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New People’s Army

EDUARDO OLBARA COMMAND-NPA CAMARINES SUR

in Cherish
Adapted from Punla, the revolutionary literary publication of Bicol

The good sons and daughters of the country immerse with the masses, join them in their struggle and devote their lives in changing the unjust social order for a future devoid of oppression and exploitation. They do not only master the art of war but they rise above human frailties of ambition, grandeur and self-aggrandizement. They observe organizational discipline and practice simple collective life.

The person behind the Eduardo Olbara Command of the New People’s Army in Camarines Sur, Eduardo Olbara or Ka Andoy was one among the flock. Born to a poor peasant family, he left grade school to help the family. They own a piece of land but its paltry produce was not enough to sustain their needs. Even if they worked in the abaca plantation to augment their revenue, it was never enough.

A REVOLUTIONARY HAS BLOSSOMED

His father was among the first persons that Romulo Jallores (Ka Che) got in touch with when the latter returned to Camarines Sur, his hometown. Ka Che’s group was the first to start mass work and organizing in Bicol and later formed the first unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the region.

Every time Ka Andoy came home from his work in Laguna, he had fruitful discussions with the group. These raised his awareness and understanding of the problems plaguing society. From there dawned the realization of the need for revolution.

In 1973, after coming home from work, he decided to go on fulltime with the group. His elder brother had gone on fulltime before him. July of that year, he joined the group in its mass work in the boundary of Buhi, Camarines Sur and Polangui, Albay. That was the time when state armed forces were in full deployment in Camarines Sur.

NIP IN THE BUD

Earlier on in 1972, enemy forces began their massive and coordinated military campaigns against the very first guerrilla zone in the province in an attempt to snuff out the burgeoning revolution. The revolutionary forces in Camarines Sur confronted the rampaging Task Force Isarog of the enemy. They tried to skirt the patrols and strike operations of the battalion-strong Philippine Constabulary. But the intensive military operations resulted in the shrinking of the mass base. In December 1973, the NPA unit was left with only three barrios to operate in.

To preserve the forces, the NPA unit decided to transfer from Camarines Sur to Albay. Ka Andoy was part of the remaining squad that retreated and became the first Armed Propaganda Unit in Albay. There, they seized the opportunity to consolidate and strengthen the forces. From there, they managed to expand to other places and return to the guerrilla zone they left behind.

BRANCHING OUT

In 1974, Ka Andoy was assigned to communication work with the Bicol Technical and Liaison Staff (BTLS) based in the city. However, in December of that year, a series of arrests took place. When Ka Andoy eluded arrest, he was immediately deployed to the countryside.

Thus, from 1975 to 1980, Ka Andoy was one of the cadres in Albay assigned to the armed propaganda unit (Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda, SYP) for expansion work. Here, he honed his teaching and propaganda skills, as well as his ability to mobilize the peasant masses. He also effectively initiated the agrarian revolution by leading the campaigns for lowering of rentals in the haciendas.

Through earnest assessment and summing up of his rich experience in warfare, Ka Andoy enhanced his skills in military work. He became one of the best military cadres in the revolutionary movement.

During an encounter in 1979, his left hand was hit by a bullet that caused a deformity—as if his hand was holding the hand guard of an armalite. This had been his hallmark since then, a sign of readiness for battle.

In the first Party regional conference in 1981, Ka Andoy was elected member of the CPP-Bicol Regional Committee. He was assigned to oversee the front committee in Albay. He headed the work of the first district. He also guided the District Guerrilla Unit covering the towns of Oas, Libon, Ligao and Guinobatan.

In 1982, he led an ambush which became one of the most remarkable tactical offensives that gained military and political victory. He led the NPA unit’s ambush of the 564th Engineering and Construction Battalion operating in the boundary of Camarines Sur and Albay. This battalion had just replaced the former 52nd Philippine Constabulary Battalion. The head of the Battalion, Col. Laberinto was killed.

Simultaneous with tactical offensives, agrarian revolution was launched. The campaign to decrease land rental in the first district of Albay in 1982, called Oplan Pakyaw, became a provincial mass campaign in 1983.

In 1985, from the Front Committee, Ka Andoy was transferred to the new full company formation in Albay. He was designated as the first commander of the company formation deployed in Southern Bicol (Albay and Sorsogon).

After a political-military training in Brgy. Mabayawas, Libon, Albay in June 1985, the company was put on a defensive when attacked by the enemy. However, due to the superb tactics and maneuver of the revolutionary force, it managed to fend off the enemy’s advance. The enemy was overrun and suffered tremendous loss of lives, especially because it even had a misencounter with its own reinforcement troops.

The entire NPA company was able to maneuver safely without any one killed nor wounded. This encounter, which lasted for six hours, was the first recorded longest battle in Bicol between the revolutionary forces and the state forces.

The following year, Ka Andoy led two successive ambushes in Brgy. Banao, Oas and Brgy. Binogsacan in Guinobatan. The ambushes were notable for their effective application of guerrilla warfare.

In 1986, Ka Andoy was designated the first vice regional commander of the Regional Operational Command. He participated in the planning of military campaigns and assisted in the conduct of political-military trainings in the region. Despite his multifarious activities as troop commander, Ka Andoy shared in the day-to-day chores. He gathered supplies. He cooked. He also spent time socializing with the troops in their light moments. This established his closeness with his comrades.

Ka Andoy valued the welfare of his comrades highly but he never expected any special treatment. He was also fully aware of the role each red fighter had to take in their collective tasks that was why he could lead effectively. Ka Andoy’s comrades and the masses did not hesitate to approach him. He was truly concerned of their wellbeing. He was easy to deal with. One would readily feel at ease with him. He was gentle and courteous.

