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Malaya na si Maya

in Mainstream
isinalaysay kay Ester Martires

Dalawang linggo ang ipinaalam niyang “bakasyon” sa mga kakolektibo niya. Kasama na rito ang ilang araw na biyahe papunta at pabalik. Kalkulado ang haba ng oras ng byahe; kung gaano kahaba ang lalakarin lalo’t maulan (at petiburges/laking lunsod siya); at kung gaanong ibayong pagtalima sa mas pinahigpit na palisiya sa byahe.

Ilang linggo pa lang mula nang ibaba ng Malacañang ang Memorandum Order 32 na nagdagdag ng pwersa ng pulis at militar sa rehiyon ng Bikol at sa mga probinsya ng Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental at Samar.

Pero mas maigting ang pananabik at determinasyon niyang makapasok, sa unang pagkakataon, sa larangang gerilya. Dagdag pa sa kanyang pananabik ang nalalapit na pagdiriwang ng ika-50 anibersaryo ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas na gaganapin sa eryang kinikilusan ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan sa ilalim ng Rodante Urtal Command sa Samar.

Makalipas ang mahigit isang linggong pakikisalamuha sa hukbong bayan, nagdesisyon siyang manatili at magdeklarang fulltime na pulang mandirigma.

Narito ang kaniyang kwento.

UNANG HAKBANG

“Sabi ko sa kolektib (collective) ko, magpapaprograma ako mag-CS (larangang gerilya). Halos lahat sila nakapunta na sa mga taunang anniv (anibersaryo). Sabi ko, magtu-two weeks ako para matagal ang stay. Sayang naman ‘yong panahon na walang pasok.

In-expect ko naman ‘yong ganito talagang sitwasyon, ‘yong mahirap umakyat. Kasi marami na rin naman akong ka-collective na nagkukwento. Sa tingin ko naman kakayanin ko or kung hindi man, and’yan naman ‘yong mga kasama para ikonsolida ka, ganyan.

Dapat magkasama kami ni Rei, ‘yong kasama kong galing na rin sa ibang larangan. Kaso may kailangan siyang kausapin sa kabilang larangan. E, hindi raw ako pwedeng pumunta do’n. So, magkahiwalay kami. Sobra akong kinakabahan kasi wala talaga akong idea. First time ko ‘to.

Bilin nang bilin si Rei, ‘O ganito, ganyan-ganyan. ‘Wag kang mahiyang magtanong. Magpa-buddy ka. Wag kang mag-isang maliligo. Maglagay ka ng efficascent.’ Sobrang nanay! Hahaha!

Kinabahan ako kasi una, language barrier. Ang hirap makipag-usap. Buti na lang maraming nakakapag-Tagalog. Medyo mabilis akong nakakaintindi ng mga sinasabi nila kasi marunong ako ng salitang Bicol. Saka basic at may context naman.
Sobrang swerte ko kasi ‘yong mga kasama, sila mismo ‘yong lumalapit para magtanong, makipag-usap. So, ang mode na lang ay sumagot do’n sa mga tanong. Hahaha! Bago talaga lahat. Hindi lang sa mga tao, pati sa environment.”

PAGLABAS SA KINAMULATAN

“Malaking tulong na may scholarship ako no’ng college. Bawas na ako sa iisipin ng magulang ko. So, ang pinaka-main goal na lang talaga e maka-graduate—makatapos ng pag-aaral, makapasok sa magandang paaralan lalo na sa kolehiyo—tapos makatulong sa pamilya at magkapamilya rin nang sarili.

Pero hindi rin ganoon ipinupursige ng mga magulang ko ‘yong magka-career ako dahil babae naman ako; mag-aasawa lang din naman. May takdang edad sila na dapat by 26 may asawa ka na. Sa kolehiyo, e di mas namulat na hindi naman kailangan na magpamilya kaagad. Parang pwede namang mag-focus muna sa career—women empowerment, ganyan. Unti-unti akong namulat na hindi naman kailangang isantabi ‘yong mga pangarap dahil babae ako. Mas gano’n na ‘yong naging mode.

Matindi rin noon ‘yong issue ng free education sa college. Ang pagtingin ko pa no’n okey naman ‘yong sistema na kung may pera ka, e di magbayad ka. E marami rin ‘yong nagpu-push ng “Hindi! Scrap natin! Kailangan free education!” So, mas na-curious ako sa gagawin ng school kung walang magbabayad ng tuition? Kasi ganyan talaga ‘yong sistema ngayon. Hindi kasi sila nagsisikap e. Nando’n ako sa pagtingin na ‘yon.

Tapos highschool pa lang, may mode na ‘wag kayong sasali ng mga rally-rally’ sa college. Hindi naman negative ang pagtingin ko sa mga aktibista no’n. Mas sa akin, ano ba ‘yong ihahain nilang alternative solution?

