LIBERATION Vol. XXXI No. 1 January-March 2004 IN THIS ISSUE Cover Stories Fetad, Cordillera! 3 People’s War, Not Tribal War 10 Simeon ‘Ka Filiw’ Naogsan: From Government Engineer to Guerrilla Spokesperson The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is an alliance of revolutionary organizations with roots in the various sectors and regions of the Philippines. Its goal is to build a society that enjoys national sovereignty, authentic democracy, social justice, progress and peace. It seeks to unite with all forces willing to achieve these goals. 13 Mainstream Joint Monitoring Committee and CARHRIHL: A Hard-Earned Victory for the People Where PTC Payments Go 19 23 LIBERATION is the official publication of the NDFP Red Diary LIBERATION website: http”//members.xoom.com/LibeNDFP Women Waging War 29 Love in the Time of the Revolution Telephone: 31-30-2310431 Fax: 31-30-232-2989 Mailing Address: Amsterdamsestraatweg 50, NL-3513 AG Utrecht, the Netherlands 2 Gay Revolutionary 34 32 15 COVER STORIES On today’s significant issues and events Fetad, Cordillera! Onward the Cordillera peoples’ struggle against national oppression by Ama San Isidro T he word “Cordillera” means a series of parallel mountains that run along the backbone of a continent or an island like a spinal cord. In its true and historic sense, it is a mountainous terrain where different cultures meet and its people struggle for a common cause: selfdetermination. The Cordillera is the largest mountain range in the Philippines where seven of the 10 highest mountains are located. It has five provinces – Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Benguet (which hosts Baguio City). It measures 1.8 million hectares with rich natural resources such as gold, silver, copper and molybdenum reserves. Its forests serve as the main source of pine in the country. Its rivers are sources of irrigation and hydro-energy. The Cordillera mountain range is host to diverse cultures because of the presence of seven big minority groups namely, Bontoc, Kankanaey, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Tinggian, Isneg, and Kalinga. Government statistics show it has a population of 1.4 million or 1.8% of the national population. *Fetad literally means a call for mobilization for war. 3 The worsening situation While the three social ills of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism permeate all aspects of the lives of the Cordillera people, the issue of national oppression provides particularity to their problems and struggle. And while the unifying cause that brings together the various groups that make up the Cordillera people is their struggle for selfdetermination, their way out of oppression and exploitation is bound with the new democratic revolution of the rest of the Filipino people. According to the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), the situation in the Cordillera is worsening with unprecedented severity. Take the situation of its vegetable farmers. Cordillera generates 385,220 metric tons of broccoli, cabbages, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers annually. When the government allowed the importation of vegetables as part of the World Trade Organization (WTO) dictated policies, these competed with the local produce. The demand for locally produced vegetables dwindled and the vegetable farmers have been gravely affected. “Talagang bagsak ang kabuhayan nila kaya kapag sinabi sa kanila na globalisasyon ang papatay sa kanila, damang-dama nila yun (Their means of livelihood was devastated.Thus, when we explain to them that globalization is killing them, they easily understand),” said Simeon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, CPDF spokesperson. Displaced peasants have tried odd jobs such as construction work in government projects and even illegal carabao logging. In an area in Northern Sagada, the community tried to discourage carabao logging by imposing a fee of P1,000 per truckload. Some loggers just pay the fine have a source of income. “Pinagtyatyagaan na nila basta kumita sila (They take the risk just to earn money).” The masses are so desperate that some end up as beggars. Whole families go out of their communities to beg. There are also those who engage in prostitution, even if this is considered taboo by tribal cultures. “Problems here in the Cordillera are reaching fatal intensity. They threaten our very existence and dignity,” said Ka Filiw. As national minorities, the Cordillera people are denied their right to freely pursue their social, economic, and cultural development, and to freely determine their political status. The CDPF, in its statement, said that the extent of their oppression as a people has reached a degree “equivalent to ethnocide - the destruction of the Cordillera people’s land, life and resources – their very existence and identity as indigenous communities.” Major manifestations of the national oppression that they are being subjected to are the following: • Violation of their right to their ancestral domain, territorial integrity and natural resources. Through unjust land laws and land grabbing, the ruling classes and foreign monopoly capitalists take the Cordillera people’s 4 ancestral lands for the former’s mining, logging, dams and other projects; • Destruction of indigenous socio-political institutions and systems through political gerrymandering and divide-and-rule tactics by government agencies and government-appointed leaders who misrepresent the people. These result in boundary disputes, tribal wars and the marginalization of tribal and community leaders; • Institutionalized discrimination perpetrated by state and private institutions (i.e. church, entertainment industry, mass media and educational system) where national minorities are depicted as primitive, barbaric and second-class citizens; • Government neglect in the provision of social services; and • Commercialization of their customs and practices, and the vulgarization of their culture. The birth of the CPDF The Cordillera people’s just struggle for self-determination and against national oppression gave rise to the establishment of the CPDF. It was formed in 1981, a decade after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) had expanded to the region. It held its first political congress on Jan. 17, 1987 in Sagada, Mountain Province and its first organizational congress on March 23, 1989 in Balbalan, Kalinga. Just like the twisty and steep Kenon and Naguillan roads, the main gateways to the region used by commuters, the road the CPDF has had to travel in order to effectively lead the revolutionary struggle in the Cordillera has also not been easy. Intense military attacks and the implementation of insurrectionist lines and programs under the erroneous Strategic Counter-Offensive (SCO) substage implemented during the ‘80s were major factors. But aside from these, cadres here have had to grapple with issues unique to the region. Among these was the question on how to advance the revolutionary struggle among national minorities. And because the comrades’ understanding of the indigenous social system had yet to deepen, there was a time when flawed perceptions of the situation in the region pervaded. For example, it was at first thought that the tribal system existing in the Kalinga and Mountain Province was the same in Ifugao. (Later, after a deeper social analysis, comrades would declare the social system in Ifugao as clan and phratry system that is quickly being eroded by the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system dominating the rest of the country.) Another was the view that there is no such thing as “landlordism” in the Cordillera because there 5 were no landlords here who own immense tracts of land, unlike in the nearby regions of Cagayan and Ilocos. Aside from being unable to correctly direct the struggle of the peasant masses, this later led into other forces being easily fooled by opportunists and micro chauvinists like Conrado Balweg, a former comrade who sought to divide the movement in the Cordillera by hyping the conflict between “ t a g a p a t a g ” (lowlander) and “taga-bundok” and “minorya” and “di-minorya.” In the process however of the dedicated and unwavering pursuit of the people’s war, comrades in the Cordillera, particularly after the CPDF was formally formed and with the guidance of the CPP, quickly learned and adapted to the particularities of the region. The development of more homegrown cadres also helped to gain insights on the complexities of tribal issues and ways. It was realized that the absence of open antagonism between landlords and peasants did not mean the absence of class conflict. That it is the reactionary government that serves as the chief landlord since it is through the reactionary laws it passes and programs it implements that the Cordillera people are deprived of their right to their ancestral lands. Most importantly, comrades saw that the struggle in the Cordillera should not be perceived as a “national minority war” separate from the Filipino people’s national democratic revolution. What they did then was combine the struggle for self-determination of indigenous peoples with the struggle for national democracy. Since then, the various tribes in the region have embraced the national democratic line and program. Guided by a deep understanding of the indigenous socio-political structures, the kadwas (comrades) have been able to define the appropriate as well as creative forms of struggle and organization. This is especially true since the Second Great Rectification Movement was launched. Comrades have been able to combine in their revolutionary work the particularities of the struggle for self-determination of the Cordillera people with the general principles of the national democratic revolution. They are able to correctly apply the theory of Marxism, Leninism 6 and Mao Zedong Thought to the concrete conditions of the Cordillera region. Rousing the Cordillera people for the revolution The revolutionary movement in the Cordillera has gone a long way since 1970 when comrades who trained in Cagayan and Tarlac opened the area for revolutionary organizing. Comrades have now mastered the task of waging war in the region and now, through the CDPF, are implementing various programs that address the basic needs of the masses and ensure their political education. In fact, education work is among the priority tasks of the CPDF. It firmly believes that education and culture are essential in its task of awakening, educating, organizing and mobilizing the Cordillera people. “We value education and culture as part of the work of the revolutionary forces in transforming society. These are reflected in our propaganda, educational and other political work,” said Ka Filiw. “Literacy is closely linked with how we propagate a culture that is revolutionary in the sense that it is liberating, mass-based and patriotic. Thus, the program of the national democratic movement spells out how we will go about solving and addressing this problem,” he said. Ka Filiw noted that the problem of literacy also creates difficulties in practical revolutionary work. For example, the masses practice some rituals which, to the observation of the CPDF, have no scientific basis. According to Ka Filiw, “We program our political work where this particular problem is addressed through literacy, basic sciences, numeracy and other aspects of education. We incorporate them in all our activities.” Since the Cordillera is a region rich in culture and the arts, the