Fueled by self-imposed deadline to end communist insurgency, the military dodge these question by harping their standardized narrative: these rebels advocated violence, they killed their fellow Filipinos, and were traitors to the Constitution! It is from these “political misfits” that the military is supposed to save our children. But how many children die daily from poverty, how many commit suicides and suffer mental health deterioration resulting from hopelessness? How many young girls prostitute themselves online and offline just to pursue their education?
By GERARDO LANUZA
It is ironic, but at the same time disheartening, to hear some of my fellow UP alumni, students, and faculty condemning our fellow alumni who chose to take the hard path of revolutionary armed struggle to change our society. They feel uncomfortable, if not, a bit discomfited, if their non-UP friends know there are many alumni who headed to the mountains to wage people’s protracted war. Expectedly, the military are now capitalizing on this list to smear people and vilify faculty who are associated or who openly support these fellow alumni including Ma. Lorena Barros (Magna cum Laude BA Anthropology), Tanya Domingo (Fine Arts), Recca Monte (Engineering), Christine Puche (Journalism), Purificacion Pedro (Social Work), just to name a few. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana even challenged the University of the Philippines to explain why the university produced such “political misfits.”
But why did these bright and young UP graduates turn their backs against normal life that promises successful careers, of raising beautiful families, and being respectable members of our society? Were they indoctrinated by their UP teachers? Or, did they simply take seriously Immanuel Kant’s slogan, aude sapere, “resolution and courage to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another,”? Or, it is the heart-rending realization of the hopelessness of changing the disintegrating social order that forced them to take up arms and organize the masses?
Yes, they took up arms! They were revolutionaries. We cannot deny that! But how did they arrive at such radical conclusion? Fueled by self-imposed deadline to end communist insurgency, the military dodge these question by harping their standardized narrative: these rebels advocated violence, they killed their fellow Filipinos, and were traitors to the Constitution! It is from these “political misfits” that the military is supposed to save our children. But how many children die daily from poverty, how many commit suicides and suffer mental health deterioration resulting from hopelessness? How many young girls prostitute themselves online and offline just to pursue their education?
Our red (tagged) comrades are not responsible for this structural evil. Should we shift our paradigm and ask: Who are our fellow UP alumni who signed and prepared the Memorandum Agreement with IMF/WB that consigned our people to mass poverty ensuing from the violence of structural adjustment program (SAP)? Who are our fellow UP alumni who helped draft and pass laws to thwart genuine agrarian reform? Our alumni who signed letters and documents to incarcerate our own comrades? Who are our alumni who became think tanks and crafted the beautiful trade policies that condemned our nation to economic dependency and backwardness? Who sold our sovereignty to foreign business interests? The alumni who happily employed their knowledge and skills honed from UP to create a very unequal tax reform system that squeezed every ounce of income from the poor while providing exemptions for big corporations? And those who even let themselves be the staunch writers, spokesperson, and biographers of dictators and tyrants?
Ma. Lorena Barros did not sign those memoranda. Recca did not draft those pro-land lord agrarian laws passed by Congress. Benito and Wilma Tiamzon did not sell our sovereignty to foreign interests out of mendicant foreign policy! These red (tagged) comrades were not responsible for the phasing out of jeepneys, for rampant violations of human rights, for the collapse of our agriculture. They took up arms precisely because they know that the peaceful means to achieve genuine social change is irresolvable in the current existing system. They realized that it was the existing system, which is unsustainable, that is utopian rather than the alternative future that they were willing to die for. They were not dreamers! They were realistic! Like the 1968 French student rebellion, they demanded the impossible!
Should I condemn them morally for opting for violent means? Like Bishop Herder Camara of Brazil, I also ask: “does not non-violent action serve as a tranquilizer?” By what moral standard underpinned by class interests should I condemn them? Ours or theirs? By the laws of the land which are also products of the “decaying system” our comrades are questioning? The conservative moral values of the bourgeoisie that worships social order above anything else? The market-based moral system based on profits? Be ashamed of them? On what grounds? For taking up arms? Then, I should also be ashamed of the Katipuneros, Malvar, Sakay, Bonifacio, Gabriela Silang! Again, with Brazilian Bishop Camara, I agree: “What are we to make of the impatience of those who go over to radical action and armed violence? Not that we want to join them… It is a human interest, coupled with respect for those who, in conscience, have made a different choice but one which is no less devoted to the cause of justice.”
It is this “respect” as suggested by Bishop Camara that I am more embarrassed and furious that we easily overlook our comrades’ sacrifices, their heroism, and the witnessing they did to demonstrate to the future generations that the Impossible is Possible. They were violent; they took up arms. But they did not initiate the violence. As Paolo Freire puts it well, “Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others and persons—not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and unrecognized.” It was the structural violence of the disintegrating status quo that forced them to take up arms to defend the peasants, rural women and nursing mothers, educate the rural youth, organize the indigenous people, and protect the environment from rapacious mining companies. And they did these things not for recognition, not for awards and self-aggrandizement, salary increase, retirement benefits, and even career promotions. Love. It is love. HINDI LANG TAYO HUSAY AT TALINO SA UNIBERSIDAD! HIGIT SA LAHAT PAG-IBIG SA MASA!
Gerardo Lanuza, Ph.D teaches at the Department of Sociology, University of the Philippines-Diliman. Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org, 09993969962.