He was quick to notice if a comrade had a problem. He personally talked to him and gave his advice. He always tries to help his comrades, find solutions to their problems. Former comrades also sought him for consultation.

Ka Andoy abided strictly to the policies of the revolutionary movement. If he had reservations regarding certain issues and policies, he registered his reservation but he complied to what was decided or voted upon by the majority of the collective.

Ka Andoy was adept with techniques and tactics. He competently led big tactical offensives. He joined actual intelligence work. In actual encounters, he advanced with his troops but he assured that he was in full control of the entire fight. During tight situations, he never left his comrades.

Ka Andoy was a good and loving father and husband. He was solicitous for his three daughters. Yet he was open to sacrifice. He would endure being separated from them for a long time. He never dilly-dallied to entrust his children to the masses. He had full trust that they will take good care of them.

Even before the Second Great Rectification Movement, Ka Andoy was one of those who had reacted to the ill-effect of the untimely regularization of the troops as he witnessed the dwindling of the mass base.

Ka Andoy was killed in a defensive battle in Brgy. Alanao, Lupi, Camarines Sur on April 14. 1989. He was supposed to attend a meeting when the house where they stayed was encircled by the enemy.

In honor of his valiant and meritorious contributions to the struggle, the provincial command of the New People’s Army in Camarines Sur was named after Eduardo Olbara Command, Ka Andoy in the revolutionary movement.#

In the Bog of Fascist Reaction

in Countercurrent
by Angel Balen

Into his third year in office, Rodrigo R. Duterte increasingly finds himself and his government getting mired deeper and deeper in the bog of fascist reaction, stumbling into one misstep after another.

A year ago he discarded his publicly declared wish to be the first “Left” president of the Philippines (the truth may be that he never had the political will to fulfill that wish). With misplaced hubris, the self-proclaimed erstwhile “socialist” unraveled himself as a fascist, and plunged his administration into this bog—disdaining to entertain the thought it would turn out this way.

Now he is confronted with multiple problems he can’t effectively tackle and properly resolve, no matter the means he employs, before his term ends in 2022. To begin with, many of the problems have sprung from his impetuous, little-thought-out and crudely-crafted policies and decisions.

Among these problems are:

  • the continued implementation of martial law in Mindanao and his threat to impose it nationwide;
  • his unilateral cancellation/termination of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GRP-NDFP) peace talks. He stopped just when these were promising to produce substantive agreements on social and economic reforms of immediate benefits to the Filipino people. He shifted to “localized” peace talks and unable to find any party willing to participate because the framework is “negotiate to surrender”;
  • his proclamation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist organizations” and filing before a regional trial court, through the justice department, a petition for proscription that listed names and “aliases” of over 600 individuals presuming them to be “terrorist suspects” sans any vetting, as admitted by his current justice secretary. (Four of such individuals—including Satur Ocampo and Rafael Baylosis, independent cooperator and NDFP consultant, respectively, in the GRP-NDFP peace talks—have succeeded, through written replies to the summons served to them, to get the court to exclude their names from the list);
  • the continually rising incidence of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, particulary among the peasants and
  • indigenous people, due to the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapan;
  • the unrelenting pursuit of the “war on drugs” (with 25,000 people so far estimated to have been killed) and the prospect—which Duterte dreads—that the International Criminal Court would decide to investigate and judicially proceed against him for committing crimes against humanity;
  • the campaign to eradicate graft and corruption, over which Duterte recently expressed having become tired and exasperated and threatened to step down from the presidency as he says his regime will rise or fall on the issue of corruption; and
  • Duterte’s shift-to-federalism project (aimed at giving him excessive powers during the interim or transition period), currently snagged in Congress. His own neoliberal economic team says its funding requirement threatens to upend state financing and disrupt the regime’s economic development program. His minions at the Department of Interior and Local Government attempt to push a flagging “RevGov” plan calling for an extra-constitutional “People’s Council” (a parody of “people power”) that would keep Duterte in power until a new form of government would have been installed.

Aside from these problems, pressing for more immediate and long-term solution are the current crisis of sharply rising inflation, the recurrent shortage of rice supply and soaring prices of food and other basic necessities; and the economy’s slowing growth rate. His regime performed poorly in 2017 towards achieving the 257 economic and social development targets for 14 sectors under the Duterte Philippine Development Plan. Here are the figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority: high likelihood of achieving only 111 targets; medium prospect of attaining 29 others; and low probability of fulfilling 117 targets. Also the tracking of various indicators, by research outfits and economists, show the Philippines ranking last (“kulelat,” says economist Cielito Habito) among developing nations of Southeast Asia.

DUTERTE’S MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO

The declared basis for Martial Law (which Duterte and his military and security advisers chose to take while on an official visit to Moscow) was to enable the state security forces to contain and crush a so-called attempt by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS)-inspired, represented by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf “extremist”. This groups had an initial estimated force of 300 fighters, to establish an IS “province” in Marawi by mounting a siege on the only Islamic city in the country.

Originally intended to last five months, the declaration was first extended to end of 2017 (even as its objective was supposedly already attained in October, with the seiging armed groups wiped out and Marawi City devastated). Yet Duterte further extended it till end of 2018, claiming martial law is still needed to complete the suppression/eradication of the violently extremist groups, now tagged as “terrorists”, and to safeguard the security of the civilian population.

In declaring and extending ML, he got the concurrence of a pliant Congress in joint session and the approval of a lenient Supreme Court.

But how is the situation in Mindanao today, almost a year after ending the so-called Marawi siege?