CPDF maximizes these by propagating revolutionary ideas through the use of indigenous music, arts and other cultural forms. “The masses can easily appreciate and participate in the propagation of revolutionary ideals if we use cultural forms that they can relate with,” Ka Filiw explained. Advancing the well-being of the masses Part of the CPDF’s work in building a provisional revolutionary government is organizing barangay (village) health groups and training the masses to do primary and secondary health care. Some health committees are able to perform minor surgeries. “The more our areas are consolidated, the more we can attend to these needs,” he said. There are instances, Ka Filiw said, when health work is used as an entry point in expanding to areas not yet reached by revolutionary work. “It is a 7 proven fact that since the time the NPA was formed, health work has always been part of its task. We have heard a lot of stories how in our formative years, to develop good rapport with the community as well as to respond to the community’s health problems, the Red fighters treat common ailments such as rheumatism,” he said. The use of acupuncture is, more often than not, successful. Until now, Ka Filiw said, it has been an established tradition that the people’s army has acupuncturists in its ranks. But the task of education and medical work does not lie solely on the shoulders of the Red fighters. The task of responding to the health needs of the community increasingly becomes a community undertaking as the people’s revolutionary government is set up step by step. Promoting peace between tribes Indigenous culture has two aspects: the positive and the negative. While the revolutionary movement recognizes the positive aspects, it repudiates the negative aspects. The CPDF has formulated approaches that would enhance the positive aspect and then advance the revolution by adopting them. Examples are the traditions related to tribal peace pacts and inter-tribal unities. “We are all victims of national oppression, we should redirect our efforts into fighting our common enemy,” he said. A negative aspect of the Cordillera people’s culture is the practice of tribal war. The CPDF denounces tribal wars because it is counter productive. It does not build communities and erodes inter-tribal unities. The CPDF adopts the slogan, “People’s war, not tribal war.” (See related article on page 8.) A widening and deepening mass base After the dwindling of forces caused by the political errors of the 1980s and the confusion resulting from the factionalist maneuvers of incorrigible elements within the movement, the CPDF was able to achieve a more than 100% increase in the recruitment of Red fighters. The regular squads were formed into platoons and the former platoon formations have become companies. About 60 to 80 percent of Red fighters in the region are locals, Ka Filiw revealed. The CPDF’s 2002 data showed there was a 63% increase in the number of barangays covered which corresponds to a 165% increase in mass base. But there was only a 17% increase in municipalities covered. Still a slow pace, says Ka Filiw. “But we are hopeful that for the remaining months of 2004 we will be able to compensate for the slack in organizing work during the first six months,” he said. Ka Filiw cautions that the increase in the size of the people’s army should correspond to the increase in the mass base. This is necessary to conduct a widespread and intensified guerilla warfare. “Walang silbi kung dadami ang armado pero hindi lumalaki ang mass base, guerilla base at guerilla fronts (The increase in the number of Red fighters is 8 useless if the mass base, the guerilla bases and fronts do not increase), said Ka Filiw. Based on the objective situation, this task is not far from becoming a reality. “Itong kahirapan na dinarama ng masa ngayon ang pinakamabisang rekruter ng mga hukbo na sumasampa (The poverty that the masses are mired in is the most effective recruiter for the people’s army) ,” Ka Filiw stressed. Added to that are the abuses inflicted on the masses by the military in the area. “Ang ginagawa ng mga kaaway ay nagtutulak sa mga anak ng mga pesante na sumampa sa hukbong bayan (The abuses committed by the enemy on the masses are pushing the sons and daughters of peasants to join the people’s army),” he added. Ready for US aggression The war of aggression being waged by imperialist countries, specifically the United States, Ka Filiw points out, is not frightening at all. “In fact it would necessitate the declaration of a national war. We would be mobilizing more of the anti-imperialist allies.” Ka Filiw explains further that US aggression is in fact not at all new. “The only difference would be their physical presence,” he said. Even the use of high-technology gadgets by the U.S. armed forces should not be feared, Ka Filiw said. “Epektibo lamang ang mga ito kung papasok tayo sa kanyang disenyo (They will be effective only if we fight them according to their design).” “We should be prepared for any eventuality,” Ka Filiw said in parting. 9 COVER STORIES On today’s significant issues and events PEOPLE’S WAR NOT TRIBAL WAR! K a Robin of the Lias tribe of Bontoc Province was only a teenager when his brother, Cris Batan, was shot dead on Feb. 23, 1993. The perpetrators were elements of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) who belonged to the Betwagan tribe. Cris’ death triggered a tribal war between Lias and Betwagan tribes that has lasted for seven long years. Ka Robin, together with other members of the Lias tribe, engaged in a shooting war with the Betwagan tribe. “I did not understand what the revolution was then. I just wanted to get even,” Ka Robin recalls. Land disputes and tribal wars Historically, competition over access to land, water sources, forests and other natural resources trigger disputes between tribes. For years, boundaries delineating the territories of tribes have been defined and redefined through tribal wars, peace pacts and negotiations. But these historically defined boundaries are often being disregarded because of government policies and land laws. Referring to the recent outbreak of tribal wars, Simeon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples’ Democratic Front (CPDF), the underground revolutionary mass organization in the Cordillera, explains, “This is a direct effect of land laws that define 10 boundaries and divide the people according to the geographical and political divisions of the government.” Ka Filiw said land disputes have intensified with the implementation of the local government code particularly the provision on the internal revenue allotment or IRA. “Since the implementation of this IRA, various barangays have sought to increase their IRA share. Thus, they try to expand their land area but in doing so, they encroach on the land of another tribe,” said Ka Filiw. The main basis for the computation of IRA is the land area and population of each village. As the village’s land area expands, so does its IRA and area of political jurisdiction. This translates into bigger budget allocations for the local government units (LGU) covering the tribe’s area. Thus, some LGUs apply for Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims or Titles (CADC/CADT) covering lands that go beyond their original boundaries and encroach on the land of other tribes. Other government projects and policies like mining and logging as well as other activities affecting watersheds or water rights also cause tribal wars since control of resources and income from such activities are important. “Our observation is that there are no more fixed boundaries.All municipalities and provinces are experiencing boundary disputes,” Ka Filiw added. Activities of the military and its adjunct, the Cordillera Peoples’ Liberation Army (CPLA), also trigger tribal wars. For example, when the CPLA planted marijuana and conducted logging activities in areas belonging to the Betwagan tribe, tension between the latter and the Butbut, the tribe to which the involved CPLA members belong, rose. The subsequent belligerent actions of the CPLA caused the intensification of hostilities, which soon erupted into a full-scale tribal war. This particular conflict has been going on since 1999. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) also fan the hostilities between tribes. For one thing, they sell arms and ammunition to the warring tribes. There are also instances when AFP and PNP officers, who are members of warring tribes, supply arms and ammunition to enable their respective tribes to gain the upper hand. Often, soldiers and policemen involved take a leave of absence to join in the tribal wars. The costs Tribal wars, though seemingly micro in scale, have immense socio-cultural, economic, and political costs. Relationships between friends, neighbors, even family members get strained because of tribal wars. During the four years of the tribal war between the Butbut tribe of Kalinga and the Betwagan of Mountain Province, a number have died or have been wounded on each side and there have been losses of property. The CPDF estimates that the Betwagan tribe was losing P7 million in annual income during their war with the Butbut tribe. On the other hand, the Butbut tribe from Bugnay stopped working in their rice fields. Some have been forced to sell their lands. According to Dangadang, the revolutionary paper in the Cordillera, the mobility of the warring tribes’ members is greatly affected. There have been 11 instances when children have had to skip schools for several days especially if they would have to pass through areas controlled by the other tribe to get to school. During particularly violent outbreaks of tribal conflicts, entire communities have had to be evacuated. NPA fighters in Cordillera belong to different tribes.Thus, whenever tribal wars erupt, comrades whose tribes are involved in the conflict feel the tension. Their revolutionary education however have taught them that the main enemy is US imperialism and the local ruling classes and that the masses involved in tribal conflict also belong to the oppressed and exploited classes. But a big cost for the revolutionary movement of tribal wars is its delaying effect on CPDF’s political work of unifying the Cordillera people in the struggle for self-determination. CPDF believes that it is only through raising the political awareness of the Cordillera people, and in organizing and mobilizing them in the struggle for self-determination in particular, and the national democratic revolution, in general, can the problem of tribal wars be effectively addressed. The NPA as mediators In principle, a tribal war is a problem confronted by the masses. As such, it is also a problem of the revolutionary movement. “Sa katunayan, kapag hindi mo inasikaso yan, sisingilin ka ng masa (In fact, if the NPA does not address the problem, the masses themselves demand that the NPA resolves it),” Ka Filiw said. He explains that the best time to intervene is either “before the outbreak” or “after the emotional outburst.” “It will be very difficult to be caught in the middle of a shooting war,” he said. With the Butbut-Betwagan tribal war, the NPA immediately tried to mediate but when the local government intervened, it temporarily gave way. The government however failed to settle the conflict. “They gave up,” the CPDF leader said. In December 2003, concerned persons from both the Betwagan and Butbut tribes requested the NPA to mediate again. After a lot of legwork, the two warring tribes were