Category Archives: reds

Joma@70

Part 1: Red-One

Remember Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States? He used to be the most powerful economist in the world. When Greenspan speaks, the capitalist world reacts immediately. The “instantaneous effect” of his speeches would either revive or plunge the stock markets.

In a different context, Joma Sison is the Alan Greenspan of Philippine politics (apologies to Joma). When Joma speaks, his word is interpreted as the official position of the communist movement. Here is how the ‘Joma Effect’ works: Joma issues a political statement which will be quoted by the local media; then Malacanang will accuse Joma of inciting violence; the military will warn of a sinister communist plot; and finally, anti-left intellectuals will ridicule Joma’s “obsolete politics.”

Every word used by Joma is cited by the military as proof of his criminal activities. Every move he makes always attracts condemnation. If he is caught laughing on TV, he is at once denounced as a false communist. When he sings and dances during parties, his critics accuse him of betraying his comrades in the Philippines.

Why do the chattering classes hate Joma Sison? The answer is because he is a communist – the most unrepentant communist in the country. He is not allowed to drink, sing, dance, laugh, and gain weight. He is a communist creature, not a human being. He doesn’t deserve to indulge in these simple pleasures.

Joma is one of the most important political icons in the country. The best proof is provided by the governments of the US, the Netherlands, and the Philippines which are aggressively and obsessively denying Joma his basic rights. If Joma is already irrelevant, then why spend so much time and energy in prosecuting him on concocted charges? Why is he a constant target of cruel demonization campaigns? The actions of these three governments reveal their true sentiments: they feel threatened by Joma’s political ideas and activities. Joma is a threat to the ruling system.

Joma has always been a threat to the establishment. Even as a student, he was a “troublemaker.” His radical activities would always get him into conflict with authorities. He was the most famous youth leader during the 1960s. He became the most wanted man during the 1970s. He was the most important political prisoner during the Martial Law years. He is still the most famous Filipino communist (or a terrorist in the eyes of the state). Joma has been a newsmaker for the past five decades.

Joma is an effective organizer. You may reject his politics but you must recognize his accomplishments as a youth leader. At 20, he started a Marxist study group at the University of the Philippines. He was only 25 when he founded the militant group Kabataang Makabayan; 28 when he published Struggle for National Democracy, the country’s first red book; 29 when he led the re-establishment of the Communist Party; and 30 when he founded the New People’s Army. These institutions continue to play a key role in contemporary Philippine politics.

I must highlight the novelty of Joma’s activities during his youth:

1. Before Joma electrified Philippine politics with his radical activities, the options for idealist young Filipinos were limited to campaigning for bourgeois political parties or participation in religious and charity missions.

2. Joma was not the first Marxist in the Philippines. There were other leftists intellectuals who were Joma’s contemporaries (Is that you Dodong?). But they lacked Joma’s writing proficiency, organizational prowess, and boldness to transform ideas into practice. Joma was not an armchair revolutionary. Joma offered concrete, practical, and radical alternative means on how to launch a revolution.

3. Joma and the activists of his generation proved that the youth could become revolutionaries by vowing to serve the masses, destroy the oppressive system, and build a new socialist society. Compare this revolution to the kind of revolution espoused today by the religious and school owners who brainwash their students into believing that change is possible by building houses for the poor. Distribute relief goods, write open letters, paint houses, and voila, we are idealists and revolutionaries already!

Some of Joma’s critics are sophisticated in hiding their anti-Left bias. There are critics who recognize Joma’s outstanding political record from his SCAUP days up to the 1986 People Power uprising. But after he was released from prison, Joma has allegedly ceased to offer any original or precise political analysis.

So there are two Jomas: the ‘Young Joma’ and the ‘Later Joma’ (a la althusser analysis ba ito?). The Young Joma was radical, revolutionary, hero, and simply brilliant. The Later Joma is dogmatic, power hungry, obsolete, and hopelessly narcissistic.

Let us accept the periodization since it is a historical fact: Joma, the rebel who was based in the Philippines (1959-1987) and Joma, the rebel who was forced into exile in Europe (1988-present). But it is not true that the Young Joma was more revolutionary than the Later Joma. There is only one Joma – the intellectual proletarian revolutionary.

Joma has proven his dedication to the revolutionary cause by being an activist of the national democratic movement for the past five decades. He could have left the movement to become a member of the reactionary governments of Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo. He could have been a politico in his home province. He could have retired quietly in the academe. All those terrorist and criminal charges against him would have been dropped quickly if he only renounced his communist beliefs. But he has chosen to remain an uncompromising revolutionary.

Joma, the Maoist, was in Europe while the communist bloc disintegrated in 1989-1991. Maoism was defeated in China; Marxism was discredited around the globe. Joma was among the most resolute intellectuals who clarified that it was not socialism but modern revisionism which crumbled in Eastern Europe. Joma continued to defend the superiority of socialism by writing comprehensive critiques of imperialist globalization. He asserted again and again the primacy of collective, militant and even violent actions in order to defend the proletarian cause. He rallied the Philippine revolutionary movement to confront the ideological offensives of the ruling class.

Joma’s consistency is constantly ridiculed by the apologists of Capital. But Joma’s fidelity to Marxism has taught many activists the value of standing up for one’s principles.

Meanwhile, Joma’s Maoist credentials are not enough to win over the Joma haters. There are ex-activists who support the movement but do not hide their disdain for Joma. There are also those who earn their living by attacking Joma’s politics. These individuals are unlike the reactionary politicians who persecute Joma because of his refusal to reform his Maoist mindset.

These ex-activists-Joma haters assuage their social guilt by declaring sympathies for the legal left. They can afford to be sarcastic in criticizing politicians like Gloria Arroyo but they are ruthless and unfair against Joma. Why? Because Joma has become a symbol of an individual who struggles for a communist utopia. They do not want the creation of a new breed of Jomas. As long as individuals like Joma exist, the fashionable ex-activists will always appear as pseudo-radicals and shallow revolutionaries.

To support Joma and his politics is to affirm the communist idea. Thus the ex-leftist Joma haters who have stopped believing in the proletariat cannot be persuaded to support even the campaign for the protection of Joma’s basic rights. For them, Joma doesn’t deserve human rights because he is the archetypal communist.

