The tragedy of the Philippine communist insurgency

17
RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

Last of a three-part series
THE Philippine communist movement in the 1970s recruited not only the best and the brightest of the generation that came of age in that period, perhaps also one of the most patriotic,mostly in their teens and early twenties, yet who were willing to devote and even give up their lives to change this nation.

Many of them, such as my close friends and fellow Ateneans Ferdie Arceo and Billy Begg were sent by the Communist Party to rouse the masses to revolution in now forgotten hinterlands, without any military training at all and armed with World War II carbines–-and therefore easy picking not just for the military and police, but even local militias who thought they were bandits.

A sadder tragedy though was the torture and killing of at least a hundred communists at the hands of their own comrades in the 1980s, who believed the paranoia of their superiors that they were military spies and therefore must be executed.

But the bigger tragedy, in that it has and will affect millions of Filipinos of this and succeeding generations because the social and economic structure will remain unchallenged, is the following: Even as the Philippines has one of the most exploitative class structures in Asia, and even as Marxist theory exposes the roots of this country’s poverty,the Maoist mentality of the Communist Party that could have been the vanguard in changing such a system has not changed a bit in five decades.


Thus, the communists have become irrelevant, politically and intellectually bankrupt. Its strategy for revolution, for its army to emerge from some Red base to encircle the cities to capture political power, as Mao Zedong did in the 1940s, is so out of touch with reality, a myth to give revolutionaries a false hope.All such strategy has done is create political and economic instability for the country that has deterred foreign and local investments, thus creating more poverty in the country.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would have been relegated as a fringe leftist group, if not for its New People’s Army. But its emergence and survival merely reflects not the correctness of its cause nor its strategy, but simply the fact that there are pockets in this vast land–-as in all poor countries–where because of the weakness of the country’s physical and political infrastructure as well as government’s armed forces, the Philippine state has not been able to assert its authority. This also explains the persistence of other armed groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf, and even armed bandit groups in Mindanao

TWO PLAGIARISTS? Sison copied from Indonesian communist chief Aidit who copied from Mao the analysis that “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism” are the targets of the Revolution.

The party’s analysis of Philippine society, the local communists’bible, remains the founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution(PSR) first published in 1970, 46 years ago, now on its sixth printing.

Sison copied from a copier
Yet PSR is not even an original work. It copied the framework and even the words as well as phrases of Indonesian Communist Party leader Dipa Nusantara Aidit’s Indonesian Society, Indonesian Revolution, written in 1957. Aidit in turn copied much from Mao Zedong’s Specific Characteristics of People’s War, written in 1948.

Sison got a copy of Aidit’s book when he was sent in the 1965 by then pro-Soviet Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, the Youth Bureau of which he headed, to observe its fraternal party’s revolutionary struggle in Indonesia which his party believed was on the brink of capturing power.Sison barely escaped the massacre in 1965 by Suharto’s forcesof the Indonesian Communist Party, in which Aidit was killed,an episode in his life that traumatized him so much that he has never talked nor written about it.

The communists haven’t moved a bit from claiming that the three evils of our society are “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism,” which Mao formulated to describe Chinese society before World War II.

Mao wrote in 1948 in his analysis of China: “The Chinese revolution at the present stage is in its character a revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism.” Sison wrote in 1970 in his PSR for his analysis of the Philippines: “The central task of the Philippine revolution in the present stage is the overthrow of US imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.”

Aidit in 1957 wrote with regard to Indonesia: “When we say that the basic targets of the Indonesian revolution are imperialism and feudalism, this means that the principal enemies of the Indonesian people at this stage of the revolution are the big bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries and the landlord class at home.” Sison in 1970 wrote with regard to the Philippines: “The targets or enemies of the Philippine Revolution are US imperialism and its local lackeys which are the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists.”

It is astonishing for instance that PSR in its 2005 edition lists as top US firms, the so-called agents of imperialism, such companies that have long closed shop as Atlas Consolidated, ESSO Philippines, Gulf Oil Corp., Standard Philippines Fruit Corp, and Bank of America. The book a has tabulation of 10,400 landlords owning at least 50 hectares, when land reform laws since Marcos’ martial law had already distributed nearly 90 percent of these lands to former tenants.

How can two generations of patriots devote and even give up their lives believing in a plagiarized work like Sison’s PSR? Alas, that was a time without a World Wide Web by which one can easily retrieve in a few clicks of the keyboard information and people’s writings from nearly all parts of the globe.

