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Martial Law

STATE TERRORISM ON THE PRETEXT OF ANTI-TERRORISM

in Statements
by Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant

27 February 2020

The Philippine Senate, now dominated by an overwhelming number of pro-Duterte senators as a result of the rigging of the 2019 mid-term elections, has approved Senate Bill 1083, otherwise known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, seeking to amend the Human Security Act of 2007.

The bill aims to legalize and aggravate the already rampant state terrorism of red tagging, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings on the pretext of anti-terrorism. It is meant to further entrench the de facto fascist dictatorship of Duterte without need of any formal declaration of martial law as Marcos did in 1972.

Like the term subversion during the Cold War and martial rule under Marcos, terrorism is vaguely defined to make it a catch-all term for any concerted action or any common crime and for taking punitive measures against the broadest range of opposition, critics and social activists in violation of basic democratic rights and fundamental freedoms.

The bill seeks to penalize those presumed by the authorities to propose, incite, conspire, participate in the planning, training, preparation, and facilitation of a “terrorist” act; as well as those presumed to provide material support to “terrorists”, and recruit members for a “terrorist” organization.

It enables the police or military personnel to arbitrarily place individuals and organizations under surveillance; compel telcos to divulge calls and messages; arrest these people without warrant, and detain them for an extended period up to 14 days.

It allows the preliminary proscription of suspected “terrorist” organizations prior to their being given an opportunity to be informed of the charge and avail of counsel and judicial review.

It lowers the standard for warrantless arrest and detention.

It removes from the Human Security Act of 2007 the compensation for persons wrongfully detained. Without any liability, the hounds of the state will violate human rights with impunity and on a wider scale than ever before.

Regional trial courts can outlaw individuals and organizations as “terrorists” on the mere say so of the regime, the police or military as well as upon the request of foreign or supra-national agencies. The imperialist masters will also benefit from the state terrorism of the Duterte puppet regime.

We can be certain that the regime and its military and police agents will engage in surveillance, warrantless arrests and arbitrary detention, cruel and disproportionate punishments, and violations of the right to freedom of association, free expression, right to privacy, mobility, and to due process.

The Lower House of Congress, also dominated by the pro-Duterte supermajority united by pork barrel corruption, is also in the process of passing a so-called anti-terrorism bill like that of the Senate. Such bill is synchronized with bills for changing the charter and extending the terms of elective government officials.

The Duterte regime and its followers know no limits in their escalation of the oppression and exploitation of the broad masses of the people. They are closing every possibility for peace negotiations with the NDFP.

They are inciting the people to wage all forms of resistance in defense of their national and democratic rights.

As did the Anti-Subversion law in the past, the current “anti-terrorist” legislation by the running dogs of Duterte in Congress will not deter the people’s revolutionary movement but will persuade more millions Filipinos to take the road of armed revolution in order to achieve their national and social liberation from the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions that have been made more intolerable than ever by the the tyranny of the Duterte regime. ###

#PHstateterror
#JunkTerrorBill
#OustDuterte

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Why the Marcoses’ comeback is more tragic than ‘Shame on you’

in Editorial

Forgive and forget. Move on. Really?

As years go by—after the Filipino people finally ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986—it gets better and better for the Marcoses. They haven’t returned the estimated $10-billion they stole while Ferdinand Marcos was dictator and tyrant, and Imelda Marcos and two of eldest children, Imee and Bongbong, have occupied various government posts.

With a huge war chest that can only grow bigger with time, they are being served by a platoon of lawyers, allies at various levels of reactionary government, PR people, false historians, and keyboard warriors, and most of all, by the same bureaucrat capitalist system that nurtured them in power.

It lets them amass wealth at the cost of thousands of lives and the Philippines’ genuine agricultural and industrial development. It helped to pluck them out of reach of People Power and allowed them to spend five years of lavish and loud exile in Hawaii. Upon their return, towing the embalmed body of their dictator patriarch, this system welcomed them back into the fold as they slowly carved back their fiefdom.