Dahil solusyon ang hanap ko, sumama ako sa pag-aaral nila. E di, kumbinsido naman ako. Pero wala pa ‘ko do’n sa mode na sumali talaga. Hindi ako nagpa-member. Nando’n din kasi ‘yong connotation na ‘pag aktibista ka, hindi nakaka-graduate.”

PAGHAHANAP NG GIYA

“Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ako no’ng second year. Naengganyo akong sumali kasi napadalas na ‘yong mga pag-aaral tapos marami na ring mga kaibigan na kasali na. So, parang hatak din ng barkadismo, gano’n? Hahaha! Nag-decide akong sumali pero hindi pa ‘ko nag-active.

Pagtuntong ng third year, doon na ako mas lumubog sa gawain. Nagbibigay na ako ng mga pag-aaral. Mas dumalas na ang pakikisalamuha sa mga tao labas sa unibersidad. Lumawak ang mundo. Tapos February no’n, may nag-invite na sa akin na sumali sa underground organization ng kabataan—‘yong Kabataang Makabayan. Do’n na rin ako pinasumpa.

Naging mas malalim na ‘yong commitment ko. Pero kasabay din no’n ‘yong pagtatago sa magulang. Dahil Journalism ang course ko, ang dali kong nailulusot—kasi may legwork; field; kailangan sa project, kailangang may interbyuhin.
Hindi ko rin naasikaso ‘yong pagma-mass work sa pamilya. United naman sila sa mga issue. Alam naman nilang may maling nangyayari, e. Pero ang mode nila, tanggapin na lang natin kasi ganyan na ‘yong nangyayari. Kailangan silang paliwanagan kung ano ang dapat. ‘Pag nagkukwentuhan kami, parang katulad ko rin sila, nagtatanong sila—o bakit ganito? Anong magiging solusyon d’yan?”

REBELYON SA URI

Ang mode ko pa rin noon kahit kumikilos, maka-push pa rin na maka-graduate. Tinapos ko ‘yong thesis ko. Tapos e di ‘yon, naka-graduate. Tingin ko, okey lang naman na magtrabaho ako. Sa tingin ko ‘yong linya naman ng trabaho ko malaki pa rin ang maitutulong. Tapos mapi-please ko pa ‘yong magulang ko na nagtatrabaho ako. Kung dati napagsabay ko naman ‘yong pag-aaral at pagkilos, e di kaya ko rin naman siguro ngayon kasi mas hawak ko na ‘yong oras ko, mas may resources ako na makatulong.

Five months akong natengga dahil sa sobrang tagal ng proseso ng interview ng kumpanyang in-apply-an ko. Na-depress na rin ako kasi halos lahat ng kasabayan kong grumadweyt nagtatrabaho na. So kinuha ko na ‘yong opportunity do’n sa kakilala ng tatay ko. Kulang na kulang daw talaga ng empleyado.

Dahil sa sobrang demanding sa oras ng trabaho ko, hindi rin talaga napagsabay ang pagkilos. Wala rin ako halos naitutulong sa kolektib ko. Mas abot lang ng resources. Hindi rin ako laging nakakapagpa-update sa kanila. Nakakausap ko sila thru social media, hindi talaga personal kaya hindi sila makapagbigay ng payo kung ano na bang dapat kong gawin.

Naging cause din ‘yong trabaho ng depression. Doon ko napatunayan na kapag namulat ka na, mahirap na talagang pumikit. Sobrang totoo n’ya! Hahaha!

‘Yong mga ini-interview ko, puro pro-government ang sinasabi. Tapos hindi ka makapag-komento. ‘Neutral’ dapat. Buti sana kung “neutral” talaga e, kaso hindi. Kailangan talagang panigan ‘yong government. Gustong-gusto kong magsalita pero hindi ko magawa. Laging pigil. Ako mismo, alam kong hindi totoo ‘yong mga isinusulat ko. Sobrang labag na labag s’ya sa kalooban ko.

Hindi ko ibinibigay ‘yong best ko kasi alam kong wala naman s’yang magandang naidudulot. Hindi ko rin napapaunlad ‘yong sarili ko. Pwede ko pa sanang masabi na ‘Ok, naggo-grow ka. Naho-hone mo ‘yong talent mo’ pero hindi s’ya totoo.

‘Yong work ethics din mismo, hindi rin maganda. Puro basura ‘yong ginagawa ko, basura pa ‘yong paraan ng paggawa. Pero ok lang din naman sa kanila. Hindi rin maayos ‘yong pagtse-check. As in pangit talaga! Hahaha!

‘Yong time na may hinalikan si Duterte, may chat box ‘yong team namin sa trabaho tapos ginagawa pa nilang joke! Gustong-gusto kong mag-leave group kasi puro basura ‘yong pinag-uusapan nila, pero hindi ko magawa.