To discredit Joma and the local communist movement, the ruling class has to bombard the public with images that distort and obscure Joma’s radical identity. Military propagandists have been using pictures and videos from Joma’s website, especially the pictures of Joma dancing with local showbiz stars, to insinuate that Joma is scandalously enjoying himself in Europe. With help from corporate media, the military wants to portray Joma as an insincere revolutionary. Their intention is to make the public forget the image of a rebel Joma: activist, guerilla, political detainee, torture victim, asylum seeker. The enemy wants to hide its crimes against Joma (he is a human rights victim during the Marcos era) by diverting public attention towards Joma’s “disagreeable lifestyle” in Europe.

What is wrong if Joma is attending parties in Europe? He is a human being too, a social creature. During the Obama inauguration, Pres. Ramos was seen on TV dancing with US Ambassador Kristie Kenney at the US Embassy compound. Nobody complained why the president was waltzing with the imperialist.

Others have petty complaints against Joma. Some of my friends are disappointed with Joma’s writing style. They said his writings are not academic. They are not complex. My answer to them: read his poems. And remember that Joma’s writings are addressed to a particular audience. His works are read by thousands of cadres, peasants, workers, and intellectuals. His statements have to be direct, clear, and precise.

Others are wondering why Joma has not returned home in the Philippines. Well, his passport was cancelled by the Aquino government. The military has admitted that once he is back in the Philippines, hundreds of (false) criminal charges will be filed against him. Joma might be assassinated too. Joma is a revolutionary; but he is not a foolish revolutionary who will surrender easily to the enemies. If the next government is sincere in negotiating for peace with the rebels, Joma might return home. But today, it is impossible for him to land safely in the Philippines. Kung ngayon nga eh na malayo siya sa Pinas ang dami niyang kaso ng murder, ano pa kaya kung nakauwi na siya.

The black propaganda against Joma is hard to combat. Many Filipinos could easily believe the lie that Joma is having a good time in Europe because of the popular perception that life in another country is always better than in the Philippines. Only few are aware of the difficult life of a political refugee.

Many have forgotten that sometimes leaders of nationalist movements have to go into exile in order to avoid persecution at home. Filipinos today are more familiar with the OFW phenomenon. They also believe that OFWs and migrants enjoy a higher standard of living. Unfortunately for Joma, only few Filipinos are informed of his real situation in the Netherlands. This is a challenge for the movement to counteract the malicious smear campaign against Joma.

The current global economic recession provides several opportunities for the Left to advance the socialist alternative. It also validates the analysis of the Left (and Joma) about the bankruptcy of neoliberalism. If Joma seems repetitive in his critiques on capitalism, it is because this economic system has always exhibited the same exploitative features. The defenders of capitalism are now rewording their naïve and anti-poor economic thesis. It is not Joma, but his detractors, who have become irrelevant. In the West, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital is a bestseller again. Joma should re-publish his books.

At 70 years old, Joma is old. But it is only his body which is old. A revolutionary does not get old. Joma Sison, a “fighting materialist,” is theorist of the future, not of the past. His political legacy is assured in the future. This makes his ideas fresh. This makes him young.

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The Philippines’ 20th Century: Imperialism and Revolution

“The participation of hitherto ignored people in the political life of France is a social fact that will honour the whole of the close of the nineteenth century.” – Stephane Mallarme

Thesis. The Philippine-American War was the beginning of the 20th century in the Philippines. Since then, the forces of imperialism and revolution have been fighting for supremacy in this part of the world. Imperialism is dominant but its hegemony is not total. The 20th century has not yet ended in the Philippines. The success of the national liberation movement or its absolute defeat will usher in a new historical century.

Genesis. According to some western historians, the “long 19th century” ended on 1914 (start of the First World War). The “short 20th century” began on 1917 (victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia) and ended on 1991 (fall of Soviet Union). This periodization is not applicable to the Philippines. Indeed, the First World War and the Russian Revolution were historical events that shook the world, including the Philippines. But during this period, the politics and ideologies of the new century were already introduced in the Philippines.

The 20th century began with the fighting of American and Filipino forces in 1899. The occupation of the Philippines was among the early indicators which confirmed the United States’ new global status as an imperialist power. But the Filipino people were determined not to be colonized again by another western power. They waged a gallant resistance to the invading army of the US. The David and Goliath battle between the forces of imperialism and the ragtag army of Filipino freedom-fighters started the 20th century in the Philippines.

Praxis. When the Americans arrived in the Philippines, they expected the “barbarous” Filipinos to accept the civilizing mission of the United States. The imperialists were unaware that the rebellious spirit of the 1896 revolution was very much alive in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people. The indios have recently defeated the mighty Hispanics. The battle scars were still fresh. The natives were ready to defend the country’s independence.

The Americans used brutal tactics to defeat the revolutionary forces in the Philippines. The generals of the liberation army were captured but many soldiers were able to elude the American dragnet. This setback didn’t wipe out the resistance movement. The grassroots were mobilized through various forms of struggle. For example, labor agitation was reported as early as 1902. Peasant unrests did not cease in the countryside.

The next flashpoint was the formation of a communist party in the late 1920s. This symbolized several things: Revolutionary practice has matured; an internationalist outlook was developed among the ranks of Filipino revolutionaries; and the movement’s goals included not just the attainment of the country’s independence, but also the remaking of the whole society. The strength of the anti-imperialist radical party was tested in the 1930s. During the 2nd World War, it was part of the united front against the Japanese occupation. The communist-led Huk was the primary liberation army which fought the Japanese troops. After the Great War, the Huks were disowned by the reactionary classes.

Metastases. US Imperialism modified its colonial policy by granting formal independence to the Philippines in 1946. It maintained its domination in the country by sponsoring various puppet regimes from 1946 up to the present.

The US-backed state machinery was able to defeat the communist Huks in the 1950s. But imperialism was triumphant for a few years already. The revolutionary movement rebounded in the 1960s. In 1968 the communist party was re-established. The following year a liberation army was reconstituted.

Imperialism’s most infamous agents were Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Arroyo. In the eyes of the imperialist masters, they were the most effective puppet presidents in post-war Philippines. But these unpopular dictators, even if they are thoroughly despised by the other factions of the ruling class, should not be categorized as aberrations of the system. They represent the system. The ruling class and imperialism will always produce Marcoses and Arroyos every time their hegemony is effectively challenged in the country.

The semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippines was experiencing a deep political and economic crisis in the 1960s. Two decades of neocolonialism have weakened the system’s support base. The revolution was seen by many as a better alternative to the decaying social order. Marcos, the strongman, was tapped by imperialism to restore an appearance of normalcy in society.