Thousands of displaced Marawi residents, with inadequate supply of their daily needs, remain in crowded evacuation centers in Iligan City and nearby areas or stay in the similarly crowded residences of relatives or friends. The rehabilitation of the devastated city lacks funding to get started. Much of the reconstruction work is to be given to Chinese contractors, which the Marawi residents disapprove of, primarily because they have been excluded from the planning and rebuilding process that they say doesn’t take into account their culture, religious belief and practices. The people of Marawi also resent and protest the construction of a new military camp in the city center and the refurbishing of the previously existing one.

As regards the suppression/eradication of the remaining “terrorist” groups and safeguarding the security of civilians, the martial law extension hasn’t been effective. Just within a month, three bombing incidents occurred in public places (in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31; in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on August 28 and September 1). All together the bombings killed 16 people and wounded 50 others. None of the perpetrators have been arrested.

State security officials have attributed the Lamitan bombing to the IS/Maute-Abu Sayyaf group, and alleged that six foreign IS members allegedly operating in Mindanao have yet to be accounted for.

On the other hand, the same officials blamed the Isulan bombings on elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who are opposing the passage and prospective implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL, formerly the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL). They concede that the BOL will not bring about the long-sought peace among the Bangsamoro in the immediate future—a peace that Duterte has repeatedly promised to his Muslim kin (he says his mother has Maranao blood).

The knee-jerk reaction of Malacanang to the bombing incidents, suggesting further extension of martial law in Mindanao, only fueled the Mindanaoans’ cynicism over the government’s promise of a “mantle of security” under martial law.
An oblique rebuke to the martial law proponent-implementors came recently from a US State Department key official, who categorically answered a question of visiting Filipino journalists at the East-West Center in Hawaii: Was martial law effective in combating terrorism in Mindanao? “No. That is the short answer,” replied Irfan Saeed, director of State Department’s Office of Countering Violent Extremism.

“The response to terrorism and our efforts in countering violent extremism,” Saeed added, “cannot be an excuse for an overly aggressive law enforcement approach.” (He referred to martial law as an “overly aggressive” step). He hit the nail on the head when he said that “suppression of basic human rights [a key element of martial law] is a potential driver of terrorism… (because) you’re actually bringing a greater ability to recruit people to violent extremism.”
Saeed apparently spoke out of American experience: the formation of the Islamic State began among the Iraqi political detainees, led by Bhagdadi, who had been held captive, tortured, humiliated and deprived of their rights by the US military in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq.

DUTERTE’S ABANDONMENT OF THE GRP-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Duterte’s chief peace negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and his peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, have repeatedly lamented—in the many instances when Duterte hemmed and hawed on the matter—that their principal (the President) was letting slip away the opportunity to leave a “lasting legacy of peace” to the Filipino people.

The failure of the two, who are both Duterte’s bosom friends, to prevail on him to hold fast on his promise to pursue and complete the peace negotiations, would be casting away the precious time and efforts they had invested in the peace negotiations since the mid-1990s. As Duterte lets go the chance to leave a lasting legacy to the people, they too would miss the opportunity to earn popular approbation and prestige as peacemakers. Bello and Dureza would end up as “collateral damage” of Duterte’s abandoning an honorable peace and falling back to wage a dishonorable and unwinnable war.

DUTERTE’S WAR VS. THE PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE

Recently Duterte threatened to no longer accept “surrenders” from the NPA and incited state soldiers to shoot upon sight NPA suspects and all those he considers as “enemies of the state.” Now this is unconscionably brutal, far worse than the order to the police to shoot dead drug suspects who “fight back” (“nanlaban”).

Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP peace panel chief political consultant, interpreted this to mean that Duterte’s “line of localized surrender negotiations has utterly failed and he has turned his home region into a bigger cauldron of armed conflict.”

On Duterte’s taunt that the Left revolutionary forces cannot control even a single barangay, Sison riposted:

“The local organs of political power of the People’s Democratic Government of workers and peasants are in thousands of barangays all over the country, attending to the needs and interest of the people neglected and abused by the reactionary government.”

“Best proof of this fact,” Sison added,” is that the counterrevolutionary and tyrant Duterte and his military have deployed all their 98 Army maneuver battalions as well as police brigades against so many guerrilla fronts in a futile attempt to suppress the revolutionary forces and communities with [the use of] terror and deception.”

For its part, the NDFP Public Information Office has criticized the Duterte regime’s move to proscribe as “terrorist organizations” the CPP and the NPA. It stated:

“The proscription petition… forms part of the regime’s attempt to strip the Philippine revolutionary movement of legitimacy and recognition as a national liberation movement, thereby denying it and every suspected revolutionary of their rights and protection under International Humanitarian Law and other instruments governing armed conflicts.”

Furthermore, it emphasized, the petition vainly aims “to eliminate the strongest and most consistent opposition against Duterte’s scheme to establish an open fascist rule.” Duterte’s desperation, it added, “grows as the people’s resistance mounts, not only against his tyranny but also against spiralling inflation, low wages, deteriorating social services, onerous taxes, widespread contractualization, trade union repression, landgrabbing and expansion of land monopolies, and other burdens.”

At the same time, the NDFP-PIO noted, the proscription bid is a desperate attempt by the Duterte regime to divert attention from its own human rights record. It elaborated:

“The regime wants to cloak its escalating counterrevolutionary war with the mantle of legality, to imbue with legitimacy the widespread political killings, illegal arrests and detention and the attacks against civilians and other unarmed adversaries and strip the victims of all possible means of redress.

“If to be a terrorist is to systematically use armed violence against civilians and other noncombatants,” it concluded, “then it is Duterte and his fascist forces who answer to this name.” ###

THE REVOLUTION HAS NO GENDER

in Mainstream
by Markus del Pilar and Pat Gambao

“If we were to be grouped together in this guerrilla front, we would make up a company. But that will not happen. Did you see how rowdy we were during the volleyball game? We could be extremely noisy.” They all guffawed at the idea.
Few are the times that they come together. In fact, some of them have just met each other. They belong to different guerrilla zones and as they said, they cannot be grouped together. Not because they are boisterous but because there is a particular need for them in the areas they were assigned.

