negros

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) are involved in one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies, and for over 50 years Red fighters have been resolutely waging armed resistance against the Philippine government and security forces.

The recent election of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr was a manifestation of how his father’s policies and particularly his declaration of martial law in the early 1970s ignited the embryonic stage of the communist guerrilla rebellion. Marcos Jr, his administration, and the military have adopted hardline public positions in recent months and have promised to intensify the tempo of counter-insurgency operations. This has involved intensified efforts of tracking prominent CPP-NPA members, with one area of focus being Negros Island which is part of the Visayan Islands in central Philippines.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), at least eight NPA fighters have been killed between March 23, 2021, and October 10, 2022, in Negros. Since the start of October, at least six clashes have taken place on the island and thousands of people have fled the fighting in parts of Negros. Earlier this year, the AFP claimed that the NPA’s strength in Negros Occidental has halved. The NPA has five fronts in Negros. These include Central Negros Front 1 and 2 as well as the Southwest Negros Front. Authorities declared that they had dismantled the Northern Negros Front last year and the South East Negros Front the year before. The NPA denies this. Narratives of clashes are often similarly disputed — the NPA sometimes claims that the AFP conducts fake encounters or kills civilians who are then referred to as NPA members. The AFP says that its operations are legitimate and that the NPA groups in Negros are criminals who target the community.

Juanito Magbuana

Juanito Magbanua, a prominent guerrilla leader and spokesman of the Regional Operational Command of the NPA on Negros Island, was killed by the AFP on October 10, 2022.

Juanito’s death is a crippling blow to the network in Negros and the details surrounding his killing have been intensely disputed by the two sides. The Armed Forces of the Philippines claim that he died in an encounter with security forces, while the CPP alleges he was captured and killed extra judicially by the AFP. The CPP subsequently honoured Magbanua with the highest tribute and red salutes.

Ka Juanito Magbanua was the spokesperson of Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, the Regional Operational Command of the New People’s Army in Negros IslandAs a college student he was recruited to the Kabataang Makabayan (or Nationalist Youth – an underground youth mass organization) in 1983. As a KM member then, his task was to arouse, organize, and mobilize the youth, especially during that time when the anti-Marcos dictatorship movement was very powerful. KM recruitment was also part of his task. Due to his commitment to my revolutionary tasks, he was recruited into the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) the same year. A few years later he became part of the Urban Partisan Unit. In 1994, I joined the New People’s Army (NPA).

He started out as a squad leader in one of the units of the NPA in Negros. Later on, he would become commanding officer of the guerrilla fronts in South Central, North, and Southwest Negros. I was also assigned under the Regional Military Staff, particularly in charge of training and ordnance. In 2010, I became the spokesperson of the AGC-NPA Negros, a function I still perform up to this day.

Background of Struggle in Negros

The first attempt of the Party to establish guerrilla warfare on the island was a few months after the New People’s Army was founded in 1969. It did not flourish because the preliminary NPA squad mounted a premature military action even if the mass base was not yet prepared. Warlord Armin Gustilo of Cadiz City in the northern part of Negros immediately got wind of them and sent the Philippine Constabulary. It was in 1973 that the NPA was successfully organized in Negros Island when the national leadership of the CPP sent Comrade Pendong (Edmundo Legislador) to Negros. With the help of KM members, church people, peasants, and settlers in Southwest Negros (part of Negros Occidental), the peasant masses warmly embraced the NPA in their area. Farmers and settlers have long yearned for a defender of their land and livelihood as despotic landlords forcefully grabbed their land. Under those conditions, the NPA Negros was brought forth. Through the CPP’s guidance and absolute leadership, NPA Negros further expanded to Southeast Negros (part of Negros Oriental) in 1974. By 1984, the NPA Negros was comprised of company-sized guerrilla fronts in North, Central, and South Negros.

Economy and Marcos

Imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism are the three basic problems that govern the Filipino people. The past regimes up to the current US-Marcos II regime have not implemented genuine agrarian reform and the building of basic industries. The economy remains backward and is heavily dependent, particularly on the US, in terms of foreign debt. This is the reason why the Philippines remain to be semi-colonial and semi-feudal in character.

Particularly in Negros, the aforementioned monocrop economy is the expression of such character. The oppressed masses comprise mainly of farmers and farm workers that rely on the sugar industry monopolized by big comprador-landlords. This results in the exploitation and oppression of the people as hunger, poverty, unemployment, low wages, and rampant violation of human rights are prevalent among the masses, which accentuates the political and economic crisis favourable to a revolutionary situation.

