The panelist at the SMNI forum with presidentiables echoed the rhetoric of the government’s anti-communist task force by asking the candidates if they consider the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army (NPA) a friend or enemy of the Filipino nation. It reflects the kind of thinking that dominated the long ‘Cold War’ era and the recent ‘War on Terror’ which sought to divide the population between those who support and oppose the security doctrine of the state. It’s either you salute the military and police or risk being suspected of belonging to the ‘other side’. In the case of the Philippines, an activist is presumed guilty of treason unless he or she categorically denounces the CPP-NPA. Any hint of progressive leaning could trigger toxic red-tagging and demonization which often lead to violent consequences.
Since the CPP-NPA operates outside the ambit of the state, it is instantly branded as an antagonistic force that threatens the existence of the Republic. In the past, the specter of a communist takeover was used to whip up anti-Red hysteria. In recent years, the narrative was tweaked by blaming the local communist movement for the country’s underdevelopment. In the eyes of its class enemies, the CPP-NPA is both a conspiratorial behemoth that seeks to supplant the government and a pestering malignant cancer in society. Holistic political analysis is replaced by a sweeping generalization that conveniently scapegoats the CPP-NPA for the major ills that afflict the nation. A long view of history is discarded so that reactionary propagandists can distort the past by falsely attributing the deterioration in the country’s quality of life and governance with the rise and supposed machinations of the Left.
A partisan reading of history and politics is not uncommon but there should be an acknowledgement that one is a willing subscriber of a particular lens. The paradox in taking the mainstream side of learning our modern history is to come into terms with the knowledge that the outlawed CPP-NPA attained nationwide recognition by becoming a pillar in the anti-dictatorship movement in the 1970s and 1980s. We cannot study the resistance against Martial Law without encountering the crucial role of CPP-NPA cadres and their network of grassroots campaigners in laying the groundwork for the emergence of a broad opposition against Marcos. We cannot praise the civil disobedience of the Yellows without mentioning the collective organizing and sacrifice of the Reds, many of whom were CPP-NPA members. This historical fact, however, is often ignored in order to blur the contribution of the armed Left in ousting the dictator in 1986.
Maligning the CPP-NPA soon became a prominent theme in opinion-making institutions. Indeed, tagging the CPP-NPA as a terrorist has already been normalized in news reports through the aggressive disinformation work of government operatives. This is done not just to justify the scuttling of the peace process and the unleashing of a brutal crackdown in rural communities, but also to undermine the revolutionary legacy of the CPP-NPA. Its ideological rivals can only see malice and evil in the politics of the CPP-NPA which they claim is already a lost cause. They refuse to accept that a major reason why it has endured for more than half a century is that it has consistently advocated the rights and welfare of the marginalized. It could not have survived the nonstop offensives of the military if it were merely a criminal gang spreading senseless violence. Its radical work was embraced by many and became the unofficial standard in evaluating the country’s progress in achieving true emancipation and justice. Only the rabid conservative will dismiss the social agenda of the CPP-NPA as anti-Filipino and anti-democracy. For the landless poor and exploited population, it represents an alternative worth fighting for. The CPP-NPA continues to thrive especially in the remote areas of the country because its politics of empowerment resonates not just with the oppressed but all those who wanted to build a new future founded on justice and equality.
The government and its paid apologists are fanatically insisting that loyal citizens should support the all-out war against the CPP-NPA. But as responsible citizens who stand for democracy, we dare say that our enemies are not fellow Filipinos who have persevered in the struggle to end poverty, feudal bondage, foreign meddling, and bureaucratic plunder. Our real enemies are those who perpetuate an unjust social order. History will ultimately reveal these friends and enemies; but in the meantime, we aim to be friends and allies of many so that we can be stronger until we defeat the political monsters and dynasties that have plagued our country for so long.