Tinatanong na ‘ko ng tatay ko noong una pa lang kung kumusta ako. Parang alam din naman n’ya ‘yong mga posisyon ko sa mga bagay-bagay. ‘Kinakaya mo pa ba na ganyan ‘yong mga sinusulat mo? Mga ginagawa mo?’ E di, dumating ako do’n sa puntong sobrang hirap nang lunukin ng mga bagay para sa’kin. Sinabi ko ‘yon sa mga magulang ko. Sinabi ko lahat ng dahilan. Nag-decide na ‘ko na mag-resign. Parang okey naman sa kanila, ‘Sige, kung hindi mo na talaga kaya.’ ”

PAGHAHANAP / PAGTATAGO

“Pumasok na ‘ko sa grupong lilipatan ko noon pa sanang pagka-graduate ko. Nagdeklara na ‘kong fulltime no’n sa grupo ko pero sa magulang ko, nagtatrabaho ang alam nila. Dahil alam nilang nagtatrabaho ako, kailangan kong mag-abot ng pera. So ayon, doble-doble lahat: raket tapos nagpu-fulltime.

Lahat ng nakukuha ko sa raket, binibigay ko sa magulang ko kasi ang alam nila may sweldo ako. Hindi ko rin sinabi na nag-staff house na ‘ko. Alam nila nagbabayad pa rin ako ng bahay para alam nilang may mga gastos ako.

Hindi ko rin kinaya. As in hindi ko na kayang rumaket kasi sobrang dami na ng gawain. Nahihirapan na ‘kong magsinungaling kasi kailangan ko ring umuwi ng weekend sa bahay namin. Nahihirapan na rin akong mag dahilan kung bakit hindi ako nakakauwi. Nag-decide na ‘kong sabihin na nag-fulltime na ‘ko. Aware naman sila do’n sa konseptong fulltime kasi nasasabi ko naman ‘yon lalo na no’ng college na may mga kaibigan akong kilala nila na nag-fulltime na.

Unang tanong agad sa’kin ng tatay ko, ‘NPA ka na ba?” Sabi pa niya huwag daw akong mag-e-NPA! As in ‘yon kaagad! Hahaha!

Sabi ko, ‘Haggard! FT pa lang ako dito sa labas. Hindi pa nga ako nakakapunta do’n (sa sonang gerilya)!’ Sabi ko kung NPA ako, nando’n na ‘ko. ‘Tsaka wala akong baril! Hahaha! Tapos sabi niya, ‘wag daw akong mag-e-NPA; wag na wag daw akong aakyat ng bundok.

Tuloy-tuloy ‘yong pagkumbinsi ng mga magulang ko na pag-isipan ko ‘yong desisyon ko. ‘Pa’no na ‘yong future mo? Kung magpu-fulltime ka, pa’no ‘pag nagkapamilya ka? Sa’n ‘yong trabaho mo?’

Tuwing may chance na umuwi, kukumbinsihin ako ng nanay kong ‘wag nang umalis. Tapos magkaaway kaming maghihiwalay kasi hindi siya papayag na aalis na naman ako.

Tapos ‘yong tatay ko, tinatanong din kung ano bang plano ko. Ituloy ko na lang daw ‘yong dati kong balak na mag-law. Sagot na raw n’ya buong tuition. Ako na lang daw bahala kung sa’n ako titira.

Sunod-sunod ‘yon! – O gusto mo ba ng ganito? Gusto mo ba ng bagong ganyan? – May mga pamba-bribe talagang ginagawa.

Sabi ko, hindi ko naman kailangan ‘yan. Pinapaliwanag ko, di ba nga part ng pagpapanibagong-hubog. Hanggang sa dumating ‘yong time na parang medyo natanggap na nila na gano’n.”

PAGBAKA SA SARILI

“Lagi naman nandoon ‘yong perspective ng magsi-CS ako. No’ng nag-decide akong mag-fulltime sa lungsod, naisip ko na magsi-CS din ako. Kahit naman no’ng college, do’n ko rin naman nakikita ‘yong sarili ko. Pero parang long term pa. Magtatrabaho muna saka magsi-CS.

Tapos no’ng nakasama ko si Rei, kasi galing na rin s’ya ng CS, ang dami n’yang kwento. So, do’n pa lang namumulat ka na. ‘Pag nasa lungsod kasi parang vague pa rin ‘yong tungkol sa agreb (agrarian revolution); totoo ba ‘yong rev government (revolutionary government), parang hindi naman—parang sobrang imposible, parang ang hirap n’yang gawin, or hirap n’yang i-maintain.

Naiisip ko rin kung kakayanin ko ba? Kasi parang mode ko no’ng una, three months muna, six months. Alam mo ‘yon, parang may option ka pa ring bumalik. Sobrang petibs (petiburges) n’ya na gusto mong may back up plan ka lagi—na kung sakaling ayoko na—naka-graduate naman ako so pwede pa rin akong magtrabaho sa labas kung sakaling hindi ko na talaga s’ya kaya.

