Once upon a car ride to the Plaza Miranda bombing

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Part 1
‘Twas, as August always is, a late afternoon drenched in rain. Bane, head of the National Trade Union Bureau (NTUB) of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), had summoned me to his Kaingin UG house in Quezon City for discussion on how to further promote the Strike Movement, described in an official document of the NTUB as the main form of struggle of the revolution in the cities.

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I had at the time conducted some impressive propaganda for a theater play, Welga, a presentation by the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng mga Manggagawa (KASAMA), in cooperation with the youth cultural group Panday Sining. The presentation played to a rousing audience response at the La Consolacion College auditorium where the jam-packed crowd burst in a stirring unison rendering of the revolutionary favorite Bandilang Pula to cap the finale number where workers proclaimed their resolve to take up the armed struggle.

That resolve was the theme of an 8mm film I did capturing the strike movement in all its grim realities, bare courage, and revolutionary pathos that left the Philippine proletariat nothing but the ultimate choice to troop to the hills and join the New People’s Army. Bane had thought I could be better put to use in the conduct of propaganda for the actual strike movement. The discussion over, Bane took me in his ride to the South where he could drop me off at Guadalupe, there for taking a jeepney to the KASAMA headquarters on Reposo Street in Makati.

Bane (short for Banero) was the nom de guerre of the head of the national organ for the working class. As such, he enjoyed the status of privilege traditionally accorded workers, who are regarded as the vanguard of the revolution.

From the start, I had restricted myself from inquiring into matters in the revolutionary conduct, particularly on rankings in leadership or nature of tasks that were not mine or relevant to mine, and so I had never asked exactly how high Bane was in the CPP leadership. But in the course of my propaganda work for Welga, I had written an article denouncing the US oil cartel, and when the article encountered some rough sailing with a certain publication, Bane instructed me to tell the editor that the article had already been cleared with the Gensec, popular allusion to the Secretary General of the CPP. That got me putting two and two together to determine his exact position in the CPP hierarchy.

The trip from Kaingin to Makati was long enough to afford Bane and me some precious time conversing about a topic which, by its nature, could not be taken up in an official Party meeting without the discussants being accused of this and that violation of Party organizational principles, i.e., if one disagreed with certain policies of the Party Central Committee, the proper forum for airing the disagreement was the Central Committee in official session. Since the committee met only in plenums every once in a long, long time, the setup virtually banned one from disagreeing with CC policies. Besides, how could a non-member of the CC ever disagree with its policies when there was no way he could ever sit in its sessions? If at all, the principle of democratic centralism was good only as far as rhetoric went; otherwise it was a principle of perpetual acquiescence to the Sison dictatorial rule in the Party.

Not even the New People’s Army was spared from the dictatorship at the mere Sison invocation of the revolutionary dictum: “The Party rules the gun.”

But in a private car ride when the rain had poured long enough to make it already redundant, to talk about it was out of the question. The better to dwell for once on the topic that was of utmost concern for the strike movement. It seemed Sison was not in conformity with the idea, he being the foremost proponent of the application in the conduct of the Philippine revolution of the Mao Tse Tung line of protracted people’s war.

In the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution from the ‘20s up to the ‘40s, building people’s political power took place in the countryside, hence Mao Tse Tung’s theory of “surrounding the cities from the countryside.” In the cities, what took place was practically no longer a struggle. In a documentary I saw decades ago, the PLA forces just marched into Shanghai completely unopposed and took over the city without a single gunshot fired; Chiang Kai-shek had fled with his Kuomintang government to Formosa (now Taiwan).

Bane’s line of the strike movement as the main form of struggle in the cities was, of course, anathema to Sison’s protracted people’s war. And Bane talked about an alarming development in the Party whereby the workers sector, i.e. trade unionism, was no longer under administration by the National Trade Union Bureau, as per provision in the Party Constitution, but under the Regional Trade Union Bureau (RTUB) of the Regional Party Committee. This policy change had rendered the NTUB practically inutile, since there would be no more part of the country the NTUB could administer, each region being under the administration of a Party Regional Community.

Earlier than this car ride, I had a shouting bout with Ka Benny (the same Benito Tiamzon now in incarceration with wife Wilma at the police detention area in Camp Crame) over the matter. KASAMA unions in Quezon City were getting confused as to whom to follow, his people working in the Quezon City-Marikina District, or the coordinator I assigned to the district according to my duties and functions as Secretary General of KASAMA.

I declared to Ka Benny then, tapping the table hard, “Ayusin nyo ito! Nagpapakamatay tayo rito para sa paglilingkod sa sambayanan, kayo naman ang inaatupag ay ang pansariling pagkagahaman sa puwesto.” A cool, calm fellow even in his youth, Ka Benny took my tantrums in good stride, “Relax lang, Ka Mao.”

That he never attached any ill will to the incident appeared proven by the fact that two decades after, he walked at the head of a group of Party officials into my residence, holding out his arms in greeting, smiling widely. He was no longer young, of course, no longer the thin, unassuming cadre that wore the characteristic hungry look of a servant of the people when we had that verbal tussle, but a man with a frame robust enough to be a red fighter, a revolutionary leader, wearing a wide smile that exuded the air and confidence of one who was already the Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. But this would be getting ahead of the story.

(To be continued)

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