The anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines was an occasion for peasants, masses, revolutionaries and journalists to get together and celebrate the 36-year-old revolution.
By Amabelle Plaza
ROSARIO, Agusan del Sur – Many of them came by foot, trekking the mountains for hours. Some came on Elf trucks, their children in tow. Many have come for the first time, eager to witness a different kind of celebration up in the mountains of this province.
Leonora, a 46-year-old mother of eight, was one of them. Although she is not alien to the Communist revolution, having a brother who is a member of the New People’s Army (another brother was also a guerrilla but he was killed last year in Davao del Sur), it was the first time for her to visit an NPA camp.
“This is for us, the poor,” she said when asked why she attended the clandestine fete.
The occasion was the 36th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Guerrilla Front 14 of the NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Operational Command hosted the event.
Around 300 supporters, peasants, sympathizers and journalists attended the celebration and the press conference called by Ka Oris, the spokesman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao.
Ensconced in the forest here, reachable through an old quarry road, was a guerrilla camp that had been fashioned into a “hall” for the feast and the press conference. The guerrillas built a huge hall covered with a plastic tent. Banana stems bedecked with red flowers decorated the platform; guests sat on newly-built wooden benches.
The images of Mao Zedong, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin loomed large on the backdrop. Below was a message from the party, in the Visayan dialect: “Avail of the worsening crisis and intensify the guerrilla offensives to advance the new democratic revolution!”
For the NDFP-Mindanao, the party’s 36th year was a cause for celebration. Reading from a prepared statement of the NDFP’s Mindanao Commission, Ka Oris cited the 60 tactical offensives conducted by the NPA in Mindanao, in which some 150 high-powered firearms were confiscated. The NPA, he said, operates in Mindanao’s 20 provinces, 200 towns and 1,500 barrios. The party’s membership, Ka Oris added, increased by as much as 33 percent.
The celebration started around lunchtime. Opening the event was a formation of three groups of NPA fighters numbering about 45 led by a young guerrilla who carried the flags of the NDFP, NPA and the CPP. The army wore green, black and blue peasant shirts and freshly scrubbed leather shoes and boots. They sang a new and longer Tagalog version of “The Internationale.”
“Our future is bright. The difficulties and sacrifices are temporary,” Ka Oris told the crowd.
A cultural skit followed, with the actors displaying placards that read: “Lupa hindi bala.” “Ipatupad ang tunay na reporma sa lupa.” “Itaas ang sahod.” (“Land not bullets.” “Implement genuine agrarian reform.” “Increase our wages.”) The short drama depicted the violence against peasants, citing the recent Hacienda Luisita massacre. The play also recalled the arrest and incarceration of 50 workers and the retrenchment of 4,000 employees of the paper mill Picop, which is operating a logging concession in the Caraga region.
The CPP anniversary celebration, incidentally, was held within the 470,000-hecatere Picop concession, the largest in Mindanao, said Ka Maria Malaya, the spokesperson of the NDFP-Northeastern Command.
Dramatists from the two platoons of the front also depicted the peasant dislocation in the area. Picop allegedly bulldozed some 20 houses and razed two hectares of farmlands.
Ending the skit was a depiction of the relative successes of the NPA in the area: the confiscation of high-powered rifles between 1998 to year 2001, the raid of the Picop armory that yielded 97 firearms for the NPA.
Ka Oris told the audience: “If the CPP was not there, there wouldn’t be an effective struggle of the people to attain genuine democracy.”
Ka Maria also addressed the crowd, saying that the NPA, along with the revolutionary masses, were able to successfully negotiate for an increase of the workers’ daily wage, from P50 to P120. The hemp price was increased from a measly P16 per kilo to P30 per kilo, she said.
She also said that, “through effective party leadership,” the peasant masses were able to enter the Picop concession and engage in small farming.