Tapos nabanggit ni Ka Jag ‘yong “burning the bridge” daw ng pagbalik sa petibs na pamumuhay. Na may mga desisyon s’yang pinili para wala s’yang fallback.

Sabi ko, hala parang oo nga. Hindi mo mapu-fulfill ‘yong sinasabi mong pagpapanibagong-hubog kung ang thinking mo lagi ay may fallback ka.”

PAGSULYAP

“E, di mukhang nabubuo na ‘yong mga kundisyon para mag-fulltime. Ito na ‘yong nakita kong paraan para hindi na ‘ko bumalik sa dating ako. Dito ko na nakikita ‘yong sarili ko, bakit pa ‘ko nag-iisip ng option? Alam mo ‘yon, nakikita ko na ‘yong sarili ko kung pa’no ko kakausapin ‘yong mga masa, kung pa’no ‘ko magpo-propa (propaganda) sa kanila.

Decided naman na ‘ko mag-fulltime. Pero uuwi muna ‘ko after ng anniv. S’yempre para sana mag-ayos ng mga maiiwan. Naisip ng mga kasama dito na baka mahirapang makauwi at makabyahe pabalik. Nabanggit ko rin kasi sa kanila ‘yong hirap namin sa pagso-solicit ng pamasahe. Tapos ayon, matindi na rin ‘yong seguridad.

Paulit-ulit din ‘yong pag-iisip na s’yempre iba ‘yong mga tendensya ‘pag nando’n ka na ulit sa lungsod. Una, kultura. Malaki talagang pagpapanibagong-hubog kasi ibang-iba talaga ‘yong kalagayan dito sa nakasanayan natin sa labas. Kahit fulltime din ako sa labas, iba pa rin ‘yong kultura. Tapos ‘yong ganitong kalagayan na maputik. Tapos ‘yong kinagisnan mong bahay talaga—na may CR—‘yong maliliit na comfort.

Pangalawa, ‘yong usapin sa pamilya. Matindi talaga ‘yong emotional blackmail. Hindi sila aware do’n pero ang laking epekto no’n sa’tin. ‘Yong kailangan mong magpakatatag kasi hihilahin ka talaga. Sobrang hirap lagpasan. Lahat naman daw ng nagpu-fulltime pinagdadaanan ‘yon. Natural lang daw ‘yon.

Wala naman ako do’n sa mode na takot akong mamatay. Kasi given naman s’ya. ‘Yong takot ko lang sa hindi pag-uwi ay mas titindi ‘yong galit ng pamilya ko sa kilusan. Hindi man lang ako nakapagpaliwanag sa kanila. Hindi ko naayos ‘yong mass work sa sarili kong magulang. Kakulangan ko ‘yon na imbes na maintindihan nila, kung hindi man sila sumali, ‘yong pinaglalaban ng kilusan.

Pangatlo, na mas magiging mahirap ‘yong pagkilos dito kumpara do’n sa nakasanayan natin sa labas. Although matindi rin naman ‘yong militarisasyon sa labas pero relatively mas “safe?” Mas dito mo mapapatunayan ‘yong buhay-at-kamatayan talaga ‘yong dahilan ng paglaban n’yo. Mas matindi talaga ‘yong panganib pero sa sitwasyon kasi natin ngayon, pwede nang may mangyari sa’yong masama, e. Mas dito mo maiintindihan ‘yong pangangailangan ng pagtangan ng armas.

Alam mo ‘yon, kung ikukumpara ‘yong mga problema ko sa lungsod, walang-wala s’ya sa problema dito! Hahaha! Kahit wala ako do’n, kakayanin ng mga kakolektib ko ‘yan. Pero dito, kung mas malaki ‘yong pwersa, mas mapapabilis ‘yong gawain.”

PAGKAMPAY

“Napaisip ako sa mga sinabi nina Ka Ambo at Ka JR. Sabi ng mga kasama, malaking bagay raw sa mga parag-uma na may mga tagalungsod na pumupunta dito at nagpu-fulltime. Malaking bagay sa mga parag-uma na may mga tagalungsod—na relatibong mas okey ‘yong buhay at mas may ibang opportunity at option—pero pinipiling pumunta dito.

Sila mismo naiisip nila na ‘Bakit hindi kami kikilos? Bakit hindi kami magbibigay ng same effort na ibinibigay ng mga tagalungsod, eh kami naman ang pangunahing makikinabang sa rebolusyong agraryo?’

No’ng kinausap ko si Ka Jag na magpu-fulltime na ‘ko, mass work talaga ‘yong ni-request ko. Sabi n’ya, ‘E di magpalakas ka muna dito, mag-integrate ka muna nang three months para meron ka talagang panghahawakan na nakapag-mass work ka na—na mas lumubog ka na talaga, nakita mo na kung ano ‘yong mga pwede mong gawin dito. Kesa do’n sa aalis ka nang puro kwento ng mga kasama ang dala mo.

