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Marcos dictatorship

Learning from the Masses

in Mainstream
by Alexander Dipasupil

The masses are the makers of history. Learn from the masses. Trust and rely on them.

I first encountered these lines when I was a budding activist in the late 1960s. Further readings and study sessions with fellow activists, especially on victorious revolutions, reiterated and highlighted these and impressed it indelibly on my mind. Novel, agitating, and even romantic, it overturned and demolished traditional beliefs and long-held notions on the role of heroes. History, we were taught from grade school to college, is shaped by the ideas of brilliant thinkers and the exploits of extraordinary brave men and women—by heroes as well as by accidents of circumstances, fate, and (in Catholic textbooks) by acts of God.

When we read Prof. Jose Maria Sison’s Struggle for National Democracy (1968) and Philippine Society and Revolution (1970-71) these revolutionary concepts came into sharper focus and assumed a more concrete and recognizable form in the context of Philippine history and the events unfolding around us. Philippine society was then widely described as a “social volcano about to erupt.” It was in deep crises and seething in ferment. The Philippine Revolution, I realized, was no longer “just around the corner.” It was here-and-now.

The revolutionary ‘mass line’ thereby struck closer to our hearts. Like many in my generation of activists, I readily embraced it. From a neat and attractive theoretical abstract, it became a concrete challenge, an urgent call and a fundamental guide to action.

Our first task was to arouse, organize and mobilize the students and other youth in the University and other schools for the national democratic revolution. The efficacy and correctness of the mass line was validated by and demonstrated in the rapid expansion of students’, teachers’ and other sectoral mass organizations, taking off from each one’s specific interests and welfare concerns, linking these to other sectoral and class issues, especially the workers’ and peasants’, and raising these to national issues such as the worsening economic crisis, foreign intervention and the growing fascist repression.

Students and other youth made up the bulk of demonstrators in mass mobilizations and protest actions. We heeded the calls to integrate with workers in the picket lines and strikes, reinforce and join transport strikes against oil price hikes, and support peasants’ and sectoral issues. To the extent we were able to integrate with and learn from the masses, we were able to articulate the people’s aspirations, problems and demands and serve as propagandists for the national democratic revolution.

These culminated in massive protest actions such as the 1970 First Quarter Storm and the February 1971 Diliman Commune. Both advanced the national democratic agenda to the forefront of national attention and discourse as they banned the calls to overthrow imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism in a militant and dramatic manner.

More than being a protest action, the Diliman Commune turned out for me and many youth, professionals and workers, to be an unintended “dry run” or “dress rehearsal” of an organized defensive confrontation with armed state security forces. We barricaded the main campus thoroughfares and buildings in response to an imminent assault by the Constabulary Metropolitan Command (MetroCom) at the height of the oil price hike strikes. We acted swiftly and in an organized manner in setting up a system of defenses (including “anti-aircraft” fireworks positions and self-igniting molotov “bombs”) and logistics. Each “communard” displayed full initiative and remarkable creativity, ingenuity and calmness under real pressure and threat, while acting in coordination with others, as though everything was pre-planned and rehearsed. Engineering and science students promptly commandeered the university radio station (DZUP) increased its transmitting power tenfold and continuously broadcast the national democratic program, the PSR, and appeals for all kinds of support for the Commune.

Significantly, the entire Diliman community—students, faculty, administrative and non-academic personnel and residents—spontaneously and unequivocally rose up as one to resist and condemn the fascist attack and continuing threat. With a couple of hours, our ranks were reinforced by students from other schools, youth from other communities, workers from factories, and transport workers.

We failed and repelled the MetroCom’s repeated attempts from various directions to penetrate and dismantle our barricades. For nine days, we were able to “hold the fort” so to speak, with massive moral, financial and other material support pouring in daily from the public, including from far-flung provinces.

The Diliman Commune experience provided us vivid lessons on the importance—nay, indispensability—of mass support and participation in confronting, frustrating and repelling armed fascist attacks.