The neoliberalization of sugar has also worsened, especially as Negros is a monocrop economy relying heavily on the sugar industry. The regime has only resorted to cheap theatrics and blame games on which individual to scapegoat regarding an impending sugar importation. Unable to solve the sugar crisis, hoarding of sugar has worsened and stirred the economy downwards, devaluating further the real value of already depressed wages.

Negros, as a monocrop economy which relies heavily on the sugar industry, is home to despotic landlords who monopolize vast tracts of land. Social unrest is evident on the island and it has earned the moniker of a “social volcano waiting to erupt”. This is why it is one of the national priorities in the regime’s counter-insurgency measures as it wants to protect the interests of the landed elites as they perpetuate feudalism and to oblige foreign interests.

Marcos Jr won the election through a fraudulent election. He manipulated the results of the election through the Automated Counting Machine which enabled him to secure a convincing win by a big margin. Just by cheating the elections, Marcos Jr is already following his father’s footsteps. And just like his father before him, he is sure to be servile to US imperialism.

Based on his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), he gave no attention to genuine land reform and national industrialization which are the key programs to advance the economy. He is not interested to negotiate peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to solve the root cause of the armed conflict. Instead, he relies heavily on militarizing the rural areas which results in the massive dismantling of peasant communities and widespread human rights violations.

Even in his first 100 days in office, it is highly criticized as extravagant and insensitive while the broad masses are feeling the brunt of the crisis brought about by the pandemic, inflation, and natural calamities alongside the AFP’s so-called ‘heightened operational tempo’. Marcos Jr has not laid out concrete plans to solve the crisis and is instead displaying opulence as he goes from one party to another.

As Marcos Jr continues to implement neoliberal policies dictated by the IMF-World Bank, there has hardly been any change in the quality of life of Negrosanons. In fact, it has only deteriorated as Marcos Jr has no concrete plans to check the oil price hike which in turn increases the prices of basic commodities while workers’ wages remain depressed.

The neoliberalization of sugar has also worsened, especially as Negros is a monocrop economy relying heavily on the sugar industry. The regime has only resorted to cheap theatrics and blame games on which individual to scapegoat regarding an impending sugar importation. Unable to solve the sugar crisis, hoarding of sugar has worsened and stirred the economy downwards, devaluating further the real value of already depressed wages..

Negros, as a monocrop economy which relies heavily on the sugar industry, is home to despotic landlords who monopolize vast tracts of land. Social unrest is evident on the island and it has earned the moniker of a “social volcano waiting to erupt”. This is why it is one of the national priorities in the regime’s counter-insurgency measures as it wants to protect the interests of the landed elites as they perpetuate feudalism and to oblige foreign interests.

The reactionary clique aims to bombard all media with their lies and sweet words. That’s why they were so desperate in hunting fighters.. As long as oppression and exploitation exists, many more will sprout up to the task of raising the people’s consciousness and systematically attacking this rotten system.

The reactionaries label revolutionaries as ‘terrorists’ in order to discredit the revolutionary ideals of the movement. The CPP-NPA-NDFP are revolutionary organizations waging a national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. The real terrorists are the previous regimes and the current US-Marcos II regime. They are the ones who terrorize the people through their intensified military operations which result in widespread human rights violations in the form of killings, massacres, illegal arrests, filing of trumped-up charges, indiscriminate bombings, and harassment of civilians.

Human Rights

In their desperation to preserve their class interests, the ruling clique exploits the AFP/PNP and and deploys them to suppress  resistance among the ranks of peasants, workers, urban poor, petty bourgeoisie, and other oppressed and exploited classes. In order to protect the status quo, the vicious mercenaries undertake merciless acts like extra-judicial killings, massacres, illegal arrests, filing trumped-up charges, threatening, and vilification. The AFP/PNP have a long history of committing various human rights abuses even against children. One of their most recent attacks is the massacre of the Jacolbe family including a pregnant woman and a minor in Sitio Natuling, La Castellana, and Negros Occidental last September.

The revolutionary movement strictly adheres to revolutionary justice and follows International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Certain individuals who have wronged or endangered the masses and the revolutionary movement are tried in revolutionary courts and accordingly punished. NPA fronts that undertake revolutionary punishments release timely statements issued to the public to explain the crimes committed by those involved. This is very far from the mindless killings executed by the AFP/PNP who have claimed a lot of innocent lives in their ridiculous war on drugs and war against terror.

The reactionary clique aims to bombard all media with their lies and sweet words. That’s why they were so desperate in hunting fighters.. As long as oppression and exploitation exists, many more will sprout up to the task of raising the people’s consciousness and systematically attacking this rotten system.