They are members of the Pulang Bagani Battalion (PBB) of the New People’s Army (NPA). Revolutionaries. Bayot, gays.

The battle against discrimination

Ka Riko, a choreographer, related that their ‘ninunong bakla’ and ‘anitong bading’ (literally gay “ancestors” and gay “icons”) in the urban centers experienced discrimination from some members of the movement who considered homosexuality a weakness. The gays were criticized for their flipping fingers and swaying hips, especially during rallies. There was even a time when being gay was considered a security risk.

The growing number of gays and lesbians in the Party necessitated thorough studies, ideological remolding and a policy guide for the proper attitude towards members who have expressed their sexual preference. Said efforts are aimed at mitigating if not all together effacing gender discrimination.

Among these was “On Proletarian Relationship of the Sexes (OPRS)”-a Party document to guide relationships and marriages. During the 10th Plenum of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) included the gays and lesbians’ equal rights and accorded recognition of their sexual preferences, as well as the relationships and marriages they opt to enter into.

Also, in due time, the gays have proven their worth. That the flipping of their fingers and the swaying of their hips have nothing to do with their ability to lead and carry out tasks, including military tasks.

However, the process of acceptance and recognition of the rights of the non-straight members has not been easy. Aside from the unequal development of members in the movement, the influence of the bourgeois culture and society that looks down and discriminates on lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) is strong. Persistently combating this depraved influence is imperative.

Ka Duday, one of the members of the PBB’s medical staff, disclosed how uneasy he was at the start. He did not know how he would place himself. “I can’t take a bath with the men because it will violate the rules. I can’t join the women because they might think I am taking advantage of them. Then somebody remarked that gays have no place in the revolution. Severely offended, I got demoralized. I left the movement. But at home there was nothing I could do but cry. After a few months, I sent word I will return and assess with them.”

Ka Duday believed that combating the debased culture of this bourgeois society we were born into and initiating change would fruition from the collective struggle of the gays, lesbians and straights in the national democratic revolution. Party documents are available to enlighten gays and lesbians that they are not divorced from the oppression and exploitation suffered by other genders. Thus, it is important that they take an active role in the people’s revolution.

“But we cannot send the message and convince them of the exigency for revolution if we ourselves are undisciplined,” Ka Duday said.

Meanwhile, Ka Riko shared their experience during an encounter with the military in 2000 where they were put in the defensive. They had a difficult time withdrawing from the enemy. The military was advancing fast. Then, one of their comrades, a gay, positioned himself away from the NPA main unit and fired at the military to divert their attention. This diversionary tactic enabled the NPA unit to maneuver and withdraw. “Proud!” Ka Riko exclaimed.

That incident served as a turning point of the way gays in their unit were treated. They made fun of them still but this time, with fondness unlike before when they felt people were avoiding them. With pride Ka Riko remarked, “Gays in the movement are awesome-brave and real fighter.

They fondly remembered Wendel Gumban-Weng to his family, Wanda to his friends and comrades in the city and Ka Waquin to red fighters of the PBB and the Lumad-was martyred. A graduate of Tourism from the University of the Philippines, Wendel set aside personal ambitions to serve the masses and the revolution.

“Apart from his being a gay warrior, Ka Waquin’s dedication to the service of the people is an undying inspiration, not only to us, gays, but also to many comrades and the masses. He has proven that being gay is no hindrance to fire a gun, especially if it is for national liberation,” Ka Duday professed.

Getting out of the closet

Aside from confronting the enemy, they know there is also a need to courageously confront internal contradictions. Getting out of the closet would invite being belittled, ridiculed and loathed.

“Since high school I already knew I was gay but I hid it from my family. I mingled with the NPA but I had no plan to join them. I merely assisted them when able. If you came from a family of peasants you would always yearn to uplift your family from their deprivation. Thus, I worked as a security guard in the city. However, I could not stand the exploitative situation that security guards are in. It is a worthless sacrifice. I left my job and contacted my friend in the NPA to express my desire to join them,” Ka Princess related.

“For more than a year, I concealed my real self from our group. But it bothered me no end so I opened up to Ka Bob, a member of the higher committee. I requested him to discuss it with the committee. I did not know how they would react but it was the least of my worry. The important thing was I got “out” and felt relieved,” Princess added.

Princess expected derision from his comrades and the masses after they learned the truth. But that did not happen. In fact, some of them were in disbelief.

“If you really want to hide your real identity you will do everything to avoid suspicion,” Ka Princess explained.

In one of the anniversary celebrations of the CPP, Princess invited his family. It was there he admitted to them his sexual preference. At first they were shocked, but after explaining himself to them they heartily accepted him as he was.

Ka Princess felt liberated after that confession, as if a big thorn was taken out of his throat. He joined the NPA as Ka Marco, now she is Ka Princess, a political guide of a platoon.

For Ka Awra, being Moro and gay is a double burden.

“I used to envy my friends in the city because many of them, both men and women, were proficient with the gay lingo. I got the impression they very much welcomed gays. I learned later they already suspected me to be one, because I was demure and gentle. But they never asked me about it nor made me admit it. In 2005, I was invited to a launch of the organization of gays and lesbians. I was wondering why I was invited. During the self-introduction, one had to state his/her name and his/her gender-gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. When it was my turn to speak-there, I came out and my “career” as Awra Alindogan was unexpectedly launched. Bongga! (great!),” Ka Awra, an education officer, marveled at the reminiscence.