INCHING THEIR WAY BACK TO POWER

Imelda Marcos twice attempted to run for President—in 1992 when she lost and in 1998, when she withdrew from candidacy in the middle of the campaign. In between her two presidential bids, Imelda won a seat in Congress where she served as Leyte representative for three years from 1995 to 1998. In 2010, Imelda again won a seat in Congress, this time representing the province of Ilocos Norte.

Starting from their base at Ilocos Norte, the two elder Marcos siblings took turns being governor or Ilocos Norte Representative from 1992 to 1998. It was 24 years since dictator Marcos was ousted when Bongbong Marcos entered the Senate in 2010. It took longer for Imee Marcos to enter the national scene via a Senate seat in 2019.

It was only in Bongbong Marcos’s first stab at vice-presidency in 2016 that they tasted their first defeat in what some reports call their ‘spectacular comeback.’ Unaccustomed to setback, Bongbong lodged an electoral protest he can’t let go of even after three years.

Since their inglorious, forced exit in 1986, the family of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos has now positioned itself back as close as possible to Malacañang.

But for Bongbong Marcos’s defeat at the 2016 national polls, he would have been just a heartbeat away from the presidency, a very real threat to the Filipino people considering Duterte’s illness. If Marcos Jr had “won” the vice-presidency, Duterte would have had added to his legacy the Marcoses’ total rehabilitation. As things stand now, two of the Marcos siblings are running among the pack that’s circling Malacañang.

The Marcoses is one big example of bureaucrat capitalism.

To this day articles are being written about how the dictator Marcos ‘smartly’ looted the national coffers, put up companies and seized stakes in strategic businesses, and how he ‘transformed’ the armed forces and the police to make it partisan and more corruptible than usual. US propped him up and let him use the state forces it had established, trained and armed for their own imperialist ends, facilitated by its favored local puppet. Marcos, their ‘son-of-a-bitch’ as then President Ronald Reagan said, only became a ‘problem’ to imperialist US when the people were protesting in millions. The local armed communist revolution was growing by leaps and bounds and had led the fight against the dictatorship and its imperialist master.

IT TAKES A CORRUPT SYSTEM TO REINSTATE THE MARCOSES

Marcos’ ouster will always be a historical triumph of the Filipino people’s collective power— both the armed and unarmed, those in the open and underground struggles. The ongoing turbo-charged rehabilitation of the Marcoses under Duterte, however, is as loud a reminder as we all can get that, no, the people cannot stop at just ousting the current, most abusive tyrant.

The system that breeds such ilk needs also to be smashed.

This system has proven to have merely continued the puppet presidency and imperialist domination of the country.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), in a statement issued in 2018 pinpointed that the “successive reactionary regimes failed miserably to address the clamor of the Filipino people for swift justice. Every ruling regime allowed the Marcoses to return stage by stage. None carried out a decisive act of justice fearing this will rouse demands for the same measures to be meted against them over the same crimes they themselves commit while in power.”

At the outset, Cory Aquino, responding to insistent public demand, established the PCGG (Phil. Commission on Good Governance) to go after the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. But, her administration emasculated it by ordering it to seize nothing and work instead through the courts. This was of course peanuts for the dirty-moneyed Marcoses.

The US imperialist’s rescue of their once serviceable puppet continued even after the Marcoses returned to the Philippines. The US redacted transactions involving US organizations in their records. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) refused to disclose what they knew, reportedly prompting a veteran of PCGG to call the US and Marcoses “partners in theft.” The US likely has loads of damning information on the kleptocracy and rights abuses of the Marcoses. Not only does it enjoy control of the local state forces, it’s also been known to keep tabs on even its “allies,” according to a declassified report on the CIA’s eavesdropping on conversations of government leaders such as that of the Philippines.