The reactionaries label revolutionaries as ‘terrorists’ in order to discredit the revolutionary ideals of the movement. The CPP-NPA-NDFP are revolutionary organizations waging a national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. The real terrorists are the previous regimes and the current US-Marcos II regime. They are the ones who terrorize the people through their intensified military operations which result in widespread human rights violations in the form of killings, massacres, illegal arrests, filing of trumped-up charges, indiscriminate bombings, and harassment of civilians.

The reactionary government is determined to alienate the revolutionary movement, especially in the media. There are efforts to suppress media personalities, blocking press statements and our social media accounts. Every nail will be hammered in the wall to suppress the revolutionary movement.

Strategy

What was once a small and weak people’s army has crystallised into a big and strong force that is deeply immersed in the masses. The NPA is now operating in 110 guerilla fronts in 75 provinces out of the total 85 provinces in the Philippines. Based on the current strength of revolutionary forces in the country, it has now become impossible for the current regime to defeat the armed revolutionary forces as it continues to enjoy the support of the broad masses.

The armed struggle primarily waged by the people’s army is continually gaining the support of the Filipino masses as it aims to seize political power from the ruling class for the realization of the national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. Despite their relentless attacks and propaganda, the NPA continues to enjoy the wholehearted support of the masses eager for genuine social change.

The NPA in Negros leaving no stone untouched implements its three integral tasks – waging armed struggle, building its mass base, and waging agrarian revolution. There were setbacks where a few Red fighters were martyred due to the focused battalion-led military operations but this does not mean that the NPA in Negros has lost its capacity to wage armed struggle. Each NPA unit in Negros operationalizes guerrilla warfare by using the tactics of concentration, dispersal, and shifting. This means that the NPA has no fixed battle line. With the protracted people’s war still in the stage of the strategic defensive, the NPA mounts tactical offensives where the enemy is inferior to its force while steadily gaining strength to eventually wage regular mobile warfare.

Arrests and death are natural consequences of war. The armed revolution is a just war waged by the people and led by the Communist Party against the bloodthirsty war of the neo-colonial state. The revolution has continued like the flow of water in a river for over 5 decades because it bears no boundaries  in inducting fresh blood, where Party cadres and Red fighters are shaped  by struggle. There will always be an appropriate replacement because there will always be new revolutionaries given birth from the diaspora of the accentuating semi-colonial and semi-feudal crisis.

The NPA launched extensive and intensive guerilla warfare based on an ever-widening and deepening mass base. It employs guerilla tactics against a superior enemy like concentrating a bigger force to launch an ambush or raid, maintaining the element of surprise while executing swiftly, using ruse operations to confuse the enemy, among others. It employs the strategy of 1 versus 10 and tactics of 10 versus 1, where the NPA attacks vulnerable enemy units it is capable of defeating and seizing arms to bolster up its capabilities steadily. The NPA wages offensives that it can win, following the Maoist principle of ‘preserving the self while dismantling the enemy’.

The revolution is a mass movement, and the NPA draws its support from the Filipino people. Moving like fish in water. Wherever the NPA is, the masses are eager to offer their logistical and security support. This is the basis of the political superiority of the NPA in stark contradiction to the isolated mercenaries, criminals, and bloodhounds of the AFP and PNP. This is something that no amount of bombs or high-tech technological advances can overpower,the revolutionary spirit of the people to emancipate themselves from  the chains of exploitation.

The NPA suffered major setbacks back in the 1980s due to military adventurism and lost a significant part of its mass base due to this. However, during the Second Great Rectification Movement, these errors were criticized and rectified , and the CPP and NPA in Negros reaffirmed its principles guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). Eventually, the mass base was ressurected and the NPA effectively covered the entirety of the island, leading to the establishment of the 5 guerilla fronts waging the protracted people’s war that has overcome the various challenges it faced from the previous puppet regimes up to the current one.

The workers, students, intellectuals, and other sectors based in the urban areas who wish to contribute to the armed struggle are also welcome. The oppressive and exploitative system itself is most effective in recruiting people to the armed revolution. The more the ruling class exploit and oppress, the more people see the justness of the people’s war.

The armed struggle primarily waged by the NPA is under the guidance of the CPP which is why it has gained the broad support of the people. As long as the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system persists, the armed revolution of the masses will continue to intensify. No matter how tortuous the path may be, the NPA, together with the masses and with the guidance of the CPP, is determined to shimmer the spark of revolution into victory.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has extensively studied revolutionary movements worldwide


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