Ka Awra discovered after the revelation that there are much more he can do and contribute to the revolution-he can write, he can dance, he can strut his cultural prowess to spice up his organizing and instruction work. He had opened up to his comrades and the masses. He realized that the masses will accept and love you whatever your gender is for as long as you could help them with their problems; they see you at the people’s court resolving issues; they are enlightened and they learn from your instruction, be of the Party courses or simply to read and write. For as long as you are with them in charting plans and programs that will serve their interests, they will wholeheartedly accept you.

Ingenious Gay

“There was that time when our camp was raided and all our belongings were taken away. The masses, learning of the incident, sent me a bagful of things to replace what I lost. The gesture so touched me that I was teary-eyed with joy. I wrote back to thank them. The masses so loved the people’s army. They are always excited to meet and exchange pleasantries with us whenever we are around,” Ka Awra narrated.

Awra expressed her realization that respect is not earned by hiding one’s true self. In the first place, there is no need to hide nor deny one’s preferred gender. If one does his/her job well, has good rapport with everyone, abides by the policies and programs of the revolutionary movement, there would be no complication. This does not apply to gays alone. All the men and women need to carry out their tasks well for the revolution. In this way, they will surely gain the trust and respect of their comrades, as well as the masses.

Once he was assigned to lead a team in a special military operation. He vehemently refused, especially because his long hair will have to be cut. He was crying throughout the time his hair was being cut. “Ayoko na mag-struggle (I no longer want to be part of the struggle),” he said laughing as he recalled the incident.

But at the end he realized he should not prioritize personal desires over his revolutionary tasks. He finally accepted the task and they rehearsed how to carry out the operation. He was to man a checkpoint supposedly of the AFP. During the actual tactical operation, there were “directors” who coached him. They called his attention whenever his voice and action started to soften up. But they let him be himself when there were no other people around. He could sit down with legs crossed. He could fan himself with gusto. But when there were other people and vehicles, he had to return to his “AFP character” and did the ‘role’ successfully,” remarked Ka Awra.

“After the operation, we all felt the fangs of hunger as we packed our things. Seeing a fruit delivery truck approaching, members of my unit requested me to ask for something to eat. Although vexed, compassion took the better of me and I stopped the truck to ask for food. I was already in a sando shirt but, still in fatigue pants. I used my charm. However, those in the truck were still able to identify me with the NPA because they said nobody in the AFP would admit they are gay. We learned later that they came from one of the barangays where we had mass worked before,” Awra continued.

Liberation Movement

The recognition and respect for the rights of gays and lesbians by the CPP is a big stride forward for the gays and lesbians. The movement will continue to gain more insights and lessons as it advances the national democratic revolution. The movement may encounter enormous obstacles on the way but, guided by the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principles, they will be able to clear the path to victory. The comrades, cadres and masses are there to substantiate, live by and further enrich the lessons learned.

According to Ka Riko, it could not be helped that gays may still encounter problems, especially with comrades who have not fully shaken off the bourgeois culture they grew up in. But this is where the CPP differs from all the other political parties. It recognizes its weaknesses, learns from these and rectifies, so thus its members.

“The revolution does not discriminate on gender. The gun has no gender. The aspiration to serve the masses and win the revolution to institute real societal change binds us all-men, women, gays, lesbians,” Ka Princess added.
“It is only proper for all gays and lesbians to join the revolutionary movement. It is only through armed revolution that we can promote and build a society which beauty is not only at the surface but also emanates from the core of complete freedom,” Ka Duday concluded.

More than the recognition of their rights, the Party has equipped the gays and lesbians with MLM theory and practice to enable them to liberate not only their sector, but also all the oppressed classes. They are equipped to enable them to smash the conventional belief that the gender they have chosen is only for beauty salons and that their talents are only for entertainment. They are equipped to be able to join and lay down the foundation of a society that is free from the fetters of exploitation and discrimination.###

 

#Pride2018
#RevolutionariesNotTerrorists
#ServeThePeople

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FILIPINO

Artwork by Parts Bagani

An Afternoon with Ka Rio: Kabataang Makabayan, A People’s Warrior

in Mainstream
by the Liberation Staff

Family and school life. Aspirations and life in the struggle. An afternoon with Ka Rio in a guerrilla zone. Listen to this millennial who has defied the norms of a petrified society to bloom and become another hope of the motherland. (The interview was originally published in Filipino.)

Liberation (L): When did you become an activist?

Ka Rio (KR): I first got organized when I was a college sophomore in a local state university. That was at the height of the campaign against tuition fee increase. Dahil pabibo, e di join-join ako. (Because I wanted to be everywhere, I joined). You know, the typical adventurous youth. I gathered signatures for the petition against tuition fee increase. The petition helped the students pursue their fight. And we were able to stop the school’s plan. But I wasn’t consistent then. There were times when I did not join student activities. There was a gap.

But when I joined an environmental investigative mission in one of the provinces beset with a problem on mining, I got agitated. At first, the adventurous me joined because the area was by the seaside. But when I got there, I began to ask questions. Why are the people poor—the peasants, the fisherfolk—when we have these rich resources in the country? From then on there was no stopping. The following Christmas, I went to a community of indigenous people for gift-giving.

L: Were you already a KM (Kabataang Makabayan) member at that time?

KR: Not yet. (Laughter) I was an eternal KK (Kandidatong Kontak, candidate contact, a term used to those who are long-time activists but were not recruited into the KM). It took some more months before I became a KM member. But after I came in, no one could stop me. I joined RTR (room-to-room) recruitment and ED (educational discussions) with the students.
A month after I became a KM member, I attended study sessions in a guerrilla zone. I took up the MKLRP (Maikling Kurso sa Lipunan at Rebolusyong Pilipino, a condensed course on Philippine society and revolution).

L: How was your studies after you became an activist?