Imperialism rejoiced when a member of the ruling class replaced Marcos in 1986. The pre-Marcos oligarchs were back in power. But after almost two decades of neocolonialism, the system was in crisis again in 2001. Estrada had to be replaced by Arroyo to stabilize the system. But imperialism needed to discredit the politics of People Power (II and III) since the latter’s untapped revolutionary potential was already seen a serious threat to the system.

Imperialism needed Marcos and Arroyo to revive its weakening control in the country; and to defeat the seemingly unbeatable and invincible revolutionary movement. This we ask: Were Marcos and Arroyo the best the system could offer to defeat the revolution? If Marcos’ New Society and Arroyo’s Strong Republic were the only alternatives the system could establish, then socialism remains the greatest hope of the future.

Matrix. As long as Imperialism is dominant, the cycle will not end. There will be Marcoses and Arroyos in the future. To end this curse, the system must be defeated. The revolution has to succeed. The revolution remains the only genuine alternative to imperialism.

The history of the left is not only about factions and stunning defeats. The left has rebounded many times. It experienced humiliating political losses, many times these were self-inflicted, but it has always proven its capability to revive its fighting strength. The left could still win the war against imperialism.

There is a global economic recession. Imperialism is in crisis. The puppet regime is distrusted. There is an opportunity for the revolutionary forces to raise the level of fighting of the people. The crucial date is 2010. Political forces are trying to be the dominant party after 2010. They are expected to exploit the public hatred against Arroyo, and the political indifference of many sections of the population, to grab the leadership in the country.

Will there be change next year? If imperialism is not defeated, the status quo will remain. It may even emerge stronger next year.

The challenge is not to lose sight of the primary goal: defeat imperialism. End the 20th century. Victory to the revolution.

1986 and 2001

The left was ready for battle in 1986. The Martial Law years have strengthened the movement. The left has accumulated significant victories in the fight against the dictatorship. Its leadership in the anti-Marcos coalition was recognized. Its cadres were active among the grassroots. Its high political prestige was felt throughout the country.

The left was ready for battle too in 2001. The Second Great Rectification Movement in the 1990s, which was mainly an education campaign, has revitalized the movement. Activists were theoretically prepared to combat the ideological offensives against the left. The rallying cry was to relive the radical spirit of the First Quarter Storm: learn from the masses, serve the people, launch the cultural revolution. At the end of the 1990s, the rejuvenated left has scored big victories in the political arena. Mass mobilizations were on the rise and the people’s war in the countryside was intensifying.

(Mass mobilizations: Anti-Chacha assembly in 1997, Anti-Visiting Forces Agreement rallies in 1998, Civil liberties rally in 1999, P125 wage hike campaign in 1999. People’s War: In 1992, President Fidel Ramos transferred the anti-insurgency campaign to the jurisdiction of the police. Before the end of his term, Ramos ordered the military to re-assume the leadership in the war against the reds. The government was forced to admit that the insurgency was no longer a police problem. It was again the country’s top security threat)

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There are two major criticisms against the left’s participation in the 1986 People Power uprising: Mainstream commentators have accused the left of being absent in Edsa. Its contingent in the rallies was said to be pitiful. Second, the left’s boycott policy was blamed for its failure to grab a more leading role in the governance of the country when Marcos was ousted from power.

The left has already adequately answered these issues. The left was present in Edsa. Its members stayed in Edsa for many days. Left-leaning groups held a rally outside the Palace when Marcos fled the country. Dismissing the left’s participation and leadership in Edsa was a malicious and erroneous accusation.

The boycott error was recognized by the left. But critics have exaggerated this tactical error. They have underestimated other factors which contributed to the weakening of the left. They ignored the maneuvering of the reactionary Aquino government. They overlooked the left’s internal debate over political and organization tactics. The left has pinpointed many other policies which affected the fighting power of the mass base. But critics up to this day have remained obsessive about the left’s boycott error.

If there was no boycott policy, could the left have succeeded in wrestling the leadership in government? Leaders of the left have clarified that the strength of the revolutionary movement at that time was not sufficient enough to be able to defeat the reactionary state machinery. Leftists who abandoned the movement have criticized their ex-comrades for rejecting their proposals to adopt the political practices of other countries. The reply of the movement was brief but direct: these models were not applicable to Philippine conditions. The movement reminded them that conducting a revolution is not mere wishful thinking. Besides, they have blatantly ignored that the political strategies of the Philippine revolutionary movement could be presented as original contributions to Marxist theory.

Again, mainstream commentators attempted to downplay the role of the left in the 2001 People Power uprising. They identified Arroyo’s oath-taking in Edsa as the most crucial episode in the historic event. They disregarded the left-initiated march to Mendiola from Edsa. Estrada left Malacanang when it was shown on TV screens that thousands of people have began marching towards the Palace. Another spin was to describe Edsa as a texters’ revolt. The aim was to emphasize the spontaneous character of the uprising and ignore the obvious organized strength of the left in the rallies.

But they couldn’t cite a flaw in the left’s united front work. The left was a leading voice in the broad united formation against the Estrada government. Its role was recognized by all political forces. When the generals defected, the leaders who responded in Edsa were Joey Lina, Dinky Soliman, and Satur Ocampo. The nationwide popularity of the left was validated when Bayan Muna topped the partylist polls in 2001.

Ex-leftists (many became Estrada’s Cabinet members and civil society rackeeters) have denounced the movement’s bureaucratized practices for its failure to feel the pulse of the masses in 1986. According to them, these Stalinist/undemocratic practices prevented the left from sensing the irrationality/unpopularity of the boycott policy. Thus, the movement failed to exercise creative leadership in mobilizing the grassroots. The same accusation resurfaced in 2001 when the left was criticized for its failure to attract Estrada’s masa supporters in Edsa Tres.

The left has always recognized the importance of being more aggressive in organizing the masses. The aim of the progressive forces has always been to reach out the masa. Edsa Tres was a wake-up call for the left that there were bigger tasks ahead in mobilizing the majority of the unorganized and unreached poor. The left accepted the challenge. Meanwhile, the ex-leftist critics were more satisfied in ill-judging the movement while refusing to recognize the overall success of the left in articulating the voices of the oppressed and organizing the poor and exploited in society. Their viewpoints were also uncritical. They overestimated the supposed weakness of the left’s tactics while ignoring the dynamics of class struggle and hegemony in a semi-feudal society like the Philippines; and they failed to highlight the divisive and violent maneuvering of the reactionary classes.

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There were activists in the 1980s who identified the anti-Marcos campaign as the principal revolutionary task of the movement. They expected the victory of the revolution once Marcos was removed from power. When Aquino replaced Marcos instead of barangay soviets, they vented their disappointment by ridiculing the supposed dogmatism of the left.