With clues from the US and their latest puppet on how the Marcoses were to be cossetted since the late 80s, Marcos died in Hawaii without being punished by the Filipino people. His widow, Imelda, returned to the Philippines with her three adult children in 1992. She was greeted by an avalanche of graft cases. But with their political allies regaining government posts, she never had to worry about jail time or threats of warrants of arrest.

Imelda was convicted at least twice for graft, once in 1993 for a fraudulent land deal and in 2018 for illicit financial dealings with Switzerland-based NGO’s.

But she remains free to this day. In the 2018 conviction, under Duterte, she was asked to pay bail of only P300,000, despite the gravity of the case and the amount of what’s stolen. The conviction is turning out into a ploy to fasttrack the movement in the case.

After more than five administrations (including two Aquinos), more than 90 lawyers and personnel of PCGG at the increasingly frustrating trail of seeing signs of billions of hidden wealth, only to be whisked away before their eyes, and the precious precious length of time that’s gone by, the Marcoses still have much of the ill-gotten wealth. Some of it were divulged in the upheaval of disclosures regarding Panama papers, where the ultra rich keep their money away from taxes and prying eyes. By now it’s clear the graft cases against the Marcoses were only to placate the angry masses.

MARCOSES’ FINAL REHABILITATION UNDER A MARCOS CLONE

The might of people’s victory in the ouster of Marcos and the underlying desire for genuine democracy is such that it took the Marcoses more than three decades before bureaucrat capitalism can ease them into Malacañang as ‘honored’ guests.

The Marcoses managed to do it under another puppet president they supported as candidate, who publicly claims he idolizes Marcos, and who looks back at his father’s political career as one that had benefited from the Marcoses.

And, before we forget, a president who evidently wants to be another dictator and tyrant. He himself has reprised many Marcosian tactics.

Despite his anti-corruption posturing, Duterte early into his term stunned the nation in allowing Marcos’ frozen remains to be buried, after at least two postponements due to protests, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016. The most brazen of post-Edsa puppet presidents at helping the Marcoses, he nevertheless balked at having the requisite public pomp expected for a true heroes’ and former president’s burial. It took him a year before he set out again to glorify the Marcoses. The Philippine government commemorated Marcos in postage stamps.

Under Duterte the corruption cases against the Marcoses that dragged on for more than three decades are being thrown out one by one.

In August and October 2019 several ill-gotten wealth cases against the Marcoses, 27 to 31 years in court, were dismissed for lack of evidence from government lawyers, or for their failure to attend court hearings.

The bulk of their massive loot remain undisclosed to the people they stole it from. Estimates of what the PCGG managed to recover ran from just one to two billion dollars. The precious works of arts bought with stolen money inadvertently would show in Imeldific shots in her posh digs, but they always disappear when investigators come knocking. The money they extorted from coconut farmers were partially recovered but each succeeding administrations made it difficult for the coconut farmers and real owners of the fund to fully recover it.

PEOPLE MUST CLIP THE MARCOSES’ GREED: FROM ILOCOS NORTE TO MALACAÑANG

Looking thus at the Marcoses’ rehabilitation in power, it is not true that horrors repeat itself. It gets more horrendous in Part 2.

Unapologetic, flushed with their success, they are greedy for more.

They’re spoiled believing they can get away with it, again and again. They’re coming back to do more of the same on a vehicle much bigger and ratcheted up by their original loot, oiled by blood, sweat and tears of injustices to those they had oppressed, and covered by the same imperialist power that continues to lord over the country as long as their puppets dutifully run it to the ground for their businesses and military interests.

More than three decades since the world applauded the Filipino people’s uprising that booted out the Marcoses, these Marcoses have not been taken to account for the thousands of human rights violations and humanitarian crimes committed to maintain the dictatorship.

Now the maturing children, beneficiaries of dictator Marcos’ loot and network of allies and cronies, are out and about for another chance in Malacañang. They are intent as well in whitewashing their family’s crime, Imee Marcos chose the committee on culture in the Senate. Like father like daughter, she faked her academic achievement and when confronted about their family’s crimes, she tells the Filipinos to ‘Move on.”