made to meet in a neutral area in January 2004. The meeting did not result in any settlement but the NPA refused to give up. It continues to serve as a bridge 12 between the warring tribes even when the shooting war persisted. “As in any conflict, we cannot force them if they are not ready to face each other and talk. But as long as there’s a small glimmer of hope, we have to pursue that opening,” Ka Filiw said. He explained that it takes time, patience, and perseverance to resolve a tribal war. “The mediators should practice diplomacy and must be familiar with how tribal communities work. If you are not familiar with the issues, the dynamics and ways of resolving tribal conflicts, you would have a hard time,” he said. Part of the work in mediating conflicts is maximizing all local institutions including the LGU. In the case of the Betwagan-Butbut tribal conflict, the participation of a neutral LGU was crucial in providing transportation, arranging the venue and hosting the talks. The success of mediation efforts is also hinges on the acceptability of the host to the warring parties. It is also crucial to neutralize the police, CAFGU and AFP. And the LGU can do a lot in preventing them from adding fuel to the hostilities. Brothers all Five years after his brother’s killing, Ka Robin became active in the local chapter of the CPDF. Education in the revolutionary movement regarding tribal wars made him realize the effects and futility of tribal conflicts. “Hindi pala mareresolba ang problema sa pamamagitan ng tribal war (I came to realize that problems cannot be solved through tribal wars),” he said. “Iisa ang kalaban natin kaya dapat ay magtulungan para sa iisang layunin (We have a common enemy and we should unite for this common purpose),” he continued. His realization became complete when he met Ka Ernie, an NPA fighter and a member of the Betwagan tribe. “Nung una parang galit pa ako kasi alam ko sila ang pumatay sa kapatid ko. Pero nang panghawakan ko ang prinsipyo ng rebolusyon, nawala ang galit ko sa kanilang tribu (At first I was angry because I know they killed my brother. But when I began to understand the principles of the revolution, my anger towards his tribe disappeared),” he said. “Para na kaming magkapatid ngayon. Magka-buddy na nga kami (We are like brothers now. We are even buddies),” he said of Ka Ernie. (By Ama San Isidro) COVER STORIES On today’s significant issues and events Simeon ‘Ka Filiw’ Naogsan by Ama San Isidro N estled in a forest of the Cordillera mountains was a New People’s Army (NPA) camp, bursting with activity. Red guerillas were either practicing revolutionary songs or preparing dinner while eagerly waiting for their media visitors to arrive. It was the region’s first time to host a press conference for Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal. A cursory glance at the guerillas showed they wore almost the same clothes – taffeta pants and dark-colored shirts, plus jackets and bonnets to protect them from the cold, as well as, for most of them, rubber slippers for the feet. Surrounded by pine trees and makeshift tents, one of the guerillas however looked unusual for the scene. He was wearing a formal blue and white checkered polo but had on khaki cargo pants and mountain shoes. He was also wearing a purple jacket and a blue cap. This prompted a reporter to ask, “Sino ba yun (Who is that)?” The members of media later found out he was the spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples’ Democratic Front (CPDF), the underground revolutionary organization in the Cordillera region. He introduced himself to reporters as Simeon Naogsan but would rather be called Ka Filiw, his nom de guerre. “I don’t usually dress up this way,” he grinned. “My outfit is just for the press conference.” On regular days, he said, he wears the same clothes as anyone else. His discomfort however was apparent, the media-shy leader’s voice quavered at times during the press conference. Despite this, explanations about issues confronting the Cordillera people and the revolutionary movement rang firm and true amid the majestic pine forest. The full-blooded Igorot revolutionary was given the task of being the spokesperson of the 13 CPDF in 2001. “I have had several interviews with the local media but this is my first time to face national media,” he said. However, his comrades said the unease was uncharacteristic of him. They said he relates well with the masses, one of the reasons he was given the task of speaking for the Cordillera people. In addition, comrades attest that he is a person with a high sense of responsibility, widely known in the region for his zeal for military discipline. Most of all, Ka Filiw best represents the Cordillera people as he comes from one of its Igorot tribes. As such, he personally knows their issues, predicaments, hopes and aspirations. He, too, has suffered the bigotry shown on indigenous groups by media, church and schools. “Nakita ko ang pagsasamantala sa mga kababayan ko, mga katribu ko rito sa Cordillera (I have seen the exploitation of the tribes here in the Cordillera) and here I am representing my people - the tribes of Bontoc, Kankanaey, the Ifugao, Kalinga, Dingyan and non-Igorots living here in Cordillera. Once upon a time, we were those derided and chided by then Secretary Carlos P. Romulo by his famous phrase ‘the Igorots are not Filipinos.’” But trekking the road of the Cordillera people’s struggle did not come easy for Ka Filiw. Like most revolutionaries, he experienced his share of setbacks and difficulties, in his former profession as well as with his family. As a college student taking up engineering, Ka Filiw actively participated in what became popularly known as the First Quarter Storm in the early 70s. Ka Filiw finished college and became a civil engineer by profession. He worked in government agencies for six years – first in an agency known for its corruption and subsequently in an agency that is supposed to check these practices. “I was a living witness to the corruption within the civilian bureaucracy,” he said, recounting his experiences of being offered bribes not just once but several times during his stay in government. He also became the executive director of a non-government organization before he ran for congress in the 1987 elections. “I ran under the Partido ng Bayan,” he recalled. Thus, until now, comrades kid him and call him “congressman.” Although he did not make it to Congress, his continued participation in the militant mass 14 movement in the region made him a target for political harassment. He received several death threats from the renegade Cordillera Peoples’ Liberation Army (CPLA), which was then led by the notorious Conrado Balweg, and from other political rivals. The threats to his security and his desire to serve the Cordillera people the best way he can made him decide to join the NPA. His trek to the mountains maybe trouble-free for the physically fit Ka Filiw. But for his family, it was a decision that unsettled their seemingly normal lives. “Hindi nila natanggap yung pag-alis ko kasi hindi naman ako nakapag-paalam. Shoot-to-kill na ang order laban sa akin noon kaya madalian yung pagalis ko (They could not accept my decision to leave because I was not able to properly explain it. The military had a shoot-to-kill order against me so I had to leave in a hurry),” he said. His wife was the most affected by his decision. Ka Filiw found out from comrades that his wife had become an alcoholic. “Pag dumadalaw ako, dalaw-asawa lang yun. Ibig sabihin, ayaw n’ya pagusapan yung pulitika, yung rebolusyon (My visits then were purely personal. She did not want to talk about politics and the revolution),” he recalled. As he was at great risk, other comrades helped his wife fight and recover from alcoholism. Rehabilitation included mobilizing his wife and his children to take part in the revolution in whatever way they could. It was only after a decade that his family was able to visit him in the mountains. “That was in 1997. I was happy because they were able to see what life we had as armed guerillas,” he said. But what made the visit more meaningful was that the “family gathering” in an NPA camp opened his family’s eyes to the splendor of the revolution. Ka Filiw now takes pride that his family now fully understands the road he has chosen. “They do not just understand, they now actively participate in our struggle.” Ka Filiw said he has already realized his dream of building a revolutionary family. He is pleased to note that his family, together with other revolutionaries, is collectively engineering the struggle of the Cordillera people for selfdetermination within the framework of the national democratic revolution. MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement The Joint Monitoring Committee and CARHRIHL A Hard-Earned Victory for the PEOPLE By Victoria dela Gente O n March 16, 1998, after 12 years of protracted peace talks, the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) panels came up with its first substantive agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). But Fidel V. Ramos failed to sign it as principal before the end of his term. Probably in a state of drunken stupor, Joseph Estrada, then president and principal representative of the GRP, signed it on August 7, 1998 only to rescind it two days later. In February of 2004, the GRP expressed its willingness to implement the CARHRIHL and set up an interim Joint Monitoring Committee. While still far from addressing the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people, the CARHRIHL is a victory for the masses as it provides them with an additional instrument in asserting their rights as individuals, groups, and communities against abuses by the reactionary state. It adopts the basic human rights - civil and political, economic and socio-cultural - which are enshrined in international laws and conventions. It provides a general framework of rights from which the succeeding substantive agenda may be based. The agreement seeks to bind both parties to the armed conflict to apply 15 the principles of international humanitarian law. It aims to regulate the conduct of the armed conflict by protecting hors de combat, combatants who have surrendered, persons deprived of liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict and their relatives, and civilians not taking an active part in the hostilities. The Filipino masses can utilize the agreement in confronting the military for targeting non-combatants as part of its strategy of constricting the mass base of the New People’s Army. It will therefore expose the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the abuses it commits during the conduct of its military operations. The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) shall monitor the implementation of the agreement. It shall receive complaints of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and shall initiate requests or recommendations to the party concerned to undertake steps and measures to comply with the provisions of CARHRIHL. While merely having monitoring functions, the setting-up of the JMC is significant for two reasons. First, it will signal the implementation of CARHRIHL. The setting-up of the JMC will prevent the government from arbitrarily reneging on its commitment to implement CARHRIHL like it did in 1998. Second, the JMC will show how the AFP is committing terrorist acts against the Filipino people. With the national and democratic character of the revolution and the NPA’s strict rules