The growth and advance of the urban mass movement despite, or especially because of fascist repression encouraged and primed us for waging bigger and higher forms of struggle. Meanwhile, reports of victorious NPA ambushes and raids in the countryside inspired and challenged us further. As the threat of full-blown dictatorship loomed larger, we chanted on the streets: “What is our response to martial law?” “People’s war! People’s war! People’s war!” Internally, within our mass organizations, our paramount slogan was: “All to the Front!”

It was no big surprise then that when Marcos declared martial law in September 1972, thousands of activists, including myself went underground or fled to the countryside to join our workers comrades and peasant masses in waging resistance and people’s war. We abandoned our studies and professional careers, gave up our safe and comfortable lives and future. For me, the heaviest sacrifice then was neither the fear of arrest and detention nor death. It was rather the pain of separating from one’s family and the dreadful prospect of never seeing them again.

The day martial rule was announced, it was through the quick thinking and prompt action of friends and colleagues that I barely escaped arrest and detention. Without regard for their own and their families’ safety, they secretly transported and gave me refuge, from one home or farm to another.

When I had reconnected to the fledging underground, I was assigned tasks that required me to remain for a while in the urban areas, rather than be deployed immediately to the countryside. Though I knew the comrades I would be working with, I was dismayed to learn that most of them believed our security and capacity to perform our assigned task depended primarily on secrecy, compartmentalization, prudence and strict discipline. They were averse to building, broadening, and deepening a support network through mass work. Under martial law conditions, this would be risky and counterproductive, they argued, since we would be unduly exposed to people we could not properly evaluate and screen out and may prove unreliable and untrustworthy.

Concrete practice and reality would soon resolve the question decisively. Successive strings of raids and arrests forced us to repeatedly and hastily abandon our “safe houses” and shift to temporary refuge houses. We had no choice but to meet with and totally entrust our safety to comrades, allies, sympathizers, and various contacts who were hitherto total strangers. Their only “credentials” were their being referred to us (and vise-versa) as part of the underground revolutionary machinery or network. They in turn unquestioningly and without hesitation brought us and welcomed us into their homes (mostly lower petty bourgeois and urban poor) and other facilities in their network. We were as much strangers to them as they were to us. Resistance to fascist rule was the minimum ground for establishing mutual trust and cooperation. While trust was reciprocal, the risks and consequences were not. We activists in the underground could move out or shift to a safe location at the first sign of imminent danger. Our trusting hosts could not and would have had to face and suffer the dire consequences.

Thus the question was settled. Martial law conditions in fact made move imperative the building, expansion, and deepening of an underground mass support network. As our forces and network grew and advanced steadily, so did our capacity to perform our tasks improve and with greater security.

My years in the urban underground impressed on me further the need to trust the masses, rely on them, and learn from them. Survival, and our capacity to perform our tasks, depended largely and primarily on them.

Stronger, the countryside beckoned. What lessons and truths are to be learned from and with the peasant masses, especially in waging the highest form of struggle? It was not without some romanticism that I yearned for and looked forward to life and struggle with the peasant masses in the countryside.

When at long last I stepped into a guerrilla zone in the mid 1970s, I was greeted by group of red fighters and peasants huddled together sitting on their haunches in a semi-circle. The peasants looked me over from head to foot with knowing smiles, some shaking their heads, some nodding slowly.

“We can tell from your smooth complexion you are either a student or a young professional. You have the feet of a prince,” one of the peasants said after I had shaken their hands and introductions made.

I figured they were exaggerating or speaking metaphorically, and merely smiled and nodded back to acknowledge.

“You have a lot to learn about life here in the countryside,” chimed in another peasant.

Indeed, that was an understatement, and I had to learn the hard way for the most part. Thus the romanticism quickly wore off as I experienced the rigors and hardships of a still small and poorly-armed NPA propaganda team. (I was issued a homemade or imitation .22 caliber revolver commonly called paltik with five bullets with dents on their primers, indicating these had misfired previously). We had to constantly avoid enemy patrols, be alert to enemy informers and bad elements, and occasionally had to seek temporary refuge in a “physical base” inside the forest. But for most part, we enjoyed the warm and enthusiastic support of the masses, who served as our “eyes and ears” and welcomed us in their homes while they sought our assistance and advice on practically all problems they had.