Against the Marcoses’ rehabilitation and whitewashing, against presidents desiring to be another Marcos, the Filipino people “have no other recourse but to take revolutionary action and overthrow the ruling system and class rule of big bourgeois compradors, big landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. Only be wielding revolutionary power—democratic people’s power—can they subject the biggest criminal and fascist oppressors to just punishment with full decisiveness and dispatch,” the CPP said.###

#NeverAgain
#NeverForget

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FAILING OPLANS: from Marcos to Duterte

in Editorial

Since 1981, when the Marcos dictatorship initiated Operational Plan (Oplan) Katatagan purportedly “to defend the state” (the besieged fascist regime) from the fast-growing New People’s Army (NPA), each succeeding administration has followed suit. This is understandable, since the planner-implementor of every Oplan has been the same military establishment habituated to martial-rule repressive action.The Oplans have had varying names. Yet all have been aimed at deterring the growth of or strategically defeating the NPA, to preserve the existing rotten ruling system.These were: Corazon C. Aquino’s Oplan Mamamayan and Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II; Fidel Ramos’ Lambat-Bitag III and IV, and Oplans Makabayan and Balangay (which transitted into Joseph Estrada’s truncated presidency); Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II; Benigno Aquino III’s Oplan Bayanihan; and Rodrigo Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Kapanatagan.While each succeeding administration adopted its predecessor’s operational concepts, it added new ones. But all such operational concepts were, invariably, copied from the counterinsurgency guide of the US Army. Although these may have worked for some time in America’s wars of aggression and intervention in different parts of the world, over the long run they have failed to achieve their prime objective: decisive military victory.Instead, these American wars—practically wars against the peoples of the countries they invaded, starting with the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century—have left behind countless deaths mostly of civilians, including children; pervasive human rights violations; displacements en masse of the population; and massive destruction of socio-economic resources requiring decades to recover.Similarly, albeit in smaller scale, these have been the dire impacts of the successive counterinsurgency Oplans on our people—since Marcos’ time to the present—in the undefined arenas of war across the archipelago, mostly in the countrysides and hinterlands.The current Oplan Kapanatagan started as Oplan Kapayapaan in January 2017. The latter was also dubbed as the AFP Development Support and Security Plan 2017-2022, which the Armed Forces off the Philippines (AFP) described as an advance from Aquino III’s Oplan Bayanihan. It adopted the latter’s “whole-of-nation” or “people-centered” approach. Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP bragged, resulted in getting 71 of the 76 (out of 86) provinces deemed to be “insurgency affected” declared as “insurgency free” and “peaceful and ready for further development.”The change to Kapanatagan stemmed from the AFP’s assessment that Oplan Kapayapaan was failing to achieve its targeted goal to defeat the NPA midway of Duterte’s six-year term of office.When first announced by AFP chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal before the May 2019 midterm elections, it was billed as the AFP-PNP Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2018-2022. Madrigal described it as a “medium-term broad plan that shall guide the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) in providing guidelines and delineation of authority while performing their mandated tasks to promote peace, ensure security, and support the overall development initiatives of the government towards inclusive growth.” It is anchored, he added, on the national strategic guidance defined in the National Vision, National Security Policy, Philippine Development Plan, National Peace and Development Agenda, and the 2018 Department of National Defence (DND) Guidance and Policy Thrusts.“The respective strategic thrusts of the AFP and PNP were thus harmonized in this Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2018-2022,” Madrigal said. He called it “a dynamic process to establish greater inter-operability in our continuing operations to address security concerns within our respective areas of concern, including all other productive endeavors wherein we join hands in support of national government initiatives as envisioned by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.”Specifically, Madrigal cited two “salient features” of Campaign Plan Kapanatagan: 1) The PNP shall support the AFP in combat operations involving the suppression of insurgency and other serious threats to national security; and 2) The PNP shall take the lead role in law-enforcement operations against criminal syndicates and private armed groups, with the active support of the AFP.”It was in the Cordillera region where the AFP and PNP first “rolled out” Oplan Kapanatagan, after the May midterm elections. Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat then said: “Because of the effort of the AFP and PNP in preventing violence and any actions of the local terrorist groups in the Cordillera region, we assure that the AFP and PNP will continue to work together through Joint Kapanatagan Cordillera.”He emphasized that the AFP-PNP would carry out “joint actions and plans to ensure a more collaborative effort to address the peace and security concerns, especially in those geographic isolated areas” (the guerrilla zones) in Cordillera. He expressed hope that the local government units and other “partner agencies” would collaborate to ensure implementation of Executive Order 70 and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) it created, headed by Duterte.Gen. Salamat disclosed that at a “national convergence” meeting in Malacañang, all those working under NTF-ELCAC had put all efforts “to come up with a cluster of responses” on the different issues, including “issues that have been exploited by the local terrorist groups” so that the government can respond to them.And how has the government responded through NTF-ELCAC and Oplan Kapanatagan?Recently, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) issued a primer on this two-in-one counterinsurgency plan, titled “Disturbance and Plunder by the State Against the People.” Among others, it points out the following:R(egional)TF-ELCAC Cordillera was formed in July 2019, followed by P(rovincial)TF-ELCAC Mt. Province in September. In the last three months of the year municipal-and barangay-level TFs are targeted to be formed.In September, Nolcom launched military operations in various parts of the Cordillera and Ilocos regions, side-by-side with these joint campaigns by the AFP and PNP: disinfomation, surveillance, psychological war (disseminating false information that the NPA had planted land mines in the mountain areas of Bauko, Tadian, and Sagada towns in Mt. Province); forcible entry into civilian homes purportedly to “collect” firearms kept for the NPA in the communities of Besao town; threat and pressure used on residents summoned to pulong masa to sign up on a memorandum of agreement with the AFP-PNP and a declaration of the CPP-NPA as “persona non grata”; holding seminars and symposia on Duterte’s “war on drugs”; and delivery of “services”, “relief and rehabilitation”, among others.The AFP-PNP also set up detachments within three communities of Besao and one in Sagada, in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). (In the National Capital Region, through Implan/Oplan Kalasag, the NCR version of Oplan Katatagan, the AFP-PNP tandem has also set up detachments in some communities in Caloocan City. Uniformed armed teams engage in red-tagging, harassment, intimidation, while others offer “livelihood programs” to identified leaders and members of progressive organizations).CPDF also says the implementation of Oplan Katatagan and NTF-ELCAC in the region aims to facilitate the entry of energy and mining projects by foreign-local joint ventures that threaten the ecology, and violate the Cordillera people’s right to their ancestral lands. It named the following: Bimaka Renewable Energy Devt. Corp., Hydroelectric Dev’t Corp., Chico River Pump Irrigation Project by China’s CAMC Engineering, Aragorn Power Energy Corp., and Cordillera Exploration Co. Inc.-Nickel Asia of Japan.In sum, CPDF denounces the two-in-one campaign as designed to “pacify and press the people to obey the dictates of the reactionary state.” It calls on the Cordillera people to assert their rights, oppose the campaign through various means, and expose the true intent of the campaign: to crush the just struggle of the oppressed masses.It’s useful to note that, in 1981 the Marcos dictatorship already employed thru Oplan Katatagan the full force of the AFP, the police and paramilitary forces, its “development agencies”, and some civilian organizations. Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan and NTF-ELCAC—backed up by extended martial law in Mindanao and state of national emergency in other areas of the country—can be correctly described as an “Enhanced Oplan Katatagan.” Note further: the Oplan failed—in 1986 the people ousted Marcos.#FightTyranny
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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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