KR: I attended my classes. Then, the rest of the time, I was in other colleges talking to students, recruiting among them. I did my tasks in the movement simultaneous with my studies. Because I was guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), I was able to do it. I applied these same principles to my studies, resulting in a much broader and sharper analysis of my school work.

I was a consistent college scholar. I did not pay tuition fees. My mother tolerated my activism because I did not neglect my studies. Even during exams, I continued with my activities outside the school. I went to different provinces. There were times I would ask my professors to excuse me from the exams because I needed to attend to other activities. Since I was a diligent student, they trusted me and granted me permission. I took the exams after the activities. At the time, I was also the president of an academic organization in our school.

L: What course did you take up?

KR: AB Psychology. Once, our academic organization sponsored a “pajama” party which coincided with KM’s study session. Since I was the president of the organization, I could not attend the ED. (Laughter.) I missed the opportunity.

L: Didn’t your teachers or classmates warn you from becoming an activist?

KR: There was a time when many students from our school joined the New People’s Army (NPA), so they assumed my organization was an activist organization and a recruiter for the red army. They did not tell me not to join but only cautioned me, ingat (keep safe) they said. OK!

L: You were a scholar. How did you balance your studies and your activism?

KR: I could set aside my studies every now and then and return to it after the activities. Activism did not keep me from studying. Or should I say my studies did not hinder my activism. Nothing can keep you from fighting if you have the will and commitment to serve the students and the masses.

In my fourth year, I became the chairperson of a university-wide organization. That required much of my time. It was also the time when we had to campaign again against tuition fee increase—explaining to students that the school’s budget should not burden them… chu chu… that it was the government’s responsibility. That! So we had another round of petition signing, recruitment, ED, RTR propaganda.

I was able to do all those while studying and working on my thesis and on my OJT (On-the-Job Training, a graduation requirement). My OJT was thrice a week but in between I still went to school for the campaign, recruitment, and ED. When I think about it, bongga lang (top-notch). Tumbling! Lagare (literally, a saw; a term used to describe one’s tight schedule and activities).

L: How did activism affect your studies?

KR: Before I became an activist, I was a careerist. My goal was to graduate with laude—cum laude. That! So, I had to maintain my high grades. I had to be a consistent college scholar.
When I became an activist, I got higher grades. I became a university scholar. So, activism is not a hindrance. Actually, it helps you broaden your understanding of things. And you become more intelligent in class, hahaha! It’s true! Because you are no longer confined in just the four walls of the classroom. I applied to my course the theories I learned from the movement, especially because my course is psychology—how society affects the thinking of a person. Eme! That!

L: You graduated cum laude, did your parents convince you to work?

KR: After graduation, I did not go home right away. I immediately reported for work in the movement. My mother asked me to come home for a graduation party but I begged off. My high school friends, some of whom also graduated with honors, also wanted a party. But, I only went home months later. The food reserved for me was already spoiled! (Laughter.)

L: What did you do after your graduation? Where did you go?

KR: I went to a community during the school vacation. When classes resumed, I went back to my school-based activities but I requested my collective not to deploy me in my alma mater because the dean and the professors knew me. Besides, I heard the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) comment that I did not deserve to graduate cum laude because I was an activist chuva chuva. That! Bitter! (Laughter.)

L: When did you join the people’s army? How did you prepare for it?

KR: I had spent two years with a youth organization before I went to the countryside. How I joined the NPA was a comedy. I went to a guerrilla zone only to “meet-and-greet” the people’s army. I was just a ‘joiner”. It wasn’t even for a TOD (tour-of-duty). But when I sat in the orientation on the NPA for the new KM members, I was most affected. So I stayed behind. (Laughter.)

We had an educational festival at the camp that time. One of my companions wanted to join the army. But because he was only 16, he was not qualified. I was touched that at 16 he was ready to join the army while it has never even dawned on me. And I was already 22! I felt ashamed of myself.

Then, there was this military cadre, a peasant, who had difficulty reading. On my way to my tent, I passed by him and he was reading aloud, slowly and in syllables “Da-pat pag-a-ra-lan (What need to be learned).” He was in his senior years. “Ano ba yan! (What’s this!)” Again, I was touched and told myself, “Stay here, teh! (teh is from the word “Ate” used to refer to an elder sister but has now become an expression used among peers). That was it! You see, this man was such a good military cadre yet he still wanted to read so he could study and hone his tactics in warfare to better serve the people. I told myself, “What are you doing, you’re a college graduate!” (Laughter.)

L: Was it in your plan to join the army?

KR: I didn’t plan to stay behind. It was my companion who was on TOD. I still wanted to study medicine. That was my dream. I had already borrowed a reviewer for the entrance exam in a medical school. My mother knew about it. I also told the people at the camp I wanted to be a doctor. “Then be a doctor here,” they told me. That made sense. Because around seven of 10 sick people in the countryside had not even seen a doctor before they died. It’s such an ordeal for the masses to travel long distance to see a doctor. Some of them die on the road.

I also realized that if I became a doctor I could only serve those who could afford it. So, I stayed for a month. But even before the month ended, I already said I wanted to be fulltime in the NPA. Aside from the “pressure” from comrades, hahaha, the eklavu of comrades that “gusto nga nating baguhin yung chuva chuva (“we want to change), it was my own

L: Joining the army is a difficult decision especially for someone like you. But it’s even more difficult to persist. How was your more than a year in the NPA?

KR: Actually, wait, where’s my English. Handkerchief, please! (Laughter.)

Well, I am now one year and three months in the army. Of course, life in the NPA is not always fun. It is coupled with sacrifice, loneliness, longing for family, and, yes, for the food out there. Char! (Laughter.) There should always be food in my bag. Even if I don’t eat them as long as I see them, it’s enough morale booster. It’s like go girl, you still have some food here! Hahaha!