Throughout, our peasant comrades in the militia, the peasant organizations, and the red fighters were my constant mentors. Nearly every aspect—not the least survival—of guerrilla life depended on the support of the peasant masses and their direct practical know-how: from distinguishing between edible and toxic fruits, leaves and barks in the forest, building makeshift shelters, planting and growing rice and other crops, forecasting weather to gathering information on enemy movements and improving weapons.

But it would be a decade later when I would encounter first-hand the political sharpness of a peasant revolutionary.

February 1986. I was with an NPA undersized company on its way to rendezvous with two other platoons at a staging area for a major tactical offensive. Our excitement, anticipation, and morale grew with each step toward the objective. It was amplified further with news over our transistor radios on the “People Power” uprising unfolding at EDSA.

Then came the announcement that Marcos had fled Malacañang with his family and all the loot they could carry. The hated fascist dictatorship had fallen! The people were victorious!

Euphoria soon died down with subsequent news reports and commentaries that with the Cory Aquino government taking over, democracy would be restored and peace will soon reign over the country. A ceasefire is in the works, leading to the disbandment of the NPA and other armed groups fighting the Marcos regime.

Not a few red fighter asked if these reports were true. Before reaching the next sitio and barrio center, Ka Erning, the company CO (commanding officer) convened the entire company for a political meeting.

“News reports and commentaries that the revolution and civil war are over are false. The reactionary state is intact; the ruling class remains in power. There has only been a change in which faction of the ruling class holds the reins of power. The NPA, led by the Party, shall continue to wage people’s war until the victory of the national democratic revolution,” Ka Mando, the Political Officer, explained. “It is important that we also make this clear to the people in the next sitio and barrio center we are approaching,” he added.

True enough as we reached the outskirts of the sitio, we were met by the barrio people led by the local militia, waving at us with more than the usual eagerness and excitement. We greeted them back, shook their hands and unslung our rifles, signifying we would stop over a half hour or so. Before we could utter another word, Ka Elias, the head of the militia asked, “Comrade, is it true, what we heard over the radio, that the revolution is over and that you comrades will all be going down to the poblacion (town center) and then home to your families?”

“No, those reports are not true,” Ka Erning replied.

There was a collective sigh of relief from the militia and other peasants gathered around us.

“Absolutely not true,” Ka Mando added. “But why do you ask?”

“Because if it’s true,” Ka Elias replied, “our only request is that you leave your weapons with us so that we can continue to fight and carry on the revolution. Because we do not believe our lives will change and improve now that Marcos has been overthrown and Cory will be the new President. Does she not herself come from one of the biggest landlord families?”

At this, one of the red fighters shouted, “Mabuhay ang Rebolusyon! (Long live the revolution!)”

The peasants raised their clenched fists and we raised our rifles as we all responded, “Mabuhay ang Rebolusyon!”

There was no need for any further explanations.

Six years later, and in a different region, another incident impressed upon me how much we of petty bourgeois origin, especially intellectuals, tend to underestimate both the political wisdom and revolutionary tenacity of the peasant masses.

The Party leadership had launched the Second Great Rectification Movement (SGRM) to address serious ideological, political, organizational, and military errors that had resulted in the loss of up to 40% of the revolutionary mass base nationwide.

I was with an undersized NPA squad with a couple of Party cadres passing through what is called a “recovery area”—a cluster of barrios once part of a consolidated guerrilla zone. Intense enemy pressure, coupled with weaknesses in Party leadership and the People’s Army’s mass organizing work led to the dissolution of local Party committees and mass organizations. The Party leadership and the NPA unit were forced to shift their area of operation.

It was late afternoon in January 1993. As we approached a group of peasants, we could sense mixed feelings in their facial expressions and body language. It was the first time in two or three years they were seeing armed red fighters out in the open. There was pleasant surprise, a trace of eagerness, and a hint of apprehension. Certainly, no sign of hostility.

As we shook hands with them, Ka Caloy, our team leader explained, “The entire Party and People’s Army has been undertaking a rectification movement, more comprehensive and thoroughgoing than our usual criticism-self-criticism sessions you and I have been accustomed to.”