of conduct, the CPP-NPA-NDF will surely be able to belie the claims of US imperialism, the GRP and the AFP that it is a terrorist organization. On the other hand, the worsening crisis of the semifeudal, semi-colonial system, the need of US imperialism and the reactionary ruling classes of the comprador bourgeoisie and big landlords to intensify its oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people, and the mercenary character of the AFP will make more blatant its fascist and terrorist attacks on the Filipino masses. The protracted peace negotiations The peace talks have been going on for 17 years since the ouster of the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship. Since the start, the GRP has shown that it is far from interested in working for a just and lasting peace. After securing an agreement for a ceasefire in 16 1986, the US-Aquino regime manifested its indifference to pursuing the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations. With the breakdown of the talks precipitated by the infamous Mendiola massacre, the regime immediately launched its total war campaign victimizing millions of people. The intensity of human rights violations, in a period spanning only six years, was comparable to the 20 years of martial rule. The Aquino regime’s record for forcible abductions and disappearances, and displacements of communities even surpassed that of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. It was during the Ramos administration, or after six years of impasse, that the peace talks moved forward significantly. His administration released a substantial number of political prisoners and signed the The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, Joint Agreement on the Ground Rules of the Formal Meetings Between the GRP and NDFP Negotiating Panels, and the 1995 Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. It was also during the Ramos regime that the CARHRIHL was finalized and signed by the negotiating panels. However, Fidel V. Ramos failed to sign the agreement. After rescinding its commitment to implement CARHRIHL, Estrada drove the peace talks to a standstill. The AFP then vigorously launched its Oplan Makabayan, which was a continuation of total war strategy of previous regimes thereby victimizing the masses that he vowed to uplift. After seeing that the probability of continuing with the peace negotiations was already facing a brick wall, the NDFP eventually declared its intention to wait for the next GRP president before resuming the talks. After being installed by People Power2, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo put the talks on the verge of collapse. It refused to honor previous agreements including the The Hague Declaration of 1992 and the 1995 Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees. The US-Arroyo regime insisted on the simultaneous formation of the different working committees in order to frame a final peace agreement. In June 2001, using the just punishment by the NPA of the notorious human rights violator, Rodolfo Aguinaldo, as a pretext, the GRP suspended the peace negotiations. It was only in October 2003 that the GRP renewed informal talks with the NDFP. This culminated in the February 10-13 peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway and the formal announcement of the formation of the interim joint monitoring committee last April 15. The context of the peace talks In 1968, the newly reestablished Communist Party of the Philippines declared that since the crisis of semi-colonial, semi-feudal system had reached its terminal stage, meaning it can not longer be abated, the ruling classes could no longer rule in the old way. In 1972, martial law was declared. Even after the ouster of the US-backed Marcos fascist dictatorship, the ruling system was characterized by sharp divisions among factions of the ruling classes. Reactionary elections, as a venue for resolving contradictions among the factions and thereby consolidating the ruling system, have failed to serve this purpose. On the contrary, it has worsened these splits so much so that the twoparty system is no longer effective and elections have become a circus where more than four representatives from different factions try to outdo each other in a popularity contest. It is within this framework that developments in the peace talks can be understood. Any gain earned by the Filipino people as a result of the peace negotiations did not emanate from the sincerity of the GRP or its president. The Aquino regime was not interested in concluding the peace negotiations and so were the Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo regimes. The Aquino regime was a transition from an outright fascist dictatorship to a fascist state with democratic trimmings. However, the regime was installed by a strong anti-fascist, anti-dictatorship movement. It was then necessary for the regime to defuse this movement by restoring formal democratic rights and processes, at least in the cities and urban centers, and through grand acts that will show its supposed commitment to justice, democracy, and peace. It was also imperative for the regime to consolidate its rule and to break the momentum of the national democratic revolution. It was within this context that the Aquino regime entered into peace negotiations with the NDFP. A ceasefire was all the regime needed as a display of its supposed commitment to peace, to give itself time to consolidate its rule, and to prepare for its total war against the Filipino people. Fidel V. Ramos inherited a regime that was suffering from the severe economic crisis, which hit during the latter part of the 80s. It was also taking over from a regime that was afflicted by an acute political crisis, which resulted in a series of military rebellions. To make matters worse, Fidel V. Ramos was elected with a mere plurality of votes over more than five candidates. For not being able to get even 50% of the votes cast, he was considered as a minority president. His closest rival, Miriam DefensorSantiago, accused him of cheating and threatened to raise hell. Ramos’ urgent need to consolidate his administration, forced him to seek compromises with all probable opponents to his regime, including the CCP-NPA-NDF. Thus, he agreed to mutually-beneficial terms in the conduct of the peace negotiations. In 1997, the deeper economic crisis that the country was confronted with forced his regime to soften its resistance to the CARHRIHL. The overwhelming victory of Joseph Estrada over his closest rivals and his popularity with the unorganized masses made him impervious to the peace negotiations. The Estrada regime disregarded all previous agreements entered into by the preceding regime. He demanded for no less than the capitulation of the CPP-NPA-NDFP. He even prohibited members of his cabinet from having informal talks with the NDFP without his prior approval. It was only during the final months of his regime did he sought out the NDFP. But by then his regime was on the verge of extreme political isolation and the EDSA uprising was about to take place. 17 After being installed by People power 2 as a result of the ouster of Estrada, the Arroyo regime saw no need to enter into peace negotiations with the NDFP. The Arroyo regime stifled the progress of the peace talks by making unjust demands that are violative of previous agreements regarding the framework and conduct of the negotiations. In June 2001, after only more than four months in office, the regime unilaterally declared that it was pulling out of the peace negotiations. However, the deep economic crisis that the regime is confronted with and its inability to even mitigate the effects on the Filipino people caused widespread disenchantment to its rule. In 2002, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was forced to declare she was not running for a regular term to arrest the slide in her popularity ratings. But her desire to run for a regular term forced her to initiate informal talks with the NDFP, in October 2003, with the end in view of resuming the peace negotiations. With the formal resumption of the peace talks, the Arroyo regime hopes to gain political points by showing the general public that it is able to achieve something in the area of peace. Added to this, with the expected tight race for the presidency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is courting the support of progressive parties, which has the potential of mobilizing from four to six million votes. She hopes that the progress in the peace negotiations will soften the criticisms of progressive parties that her regime is anti-people and anti-peace. Desperate for political points, the GRP panel even promised to work for measures that shall address the problem of the CPP-NPANDF and Jose Maria Sison’s terror listing. But they were forced to deny this by twisting their interpretation of the provisions that they have signed after getting strong reactions from the US, its imperialist master. Working for the people’s interest The CPP-NPA-NDF has no illusions that the peace negotiations can lead to a just and lasting peace at this point in the Filipino people’s struggle. The peace negotiations can lead to peace based 18 on justice only when the national democratic revolution has reached a point where the Filipino people and its army, the NPA, has gained the upper hand over the ruling classes of the comprador bourgeoisie and the landlords and its reactionary AFP. Nevertheless, the NDFP believes that as it engages the GRP in the peace negotiations, as an arena of struggle, it can gain tactical victories for the people. The CARHRIHL and the formation of the interim Joint Monitoring Committee are examples of hard earned victories for the people. It has also forced the hand of the GRP to address the problem of “terror listing”. By listing countries or groups as “terrorists”, US imperialism aims to justify its wars of aggression and direct armed intervention. But whether the GRP will be serious in implementing the CARHRIHL and allow the JMC to function after the elections is a different matter. Even after the GRP has signed CARHRIHL, the AFP has intensified its military operations and has committed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law with impunity. Worse, the Arroyo regime continues to harass and murder leaders and members of progressive parties and people’s organizations. The only way to forestall such attacks is for the Filipino people to assert and struggle for their rights through a strong mass movement. Furthermore, the negotiations for an agreement on social and economic reforms will surely encounter rough sailing. There are two diametrically opposed positions. The GRP will push for the adoption of its pro-imperialist and anti-people policies and laws. While the legal democratic forces fight for the people’s rights through a strong mass movement, the NDFP will likewise push for patriotic and pro-people policies and agreements in the negotiations. For as long as the peace talks continue, the NDFP will try to gain tactical victories for the Filipino people. But ultimately, the only road to a just and lasting peace is through the victory of the national democratic revolution and the subsequent path to socialism. MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement Where PTC Payments Go By Jacinto Maypag-asa I n a village somewhere in the Cordillera region, residents were eagerly waiting for the arrival of the local unit of the New People’s Army (NPA). When the Red guerrillas