Ngayon, mas positibo na ‘yong pagtingin na magpakahusay sa gawain. Para naman ma-prove ko sa sarili ko na tama ‘yong pinili ko, tama ‘yong pagtanggal ko do’n sa option na meron akong babalikan. Kailangan ko ring ma-prove sa mga kakolektibo ko sa labas na kailangan talaga dito.

So kailangan ko s’yang galingan para mas maging maayos ‘yong gawain. Alam mo ‘yon, may maibabahagi ka talaga.

Na kailangan kong patunayan na tama ‘yong ginawa kong desisyon na piliin ang pagkilos kesa sa pagtatrabaho. Na hindi sayang ang buhay ko o ‘yong pinag-aralan ko dahil alam kong kailangang baguhin ang mali sa sistema.

No’ng nag-aaral pa ‘ko naisip ko na may maitutulong pa rin ako sa bansa kahit nagtatrabaho kasi prop pa rin s’ya. Pero ‘pag nando’n ka na sa loob mismo, makikita mo na hawak ka pa rin ng estado kahit nasaan ka mang kumpanya. Tapos kung private pa s’ya, mas matindi ‘yong pag-censor sa mga istoryang ilalabas mo.

Kaya mas pinili ko ang kilusan kesa sa trabaho dahil alam ko ‘yong kalagayan at mulat rin na merong kayang iambag na mas malaki. Relatibong mas malaki talaga kesa do’n sa maiaambag ko do’n sa trabaho.

At mas totoo ‘yong mga istoryang magagawa ko dito.”


Lalabagin ng kanilang yunit ang palisiyang “huwag mag-ingay” bago pa man pumutok ang liwanag. Aalingawngaw ang sigawan ng pagpupugay: “Mabuhay ang ika-singkwentang anibersaryo ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas!” Sabay-sabay na sasagot ang mga makakarinig mula sa ibaba, sa may bandang tagiliran, sa likuran, sa may kusina, sa lahat ng nakaposisyong pormasyon ng mga mandirigma: “Mabuhay!”

Naroon si Ka Maya. Buong giting na nakatindig sa hanay ng hukbong bayan: nagagalak, nagpupugay, nakataas-kamaong inaawit ang Internationale. Sa pagtatapos ay ang muling koro ng “Mabuhay! Mabuhay!”

Mula rito, kasama ng pulang kawan ng mga rebolusyonaryo, lilipad si Ka Maya. Para maging malaya. Para magpalaya.

Duterte’s “surrender” program is a scam

in Countercurrent
by Iliya Makalipay

Alde “Butsoy” Salusad is a leader of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-backed paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR). He is a murderer—the killer of anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon—with two warrants of arrests on him that remain unserved by the Bukidnon Philippine National Police because he has been coddled by the AFP since 2012.

In August 11, 2017, five years after he killed Liguyon, Salusad was presented by the AFP as “NPA surrenderee” and was awarded Php100,000 in cash. Then in March 2018, the military included Salusad in the list of more than 600 names and aliases of alleged members of the CPP and the NPA in a petition for proscription filed at a Manila regional trial court.

Filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in compliance with the Human Security Act of 2007 (the Philippine anti-terrorism law), the petition seeks to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. The court initially ordered the names of four individuals, who had challenged their inclusion in the petition, excluded for lack of evidence that they were officers or members of the CPP and the NPA. After others similarly questioned their inclusion, the DoJ revised the petition by dropping the long list.

The charade about Alde Salusad is among the many ways the Duterte regime tries to cover up its failure to defeat the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), through vicious military operations launched in areas they consider as NPA guerrilla fronts.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, where martial law has been imposed for two years now, farmers and indigenous people—individually or collectively—have become targets of the fake/forced surrender campaign of the AFP. The trend is also noticeable in other parts of the country as the AFP keeps resetting its target date for “neutralizing” the armed revolutionary forces.

Will the real NPA surrenderees stand up?

Interviewed by Liberation, Julieta, a woman community leader from Bukidnon, revealed that one AFP battalion commander had summoned community leaders listed as “NPA terrorist supporters” from 31 barangays for a three-day “peace building seminar”. Each barangay had 10 names on the list. Julieta and her husband were among those listed from their village.

While her husband attended the event, she refused to go, declaring: “I am not a terrorist. I am a leader who defends our ancestral territory. We organize to protect our lands, we attend rallies so our voice could be heard, and to seek justice for those who were killed by the military and paramilitary groups.”

She quoted those who attended the seminar as complaining that “the military refused to answer our questions on how to protect our ancestral lands from the land grabbers.” Instead, they said, the military offered the more than 1,000 suspected “NPA terrorist sypathizers” seed money to grow mushrooms, ginger, coconut, and coffee trees. The seminar was in May 2018. As of October, not one of those who attended was given any seed money.