Ka Caloy gave a broad outline of the major errors summed up in the SGRM, and started to cite concrete examples that local Party, People’s Army, and mass organizations had experienced or were familiar with.

Before he could proceed to a lengthier discussion, Ka Ruel, one of the local peasant leaders interrupted, “You have nothing to worry in so far as our commitment to the revolution is concerned. The Party is like a blacksmith forging and shaping a plough blade or a bolo. We the peasants are the iron and steel—the raw materials for the revolution. If, sometimes, the blacksmith would lose his focus or aim, goes cross-eyed or has poor eyesight, he would hit the iron or steel improperly or miss it entirely. But if he realizes his error and corrects his aim and strike, then the iron and steel can still be forged properly into a sharp and sturdy tool or weapon. We the peasant masses will always be here with and for the revolution. It is only the in the revolution and through it that we and our succeeding generations shall have a bright future.”

Fifty years have passed since I first read the lines. The masses are the makers of history. Learn from the masses. Trust and rely on them. I look forward to learning more from the masses and making history with them. ###

#ServeThePeople

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STATEMENT ON THE CURRENT DRIVE OF DUTERTE TO REALIZE A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP A LA MARCOS

in Statements
by Prof. Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

September 24, 2018

 

Duterte and his military minions and propagandists are now frenziedly carrying out a psywar campaign to glorify the Marcos fascist dictatorship and to fabricate conspiracies to justify the eventual declaration of martial law nationwide and further realize Duterte’s scheme of fascist dictatorship.

There is no conspiracy between the CPP-NPA-NDFP and Liberal Party for the purposes claimed by Duterte and the military. Duterte and the military keep on insisting that there is such a conspiracy, a September plot to kill Duterte and a Red October plan to oust him.

Not satisfied with the atrocities that they are already inflicting on the civilian population in the urban poor areas and countryside, they wish to suppress the broad united front and political struggle of patriotic and progressive forces and the broad masses of the people. They are misrepresenting the broad coalition against tyranny as a mere conspiracy for them to suppress with state terrorism.

They are poised to do a series of antidemocratic actions like militarizing civil agencies of the government under an inter-agency task force, making Bongbong Marcos the Vice President and declaring martial law or state of emergency nationwide. These are the actions that will precisely ignite a people’s uprising to oust Duterte.

The military will be wasting their personnel by trying to command civilian agencies and will be sucking up the tax revenues of the government by trying to increase military personnel and so-called military-civilian operations.

Duterte is really crazy by trying hard to bring the country to perdition or hell. Peace negotiations would have been a more economical effort of the Duterte regime were it not for its mania for fascist dictatorship.

Duterte and the Philippine Mass Media

in Countercurrent
by Leon Castro

Since the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the Philippines have never been threatened as viciously as these are today.

As an important part of the struggle to oust the Marcos dictatorship, the 1987 Constitution of the reactionary Philippine Republic includes provisions to safeguard the mass media from attacks by succeeding regimes. Section 4 of the Bill of Rights eloquently states, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Alas, such eloquence and grandness of purpose may prove no match to Rodrigo Duterte’s vindictiveness and viciousness against those he perceives to have an axe to grind against him.

Duterte’s attacks against the mass media apparently stemmed from a perceived slight. He has accused giant media conglomerate ABS-CBN of taking money but refused to run his campaign advertisements during the anomalous 2016 presidential polls. He also accused the Philippine Daily Inquirer of consistently running stories pointing out his bloody human rights record as Davao City mayor to ruin his candidacy. For these and other perceived slights, Duterte embarked on a vicious campaign and direct attacks against Philippine mass media.

A regime propped by trolls

Duterte started out by deploying his army of trolls and bloggers, led by a former broadcaster who himself had a checkered career before parlaying his political connections to land a job as presidential communication secretary. The regime hired and pays expensive social media influencers who have no qualms in putting out outright lies and disinformation to undermine the credibility of critical media outlets. The lies of the likes of Mocha Uson, RJ Nieto, Sass Sassot and other highly-paid bloggers have been consistently exposed, yet they blithely keep at it as they enjoy Duterte’s unwavering support and encouragement. They have replaced the likes of Jim Paredes, Leah Navarro, Cynthia Patag, among others, of the notorious Yellow Brigade of the past Benigno Aquino regime.