arrived, villagers lined up with excitement as they took turns receiving free medical and dental check-up inside a makeshift tent that served as a clinic. The ailing ones among them received free medicines or acupuncture service. Some got free dental cleaning and extraction. In consolidated areas in the Cordilleras and other regions, the barrio revolutionary committees have developed their capacity for providing primary and subsequently, secondary health care. In Northeastern Mindanao, on the other hand, literacy programs by NPA units are regular occurrences. Expectedly, the lessons are conducted in near-classroom settings, complete with blackboards, chalk, paper, books, and other writing supplies and reading materials. It is in these literacy programs that many of the residents in the region are able to get hold of pens and paper and understand the written word for the first time. Those who have developed their functional literacy, numeracy, and basic science skills may opt to pursue more learning courses that are more advanced than the basic elementary education provided by the reactionary government’s public school system. These informal schools are being replicated in other regions as well. There are also cultural programs that encourage the production of creative works. More importantly, these programs develop the patriotic fervor of the people, promote scientific thinking, and illustrate the masses’ role as makers of history. There are other similar programs in barangays and municipalities in the country influenced by the revolutionary movement. In 19 more consolidated areas, cooperatives are being set-up and productivity enhancement projects are being implemented as part of the agrarian revolution. According to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, “These revolutionary socioeconomic programs actually make up for the historical neglect by the government and provide immediate relief to the deprived, impoverished and long-suffering people, especially in the countryside.” How do NPA fighters get funds for these activities? There are many ways of doing so, says Ka Roger, and among these are the fundraising efforts of underground revolutionary organizations and revolutionary taxation. Permit-to-Campaign (PTC) fees collected from candidates seeking to campaign during elections in NPA areas are part of these efforts. 20 Concrete benefits The revolutionary movement does not recognize the authority of the reactionary government as well as the elections that it periodically holds. Instead, it has its own government, which coexists with the reactionary organs of power in many areas around the country, pending the dismantling of the existing system. The imposition of the PTC policy on candidates in the reactionary elections is a manifestation of the exercise of political authority by the people’s revolutionary government. “The revolutionary movement enacts, promulgates and implements within its territories laws, such as the PTC policy, for the interest of the people and the revolutionary movement,” Ka Roger explains. “These render extraneous and irrelevant the reactionary government’s laws and functions.” Pending the attainment of total victory by the revolutionary forces, politicians are given leeway to campaign in revolutionary territories within the framework of the reactionary electoral exercise. But the p e o p l e ’ s revolutionary government takes measure to minimize the damaging effects of reactionary elections on the people. The ruling classes subvert democracy through vote buying, cheating and the use of private armies – all regular episodes during reactionary elections. They use elections to deceive the public into thinking that democracy is alive and well in the Philippines. Aside from exposing these anti-people characteristics of reactionary elections, the revolutionary forces also strive to secure tactical gains from these for the masses. One way is through the strict implementation of the PTC policy. The collection of PTC is a way of reclaiming from political lords and corrupt politicians the wealth that they steal through graft and corruption. Through the programs being implemented by the revolutionary movement in its guerrilla zones, which are partly funded from revolutionary taxation including PTC collection, this stolen wealth are given back to the people. PTC collection also reduces the resources that can be used to further election fraud and violence and prevent progressives and less reactionary candidates from winning. In the process and to a certain extent, it serves to weaken the reactionaries’ monopoly of political power based on economic power in their respective areas. “This way,” says Ka Roger, “through the PTC, the people are able to get something more substantial out of the reactionary elections than empty promises and insulting bribes of a few pesos. Other than that, the whole thing is only a big circus with politicians for clowns and a great deal of violence.” A small portion of the PTC fees go to the expenses of the NPA, whose fighters are also people who need food and clothing. All these, explains the CPP spokesperson, is what differentiates the PTC program and the larger system of revolutionary taxation from the taxation system of the reactionary government. As he points out, “The main difference is that PTC fees and other revolutionary taxes and collections serve the interests of the people while taxes and other collections of the Philippine government are pocketed by the ruling classes and corrupt big bureaucrats; utilized to serve the interests of the ruling classes and their imperialist master to the detriment of the masses; and are even used to support the reactionary armed forces, which is used to oppress the Filipino people.” Payments Despite the protestations of the Arroyo regime, it is in fact at times the candidates themselves who approach the revolutionary movement to negotiate on how much they would be paying. In many areas, the people’s revolutionary government hardly has to assert the PTC policy as the candidates themselves already acknowledge its existence. As Simeon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan, spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), reveals: “Even as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo insists that her government will put a stop to collection of PTC fees, her entire slate is already fully paid in so far as the Cordillera region is concerned.” Ka Roger points out that big political parties usually pay for their entire slate. That does not mean, however, that their candidates will all be allowed to campaign in particular areas. The most reactionary candidates are not permitted to enter revolutionary territories. Ka Roger, for his part, reveals that the manner of PTC negotiations varies from area to area. “In the more advanced areas,” he explains, “politicians go directly to the masses, but in areas where revolutionary influence is not yet as strong they talk with the local NPA fighters.” PTC payments are usually in the form of 21 cash. There are no fixed amounts for these, however. Ka Filiw cites the example of congressional candidates who are usually charged higher or lower amounts based on their stand on political issues and economic status. “There are also candidates who opt to give in kind,” the CPDF spokesperson also says. This is seconded by Ka Roger who says that some candidates give arms, equipment and uniforms to the NPA. That politicians voluntarily negotiate with the people’s revolutionary government regarding PTC fees is an indication of the latter’s strength. It may not have attained full victory in the people’s war, but it is certainly already a force to reckon with. Mad ranting Seizing the opportunity to project itself and to rehash and twist the PTC issue in order to further attack the revolutionary movement, Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales recently revived her fantastic claim that she is now a target of the NPA because of her statements against the CPP and the PTC. 22 Earlier, Rosales and fellow Akbayan solon Mario Aguja filed House Bill No. 6581, which seeks to criminalize the PTC policy. Rosales’ statements are in fact already indistinguishable from the AFP’s, effectively exposing her true ugly color – that of a reactionary and opportunist. Aside from deluding herself that the NPA would waste time on her ilk, her statements are all mere selfserving propaganda. In a statement, Ka Roger said Akbayan is already “in partnership with the AFP and the fascists.” The AFP, he said, finds Akbayan’s anti-communist rantings most useful and is campaigning for the pseudo-reformist group to lure votes away from progressive party list groups. Rosales’ rantings serve to complement the AFP’s direct assaults against suspected supporters of the revolutionary movement. No power President Macapagal-Arroyo’s repeated threats that the military will use force to stop the collection of PTC fees are nothing but empty rhetoric. The Macapagal-Arroyo government and its armed forces have no power to stop the people’s revolutionary government from collecting PTC fees in as much as it cannot stop the advance of the people’s democratic revolution. The de facto existence of the people’s organs of political power is the reason why politicians seek out the NDF to negotiate for the amount of PTC fees they have to pay. It is extremely ironic that it is the reactionary government that accuses the people’s revolutionary government of extorting money from politicians through the PTC. Extortion is taxing the people, even the poorest of the poor, and taking away from them their hard-earned income without delivering any service in return, as what the reactionary government has been doing since time immemorial. MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement L ast year was the first time I spent the anniversary celebration of the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a guerilla zone. The details of my trip were given to me two days before departure. Thus, the next day, I found myself among those rushing to reserve a seat at a bus terminal. I was to leave two days before Christmas Day, or three days before the actual anniversary. RED Diary by Toni Hernandez Missing our family’s traditional Christmas reunion was compensated by the opportunity to join a gathering of people with a noble purpose. To appease my mother, I helped her prepare for the family’s Christmas celebration (though really, it was too early for us to do much). As expected, she was worried about my trip though I assured her that we have safety measures and I would be fine. December 23: “Jakamawatan” The 11:30 p.m. departure in Manila the night before was just right. I arrived at my first destination with enough time to grab some breakfast before meeting my guide. We proceeded to a bus station for the next part of my trip and to meet with the other persons joining our trip. We had been waiting for an hour at the station when the old woman seated beside me began to talk to me in Ilocano, the dialect in the area. Since I could not understand a word she was saying, I blurted out what I learned from a television commercial: “Jakamawatan, Manang.” The term should actually be “di ako maawatan,” meaning “I can’t understand,” but it is popularly 23 pronounced as “jakamawatan.” She smiled and said, “Ah, taga Maynila (So you are from Manila).” When finally we boarded the bus, I found myself seated on the last row and bounced like a rubber ball throughout the trip because of the rough roads. Josh, my guide, told me about the