Suppressed and executed
What is also tragic is that Sison and his clique had ruthlessly suppressed and allegedly executed party leaders who questioned the PSR analysis and strategy, such as the fiery Popoy Lagman who organized and led the dreaded Alex Boncayao Brigade and Romulo Kintanar who led the Davao City uprisings in the 1980s he called the “pol-mil” (political-military) model.

The party’s dogmatism is even in stark contrast to that of the Catholic Church, which managed to absorb and adopt new ideas through the Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment, to make it more relevant to contemporary society, and thus more credible despite its basically superstitious beliefs.

Because it merely plagiarized Mao and Aidit’s assessments of their countries, our communists have been totally incapable of understanding important Philippine developments, among them: the anti-dictatorship movement of mostly the middle-class that toppled Marcos in 1986; the rapid expansion in the number of urban salaried workers as well as of overseas workers and the consequent drastic decrease of tenant farmers; the growth of the Philippine bureaucracy and the resulting worsening of both petty and big-time corruption that has sapped state funds; the replacement of US monopoly capital by those from other countries such as Japan and even Indonesia, in the case of public-utility magnate Anthoni Salim; the emergence in the country of a particularly rapacious form of capitalists, totally bereft of nationalism; and even the explosion of technology that has made this thing called the World Wide Web more powerful a venue for protest than street demonstrations.

What an unlucky country. Even our communists who are supposed to topple a rapacious ruling class are so intellectually and politically bankrupt that they have been more of a minor nuisance to the elite, rather than a revolutionary force to change our very backward and exploitative society.

E-mail: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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17 Comments

  1. I have heard from the grape vine that Jose Ma. Sison is originally from Sinait, Ilocos Sur. Is this true? A brilliant man but with a very misguided philosophy.

  2. Plagiarized principle! The reason why this movement is going nowhere and becoming a tragedy! Another excellent piece from Mr. TIGLAO! Give us more!

  3. LLuis Taruc and Jesus Lava organized the Hukbalahap ostensibly to liberate the Philippines from Japanese control, but the aims of this movement was opposite from her accomplishments. In the first place, the Hukbalahap hardly participated in the liberation of the Philippine. Guerillas and former soldiers of the AFP did most of the fighting against the Japanese. What the Hukbalahap did was to encourage their relatives and friends to join the Makapili so that they will be killed and their weapons confiscated by the Huks. This is how they managed to obtain weapons in the war by sacrificing their friends and relatives to be voluntarily killed so that their weapons could be confiscated.

    The guerillas and the defunct AFP managed to get their weapons by actually killing Japanese soldiers in battle. In the first place, the guerillas used the paltik (home-made gun) against the Japanese soldier. Since it was so easy to kill a Japanese soldier in battle, it was not long before the guerillas were heavily armed with machine guns, mortars, grenades etc. all taken from the bodies of Japanese soldiers they slew in battle.

    Most of the weapons of the Huks came from relatives or friends who joined the Makapili to be sacrificed for their weapons. The guerillas obtained their weapons by actually fighting the Japanese whom they slew in battle. The Huks obtained their weapons by sacrificing their relatives to join the Makapili to be sacrificed for their weapons and never from direct combat encounter with the Japanese. Hence, the Huks had really no combat exposure in the war since they refused to fight the Japanese but left that to the guerillas and the defunct AFP.

    The refusal of the Hukbalahap to confront the Japanese headlong during the war proved fatal in their rebellion against the Philippine government. The Hukbalahap simply lacked combat experience to take on the AFP. In the battle of Pasacao, for example, in Camarines Sur, 200 Huks armed with carbines fought against 8 combat trained policemen who were only armed with 38s. The attack was repulsed by the policemen. 6 Huks were killed while only 1 policeman suffered slight injury. The battle of Pasacao was standard in every fighting between the Huks and the Philippine government.

    The NPAs copied the tactic of the Hukbalahap to sacrifice their relatives for weapons. The NPAs fought mostly against policemen whose chiefs, the town mayor, they could easily intimidate. The NPAs hardly fought against the AFP in their 40 year insurgency in our country.
    uis Taruc and Jesus Lava

  4. if the AFP neutralizes the CPP-NPA terrorists by a thousand every year, the NPA terrorists will be wiped out soon. implement the national ID system and the terrosits would know that their movements will be getting smaller every day.

