BY DEE AYROSO
Eighteen years ago, Lila and her brother Arman were among the thousands of Communist Party members wrongly accused of being government “deep penetration agents” in a hysteria in the underground movement. Now 42, Lila speaks about the pain of being a victim of the anti-infiltration hysteria, and about her misadventures as a prisoner in the mountains, about forgiveness and healing, and the need for armed struggle.
Editor’s note: The name of the interviewee and other persons have been changed to protect their identities.
“Kadua, pag natapos itong kaso mo umuwi ka na lang sa tatay mo. Kasi ang narinig ko, ‘kapatid ka ng pinatay nila sa isang lugar.” (Comrade, when you get cleared, you should go home to your father. I heard that you are the sister of somebody they executed in another place.)
In tears, a young peasant minority woman told Lila how her elder brother Arman had possibly been killed by the New People’s Army. Lila herself had already spent months in the mountains as a “prisoner” of the NPA rebels.
It was the worst nightmare for Lila, for, after all, she and her brother were both full-time activists of good stature. She was with a Party propaganda team in Central Luzon, and Arman was with a communications group in Northern Luzon and has served the movement for almost a decade. Yet, their comrades had suspected them both of being “deep penetration agents” or DPA of the government.
Siblings Lila and Arman were victims of “Operation Tidebar”, the Central Luzon version of the movement-wide anti-infiltration campaign of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the 80s.
In 1984 to 1985, the underground movement suffered increasing setbacks in the battlefield even as the Party leadership pushed for a decisive victory. Such setbacks were wrongly attributed to the infiltration of government agents in the movement. The Party leadership turned to its own ranks in search of infiltrators.
According to a CPP anniversary statement, the search turned into widespread panic, a hysteria, which violated “the individual rights of suspects, the standards of due process and the rules of scientific examination and weighing of evidence.”
Lila was cleared by the Party after more than a year as prisoner. In 1992, the Regional Party Committee in Central Luzon had admitted having wrongly executed Arman in 1988. In 1997, he had been declared a martyr of the revolution by the CPP in Central Luzon. His remains had not been found to this day.
For Lila, the hysteria provided her both the worst and best lessons to learn: that the Party was not a perfect organization, and in spite of such imperfection, how the masses cared for the revolutionary cause and the revolutionaries that they meet.
Children of an Army officer
Arman and Lila came from a middle class family in Central Luzon. Arman was the eldest and only boy in a brood of four. He was an honor student, had a charismatic personality and got along well with everybody. Petite and frail-looking Lila was the third child, and described herself as a “Daddy’s girl.”
Their father was then an Army colonel. Their conservative family orientation however, was no hindrance to their involvement in student activism. Ironically, her father once said: “You better forget your damned belief, because in the end, your comrades will be the ones to kill you.” She dismissed it as an anti-communist line.
Arman joined a student organization as an electronics communication engineering student in an exclusive school in Manila. Lila was recruited by Arman not long after she entered college at the university belt in 1980. As a freshman, Lila helped set up a student support network for the armed movement in the countryside.
In 1984, after graduating from college, 24-year-old Arman joined the NPA in Central Luzon. Young peasant girls were easily attracted to the good-looking, young organizer from Manila. Arman developed a relationship with a barrio lass, but without permission from his group. When his collective found out that the two had pre-marital sex, they wanted to get them married. But Arman’s parents disapproved.