The hardest part is not about the long treks but one’s morale. Mao has said courage stems from one’s consciousness. We have to feed our consciousness, raise our ideological level to overcome hardships. On our consciousness anchors our goal, our principles, our will to fight. I find my strength when I read documents like “I Engage” or the “Diary of Tuy” of Vietnam. You can actually do anything as long as you have the will.

L: How do you overcome the physical strain, especially for a woman like you?

KR: Of course, I am capable because… I am big, hahaha! The ascents are indeed back-breaking especially because I have a pack and an armalite. But the comrades will never leave you, they are always there to help. They even carry your backpack if they see you are having a hard time. They help you overcome your difficulties. That’s it!

As a woman, it’s a hassle during rainy season. Also it’s hard not to be able to take a bath. Menstrual period is another burden. But over time, you’ll get used to it. Before, I could not even put up a clothesline for my wet clothes. Like, 30 minutes would pass, my shoulder numbed, and I wasn’t done with the clothesline yet. After a month, I could easily pitch even my tent.

When I came here, I brought along some wipes (wet tissues, used to cleanse after defecating) for a month’s supply. But as days passed, and as the wipes were consumed, I slowly learned to use plant leaves as substitute. Now I know that banana leaves are the softest and the best.

L: How many women are there in your unit?

KR: Less than 10; two are married and one of them has a child. If we include the other units, there are 20 in all—an undersized platoon. We are a mix of petty bourgeois from the cities and local folk. Majority are from the youth sector.

L: What were your other trying moments?

KR: Perhaps the long walks. I am still adjusting to this, especially when it rains and we pass through muddy paths, where at times the mud is up to my knees. There were also times when we can’t turn on our flashlights because the enemy is around.

We had this two weeks of food shortage. We only had galyang (a rootcrop) for rice and another part of galyang for viand. We mashed them together. Even the salt was already wet. I asked myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” Then there was also a time when there was really no rice, no coffee, no sugar. There was really no food supply. The enemies blocked the entry of supplies that even the food of the masses were not allowed. In fact, the soldiers urged the masses to leave the barrios supposedly to prevent them from bringing food to us.

There was a time, too when we were not able to take a bath for 10 days. There were also instances when we were sweating the whole day, then it would rain. Yet, nobody left the army during those trying times.

L: Have you experienced actual battle? How did you feel?

KR: The time when we had nothing to eat, that was also my first experience with an actual firefight. I wasn’t nervous but the first shot stunned me. At first, we thought a bamboo tree just fell down. But, when we heard the volley of fires, we realized it was no longer just a bamboo tree falling down, hahaha! “Hindi na ‘to kawayan, kaaway na to! Hahaha! Laban na pala ‘yun. (This is no longer a bamboo tree, these are enemies! That was real firefight.)”

Initially, I did not know what to do. I just took my backpack and followed the command. I had a hard time getting to the top of the mountain because of my weight, and the heavy pack and rifle. Presence of mind is important. That’s that!

I’ll tell you something. It is about food again. (Laughter). That time, we only had two unripened bananas for breakfast. But, the two bananas sustained us to face our enemies in a firefight. Dalawang saging ka lang (You’re good for just two bananas)! Hahaha! Our two bananas equaled our enemies.

The battle itself was not that difficult. The retreat was more challenging because a helicopter kept hovering over us. We felt it could see us. As first timers our fear was being shot by a machine gun from above. I am energized just by remembering how we overcame those difficulties.

L: How about when loneliness sneaks in?

KR: I criticize myself for not sharing my problems. I just stay in my hammock, in my hut and stare blankly at anything. I do try hard to open up to comrades now because it’s hard to carry emotional baggages.

Totoo naman, di ba? Mas madaling maglakad na malaya ‘yung isip mo. Kahit nga ‘yung wala kang dala, kapag may mabigat kang iniisip, ang hirap maglakad, di ba? Mahirap makalayo, mahirap makarating sa gusto mong puntahan. (It’s true! It’s easier to move around when your mind is free from worries. When your mind is troubled, it’s difficult to walk even without a pack, to go far, to reach your destination.)

L: What experience is your happiest?

KR: When I witnessed the actual setting up of the people’s government — the election of officials, the charting of plans and the one-year program, and the way they govern the barrio. Recently, I got high with the anti-feudal campaign — how it was planned and how the dialogue between the farmers and the traders resulted in the lowering of loan interests. That’s it! This was the most successful anti-feudal campaign that the army had launched in recent years.

L: How did your parents react when you joined the NPA?

KR: I was home after my graduation, one month before I entered the guerrilla zone and decided to join the red army. After two months in the army, I requested to go home to formally tell my parents that I would go fulltime. The comrades did not allow me. Five months later, I wrote my parents that I had joined the NPA. No reply. (Laughter)

But they later sent word asking me to go home just to dispel people’s suspicion that I had joined the NPA. I told them not to mind them; people would eventually grow tired and lose interest in it.

L: Have they visited you here?

KR: Not yet. They are still afraid.

L: How about you? Have you visited them? What was their reaction?

KR: Recently, I went home with my buddy. My mother cried because I had lost weight. Tears of joy! (Laughter). My buddy told me my mother could not stop crying when they talked “because it is only now that Rio has lost weight.” My buddy kept on laughing.

When we went to market, my mother remarked, “Hala, mangongotong kayo.” (“Hala, you are going to extort.”) I replied, “Hala, is that how you raised me? Did I graduate just to extort? If I wanted to extort, I could have just landed a job. There are more to extort there.” (Laughter) She kept silent.

L: Didn’t they ever reprimand you? The usual thing parents tell their children: “I sent you to school…!”