NPA and logging
Ka Maria also scoffed at Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s accusation that the NPA, by allegedly coddling illegal loggers, was responsible for the forest denudation in the country. In fact, Ka Maria said, the NPA implements a total log ban in their “areas of jurisdiction” and has spearheaded reforestation as early as in the 1980s by encouraging the peasant masses to plant fruit trees in the Picop concession.
She added that the revolutionary tax obtained by the NPA from logging concessionaires should not be interpreted to mean that the NPA is coddling them. “The amount has been used to reforest the areas and other services beneficial to the masses,” Ka Maria said.
During the press conference, Ka Oris criticized the Arroyo government’s hypocrisy, saying that “legal logging,” as in the case of the Picop and concessions owned by politicians like the Dys, Enriles and Angaras, has been responsible for forest denudation. The military- and the government-sanctioned logging concessions are the “real culprits,” Ka Oris said.
“Why single out the Lumads and peasant masses who engage in small logging for paltry incomes? These are just loose change compared to the millions raked in by big-time logging concessionaires backed by the military and the previous and present regimes,” Ka Oris said.
He also lambasted the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 saying that “because our forests are gone, the big capitalists and foreign investors are now intent in extracting those below our forests in wanton violation of our national sovereignty and patrimony.”
Women fighters performed during the celebration. Dancing to the tune of the classic feminist aria, “Babae Ka,” the NPA women showed their mettle, dramatizing that the “armed struggle could not be won without the participation of half of the population — the oppressed women.”
Ka Maria told Bulatlat that although women party members are present in all regions in the country, they have more women in top-level cadre positions “owing to their conscious effort of educating NPA ranks to respect, organize and mobilize women.” Each guerrilla front in their region, for instance, has no less than 10 women party members, with at least three women heading the guerrilla fronts.
“Comrades would naturally pamper women NPAs, give them tasks that are ‘fit only for women’,” Ka Maria rued. “We have to painstakingly educate them that women have to be liberated and they can do any task based on their own capacities.”
Ka Oris admitted that compared to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the NPA’s strength is “still puny but because of broad and increasing mass support through the years, the NPA is capable of conducting intensifying guerrilla struggles beneficial to the masses.”
According to Ka Oris, Mindanao has 39 guerrilla fronts, with at least platoon-sized fighters, some with company-sized army formations. They undertake agrarian revolution and “mass base building” as part of the “middle stage of the strategic defensive stage of the national democratic revolution.”
“The few setbacks that it has suffered have not sidetracked the revolution. The revolutionary struggle under the leadership of the party continues to surge forward,” the NDFP’s statement pointed out.
The 24 journalists who attended the press conference were also hailed by the NDFP, which said that it recognizes the journalists as “allies in the national-democratic struggle.” Ka Oris denounced the “liquidation” of media practitioners — 26 under Arroyo’s term – “who were known to support the causes of the masses.”
“Elements of the fascist police and military are often behind these atrocious killings; they are often sent out by powerful local despots to liquidate these crusading journalists,” Ka Oris said.
One of the reporters gave a heartfelt message, saying they could not sing and dance in solidarity with the guerrillas because they were still grieving for their fallen colleagues. Nevertheless, the somber mood changed as a duo of broadcast journalists sang “Skyline Pigeon” while another performed a stand-up comedy.
“The legacy of (Antonio) Zumel and the journalists whose lives have been enriched by the revolution – and vice versa — lives on,” Ka Oris told the reporters and photographers present.
Ka Oris also told them that the NDFP respects press freedom. “We are more than willing to talk to any media practitioner, even those known or who are used to attacking the revolutionary movement because we value your contribution in the advancement of the revolution,” he said.
To invitees to the celebration, it was an eye-opener. Jessie, a small-scale gold trader from a nearby city, said he and his wife came “to see for ourselves the unity of the NPA fighters.” Jessie said he was not disappointed with what he saw. “The NPA is truly united. Its fighters appear consolidated. They seem to have an orderly system of going about their things, their ideals and goals.” Bulatlat.com