about his role and that of the CPP-NPA leadership in the mass murder of suspected government spies and members of rival factions within the underground movement, as well as the assassination of some prominent and common individuals during his chairmanship of the CPP,” said Azurin.

The PNP chief said that while the darkest secrets of the CPP-NPA’s reign of terror that Sison has held all along will be buried with him, his hands would remain stained with the blood of thousands of Filipinos who died in communist insurgency-related incidents since 1969.

“The olive branch of peace and reconciliation offered by government is still the best option and should be accepted by the remaining CPP-NPA members especially now that they are leaderless and as their ideology become more obsolete in these modern times,” Azurin noted.

The CPP earlier said Sison died around 8:40 p.m. on Dec. 16, after two weeks of hospital confinement.

Sison’s death came more than a week before the CPP’s 54th founding anniversary on Dec. 26.

Sison and his wife were arrested in 1976 during the time of President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

They were released from detention in 1986 after President Corazon Aquino came to power.

In 1987, Sison went on a self-exile in the Netherlands after peace talks with the government stalled.

Peace talks were on and off until then President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the negotiations in November 2017.

The CPP is the political wing of the New People’s Army. (PNA)