KR: I never heard any of that. When I asked my father for some pizza, his reply was: “How much would it cost to put up a pizza store? Come home and just sell pizza.” (Laughter) Sell pizza! Haggard! My father knows that food is my weakness. (Laughter). When parents see how decisive and determined their children are in carrying out their work, they eventually support us.

L: How do they support you now?

KR: With food, of course! (Laughter). Once, I “begged” for some groceries. My mother sent me all that I listed down with a note that Papa was waiting for payment. (Laughter). I could not help laughing because now my father no longer asks when I would go home but when I would pay for the groceries. When I went home, my mother and my sister bought me things I needed. My sister even packed my things. Happy! Less worry!

L: How did you prepare them for that?

KR: I did nothing, because I wasn’t even prepared myself, hahaha! It was a surprise for all of us!

When I was not yet a KM member, activists would go to our house. They spent Christmas there. My mother asked me if they were activists and I said no. I truly did not know then if they were activists. I wasn’t aware of what an activist was.

L: Did you explain to them what you were doing?

KR: Yes. I told them about our community immersions, the mining, the semi-feudal exploitation, things like those. I told them my experiences in school. They understood of course because they, too, felt the hardships. They see corruption as a cause of poverty. They just need orientation on the correct line. I just need to inject the prime role of imperialism to help them complete their analysis.

L: Did you also share your experiences here in the guerrilla zone? What was their reaction?

KR: Yes. I sent them a letter but when comrades read the letter I was about to send, they said it was not a letter, “This is ED (short for Educational Discussion).”

My parents reaction? E di mayat! (Fine!) (Laughter) But of course, as parents their usual concern is safety. I told them about the land distribution we do. Papa retorted “but the enemies are hunting you.” I told him our enemies are those who deprived the farmers of land. My father just lapsed into silence and he simply said, “Take care.” They have truly accepted my being here.

L: Love life?

KR: None! (Laughter.)

Once, someone proposed a “program” (a process of courtship within the Party and NPA). I accepted the proposal to see how it will prosper. But, nothing happened. I do not want to enter yet into a relationship. I want to be better in what I do first. Hmm char! But of course, at my age… There was someone I liked. But, haayyy… he went down (left the revolutionary movement).

L: What are the most valuable things you receive from friends in the city?

KR: What’s this, questions in a slumbook? (Laughter). Letters make me happy. But, I am happier when food goes with the letters, hahaha! When there are people coming from another Front or from the city, I always hope, I always ask if there are letters for me. Of course, I miss my friends and comrades in the city.

L: What is your most cherished experience?

KR: Now, this one is really for a slumbook! (Laughter). Plenty, especially in the guerrilla zone.

Like, I told my mother not to worry about me because there are many mothers here who take care of me. You know, when the people’s army starts packing our things to leave a barrio, the masses are upset. They did not want us to leave. They wanted the army to stay. Of course, we could not stay in a place forever. We want to go on expanding the movement.

There was also that mother who, because I was single, wanted me to stay and be her daughter-in-law. Another suggested that when I get married, the wedding should be held in their barrio so they could attend. I just smiled when I heard these. Then, there were these simple things they gave voluntarily­—shampoo, soap, even a bag. It would be embarrassing not to accept these gifts from them.

We leave a mark among the masses because they feel the warmth in how we relate with them. You know, the masses need not work if the army were there. Somebody from the army cooks, another cleans. The comrades go on shifts in their tasks. That’s probably one of the reasons why the masses seem not to want the army to leave, hahaha!

“‘Yung kahit gaano kalayo at nakakapagod ‘yung lakaran, kapag sinalubong ka nila nang kasing init ng iaalok nilang kape, yun ang pinakamasarap” (The most gratifying, after a long and tedious hike, is the masses’ warm welcome, as warm as the coffee they offer).

L: Have you experienced any difficulty in dealing with the masses?

KR: In the expansion areas in another province, yes. We were also assigned there; just a team. Our task is to hold meetings in the villages and form a GP (Grupong Pang-organisa, organizing group). Because it is an expansion area, which had not been visited for decades by the NPA, it was exacting. But since we relentlessly pursued raising their consciousness and explaining the need for a GP, they finally agreed to form one. It seemed difficult to relate with the masses at the beginning. They were hesitant to put up the GP. But because they looked up to their elders, the most senior in the barrio, we invested on the latter by raising their awareness. So finally, they agreed to put up a GP.

They have issues on the prices of gabi (taro root) and ginger. Traders buy these from them at only Php 3.00 per kilo. Then there was also the issue of mining. We explained these issues to them as well as other issues on feudal exploitation.

L: What has changed now that you are with the people’s army?

KR: Now, this one is really for Miss Universe! Water, please! (Laughter).

Before, I was shy to face people. Perhaps, this is the breakthrough—I have overcome my shyness. I have also improved on how I deal with people. I can now easily relate with all kinds of people. My perspective broadened. Before, I was full of subjectivism and idealism. “E bakit ganito? Dapat ganito! (Why is it like this? It should be like this!)” I had a lot of “should be’s” and “why this?” without knowing how things happened. Now, I have become more discerning as I continue to broaden my understanding of things, especially because my tasks include ensuring the high morale of comrades, to help them solve their problems.

Pero syempre, ‘yung pinakaimportante du’n, ‘yung kapasyahan mo na kapag may gusto ka talagang gawin na pagpapaulad sa sarili mo, syempre ibukas mo ‘yung sarili mo sa pag-unlad. Tulungan mo ‘yung sarili mo para umunlad ka. Kaya ‘yung lahat ng gawain, kung gusto mong matutunan, ‘yun ‘yung dapat mong maging aktitud. ‘Yung gusto mo laging may matututunan. (But of course, the most important thing is your determination to become better, to be open to change, development, and help yourself grow. The right attitude is to learn the different tasks, to crave for new knowledge.)

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