The rectification movement clarified that ousting presidents is not synonymous with national liberation. Through great political and collective actions like the 1986 People Power, progressive forces are able to accumulate strength and the masses learn to trust their collective and class power. The exploitative system weakens every time a reactionary leader is ousted.

The left was already united on these principles when a new People Power uprising erupted in 2001. There was no illusion among the ranks of activists that a socialist government would replace Estrada. The priority of the left at that time was to initiate discussion on this Leninist formulation:

“For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way.”

A so-called democratic space offered by Aquino in 1986 paved the way for the legal left to work for reforms within the ruling system. Political detainees were released and NGOs proliferated. Some of the cadres were enamored by this line of work. They soon abandoned the mass movement by opting to become full time lobbyists, office-based activists and racketeers. Some of them became rabid anti-communists who made a living by echoing the government propaganda against the left.

There was a semblance of democratic space too in 2001. Peace talks were revived between government and rebel forces. The left was allowed to participate in the partylist elections. Reactionary elements expected the legal left to ditch the parliament of the streets; while the underground left was persuaded to give up their armed struggle. The ruling class has misperceived its enemy. The left in 2001 was more consolidated than in previous years. It has recently concluded a successful education campaign (that lasted for several years) which affirmed the need for a national democratic revolution. The left has repudiated reformism and opportunism. It vowed to prioritize street politics and grassroots organizing over parliamentary work.

In 1986 many Filipinos thought they pioneered the launching of nonviolent political movements in the world. They believed the 1986 People Power inspired the peaceful uprisings in other countries, especially in Eastern Europe. The global symbol of this era was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Since communism was discredited around the world, the ruling class in the Philippines predicted the natural death (self-destruction) of the local insurgency. The anti-subversion law was repealed, amnesty was given to rebel returnees, and police handled the anti-insurgency campaign. They didn’t anticipate the left’s rectification movement.

In 2001 many Filipinos hoped the second People Power would again inspire similar movements in the world. They/We were wrong. The second People Power was barely noticed because a few months after the event, 9/11 took place. The politics of people power was displaced by the War on Terror campaign. The ever pragmatic Gloria Arroyo began to dissociate her government from the unreliable civil society. The president has moved further to the right. The military establishment has successfully convinced Arroyo to use the popular anti-terror campaign to defeat the reds. The ideology and tactics of the War on Terror were adopted by the state. This led to the killings of leftist activists in the legal arena. Human rights violations worsened in the country as the military became more aggressive and brutal in eliminating the suspected communist terrorists and their sympathizers.

The human rights atrocities committed by the government against the left after 2001 should be cited as proof that the left, even if it was fully integrated in the broad united front of forces opposing a reactionary regime, will always be targeted for liquidation by the reactionary and fascist elements of the state. Even if there was no boycott policy in 1986, the reactionary state would still have found various means, including violent tactics, to isolate the radical left in the political arena.

In many ways, 2001 was the left’s attempt to correct its blunders in 1986. The left was unconsciously trying to prove that its brand of radical politics was inclusive and flexible. More importantly, it wanted to participate in a broad People Power movement without losing sight of its revolutionary vision. The left was humiliated in 1986; there was a chance to redeem its bruised ego in 2001. The left became a divided movement after 1986; there was an opportunity to reverse this trend in 2001. It seems that for the left there was only one very long Edsa revolution between 1986 and 2001.

Related entries:

Bundok, dagat, pulitika
Committed generations
Obama effect
Gloria-Cory
Longest-running insurgency in Asia
Seven years

Labanan sa tubigan

Ayon kay Mic Camba, “Ang Filipinas ay may kulturang tubig.” Eto ang kanyang paliwanag:

“Kung babalikan ang kasaysayan ng bansa, ang Barangay ay isang malaking barko na binubuo na madaming pamilya / komunidad. Maging sa Manunggul Jar, ang tapayan na pinaglalagyan ng mga buto ng patay noong sinaunang panahon, ay kakikitaan ng bangka sa takip nito (pinaniniwalaan na isang mahabang paglalakbay ang kamatayan). Ang konsepto ng Vanua sa mga Ivatan (ng Batanes) ay paggawa ng isang port / pier, may kaugnayan muli sa tubig. Idagdag pa ang sari-saring pangalan ng bayan at probinsya ng bansa na nakabatay rin sa tubig. Halimbawa: Tagalog = Taga-ilog, Pampanga = Pampang, Pasig = beach (pansinin ang salitang ugat ng dalampasigan).”

Tanyag sa buong mundo ang mga marinong Pilipino, noon at lalo na ngayon. Mainam daw ang kasanayan ng ating mga marino. Hindi ito nakapagtataka dahil arkipelago ang Pilipinas. Natural lamang ang paglalayag sa tubig.

Pero bihirang pag-usapan ang kulturang tubig sa bansa. Madalas ang talakayan tungkol sa tubig ay may kinalaman sa kalikasan, kabuhayan, at mga sakuna. Hindi madalas maugnay ang tubig sa kasaysayan at pulitikal na praktika. Bakit kaya?

Dahil umaapaw ang tubig sa ating paligid, hindi napapansin ng marami ang papel nito sa ating mga komunidad. Ito ay constant at karaniwan sa ating buhay. Ito ay nariyan lamang – sa ilalim ng lupa, sa taas ng bundok, sa katabing probinsiya, sa kabilang bahagi ng pulo. Ikumpara ang tubig sa langis: Ang huli na bihirang matagpuan sa bansa ay palaging tema ng mga pulitikal na diskusyon.

Pero kahit hindi tampok na tampok ang kulturang tubig sa mga usapan, batid ng mga Pilipino ang kahulugan nito. Nasa likod ito ng ating diwa. Nasa bokabularyo natin ang tubig.

Hindi lamang usapin sa lupa at pag-aari sa lupa ang mitsa ng mga pag-aalsa sa kasaysayan ng bansa. May kinalaman din ang sigalot sa tubig: pag-angkin ng iilan sa baybaying dagat, pagkontrol sa agos ng tubig, pagharang sa irigasyon, pagwasak sa mga palaisdaan, pagsalaula sa katubigan.

Ang pyudal na pagsasamantala sa lipunan ay hindi lamang nakabatay sa pagnanakaw ng lupa; simbolo rin ng pyudal na dominasyon ang kapangyarihang ipagkait sa marami ang biyaya ng tubig. Magkaugnay ang tubig at lupa. Ang pagkamkam sa mga yamang ito ng iilan ang nagtulak sa marami na lumaban.