Paid online trolls under the direction of the regime’s black propaganda operators work round the clock to undermine reports of highly-regarded outfits such as Vera Files and Reuters and cyber-bash respected journalists like Ed Lingao, Raissa Robles, Inday Espina-Varona and many others with pre-formulated “comments” they did not even bother to change even as they were blasted on the same threads one after the other. Many other journalists have reported threats and harassment by either trolls or known Duterte supporters.

All too willingly Duterte does his part in undermining mass media and the journalists’ credibility in the eyes of the people. His arsenal of attacks was not limited to a steady stream of invectives but include outright false accusations as he did with Inquirer’s Karlos Manlupig. He also catcalled female journalist Mariz Umali of GMA 7 on live television. Woefully, his tirades are often met with laughter and approving applause by his blinded supporters. Duterte himself is his regime’s worst troll.

Attacks against media outfits

But Duterte’s growing tyranny has gone beyond verbal assaults. His regime is making good his threats against his perceived enemies in the mass media. Duterte’s threats to punish the owners of Philippine Daily Inquirer forced them to negotiate a sale with San Miguel Corporation tycoon Ramon Ang who is known to be friendly with the tyrant. There are rumors that notorious attack dog Rigoberto Tiglao would be appointed as the newspaper’s new editor in chief once the sale papers have been signed.

“Supermajority” minions in Congress are heroically aiding the tyrant in his attacks against the mass media. They have refused to table the bill granting a 25-year extension to Catholic Media Network’s broadcast franchise which operates 54 radio stations nationwide. In a statement, international media group Reporters Without Borders expressed concern that the “refusal” of lawmakers to renew the franchise appeared to be “politically motivated,” given the Church’s critical stance on President Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs. The Protestant group National Council of Churches of the Philippines, which consistently denounces human rights violations by the Duterte regime, is facing similar problems with its broadcast franchise extension. It too operates several radio stations nationwide.

On January 9, 2017, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) suffered a denial of service on its website, www.nujp.org. Prior to the attack, the group released a statement against President Duterte’s declaration that he was “playing” with the media. Duterte said in a CNN Philippines interview on 29 December 2016, “Nilalaro ko kayo. Mahilig talaga ako (sa) gan’un. Alam ng team ninyo mahilig ako magbitaw ng kalokohan.” The NUJP statement was flooded with hate comments from Duterte supporters.

In January this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission, acting upon direct orders from Duterte, declared Rappler’s license as violative of the Constitutional provision on foreign ownership of mass media organizations. Despite the government’s legalese and vigorous denials by its mouthpieces, it could not be denied that Duterte wanted to punish the online news outfit for its reportage of human rights violations in the country.

In February, alternative media outfit Kodao Productions’ website www.kodao.org was hacked with a code injection attack that prevents its webmasters from logging in and its growing number of readers from accessing the site. Kodao said online forensic investigations it conducted lead them to believe the attack could only be the handiwork of top-tier hackers, such as those employed by governments and intelligence agencies. As the media outfit that most comprehensively reports on the peace process between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines as well as other social justice issues, the temporary loss of Kodao’s website denies the public of a chance to weigh in on the peace agenda.

Media killings continue

Much like when he was Davao City mayor, Duterte’s presidency is littered with the dead and wounded bodies of working journalists. A joint statement by the NUJP, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) last November 23, 2017, on the 8th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre, said six journalists have been killed under the Duterte regime while eight have survived slay attempts and received death threats.

The situation can turn for the worse with the likes of blogger Nieto encouraging his fellow Duterte blogger to confront photojournalist Jes Aznar once he leaves Marawi City or trolls threatening Al Jazeera reporter Jamela Alindogan and Malacañang beat reporter Pia Rañada with rape. Just recently, Rañada was also banned from covering Malacañang simply because she is from Rappler.