revolutionary movement’s experiences in the area. But I was a bit uneasy because there were passengers sporting military haircuts. I was comforted though whenever Josh would tell me we were passing through towns that were parts of NPA guerrilla zones. It was already past 5 p.m. when we reached our destination. Another group of comrades was to serve as our guide. We quickly ate dinner and left at 7 p.m. Riding a jeepney this time, we went to our jump-off site, where they turned us over to another set of guides, this time, for the mountain trek. I was told that it usually takes only one and a half hours for the kadwas (local term for comrades) to travel what took us four hours to cover. The guides must have had a hard time because there were 14 of us in all to shepherd in the dark. Before we set off, we were asked to be as quiet as possible and to turn off our flashlights when passing through clusters of houses. I’m proud to say that I was the most obedient in the group - after all, I couldn’t use my flashlight because it 24 malfunctioned and I was unfamiliar with my companions and seldom conversed with any of them. A mountaineer, I tried to valiantly carry the heaviest bag – mine. But later, I had to accept the kadwas’ offer to exchange my load with the lightest bag. December 24: “Kiss marks” After what seemed like hours of hiking, we stopped at a house. It was past 1 a.m. Coffee boiled with avocado leaves and biscuits were offered by our hosts. We reached the campsite at around 3:30 a.m. Though tired and sleepy, I couldn’t resist talking to the guerrillas who stayed up to welcome us. It was thus past 4 a.m. when I turned in, after jokingly telling them, “Gisingin n’yo na lang ako sa 26, ‘pag anib na.” Though still sleepy, I got up at 7 a.m. Almost everyone in the camp was already half done with their tasks. (I did recover another three hours of lost sleep in the afternoon). I was led to the kitchen where comrades were preparing breakfast with the help of children from nearby communities. While eating, a kadwa noticed the red marks around my neck. He said they looked like “chikinini” or kiss marks. They were actually mosquito bites. But the comrades proceeded to tease me about them, saying the mosquitoes were probably male ones. One of them said, “Pag tumagal ka na dito masasanay ka na, di ka na kakagatin ng mga lamok (If you stay longer, you will get used to it and the mosquitoes would no longer bite you)” – a not so subtle invitation to join the NPA. After lunch, all four NPA platoons rehearsed their respective presentations for the anniversary celebration. I stayed up until 11:30 p.m. jamming with the guerrillas and other guests. Afterward, we were distributed to different tents to sleep for the night. December 25: Un-cowed Sleeping was very difficult, with only a malong to fight the cold. But Ka MaiMai, a local comrade, woke up at 3 a.m. and saw me chilled to the bones. She generously lent me a blanket which she let me use throughout my stay. I had a good sleep then and woke up at 8 a.m. I almost forgot it was Christmas day until a kadwa greeted me. We were eating rice and cabbage soup with daing (dried fish) when we noticed the arrival of old women carrying large pans, baskets of vegetables and other foods donated by the community all atop their heads. I learned they were members of the local women’s organizing group. After eating, I was asked if I wanted to take pictures while they prepare the cow they bought for the next day’s feast. The problem was, they said, we have to fetch the cow because it sprained its leg. When we reached its location, we saw it would be too heavy to carry and the comrades decided to make it walk part of the way and butcher it somewhere near the camp. The cow stopped walking though after an hour. Since nobody could force it to walk, we all decided to take a rest too and the comrades joked about the cow while resting. After a while, the cow itself indicated it was ready to resume walking by attempting, but failing, to stand up. The guerrillas had to assist it to get up. The chosen slaughter site was just three minutes away from the camp. Four men worked to make the cow lie still by standing on top of it but, still, it managed to get up. Ka Jun, a former jeepney driver from Manila, tried to use a stick which was too small to make an impact on the cow, much less kill it. This caused much laughter and teasing. In the end, the cow died not because of our efforts but because it slipped and hit its head on a rock. The kadwas then proceeded to expertly cut the meat. Soon, the elders were sitting under a shade eating a local favorite dish called kinilaw -- raw liver and meat, mixed with salt and apog – while others roasted thin strips of the meat. We were all laughing and teasing Ka Jun as we walked back to the camp. There was no video camera to capture the moment so each one gave his or her own version of the incident. As one storyteller who couldn’t speak their dialect, their laughs were enough to indicate they understood me anyhow. Ka Jun himself listened and laughed at his bloopers. After an enjoyable lunch, comrades started to prepare the backdrop for the “stage.” Guests soon began to arrive and Red fighters started putting up tents where the visitors would be sleeping. The traditional pattong (welcome dance) and uggayam (prayer) opened the solidarity night. I heard the emcee said something about “surprise attacks” so I asked Ka Abel, the kadwa near me, what “surprise attacks” meant. He mumbled something about the camp being safe but that extra caution was needed. I believed his explanation – until I heard my name being called by the emcee. It turned out I was to receive the first “surprise attack” for the night. I was thankful for the cover of darkness while I sang my version of Joey Ayala’s “Walang Hanggang Paalam.” When they requested for a “Side B,” I was not sure whether to be happy or not. Did they want me to sing another piece because they liked my singing? Or perhaps they confused my singing for poetry reading and wanted to hear another poem… Other visitors, even the children, also gave presentations that night. December 26: “Agbiag ti rebolusyon!” I was told that the NPA guerillas took two weeks to prepare the site for the big event. On the morning of the big day, the locals woke up very early to help in the kitchen. Elder women were in charge of cooking the meals. After breakfast, everybody immediately settled down for the celebration that would last till evening. The Red fighters formed two groups at the center of the 25 program area. The commander ordered a rifle salute before singing the “Internationale.” After several minutes of military drills, representatives of underground organizations from different provinces gave their messages of solidarity to the Party and the people’s army. Some barangay officials were also present to personally express their greetings and support despite threats by the military. One thanked the guerillas for the many services they provided in his community. The elders rendered different versions of uggayam. Pattong dances filled the gaps between numbers. Each version by a group is unique, in terms of dance steps rendered and the gongs’ rhythm. The four NPA platoons proceeded with their presentations. I realized that to be a guerilla does not only require strength but artistic competence as well. Each platoon’s performance used a tula-dula show format. Every scene elicited laughter, applause and appreciative shouts from the 200 or so participants. Members of one of the NPA squads impersonated well-known traitors to the revolutionary movement, such as Arturo Tabara and Popoy Lagman. It became a game when the narrator cited a misdeed and the audience guessed the name of the person guilty of the crime. 26 Unlike in most games though, the audience in this case was very certain of their answers. At the end of the performance, the traitors were shown being punished accordingly. Another squad spoofed the Arroyo regime. Each guerilla wore puppet head costumes, with a curtain hiding the rest of their bodies. The play revolved around Arroyo’s fascism and puppetry to the US imperialism. Another group of guerrillas used a gag show format. This presentation was a surprise because their jokes were based on current commercial shows. (I thought the NPAs would not be familiar with the latest television shows or ads.) Spoofing commercials was effective in drawing the audience’s attention and participation. Meanwhile, the women’s organizing group (WOG) presented a skit that stressed the importance of women not only in the family but also in organizing work. The drama of the wife and the daughter who transformed the drunkard husband into a revolutionary who later organized his fellow drinking buddies also showed the vital role of the revolutionary movement in getting rid of society’s ills. The performance of the revolutionary cultural group from the city under the Artista at Manunulat para sa Sambayanan (ARMAS), the revolutionary organization of artists and cultural workers, agitated the crowd. Meanwhile, the children proved true the adage that age does not matter. They rendered a revolutionary song interpretation where they inside one of the tents, the episode showed that although we did not speak the same language, we could still share with each other our ideas and experiences. December 27: Fruitful sharing acted like tigers that bit and fought the oppressors. With ages ranging from three to 10 years old, they amazed the audience with their performance that culminated with the raising of clenched fists and repeated cries of “Agbiag ti rebolusyon!” The audience responded with “Agbiag!” and raised their fists, too. After the presentations, the celebration took a much lighter tone, shifting to games. Unbelievably, I soon learned that party games such as the “Longest Line” and “Bringme” could be played with political relevance! A region of rich cultural heritage, the whole celebration was a series of cultural activities. In the evening, NPA couples were asked to render songs, before their respective squads depart. The Red fighters were to leave the area ahead of the rest of the celebrants. Lulls between presentations were opportunities to talk with other participants. During a chat with farmer leaders, I heard the elder women talked about the “kuliglig.” I confidently butted in and said the “kuliglig” was noisy and they all agreed. But my next words exposed my ignorance. I asked, “Why do you need ‘kuliglig’ in farming?” for I had thought they were referring to kuliglig, the insect. We all laughed after Ka Fagway, the comrade who translated for me, explained that “kuliglig” also refers to a farming equipment named so because of the noise it makes. Afterward, I sat with the women who shared their experiences with me as women revolutionaries. Held In the morning, we gathered for an assessment of the celebration. I would have gone with the first batch to leave the camp but since I wanted to interview a comrade before leaving, I decided to leave later. The comrade’s wife had arrived and I didn’t want to disturb the much-awaited reunion after several months’ separation. After dinner, the kadwas talked about the problems they encountered in relation to their families when they joined the NPA and how they handled them. One of them was a former medical student who stopped studying and became the medical officer of her unit instead. And, guess what, she became known as Ka Med! The first women gay couple in the area that got married testified how hard it was at first to be involved in a relationship like theirs. But according to them, their courage and love, under the Party’s guidance, helped them withstand the gender biases and inequalities of society. There was also another woman Red fighter who decided to stay on with her unit after getting pregnant. 