Mayaman ang karanasan ng mga Pilipino sa paglulunsad ng mga rebolusyon. Naging larangan ng paghihimagsik ang bundok, patag, at katubigan. Pero hindi buo ang naratibo ng paglaban sa katubigan. Hindi matingkad ang kasaysayan ng pakikidigmang katubigan sa bansa.

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Mahusay na ginamit ng mga Moro ang tubig upang talunin ang mga dayuhang mananakop. Pinagharian nila ang katubigan sa paligid ng Mindanao. Natumbok nila ang pinakamabilis na direksiyon upang lumikas (patungong Brunei) kung sakaling manaig ang kaaway. Pinalubog nila ang mas malalaking barko ng kaaway. Inatake rin nila ang nakakalat na kampo ng mga Kastila sa Visayas at ilang bahagi ng Luzon. Kinilala silang mga pirata imbes na mga mandirigmang nais lamang ipagtanggol ang kanilang sinasakupan. Hanggang ngayo’y nanatili ang taguri sa Moro bilang mga pirata/terorista sa dagat.

Isang halimbawa lamang ito ng pakikidigma sa katubigan. Interesado akong lumikom pa ng mga datos hinggil sa paksang ito. Paano ginamit ang tubig upang hamunin ang kapangyarihan ng mga Kastila sa ibang rehiyon, lalo na sa Visayas? Ano ang papel ng tubig sa paghihimagsik sa Luzon: May matingkad bang mga labanan sa Manila Bay (maliban sa pekeng digmaan ng Estados Unidos at Espanya noong 1898)? Mayroon bang mga lihim at tampok na tunggalian sa Ilog Pasig at Lawa ng Laguna?

Malaki ang potensiyal ng pakikidigmang katubigan sa isang arkipelago. May tiyak itong lugar sa teorya ng digmang bayan sa kasalukuyan. Dapat lamanin ng teorya kung anong mga katubigan ang pwedeng “languyin” ng mga gerilya upang maabot ang mas maraming larangan; tukuyin ang mga katubigang pwedeng paglunsaran ng mga opensiba; alamin ang mga katubigang may stratehikong papel upang mahatak, mahati, mapahina ang pwersa ng kaaway. Saan malakas at mahina ang kaaway? Paano iipunin ang mga kagamitang pandigma sa tubig? Paano pagdudugtungin ang mga tubig sa buong arkipelago? Paano pag-uugnayin ang mga sonang gerilya sa tubig?

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Hindi ko kayang sagutin ang mga tanong na ito. Pero pwedeng magbalangkas ng panukala kung paano magagamit ang katubigan upang higit na palakasin ang mga pagkilos ng legal na kilusang masa sa Mega Manila.

Sa silangan ng Mega Manila ay matatagpuan ang kabundukan ng Sierra Madre. Nandito ang probinsiya ng Rizal. Nasa hilaga ng rehiyon ang Bulacan at Pampanga. Nasa timog ang Laguna at Cavite. May mahigpit na kontrol ang estado sa lahat ng mga espasyong ito. Naperpekto na ng mga alagad ng Estado ang taktika kung paano hahadlangan ang mga pwersang nais sumugod sa Maynila. May naipon na silang karanasan kung paano bibiguin ang mga magrarali at magkukudeta. Halimbawa: May mga checkpoint sa North at South Expressway, Fairview/Bulacan, Coastal Road hanggang Tagaytay, Tanay at Montalban sa Rizal; at naging permanente na ang kapkapan at inspeksiyon ng mga pulis/militar sa mga terminal ng bus.

May mga mapanlikhang paraan kung paano makakalusot sa legal na barikada ng Estado. Pero hindi ito epektibo sa lahat ng panahon at mangilan-ngilan lamang ang makakagawa nito. Kailangang humanap ng ibang daan papasok ng siyudad.

Kung pahirapan ang daang lupa, may isang alternatibo: daang tubig. Ang Mega Manila ay napapaligiran ng tubig. Nariyan ang Manila Bay, Laguna Lake at Pasig River. Tingan sa google map ang posisyon ng mga katubigang ito at ang lapit ng mga ito sa Mega Manila (pwede ngang idagdag kung tutuusin ang Taal Lake).

Pinakamahalaga ang Manila Bay. Mula sa Manila Bay ay pwedeng magbangka papuntang Cavite sa Timog; at Bulacan, Bataan at Pampanga sa Hilaga. Para sa mga nakatira sa Metro Manila, ang imahen nila ng Manila Bay ay yung katubigang nasa harap lamang ng Roxas Boulevard, Coastal Road at Pier. Dahil ang tingin ng mga tao ay paloob at papasok ng siyudad, bihirang makita ang palabas na tanawin. Napakalawak ng Manila Bay. Sakop nito ang mga karatig na probinsiya. Pwede itong gamitin ng mga nasa probinsiya papasok ng siyudad. Ginawa na ito ng mga aktibisdang mangingisda mula Bacoor papuntang Senado sa Pasay. Nang tinalo ng mga Kastila ang mga rajah ng Maynila, lumikas ang huli papuntang Pampanga sa pamamagitan ng Manila Bay.

Matagal ng inabandona ng marami ang Pasig River. Pero maganda ang lokasyon nito. Ang haba nito ay isang adbantahe para makapaglakbay ang mga tao sa sentro ng Maynila. Ang likod ng Malakanyang ay Pasig River (Si Erap ay tumakas ng Palasyo sa pamamagitan ng ilog). Maraming komunidad ang nakatayo sa gilid ng ilog. Karamihan ng mga nakatira rito ay mga mahihirap at manggagawa na nagtatrabaho sa mga pabrikang matatagpuan din sa tabi ng ilog. Malaking potensiyal sa pag-oorganisa at pagpapakilos ng masa.

Mula sa mga nagtataasang gusali sa Ortigas at Fort ay tanaw na ang Laguna Lake. Hindi na ito espasyo ng probinsiyal. Nasa likod lang ito ng bakuran ng Mega Manila. Higit na malaki ang lawa kaysa sa buong Metro Manila. Pero hindi nakikita ng mga tao ang pulitikal at ekonomikong papel ng katubigang ito. Mula Laguna Lake ay maaaring tumbukin ang Cavite, Rizal, timog at silangang bahagi ng Metro Manila. Pwedeng sumugod ang mga ralyista mula timog katagalugan sa pamamagitan ng lawa.

