THE South China Sea dispute between the Philippines and China is always expectedly top of the agenda of every Philippine communist. As a communist, you are supposed to be fraternal with all communists in the world. But as a Filipino, you are supposed to uphold Philippine sovereignty. In the event that China attacks the Philippines, what will a Philippine communist do? Being a Filipino, counter the communist attack? Or being a communist, acquiesce to the aggression?
Time and again, I had raised this concern in articles on my blog and in this column, and I would have loved to take it up with top leaders of what could actually be the golden era of the communist movement in the Philippines. It was during Bilog’s watch as chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and head of its Military Commission that the party had peaked at five commissions exercising strong political influence in their respective areas encompassing the whole archipelago; the NPA, according to various estimates, at 25,000 regulars (Bilog said during the reunion it was 23,000, a figure that even so still put the revolutionary army at past the 10:1 ratio in relation to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the criterion for the revolutionary forces to combat the enemy effectively and succeed; up until 1985 the AFP stood at 150,000); and a particularly inspiring achievement was the establishment in the Cordilleras of five armed independent regimes, already impenetrable by the enemy and being reputed as the cells of what would become the People’s Republic of the Philippines.
With the feared outbreak of hostilities in the South China Sea getting imminent as the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling adverse to China is expected to be issued anytime soon, I had intended to get from Bilog and his group some sort of confirmation for my own view on the matter. [This column was written and submitted for publication before the July 12 PCA ruling favoring the Philippines on its case against China in the West Philippine Sea. – Ed.]
Pursuant to a Leninist dictum, I had consistently held that in the context of world political economy, the United States must use all military might to advance its capitalistic aggression the world over, hence US imperialism. In this view, therefore, the South China Sea struggle is not a conflict between China and the Philippines but rather between China and the US. As the Philippines suffered untold woes and destruction fighting the American war in World War II, so is it again being brought to the brink of fighting a war that is not its own. I believe I have sufficiently ventilated this issue in my past columns prior to the Capas reunion.
Filipinos must be enlightened on the fact that between China and the US, it is the latter that has gone on a binge of aggressions the world over, in the Mediterranean, in the Asia Pacific and in the Middle East. China has never warred with other nations except those it had engaged with at one time or another over boundary issues, as with Vietnam and Laos. On the issue of aggression, China has always been on record as resolutely opposed to it, committing large forces to assist aggressed nations in resisting aggression, as North Korea against the US invasion in the 50s.
Bilog had had good friendly relations with China during his watch as chairman of the CPP and I was particularly interested in finding out his stand on the China-Philippines dispute at the UN PCA over the West Philippine Sea. I wanted to get his say on the matter ahead of the issuance of the PCA ruling on the dispute, expected anytime this week.
Answering my question, Bilog declared that the Chinese-occupied features in the contested waters (reefs, rocks, and submerged banks) are Philippine territories and shared the view of Duterte of holding bilateral negotiations with China after the PCA issues its ruling.
Bilog just echoed the popular sentiment of Filipinos, who must be enlightened on the fact that sovereignty is not at issue in the PCA case. The contention of China is that the PCA has no jurisdiction over questions of who owns those features and on this basis, it has consistently made its stand of neither participating in the PCA deliberations nor accepting its final ruling.
My gravest concern, however, is that the PCA PH-China sea row has evidently been instigated by the US in order to gain a clout for launching its own war designs against China. Already the US has marshaled its international alliances for this purpose, at the same time that beginning January this year, it has deployed US navy ships (carriers and destroyers) in the South China Sea, conducting naval exercises, including aerial surveillance of Chinese positions on Woody Island, Mischief Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef.
Instantly, China sent its jet fighters into the air in a show of readiness to counter any US attack while deploying its own navy forces in the contested waters.
I had wanted to consult Bilog on this particular situation and see how his forces, if they were still intact, could help in the urgent need to educate the people on the real issues involved in the conflict: that the question of who owns those Chinese-occupied sea features will not be decided upon by the PCA; neither will the question of maritime rights (for example, to fish or engage in oil exploration) be settled, maritime rights being contingent upon the question of who owns the coastal land; and the fear of war is real only insofar as the US obstinate design to war with China is concerned. I wanted to know how much still is the anti-US imperialism fire burning in their hearts, as it did in every nook of the country four decades ago.
In World War II, the United States abandoned the Philippines to rampage and slaughter by Japan in order to focus on the European Theater. The red fighters of Central Luzon, members of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban Sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP), carried the brunt of struggle against the Japanese aggression, but under the leadership of Huk Supremo Luis Taruc, the Hukbalahaps bravely fought the Japanese and by the time Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned in 1945, they had liberated the entire Central Luzon. The lesson from this experience is that in times of war, the people’s army is able to consolidate its forces and establish a solid base for its political power.
Might this situation offer to Bilog and his remaining forces the opportunity to do another Taruc-like liberation of Central Luzon?
One problem here, really: in World War II, the Japanese did attack, in fact savagely. In this perceived imminent war in the South China Sea, will China attack the Philippines? No, it will not. China will attack the US.