“The Marcos dictatorship failed to crush the revolutionary movement. …and no reactionary government can defeat it as long as the societal bases and factors for their existence remain.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – As the nation commemorated martial law declaration on Sept. 21, various groups recalled not only its sins, but also how the Filipino people valiantly put up a fight by waging a people’s war, which still continues to rage in the Philippine countryside.
In the rally at foot of Mendiola Bridge in Manila, progressive groups stressed how the socio-political and economic structure and the resulting poverty and oppression remain as 44 years ago. Thus, the same radical struggle persists.
“The Marcos dictatorship failed to crush the revolutionary movement. No reactionary government after Marcos succeeded to crush the revolutionary movement, and no reactionary government can defeat it as long as the societal basis and factors for their existence remain,” said Renato Reyes Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general.
The afternoon gathering proved such point, as several consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) went on stage. Almost all introduced themselves as student activists who went underground and carried out revolutionary tasks in the countryside after Marcos declared martial law. The NDFP consultants were released from detention to join the GRP-NDFP peace talks in August.
The appearance of the consultants stirred cheers, such as “Long live the national democratic revolution!”
Danny dela Fuente, spokesperson of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), recalled that as a youth activist in the First Quarter Storm (FQS) student protests of 1972, they sang songs about revolution and chanted slogans, such as “Join the NPA!” Quite brazen amid rumors of martial law declaration, and just a stone’s throw away from the President’s office in Malacañang Palace.
Such a slogan sent a chill to the spine of the Marcos Dictatorship, as it still does to those who benefit from the status quo.
With the GRP-NDFP peace talks being pushed by President Duterte, progressive and underground groups alike push for fundamental socio-economic and political reforms to address the roots of poverty.
“For the first time, and under the Duterte government, a window of opportunity opened to discuss meaningful reforms…which gives us a chance to discuss what kind of changes we want, and how to attain these fundamental changes,” said Dela Fuente.
Armed struggle as an option
The martial law period, for all its darkness, still had its bright side, as the revolutionary movement provided an option for the people to fight. As the contradictions sharpened between classes in society, so did the political stand of many youths, who made a crucial decision that changed their lives forever.
“Ako’y nagpapasalamat sa martial law dahil ito ang nagtulak sa akin para maghanap ng mga kasama at sumapi sa Bagong Hukbong Bayan (I am thankful for martial law, because it pushed me to look for comrades and join the New People’s Army),” said consultant Jaime Soledad, in sarcasm, yet in all honesty.
Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala, one of the NDFP consultants, told the crowd she is “a product of the FQS,” an activist in the pre-martial law era.
“When martial law was declared, we were hunted by government, so we went underground…I was imprisoned four times, but I carried on,” she said. Bocala now has grandchildren. “Pero tuloy pa rin dahil di pa nalulutas ang problema, ng mga anak ko, ng mga apo ko at ng buong sambayanang Pilipino,” she said.
Another peace consultant, Loida Magpatoc, said she was only 13 when martial law was declared. Her family were settlers from Bohol who were brought to Mindanao, where they faced hardship and oppression during martial law. But things changed when NPA members came to their community and organized the people to fight for their rights. Inspired by revolution, she joined the underground movement when she came of age, at 19.
“It was there where I fell in love, and had a family,” she told the crowd. In 1983, she was pregnant with her first child when she was arrested and detained. In spite of her vulnerable condition, she was not spared from torture, she recounted. After getting freed, she went back to organize in the countryside, until she was arrested again in 2013.
“Imbes na mawasak ng martial law ang armadong pakikibaka, lalong lumakas, lalong lumaganap (Instead of getting crushed by martial law, the armed struggle even became stronger and widespread),” said peace consultant Renato Baleros from Leyte. He said the revolutionary movement spread like wildfire up to the remote corners of Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao.
The national democratic revolution follows lessons in history, that only a strong, organized force can upturn the old, entrenched, oppressive societal structures, so that the 99 percent gains political and economic power to build a new one that serves their interest.
“Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one,” German revolutionary Karl Marx once wrote.
That new and better society is on the hearts and minds of the crowd at the Mendiola rally, which was a motley mix of grey-haired, aging activists from the 70s and later decades, and the younger, energetic ones of today. It may take several more decades, but youth and student leaders pledged to carry on all forms of struggle, as they thanked their political elders who first trod the path.
In the countryside, revolutionary forces also commemorated martial law and its failure to quell the revolutionary tide of change.
“Today, the NPA has surpassed all other people’s armies in Philippine history in strength and scope of operations. It is nurtured by a revolutionary mass base that has developed comprehensively and has given reality to vibrant people’s organizations and organs of revolutionary political power,” said Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
“These developments are the bases of economic and political agenda presented at negotiations that seek to attain just and lasting peace. While waging people’s war, the NPA always remain open to the possibility of a political settlement of the roots of the civil war through peace negotiations,” Madlos said.