Posibleng marating ang Maynila ng mga nagbangka sa Laguna Lake. Tagusan ang lawa hanggang Pasig River. Nasubukan ko na ito. Mula Binangonan ay nagbangka kami papuntang Pasig. Pagdating sa Pasig River ay pwedeng dumiretso sa Maynila. Ang mga nagbangka sa Manila Bay ay pwede ring pumasok sa Pasig River. Magkakaugnay ang mga katubigang ito. Pwedeng magsalubong ang mga bangka malapit sa Malakanyang. Tiyak masosorpresa ang mga awtoridad.

Madumi’t mabaho – imbakan na ng basura ang Manila Bay, Pasig River at Laguna Lake. Mga patay na katubigan. Pwes, ito ay buhayin. Gawin itong mahiwaga, mapanganib para sa mga may hawak ng kapangyarihan. Angkinin ito ng lubusan ng mga inaapi.

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Una at huli, uri, uri, uri ang mapagpasya. Dapat unahin ang pag-aanalisa at paghubog sa galaw ng mga puwersa sa lipunan. Tama. Samantala, sa mga aktuwal na labanan, may papel ang kaalaman at matalinong paggamit ng heograpiya.

Aanhin pa ang mga magagaling na marino kung alipin lang sila ng monopolyo kapital. Hanggang kailan mananatiling pasibo ang kulturang tubig ng mga Pilipino? Papayag ba ang mga progresibo na Kapital lamang ang umaangkin ng katubigan? Na ang silbi ng huli sa siyudad ay halos wala kundi maging tambakan ng basura?

Kubkubin ang Maynila mula sa kabundukan at katubigan.

Related entries:

Bundok, dagat, pulitika
Peasant revolts
Imperial Manila
Street tactics

Bundok, dagat, pulitika

Part 1: Loob-labas
Part 2: Looban, pagsasamantala, pag-aalsa

Sa Pilipinas, subersibo ang mga pahayag na ito: Aakyat ako ng bundok. Mamumundok ako.

Ang pag-akyat sa bundok o ang pagnanais na umakyat ng bundok ay may radikal na kahulugan, maliban na lamang kung miyembro ka ng isang mountaineering club.

Bakit bundok? Tinanong minsan si George Mallory kung bakit gusto niyang akyatin ang Mt. Everest. Ang kanyang sagot diumano: Because it is there. Ganito rin ba ang dahilan ng mga Pilipinong namumundok? Si Chairman Mong, este Chairman Mao ang nagbigay ng tumpak na sagot: Umakyat ng bundok dahil andun ang masa. Because the masses are there.

Ang bundok ay simbolo ng kanayunan, ng probinsiya, ng malawak na espasyong tinitirhan ng masa, ng tagong teritoryong hindi madaling bagtasin ng kaaway.

Pero bakit napakapulitikal agad ang dating ng pahayag na “mamumundok ako” kaysa sa tila napakapangkaraniwang “pupunta ako ng bukid” o “uuwi ako ng probinsiya”? Anong tipo ng mistikal na kapangyarihan meron sa bundok upang ito ay maugnay sa radikal na praktika?

Walang ibang misteryo kundi ang historikal na karanasan ng mga Pilipino.

Sa mahabang panahon, matapang na tinunggali ng mga Moro ang mga Kastilang mananakop. Matagumpay at buong giting nilang pinagtanggol/binakuran ang kanilang mga lupain. Pero marami ring labanang nanaig ang mga superyor na kagamitang-pandigma ng mga dayuhan. Sa mga pagkakataong ito, iniiwan ng mga Moro ang kanilang mga komunidad sa baybaying-dagat at dun sila sa mga bundok nagtatayo ng mga pansamantalang kampo. Sa bundok nagpapalakas ng puwersa ang mga Moro; dun pinaplano kung paano muling susugod at lalabanan ang mga dayuhan.

Masalimuot ang proseso ng kolonisasyon. May nagpasakop; may lumaban pero nabigo kaya nagpasakop; may lumaban, nabigo, pero sa halip na magpasakop, sila ay namundok. Ang paglikas sa bundok ay pagtalikod sa pamumuno ng mga Kastila. Ito ang karanasan ng mga Igorot sa Kordilyera.

Hindi mapayapa ang paghahari ng mga Kastila sa Pilipinas. Laging may pag-aaklas. Laging may lumalaban. Kadalasan, usapin sa lupa, pag-aari sa lupa, ang tema ng pagbabalikwas ng mga indio. Sunod dito ang poot laban sa mga abusadong Kastila. Kadalasan, namumundok ang mga rebelde. Hindi ba’t ang mga tulisan at iba pang kaaway ng batas (halimbawa: Kapitan Pablo) sa mga nobela ni Jose Rizal ay laging nagtatago sa kagubatan.

Ang mga Katipunero ay nagpupulong sa mga kuweba ng Montalban. Ang hudyat ng pag-aalsa ay pinagtibay sa mga kagubatan (Balara, Balintawak). Upang hindi madakip ng mga Amerikano, nagtago si Aguinaldo sa bundok ng Kordilyera at lumikas siya papuntang Isabela.

Noong World War II, sa kagubatan ng Bataan at Zambales nakipagtagisan ng lakas ang mga Pilipino at Amerikano laban sa mga Hapon. Sa mga bundok binuo ang Hukbalahap, ang pangunahing armadong pwersang lumaban para sa kalayaan ng bansa. Ang huling dakilang laban ng mga komunistang Huk ay naganap sa bundok Arayat ng Pampanga.

Mula 1969 inangkin ng mga armadong komunista ang kabundukan/kanayunan bilang larangan ng pakikidigma. Naging kilala ang NPA bilang mga rebeldeng namumugad sa bundok.

Hanggang ngayon ang bundok ay mapanganib at mahiwaga. Tahanan pa rin ito ng mga subersibo. Mga taong labas. Sinumang nawawalan ng pag-asa sa sistema ay laging nagbabanta: Mamumundok na lang ako. Hindi ba, Robin Padilla?

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Abante ang praktika ng pamumundok ng mga Moro noong panahon ng Kastila at ng mga komunista sa kasalukuyan.

Ang mga Moro ay hindi lang lumilikas sa bundok kapag nagagapi ng mga Kastila. Lumilipat sila ng isla: sa mga islang pinaghaharian ng kanilang sultanato, sa mga teritoryong kaibigan ng sultanato, at maging sa ibang kaharian (Brunei). Patunay ito na may malakas at sopistikadong pulitikal na organisasyon ang mga Moro noon.