What alarmed the participants during those three days were the individual “interviews” conducted among them, which largely dealt with why they supported the NPA. At the end of the seminar, the participants were made to sign a document stating they would no longer participate in rallies. Ironically, they were herded to a rally immediately after the signing, and ordered to carry anti-NPA placards.

In the community, the soldiers have continued to convince the youth to join the military service, “so you will earn money.” They also egged on the community members, especially the youth, to search for firearms and turn them over to the military in exchange for money. Julieta said pictures of guns were distributed among them with corresponding price tags: AK-47 for Php 75,000 and handguns, Php 35,000. There were other guns priced at Php 65,000 and Php 45,000, but Julieta could not remember what sort of firearms they were. “They are teaching us to lie,” said Julieta, obviously irked by the military’s modus operandi.

There was a time when goons of the plantation owner who occupy their ancestral lands harassed them. Julieta said these belonged to the group of goons that killed a tribe member. The community reported the incident to the soldiers deployed in the area. Six goons were “arrested” but were brought to the military headquarters instead of the police station. Later, the six men were presented as “NPA surrenderees”.

For a few months after the “seminar”, fear and apprehension reigned among the community members. The specter of the Lianga massacre, where two indigenous leaders and one school executive were killed, always came back into their minds. After four months, however, they were again joining rallies.

“We are insulted by how the military treats us,” declared Julieta. “The military arbitrarily stops children to ask them if there are armed men in the community. When children pointed to the goons and security guards of the plantation, the soldiers would tell them ‘gahi na kaayo ka’ (you have been toughened).”

Similar stories have been recorded and made public by an international fact-finding mission held in Mindanao early last year. Likewise, the human rights alliance Karapatan reported more than 600 cases of forced/fake surrender since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016 to March 2018.

A victim of forced surrender in Northern Mindanao recounted, “From morning, noon, until night, the 29th Infantry Division [went] around the community forcing us to surrender. I did not go with them because I am not an NPA. That night they strafed our house.” Other communities were threatened with bombing or were actually bombed.

Worn-out tactics of deception and coercion

In early 2018, the AFP claimed about 4,000 people to be “NPA surrenderees.” By the end of the year, the number “surrenderees” varied, from a total of almost 8,000 to 11,000. The AFP cited those numbers, whereas it had previously claimed that the NPA had already been reduced to 3,000. Embarassed, the AFP has interchangeably called the “surrenderees” as NPA members, sympathizers, mass base or militia members.

It matters not for the military whether the line between unarmed civilians and NPA red fighters is blurred. In fact, they have arbitrarily removed the distinction. The point, for them, is to picture to the public a weakening revolutionary movement. But, one thing is certain—almost all of the so-called surrenderees who were herded in public venues and presented to the media were victims of threat, coercion, and deception. Most often, the “surrenderees” are later forced into joining paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and other similar armed auxiliary groups.

As practiced in the past regimes, the military conduct “house-to-house visits” and “surveys”. They circulate a “wanted list” of people in the community and summon them to military headquarters to “clear their names”. During interrogation, the military try to sow disunity among the community members by telling the “accused” person that his neighbor had ratted on him. But many times, people were simply rounded-up and forced to attend “surrender ceremonies”. At the end of each ceremony or event, all those who attended were tricked to sign blank documents that would later be presented as “proofs of surrender”.

Government agencies are also used to deceive other victims. In Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, some 60 farmers were supposed to attend a gathering called by the Department of Agrarian Reform to discuss land distribution but were later presented as NPA surrenderees. Others were compelled to “cooperate” because of threats of arrests, detention, or cancellation of their benefits from the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

Aside from the unarmed civilians, the AFP also hunts down former commanders and members of the NPA who had returned to civilian life. They too were coerced to “surrender”.

And there are the posers. Alde Salusad is a poser. And so were the 16 members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group of Calpit Egua that was responsible for the massacre of school principal Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015. Like Salusad’s NIPAR, the Magahat-Bagani group is backed by the AFP, in this case the 4th Infantry Division.

The AFP used these posers for propaganda against the revolutionary movement and also in the AFP’s psywar cum money-making venture called E-CLIP or the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

There’s money in (psy)war

The E-CLIP now embodies the Duterte regime’s campaign to induce the members of the NPA to surrender—and one of the identified core projects in the “12 pillars of the whole-of-nation” approach to end the “communist insurgency”.

See Editorial

Along with the “localized peace talks”, the government pushes E-CLIP as part of the psywar operations to deodorize the government’s bloody “counterinsurgency” program which, since the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been patterned after the 2009 United State’s Counterinsurgency (COIN). The COIN follows the the triad operations combining psywar and intelligence gathering with combat operations.

As the AFP launches sustained brutal military operations, the E-CLIP, supposedly one of the civilian components of the operation, complements the campaign against the NPA. It aims to coopt NPA members into surrender. Thus, the offer of livelihood programs, medical insurance coverage for one year through the PhilHealth, housing, safety and security, and other “amenities”. A portion of the budget is used to give gifts and bribes to the families of NPA members so they may, in turn, convince the NPA member in their family to surrender. Each “NPA surrenderee” supposedly gets Php 65,000 cash for assistance.