27 December 28: Parting thoughts I was informed that a group of journalists from Manila had arrived. The “journalists” turned out to be my friends from Ang Kalayaan, the newsletter of Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the underground revolutionary youth and students’ organization. We had a brief educational discussion on the tasks of the NPA before being familiarized with rifles and other weapons. While the KM guests were trying out unloaded rifles, comrades teased them, “Uy, bagay. Pag hinawakan dapat totohanin na ‘yan (You look good with it. Once you hold it, you must join the people’s army)!” After the brief discussion, other participants taught us Ilocano revolutionary songs even though we were “jakamawatans.” 28 Before we left, a kadwa gifted me with a bamboo cup with a nice carved design and which I intend to keep as a souvenir. At 4 p.m., before we started our journey home, we were again invited to eat even though we still felt full. On the average, we ate more than thrice a day including the snacks and coffee breaks. While following the trail that would lead us to the plains, I thought of how the masses had warmly treated us. They even invited us to come back for the NPA anniversary in March and the next Party anniversary! Remembering the enthusiasm etched in the faces of the children while listening to the guerillas at the camp, as well as the resolve of the parents and elders in waging the national democratic revolution, I knew in my heart that the revolutionary movement would emerge victorious. Each generation is giving birth to new revolutionaries who selflessly offer their lives to the revolution. December 29: Long journey Our group talked about what we would say in case we are questioned at checkpoints. Fortunately, we were not stopped in any of the checkpoints we passed. The guides and our group of visitors parted ways when we reached the nearest urban center at 10 a.m. I T WOULD BE TWO DAYS MORE of traveling before I would reach my own house and lie on my own bed. I ran out of money though and had to borrow some from a friend who luckily was in town when I reached the nearest city. When I got home, the first things I did were take a bath, apply an itching cream (particularly on “kiss marks”) and take an anti-allergy tablet. I couldn’t forget though the people I met. As a mountaineer, there were times when I helped in clean up and reforestation programs in the areas my group explored. The NPA though has been revivifying more than just forests and trees. They are rebuilding lives ruined by exploiters, redeeming the dignity of a nation and fighting for justice that has long been denied the Filipino masses. Indeed, agbiag ti rebolusyon. MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement Women have always been part of the struggle for national freedom and democracy. Like all revolutionaries they are a powerful force for radical change. Women Waging War K a Alex and Ka Jiji are Red fighters of a New People’s Army (NPA) platoon in the Southern Front of the historic Cagayan Valley, one-fourth of whom are women like them. Though relatively young they are apparently politically advanced: Ka Alex, 23, is their squad’s political guide (PG) and Ka Jiji, 19, is her team’s. Both come from the lower ranks of the urban petty bourgeoisie. They were both tempered in militant struggles among the youth sector and in urban poor communities before taking up arms and joining the NPA in the countryside. In joining the armed struggle they’ve taken great by Salvador Andres strides not only in forging themselves as proletarian revolutionaries but also in advancing the full emancipation of women. They were resting under a mango tree and singing Pantasya – a revolutionary song written amidst the people’s struggle in Cagayan Valley 29 in 1978, or before either of them were even born – when Liberation asked them how it is to be a woman guerrilla. Women in the revolution “Women are given the highest respect in the movement and their rights fully recognized,” says Ka Jiji, “and this is genuine respect for them unlike in bourgeois society where a lot of the so-called ‘respect’ is really just based on their supposed weaknesses.” For instance she notes the patronizing attitude to spare women from work or tasks that are “only for men.” Ka Alex proudly declares, “It’s only here where I’ve really felt that I was a woman!” A woman as a person, she stresses, and “not just for the bedroom, the kitchen or the home.” She also says that the movement doesn’t discriminate even in the traditionally macho realm of military work: “If you have the potential or the ability the movement always recognizes that.” Ka Alex ranked third highest out of the 25 Red fighters in her batch for the Basic Politico-Military Course (BPMC). The full enjoyment of women’s rights can never be achieved if the material conditions that suppress them remain. Thus, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) fights to change the system that perpetuates such conditions and at the same time also strives 30 hard to enhance the capability of women. The NPA opening its arms to women is already a big leap. It provides them the option to further advance their liberation, with help of the organization and the changes that the NPA and the entire national democratic revolution have been effecting on the lives of women. Which isn’t to say that the revolutionary movement doesn’t bear within it the imprints of the backward society it springs from. Both Ka Alex and Jiji are candid about the traces of feudal and bourgeois values that still persist especially among the newer comrades. “It’s unavoidable,” says Ka Alex, “but the difference is that here everyone tries hard to change that kind of thinking.” Ka Jiji adds that “we all begin from the premise that no one discriminates because of genders and everyone has the same potentials.” Women’s strengths The challenges for women to participate in armed struggle are far more difficult than men’s, But on certain cases, gender can work to women’s advantage and puts them in a better position than men. There’s the inestimable propaganda value of a woman Red fighter belying, by her example, backward notions of the weakness and place of her gender. Whereas backward social thinking reduces women to showcasing petty values of beauty, timidity, and service to her man, the woman revolutionary displays strength, commitment, and service to the people. Ka Jiji points out: “feudal thinking about women among the backward masses is changed when they see us carrying heavy backpacks, ammo belts and guns, marching long distances and also fighting.” For her part, Ka Alex recalls frequent comments by peasant women to the effect that seeing women guerrillas doing just as well as the men makes them realize their own potential – something which Ka Jiji says may inspire some of their male comrades as well. Ka Jiji also notes how women are better at drawing other women from the villages into the revolution, whether in their local mass organizations or as full-time Red fighters. The masses are also at ease quicker with the women guerrillas than their male comrades. Which is why, says Ka Alex, “we’re usually the ones who first knock on the houses of the masses especially if it’s in the middle of the night or to those we still don’t know very well.” Ka Jiji also adds that the masses seem to find them more approachable or easier to talk to: “I notice that they’re more comfortable with women and more open to sharing their problems with us. It’s usually our shoulders they cry on.” Mothers in the revolution There’s also a particular challenge to womanhood that no male will ever have to face, or at least not to the same degree. Bearing children poses a special test for women Red fighters aiming to stay in the NPA while raising revolutionary families. Separation from one’s child is almost always heart-rending for the mothers. While this is a big sacrifice for women revolutionaries, the revolutionary movement, on the other hand, her unit or collective in particular, has the responsibility to set up or ensure support systems for mothers and children. It also advises couples regarding when to have children and how to rear them. Ka Alex remembers another NPA full-timer who, while still pregnant, braced herself for an inevitable separation from her child. Yet after giving birth and with her best efforts she eventually opted to continue her service in the movement where she and her child could be together. “It’s a reality,” admits Ka Alex. But she also points out the advantage of children growing up in a guerrilla zone even if they’re not always with their parents. “They’ll be immediately exposed to the realities of oppression and of people’s struggle against this,” she says. “Before I thought that the important thing was not to make life difficult for my children. Now I know what’s important is to teach them how to struggle and fight.” Ka Jiji recalls her earlier naivety. “I once imagined that there was a way to be both a fulltime guerrilla and a full-time mother!” But even after realizing the impossibility of this she had to grapple with the bourgeois notion that, if she continued as a guerrilla, she would be “abandoning” her child. But is it? Now she realizes that “Whatever I do in the service of the people I also do for my children. Everything we work for in the movement, everything we’re building, is also for them. To be separated from our children is part of the sacrifice we make in giving ourselves to something larger than ourselves and our families.” Ka Alex sums up what every proletarian revolutionary strives for in a family: “It will be the greatest joy to have a revolutionary family.” All revolutionaries are in the midst of a cultural revolution to change how society currently views women. Steadfast women Red fighters – like Ka Jiji, Ka Alex and the thousands more like them especially coming from the peasantry – are the revolutionary movement’s standard bearers of the sort of emancipation possible for women with true democracy. For women the world over, they are the portent of things to come. 31 MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement B oy and girl meet. There are awkward situations, stolen moments, talks about their future. But they’re separated. Still, their love flourishes and eventually they marry. Only to be separated again. It’s the stuff of cliché romantic tragedies, but with a twist that makes all the difference: boy and girl are New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas. So things aren’t really as tragic as they seem. “It sometimes happens, doesn’t it? You see this person and… ah… something hits you that you can’t explain. Then your life changes.” Ka Alfred fidgets but beams a smile while reminiscing the first time he saw Ka Kelly. She laughs: “He was so shy and kept pretending that he wasn’t looking at me!” That was seven years ago but it’s as clear as yesterday for them. It’s a sharpness of memory and feeling that serves them in good stead. Ka Kelly, 21 years old, is with the sentro-de-grabidad (SDG, or center-of-gravity) platoon of their guerrilla front in Camarines Sur province in the 32 Bicol region of Southern Luzon. Ka Alfred, 24, on the other hand, is in one of the front’s more mobile platoons assigned to