Ano ang sitwasyon sa Luzon at Visayas? Namumundok ang mga indio, pero dun lang sa mga bundok na kanilang nakikita. Bihira ang nagtangkang lumikas sa ibang pulo dahil ang kanilang pulitikal na organisasyon ay limitado. Bihira ang nag-ambisyong palayain ang maraming pulo na pinaghaharian ng mga Kastila. Ang pangunahing motibo ng pag-aaklas ay madalas nakasentro sa pagpapalaya ng maliit na bayan o probinsiya. Sa madaling salita, wala pang pambansang kamalayan o pambansang imahinasyon na kailangan para isulong ang isang panlipunang himagsikan.

Kaya radikal ang diwang pulitikal ng mga propagandista at katipunero. Mayroon silang pambansang imahinasyon, pambansang programa ng himagsikan. Mayroon silang layuning pag-isahin ang mga pulo upang labanan ang mga dayuhan. May disenyo (blueprint) kung paano magagamit ang mga “bundok” upang lusubin ang Maynila. May nabuong teorya ng paghihimagsik na may partikularidad sa kalagayan ng bansa noon.

Kaya patuloy tayong nagtataka. Sa kabila ng inisyal at matagumpay na pagtatangka ng mga rebolusyonaryo noong 1896-1898 na magbalangkas ng teorya ng rebolusyon, bakit ang mga sumunod na henerasyon ng mga rebolusyonaryo ay tila nagkulang sa kanilang misyon na higit pang pagyamanin ang teoryang ito? Pagkatapos umusbong ang isang pambansang diwa noong panahon ng himagsikan laban sa mga Kastila, bakit kailangang maganap ang mga patalong labanan sa Bataan at Arayat? Na para bang hindi naganap ang 1896, himagsikang may pambansang anyo. Bakit ang larangan ng pakikidigma ay nasentro sa isang lugar lamang? Walang pag-uugnay ng mga bundok, ng mga pulo, ng pagmamaksima sa katangiang pang-arkipelago ng Pilipinas.

Kaya naman tinuturing na mahalagang akda ang dokumentong sinulat ni Amado Guerrero: Specific Characteristics of our People’s War. Dito binalangkas ni Guerrero ang partikular na katangian ng rebolusyong Pilipino. Higit na napansin ng marami ang paglilinaw ni Guerrero sa tipo ng rebolusyong sinusulong ng CPP (pambansa-demokratiko na bagong tibo, may sosyalistang perspektiba, bahagi ng anti-imperyalistang laban) at kung anong klaseng reaksiyunaryo ang gobyerno ni Marcos.

Pero hindi na ito bago. Nakasaad na ang mga ito sa mga naunang dokumento ng partido. Kung gayon, ano ang kontribusyon ng akdang ito sa teorya ng pakikidigma?

Inabante ni Guerrero ang teorya ng pamumundok sa Pilipinas. Mula sa punto de bista ng isang rebolusyonaryong lider, higit niyang pinaunlad ang teorya kung paano magtatagumpay ang rebolusyon sa isang arkipelago: Paano pag-uugnayin ang mga pulo, ang mga bundok, saan magtatayo ng mga larangan, anong mga pulo ang dapat bigyan ng prayoridad, saan magtatayo ng kampo ang pamunuan, ano ang silbi ng mga bundok sa rebolusyon, ano ang adbantahe ng pulu-pulong katangian ng bansa. Pinatunayan ni Guerrero at ng praktika ng CPP na posible ang matagalang digmang bayan sa isang bansa katulad ng Pilipinas (arkipelago, walang dayuhang mananakop).

Kahit ang mga kritiko ni Guerrero at mga beteranong lider ng huk ay kinilala ang orihinal at tumpak na analisis sa akdang ito.

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Pero bakit sa bundok lang? Paano ang digmaan sa karagatan? Nabanggit ni Guerrero ang kawastuhan ng sea warfare sa Visayas. Maikli lamang ang kanyang paliwanag dito.

May potensiyal pang pagyamanin ang temang ito. Sa mga dokumento ng CPP na mababasa sa internet ay nababanggit na nilalanguyan din ng mga rebelde ang katubigan. May pangangailangang ipunin ang karanasan ng CPP sa sea warfare at ihapag ito na dagdag sa teorya ng pakikidigma.

Kadalasan, ang taguri sa Pilipinas ay isang bansang binubuo ng 7,107 isla (low tide, di ba Charlene?). Medyo ibahin natin ang ating tingin: imbes sa mga isla, ipokus natin ang ating tanaw sa mga katubigan. Itong mga katubigang ito ay may natural na dugtong, mula Luzon hanggang Mindanao. Ang paligid ng tubig ay 7,107 isla. Malawak ang katubigan; madilim, mapanganib, mahiwaga at higit sa lahat, hindi kayang sakupin ng kaaway.

Susi sa tagumpay ng mga Moro noong panahon ng Kastila ang mapanlikhang paggamit ng tubig upang talunin ang mga mananakop. Tubig para lumikas, tubig para lusubin ang mga kampo ng kaaway.

Ngayon, ginagamit ng mga bandidong grupo sa Mindanao tulad ng Abu Sayyaf ang tubig upang gumawa ng krimen. Pinapatunayan ng mga pirata (Somalia) at smuggler (Subic, Cagayan) na posibleng biguin ang puwersa ng estado sa katubigan.

Kadalasan, ang sea warfare ay nauugnay sa mga terorista at kriminal. Dapat angkinin ng mga rebolusyonaryo ang katubigan. Ipakilala ang rebolusyonaryong pakikidigma sa karagatan. Ipakita ang ugnay ng bundok sa mga katubigan – ilog, lawa, dagat. Magbalangkas ng plano kung paano ang espasyo ng katubigan ay gagamitin para sa rebolusyon. Bakit? Because the masses are there: mangingisda at kanilang pamilya, manlalakbay. At kung hahatakin ang kaaway sa tubig, luluwag ang kalagayan sa iba pang espasyo ng digmaan.

Kaya matalino ang nag-isip ng RORO. Pinag-isa ang mga isla. Gumawa ng mga tulay para idugtong ang mga tao, produkto, at mga instrumento ng Estado sa ibabaw ng tubig. Ang tubig, kahit mahiwaga, malawak at mapanganib, ay napaamo ng Estado. Ano ang sagot ng kilusan sa RORO ng reaksiyunaryong pamahalaan?

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Pero ang bundok ay hindi lamang para sa mga naghihimagsik.