Three libel cases have been filed against journalists under Duterte and four old cases have led to the arrest of the accused.
NUJP, CMFR and PCIJ have also complained that the Duterte regime puts journalists’ lives in danger by compelling them to participate in so-called raids that all too often end up in the killing of poor drug suspects. In addition, the police tries to influence how Duterte’s drug war is being reported. “Against their will, media personnel are sometimes compelled by police officers to sign on as witnesses in police anti-drug operations, supposedly as mandated by the law. Media team members are asked to sign on to the police’s inventory reports on the items that had been seized during police operations, in the form and manner that the police had prepared these,” the group said. This practice exposes media personnel to serious legal implications and real conflict of interest, they added.

On Sept. 13, 2017, the Philippine National Police, through its spokesperson Supt. Dionardo Carlos, ordered that spot reports would not be released to reporters unless the “head of office, his duly [designated] representative, his PIO (public information officer) or his spokesperson” determined that such release would not affect an investigation. Carlos reportedly said that the directive restricting journalists from obtaining spot reports was issued as early as Feb. 18, 2014. This goes against the very grain of another of Duterte’s campaign promise, that of freedom of information.

NUJP, CMFR and PCIJ said that the Duterte regime’s flow of official information has been mired in apparent propaganda. “Although a Freedom of Information policy has directed all offices in the executive branch to respond to requests for information, far too many exceptions and denied requests have rendered the supposed policy of openness a farce,” the groups said. They also complained of a remarkable scarcity of substance of the information fed them in official press briefings during milestone events, such as the most recent ASEAN Summit or during the war in Marawi. They complain of Duterte’s communication team’s cavalier stance in throwing around facts out of context, and dishing out partial truths, and even fabricated stories and photographs.

Weaponizing fake news

As the regime attacks journalists who publish critical reports, it also unleashes fake news to supplant legitimate media outfits to mislead the people from Duterte’s human rights violations, corruption, foreign subservience and other inanities. As armies of trolls bombard websites and social media platforms with lies and threats, pro-Duterte websites abound, publishing fake news that twist facts in all incredible manners.

This compelled the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to issue a list of fake news sites in January 2017, followed by a pastoral letter June of last year. After the list’s publication, some of these websites have been “killed” or their urls changed. Still, a good number of these remain.

The NUJP, in cooperation with an advertising agency, also launched in 2017 an advocacy website called Fakeblok that red-flags websites publishing fake news. This earned for the organization and the ad agency multiple national awards for confronting the fake news phenomenon that is being used with abandon by the Duterte regime.

But fake news is not confined to online platforms. Fake news is in fact wielded as a black propaganda weapon by the Duterte regime that not only victimizes netizens, it also abets the regime’s killing spree. The Philippine National Police (PNP) use these fake news sites to blame extrajudicial killings victims for being illegal drug peddlers and criminals.

But nothing beats the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its mastery of news fakery. It starts from consistently issuing news releases filled with lies and conducting press conferences that twists facts like no other. The mercenary forces of the reactionary state use fake news to cover up both its many battlefield losses and its atrocities against civilians and their communities. This is never been more blatant in its handling of Filipino journalists covering the Marawi siege for six long months. Never was a news coverage been so managed as Marawi that very few reports actually described why an entire city has to be totally destroyed and hundreds of civilians killed just to flush out a handful of gunmen.

Thankfully, these fake news sites and its entire machinery under the Duterte regime is being exposed and the people are already starting to dismiss them as nothing more than lies, albeit dangerous.

Militating the press

Duterte is making the same mistakes his idol Marcos did during his dictatorship. He is not only alienating the mass media, he is making them his enemies. His toxic mix of tyrannical power and violence and public censure against legitimate mass media, on one hand, and lies and misinformation peddled by his trolls and paid hacks, on the other, will likelly revive the phenomenon called the “mosquito press” which contributed to Marcos’s downfall.

Responding to attacks against media outfits and reporters, journalists from all over the country are bonding together—organizing forums and rallies to condemn attacks against press freedom. More and more journalists are publishing articles reporting on the regime’s corruption, subservience to foreign powers, human rights violations and even the Duterte family’s incredible and tasteless sense of entitlement.

All these would only help bring the current Malacanang tyrant to his knees and help cause his eventual and inevitable downfall.

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