  5. An eye opener Mr. Tiglao, an ideology that has become irrelevant, mutating towards terrorism to enhance personal gains ………

  6. Informative! Intellectually exciting, if only as part of a critical view of the country beleaguered by such problems as Red “revolution.” I’d always held that Joma Sison, for all his seeming charisma before idealistic young minds, has been entertaining egotistic ambition of being someday the top man of the country. But he and his cohorts have always been riding on the tides of development in the Philippines, to the advantage of the communist movement(?). However, in the countryside where farmers and fisherfolks kkhave always loved a life of peace – no matter the poor conditions they found themselves in – felt the NPA presence more as intrusion than liberation. No such movement, for its sham nature, can ever take hold in the inner consciousness of the people. Natatakot lang sa armas ng mga p.i. na aramadong rebelled kaya dungo at tahimik lang ang mga tao. Pero ipinakita sa botohan na ayaw nila sa mga ganito klaseng mga magli-lider sa bayan.

  7. Linda Angeles-Hill on

    Brilliant piece Mr Tiglao. I want to share all three parts with friends. Where can I get links to the first 2 parts please?

  8. The revolutionary idol of the masses Jose Maria Sison may be a pathetic plagiarist, but he is a great ballroom dancer. That sort of makes up for his bankruptcy in all other respects, don’t you think so?

  9. What an unlucky country. Even our communists who are supposed to topple a rapacious ruling class are so intellectually and politically bankrupt that they have been more of a minor nuisance to the elite, rather than a revolutionary force to change our very backward and exploitative society.

  10. Thank you, illuminating article. A fine historical narrative and good ending paragraph.. Adds to information of the reader.

  11. You mentioned Billy Begg, is this the same William Begg who studied in San Jose Seminary? I was a year ahead of him, when we moved to Sacred Heart Novitiate at Novaliches, he was a batchmate of Alex Aquino. Such an interesting life he led, I never would have thought. I saw that name once in another article but didn’t hit me much until you mentioned that he studied at Ateneo. I googled his name, his picture came up and somewhat confirmed what I was thinking. I hope I get a response from you. I am currently based in Texas been here for the last 30 years.

    • You mentioned Billy Begg, is this the same William Begg who studied in San Jose Seminary? I was a year ahead of him, when we moved to Sacred Heart Novitiate at Novaliches, he was a batchmate of Alex Aquino. Such an interesting life he led, I never would have thought. I saw that name once in another article but didn’t hit me much until you mentioned that he studied at Ateneo. I googled his name, his picture came up and somewhat confirmed what I was thinking. I hope I get a response from you. I am currently based in Texas been here for the last 30 years.

    • PinPin de Sarapin on

      What are you doing in Texas? I met Mr. Kimra, a Scholastic in Thailand in 2004 in one of the universities there. Mr. Kimra became the scholar of Thailand and sent to the Philippine in 1980’s to study in one of the universities here. He asked me if I knew several people in this or that university, and I said no. Maybe they are all in the USA already, I said. And he said, what are they doing there; they are needed by your country.

  12. So very True yet, our govt still believes we should conduct peace talks with the reds? It is worthwhile to note that we finally realized that it will not work because as you said before and now 1) the cpp/ ndf cannot and does not have any control of the npa 2) the whole movement is simply out of touch with present realities 3) the man we believe to head the party plagiarized his assessment of the Phil situation

    Thank you very much for the enlightenment !

    • It will not work because they have gotten used to a life funded by revolutionary taxes and foreign aid from communist organizations abroad. They will never go back to being mere farmers and laborers. Plus, they prefer to avoid paying taxes themselves so peace talks with them will be futile like what happened in the past. They really do not have the sincerity to have peace since their objective is to grab power. And this is coming from a former leftist who used to support the armed struggle of Joma Sison.

  13. I concord to your idea Mr. Tiglao. I have found communism ideology a passe’, an outdated and should not be used anymore for any political propaganda, for it is not adapting to the current situation of the people and of the world; its concept of change through arms struggle or revolution is unacceptable anymore and destructive, inhuman and unintelligible for a nation-building and rebuilding. Wherever we are at by this time, may we be in feudalism or bureaucrat-capitalism or even Imperialism at this time, I do not see any relevant issue for the CPP-NPA to be holding guns for anyone’s struggle for a better change of the nation. They should come down from the mountain and join in the parliamentary government, so they can voice out and can be heard. There is the NDF anyway, their political party. So what more? The worst thing with the CPP-NPA members is now wrongly enjoying the power which they use for any purpose they want it to apply for extortion or abduction. They are now a burden to the communities in the Barangays and to the nation at large- an intellectually and morally bankrupt, as you would say.