full-time mass work and mass base-building. He juggles responsibilities as medical and logistics officers with being second in command of his unit. It is the policy of the revolutionary movement to have couples work in areas or units where they can be accessible to one another. NPA guerrillas are however deployed according to where they are needed most and sometimes, separation of married couples cannot be avoided. For Ka Kelly and Ka Alfred, separation is particularly par for the course. Together, briefly Their first meeting – the “life-changing” one – was in 1997 when both were still civilians. Ka Alfred hails from a land-scarce peasant family planting rice and coconuts; Ka Kelly from a landless family of farmworkers. Ka Alfred had just moved to Ka Kelly’s barrio (village) to help, firstly, his brother farm and also the NPA unit in the area as a courier. He had been out hunting with Ka Kelly’s father (a former Red fighter) and, as conveniently arranged by Ka Alfred’s brother (also a former Red fighter), had dropped by Ka Kelly’s house on his way home. After that, said Ka Kelly, “I’d get excited whenever I heard the clatter of plastic water jugs!” Their homes weren’t that far apart and Ka Alfred always passed near her house on his way to the spring to fetch water. Ka Kelly was already active in her barrio’s revolutionary youth organization as its finance officer. With such involvement apparently also came precocious discernment. “We started out as friends,” she says, “and I quickly saw that he was different from the other boys. He was a good guy, and active in the movement. He didn’t just hang around not doing anything.” They did the barrio romance thing, including going to the annual local dance. “I really liked her,” Ka Alfred recalls, “but still it took a while for me to build up courage.” Ka Kelly herself asked him to dance and, when he pleaded ignorance, argued that she’d teach him “for when he got around to courting someone.” They also did the love-in-a-militarized-zone thing. The dogs’ sudden barking usually heralds strangers entering the barrio, often enemy soldiers. Hearing dogs barking early one morning, Ka Alfred ran to Ka Kelly’s hut to warn her, knowing that she was getting ready to meet kasama (comrades) from the NPA. But the military was already rounding up villagers and had gotten there first. They saw Ka Alfred and placed him with Ka Kelly. Prevented from going anywhere, they kept busy pounding palay (unhusked rice grains). “I was happy anyway,” grinned Ka Alfred, “because we were together!” However just months after they first met, Ka Kelly had to leave her barrio to help a comrade’s family elsewhere. They didn’t see each other again for well over a year. On the very rare occasions when Ka Kelly would come back, Ka Alfred would be away. On the very rare occasions when Ka Alfred would go where Ka Kelly was staying, she’d be away. They only managed one letter between them and settled for news about each other, and relayed greetings, from friends and relatives they came across. Red love They finally saw each other again in 1999 – briefly, but long enough to decide that they’d both join the NPA. Easier done for Ka Alfred who was already 19 years old at the time. He joined the NPA in January 2000 and shortly after, following the practice within the movement, formalized their relationship. There was a visit during which they agreed to develop their relationship within the framework of the revolution – that, together, they’d place the revolutionary interests of the masses above all. Pushing through with the decision to join the NPA was less easy for the then 16-year-old Ka Kelly. “It was such a long wait,” she says, “and three months before my 18th birthday, I was already insisting that the kasama allow me join the NPA.” But wait she had to and was able to join only in May 2001 – in a unit different from Ka Alfred’s. They’d only seen each other once since Ka Alfred went full-time and had no other contact between them. With Ka Kelly now also a Red fighter, they arranged to meet to see where their relationship was. Meet they did – once – and in an instant knew that nothing had changed between them. “Well,” quips Ka Kelly, “nothing except that our communications went from rarely to nothing.” Ka Alfred prefers to say, with truly revolutionary optimism: “it just took longer.” With effort, more letters were exchanged after that and in the year that followed six precious ones made their way across the guerrilla front. They also saw each other during a couple of front-wide activities. And they developed as revolutionaries and as “magkarelasyon” (romantic couple). “We got to know each other better, weaknesses and all,” says Ka Alfred, “at the same time as we kept at our revolutionary work.” Ka Kelly adds, “we strengthened our relationship and ourselves with the help of the kasama.” Five-and-a-half years after they first met – inevitably, it seems in retrospect – came the decision to get married. Why so long? Apart from the obvious separation “we knew that we first had to give ourselves time to develop as 33 revolutionaries,” says Ka Kelly. And, stresses Ka Alfred, “we knew that having a family in the middle of a war is no simple matter. We wouldn’t get married if we didn’t think we were ready to have a family.” Double celebration Sure enough, Ka Kelly and Ka Alfred got married on March 29, the same day as the anniversary of the founding of the NPA. The Party wedding, unlike its bourgeois and feudal counterparts, wasn’t a display of status but an affirmation of their equality in the relationship and a strengthening of their commitments to the revolution. The simple but festive double celebration was held on the top of a hill near the peak of the province’s most prominent, sprawling, mountain – the site of countless battles in decades past. It overlooked rolling hills of coconut groves and thick forests of mahogany, kamagong and gemelina, and, beyond, the vast waters of Ragay Gulf. The wedding day was followed by the wedding night and – since the bride and groom are Red fighters, remember – followed only a couple of days later by the newlyweds’ separation and return to their respective units and areas. But of course their story doesn’t end there and a child is already on the way. “Our contribution to the next generation of revolutionaries,” smiles Ka Alfred. Ka Kelly nudges and teases him: “The first of three!” 34 MAINSTREAM Developments in the people’s movement Gay REVOLUTIONARY by Salvador Andres K a Joan, like all proletarian revolutionaries, is struggling to build a socialist future that liberates all oppressed peoples. Yet unlike most revolutionaries his gender isn’t what it might first seem: Ka Joan is gay. Ka Joan is a full-time red fighter in a platoon of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the South Front of the Cagayan Valley region. “I have the heart of a gay,” he confidently declares, “a gay revolutionary.” Ka Joan, 25 years old, hails from a peasant family in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao that plants corn, bananas and gemelina. He left home at 13 years old to work in a Manila night club first as a wardrobe aide to two dancers, who virtually adopted him, and then as the club’s floor manager. When Ka Joan was 17 years old he went on vacation in one of Bulacan’s small urban centers where a community organizer linked up with him. A few months later he stopped work to become a full-time urban poor organizer himself: “I thought: ‘I have to do something so that the people and my fellow gays can fight for their rights.’” After another few months Ka Joan was tasked to help with urban poor organizing in a city in Northern Luzon. “The masses there embraced me so warmly and I saw that no one was organizing the youth,” he recalls. The first time he entered a guerilla zone was for an anniversary celebration of the revolutionary youth organization Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth). When he returned for the anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) a month later, Ka Joan opted, amidst stirring songs of revolution, for the life of a guerrilla: “After walking so far and seeing how the people lived it was so easy for me to make my decision.” A fighter like, and unlike, any other Ka Joan is already well over a year in the NPA. He is his squad’s S4 and occasional medic as well as a vice-team leader (VTL). His unit has been actively conducting tactical offensives and he has performed creditably in these, reflected for instance in his appointment as VTL. Ka Joan says he has known and been open about being gay ever since he was a child growing up in Mindanao. He already had fighting instincts even then. He recalls: “I’d get hurt whenever my gay friends were ridiculed or beaten up by other kids. So even if I wasn’t the one being attacked I’d really go up and fight with my friends’ tormentors.” At a young age he’d also confront adults like his friends’ parents. “I’d tell them that gays are people too,” he remembers, “and that they are still their children and came from them.” On their part, Ka Joan’s family was supportive of his gender orientation which helped to ensure that he’d be able to face the world confident of rather than burdened by his sexuality. “My family loved me very much including my father who’d always say to others, ‘whatever happens he is my child.’” Gays in the revolution Though he knows of very few gays in the movement he says it can’t be because it discriminates against them. “I found out about the Party’s official stand on gays only later on. But even without knowing the policy their practice was clear because the comrades were convincing me to go full-time and fully embraced me when I did.” Nonetheless, Ka Joan admits, there are still traces of feudal and bourgeois views on gays and he says that there are still male comrades, especially, who are awkward around him. But he declares: “There’s a very big difference between the comrades and outside. Here you know they’re really trying to accept me for what I am if they don’t already. Here you feel that the masses and the comrades genuinely care for you very much.” With still relatively few gays in the movement it is still developing processes to accommodate the implications of, according to Ka Joan, “being gay and having what’s clearly a man’s body.” He bathes separately in the same way that men and women bathe separately. He still basically buddies with the men but when sleeping in close quarters is careful that there’s a little space between his and the others, again in the same way that men and women would be separated if they’re sleeping together. The reaction from the masses is generally positive – that the NPA doesn’t discriminate and accepts gays – aside from the inevitable initial surprise. Rey, a corn farming peasant who met Ka Joan for the first time and at first thought he was a woman, said that he breaks the stereotype of gays being “weak, always in beauty parlors or in their small businesses.” When asked what he looked forward to in the future Ka Joan replied: “Of course we want Socialism, to liberate the people including gays and lesbians. The Party advances the interest of all the people and all the oppressed.” Vintage revolutionary talk from a most non-traditional revolutionary. 35 Look who’s reading Photo from Pulang Mandirigma: Images of the People’s Army LIBERATION! This Red Fighter, a former urban poor organizer turned countryside guerrilla, pores over a copy of Liberation. The revolutionary magazine is read as well by comrades and friends in the cities and abroad.