See E-CLIP Briefer

Granting there had been 8,000 to 11,000 “surrenderees” by the end of 2018, the government would have spent a total of Php 520 million to Php 715 million. Since there has never been many real surrenderees as the military would want the public to believe, the budget allocation for the program logically ends up in the pockets of military officers and their cohorts.

Getting nowhere

Assuming the E-CLIP and other psywar tactics succeed in attracting members of the revolutionary movement to surrender, this, in all certainty, is but temporary. Why? Because it does not get into the root causes of the armed conflict.

Oppression, exploitation, and social injustices breed revolutionaries who will pursue a free and democratic society. Thus, there will always be one, or two, a hundred, and then thousands and hundreds of thousands who will surely take up arms for their national and democratic interests. Until then, the reactionary government and its killing machine will just have to content themselves with unsustainable cheap gimmicks that are only meant to please their egos—their fascist egos.

On the ground, for every defeat of an AFP unit inflicted by the NPA, the AFP gets back at the civilians. Every time they can’t find the NPA members, they vent their ire on the civilians. An eight-year old Lumad child who was witness to military abuses and atrocities in their community described the soldiers as “pula ang nawong sa kasuko kung mga Lumad ang kaatubang pero luspad na kung makakita na ug NPA (their faces turn red in anger when in front of the Lumad but become ashen pale when they face the NPA).”

The regime continues to be on the losing end as it opts to engage in its useless war against the revolutionary movement and the masses, resorts to dirty tactics, and evades peace negotiations that would tackle the issues of why, in the first place, there is an ongoing war in the Philippines.

 

REVOLUTIONARIES NOT TERRORISTS: Terrorist-tagging is old hat

in Mainstream
by Vida Gracias

In early December, days after he terminated the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte formally declared as “terrorists” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

But for those who have grown with the revolution in the country for almost 50 years, the demonization of the CPP-NPA started way back since Marcos’ martial-law dictatorship. In fact the reactionary military—then and now—never stopped using the tag “Communist Terrorists” against real, suspected or imagined revolutionaries.

The terrorist tagging has resulted in an all-out war waged against not only the CPP-NPA but against the entire Filipino people—a war that has combined all the worst features of past and present counter-insurgency programs.

People in the countryside have been inured to seeing slogans on billboards, streamers on walls of houses and trees pointing to the NPA, and even to legal organizations, as “terrorists”. The media, including social media, has been utilized extensively to malign the CPP-NPA. But no matter how zealous current and past regimes have been in such demonization campaign, they have failed to make the tag stick on the CPP-NPA.

Why so? Because the CPP-NPA as a revolutionary force is a far cry from terrorists, who employ armed violence and brutality in wantonly killing people and destroying public facilities and private property to foment widespread fear among the populace. The CPP-NPA uses armed force in a revolutionary war against the reactionary state to seize political power and bring about fundamental social, economic and political changes beneficial to the people that would lead to attaining just and lasting peace.

All past regimes have failed to crush and defeat the CPP-NPA. Duterte, after all, was never a good student of history.

“Back” in the Claws of the American Eagle

in Editorial

Let’s start with a bit of recent history.

In the last quarter of 2001, then US President George W. Bush launched his government’s vindictive global “war on terror” directed at Al Qaeda, the jihadist group that planned and carried out the worldwide-shocking September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York. Bush called on other nation’s leaders for support, with this foreboding line: “If you’re not with me, you’re against me!”

Bush gave his war this high-minded name: “Operation Enduring Freedom.”

The only Asian head of state to publicly respond was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She lustily welcomed Bush’s designation of the Philippines as the “second front” of that war. “Oplan Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P)” opened up the country to the large-scale reentry of US troops (US Special Operations Command Pacific deployed 1,500 soldiers to support the government in fighting the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah).

Of course, US troops had been in the country since 1946 with two large bases: Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base. But in 1991 the American troops were practically ousted, after the Philippine Senate decided to end the RP-US Bases Agreement. Their comeback was facilitated by the deceitfully-crafted RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which, under new leadership, the Senate ratified in 1999.

Since January 2002, a new mode of annual joint RP-US military exercises was begun. Dubbed as Balikatan, it prescribed joint exercises in actual war zones, particularly in western Mindanao. Teams of fully-armed American soldiers, as “advisers” and “trainers,” accompanied Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops in combat operations mainly against the Abu Sayyaf.

A full-scale war to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf was subsequently planned. The US set up an all-American Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) inside a Philippine base in Zamboanga City. Batches of US troops, 600 per, were deployed on rotating tours of duty such that, at any one time, there were that number of US soldiers in the country.

That arrangement ended in February 2015. The US removed its JSOTF in the wake of the botched anti-terrorist operation, involving US military assistance, which ended up in the Mamasapano massacre of 44 officials and men of the PNP Special Action Force. But the 14-year drive to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf failed.

Fast forward to 2017.

On September 1 last year, US Defense Secretary James Mattis designated—in total secrecy both in the US and the Philippines—“Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines”(OPE-P) as the Trump administration’s “overseas contingency operation” in Southeast Asia. Unlike in 2001, when Bush and Arroyo went high profile, this time Donald Trump was silent. So was Rodrigo Duterte.

As detailed in a quarterly report to the US Congress by the US Lead Inspector General, Glenn A. Fine, (dated Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2017), what Mattis officially launched was a bilateral comprehensive campaign “to assist the (AFP) in their effort to isolate, degrade, and defeat affiliates of the Islamic State (of Iraq and Syria) and other terrorist organizations that do not profess a connection to ISIS (emphasis ours).”

(This editorial’s title uses the word “back” to reflect Duterte’s abandonment of his erstwhile public stance to “move away from the US.” In his speech in Tokyo, Japan, in October 2016, he reiterated that he would abrogate executive agreements with the US, if necessary, to pursue an independent foreign policy. He said: “I want, in the next two years, my country free from the presence of foreign military troops. The Philippines can live without the assistance of the US…”).

OPE-P is fully funded by the US. In 2017, the US Department of Defense (DoD) provided US$16 million from its Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Fund. Its 2018 and 2019 budgets have not yet been determined, pending completion of the funding requirements being identified by the DoD, the Pacific Area Command (PACOM), and US military departments concerned.

It has no termination period. It will end, says the report, “when the AFP no longer requires US military assistance to address its internal terrorist threat.” Given the persistence of the Abu Sayyaf, the Maute group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters—much more, of the New People’s Army (in irrational anger in December, Duterte declared the NPA as a “terrorist organization” along with the Communist Party of the Philippines)—when can the AFP say it no longer need US aid?

The report points out that, “as with all US military operations in the Philipines, OPE-P is conducted at the request of the Philippine government.” US and Philippine military leaders, it adds, meet annually at 4-star level to discuss the scope of the coming year’s bilateral defense cooperation and training programs.

Under OPE-P, the report notes, the US special operations forces continue to be “advising and assisting the AFP.” All military operations are supposedly conducted “by, with, and through Filipino forces.” This qualification, used since the first Balikatan exercises, is intended to shield the US “advisers” and “trainers” from being called to account for human rights violations in the conduct of military operations.

Obviously sanitized, the report to the US Congress has not dwelt on the political and geopolitical implications of the OPE-P’s implementation. Let’s therefore look at some of the reactions to its launching in September.

Prof. Roland Simbulan of the University of the Philippines, who has written several books and articles about US military intervention in the country and elsewhere, said:

“(OPE-P) marks a new era of US military intervention in the Philippines. Internally, it is directed against the Philippine Left and externally, (at using) the Philippines as springboard to reassert US military power in the Pacific. It is Trump’s way of supporting the creeping authoritarianism in the country while using US military force and assets to make sure that Duterte does not change [his stand] on US military presence [in relation to China].”

Sociology Prof. William Robinson of the University of California concurred with Simbulan’s view. He backstopped it by citing historical precedents when the US used the Philippines as “principal rearguard and staging point” for its interventionist wars against North Korea (1950s) and against North Vietnam (1960s-70s). “The US military presence was also the hinge around which the counterinsurgency war was organized against the NPA in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the NDFP peace negotiating panel, observed:

“It is very clear to Trump that the Duterte regime is securely a puppet of US imperialism. All the major treaties, agreements and arrangements that have tied the Philippines to the US economically, politically, culturally, and militarily remain intact. Trump’s comment reflects the fact that the US dominates the Philippines as its ‘most prime real estate’ in Southeast Asia and is an important forward base of the US in the East Asia-Pacific region.”

As to the NPA’s response to OPE-P, national spokesperson Ka Oris undauntedly stated:

“Expanding the mass base, strengthening and expanding the NPA through trainings and massive recruitments, making sure the revolutionary work is done in a comprehensive manner—to ensure that the guerilla forces and bases can withstand and outlast the relentless attacks from enemy forces.”

These, Ka Oris said, must be done “alongside the strengthening and adaptation of the NPA and the people to US sophisticated weapons, such as surveillance and attack drones, that the (AFP) forces are already using against civilian communities.”�Last words from Prof. Sison:

“It would be politically and financially costly, at the expense of the people, if the Duterte regime relies solely on its ‘all-out-war’ policy, Oplan Kapayapaan and Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines and tries to bribe the AFP, PNP and paramilitaries to go on a rampage of mass murder with P25,000 for the killing of every suspected or maliciously listed ‘NPA member.’ ”

Let’s follow through how this revived US imperialist “contingency operation” will proceed, and be militantly ready to expose and oppose every anti-people project it will launch.

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