Kung ang bundok ay simbolo ng oposisyon sa dayuhang pananakop, ang pagtahak ng daan upang marating ito ay isang kolonyalistang proyekto. Kung gayon, ang Kennon Road patungong Baguio na pinagawa ng mga Amerikano ay isa mga unang tangka upang lubusin ang pananakop sa Pilipinas. Pagkatapos makumpleto ang daan, higit na pinag-ibayo ang proseso ng pag-aangkin ng Estado sa mga kabundukan.

Dalawa ang layunin ng Estado kung bakit gusto nilang angkinin ang mga bundok: gapiin ang oposisyon/rebolusyon; at nakawin ang yamang likas ng bansa para sa personal na kapakinabangan ng mga panginoong maylupa, pambansang burgesya, burukrata kapitalista at mga imperyalista.

Palaging mapanira ang dinudulot ng kasakiman. Nasaksihan natin ang epekto ng labis na pagtotroso. Nakakabahala ang malawakang pagmimina ngayon. Parang hindi nangyari ang delubyo sa Ormoc, Rapu-Rapu at Marinduque.

Insulto sa rebolusyon ang mga mapanirang gawain ng Estado sa mga kabundukan. Dapat namamayani sa mga bundok ang mga rebelde pero tila nagtatagumpay ang mga reaksiyunaryo. Indikasyon ito na hindi papayagan basta-basta ng Estado ang subersibong pamumundok. Nais nitong alisin ang pulitikal na halaga ng konsepto ng pamumundok. Nagpapatuloy ang tunggalian.

Dahil sa kasakimang nabanggit, higit na nagiging makatwiran ang pamumundok. Inuudyok ang masa na paigtingin ang pamumundok. Ang susunod na pagguho ng lupa mula sa kabundukan ay maaaring iba na ang hugis at anyo. Imbes na rumaragasang lupa, ibang putik ang guguho. Sumabog na ang bulkan.

Related entries:

Peasant revolts
Muslims in the Philippines
Losing the war
Preserve mineral wealth
Fishy waters

Looban, pagsasamantala, pag-aalsa

Part 1: Loob-labas.

Tatlong halimbawa ng espasyo ang tatalakayin ko sa artikulong ito: looban ng sementeryo, engklabo, at mga sonang gerilya.

Sementeryo

Marami akong hiniram na punto kay Jose Saramago sa aking pagbabasa ng kanyang nobela: All the Names.

Nililibing ang mga patay sa mga hanggagan ng siyudad. Kailangang malayo sa sentro ang mga sementeryo pero di dapat kalayuan para mabisita ang mga patay ng kanilang mga kamag-anak at kaibigan. Kung gayon, ang mga lumang sementeryo ay mga historikal na espasyo: nalalaman natin kung hanggang saan ang inabot ng urbanisasyon noon; at saan nagsisimula ang espasyo ng probinsiyal.

Minamarkahan ng mga lumang sementeryo kung saan ang hangganan ng loob at labas sa lumang siyudad. Maaaring matukoy kung saan ang sentro ng mga bayan.

Puwede rin nating masilip ang tanaw sa hinaharap ng mga ninuno natin: kung positibo ang kanilang paniniwala sa pag-unlad, mas malayo sa sentro ng siyudad ang mga lumang sementeryo. Pero kung madilim ang kanilang hula sa kinabukasan, higit na malapit sa sentro ang mga tinatayong sementeryo.

Ang paglawak ng sementeryo ay nakabatay sa pag-usbong ng mga siyudad. Habang lumalaki ang populasyon, tumataas ang lebel ng sibilisasyon, lumalago ang ekonomiya – lumalawak din ang sakop at loob ng mga sementeryo. Ang mga katabing sakahan at bakanteng lupa ay ginagawang bahagi ng sementeryo.

Pero darating ang panahon na kakailanganing lagyan ng bakuran ang sementeryo. Bakit? Dahil sa patuloy na paglaki ng mga siyudad, ang mga lupa sa paligid ng mga sementeryo ay ginagawang tirahan at mga komersiyal na espasyo. Kung dati rati’y natatanaw mula sa mga sementeryo ang malawak na bukirin ng kanayunan, ngayon pinalilibutan ito ng sementong kagubatan. Maaaring sabihin na ito ay batas ng pag-unlad.

Kapag itinakda na ang hangganan ng mga sementeryo, nagbubunsod ito ng pagbabago sa loob. Kumikipot ang mga daanan, binabansot ang mga puntod, pinag-iisa ang puntod ng mga pamilya, nagtatayo ng “condominium” para mailibing ang mas maraming tao.

Halimbawa: ang North at South Cemeteries ng Metro Manila. Ang espasyo sa pagitan ng dalawang sementeryong ito ay sumasakop sa loob ng lumang Metro Manila. Ang labas ng Metro Manila ay nagsisimula sa labas din ng mga sementeryong ito. Dati, pinalilibutan ang mga ito ng malalawak na damuhan. Ngayon, napalitan ito ng mga barung-barong at matatayog na gusali. Saksi ang mga sementeryong ito sa pagbabago sa siyudad.

Ano pa ang sinisimbolo ng mga lumang sementeryo: Ang mga ito ay buhay na patotoo sa kakitiran ng imahinasyon ng tao. May panahong inakala ng mga tao na ang pag-unlad ay aabot lamang sa espasyong sinasakupan ng mga sementeryo. Para bang ang mensahe ay ganito: Hanggang dito na lamang ang pag-unlad, dito magwawakas ang buhay ng lipunan, ng kasaysayan.

Kung gayon, hindi lang pagpanaw ang simbolo ng mga sementeryo. Higit pa ang silbi nito para sa mga nabubuhay, kaysa sa mga humimlay na. May buhay sa mga espasyong matagal ng minarkahang para sa mga nawalan na ng buhay.

Engklabo

Para sa bahaging ito, nakakuha ako ng inspirasyon sa pagbabasa ng aklat ni Naomi Klein: No Logo; at binalikan ko ang aking pakikipagtalastasan sa mga manggagawa ng Export Processing Zone sa Rosario, Cavite noong 2005.

Matindi ang pagsasamantala sa loob ng mga engklabo. Tinutukoy ko ang mga nagsulputang Export Processing Zone sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa. Nasa loob ito ng teritoryo ng Pilipinas pero tila nasa labas sila ng jurisdiction ng mga ahensiya ng pamahalaan. Ang mga kumpanya dito ay halos walang binabayarang buwis; at hindi pinapatupad ang mga batas ng paggawa (minimum wage, karapatan sa pag-uunyon). Parang mga embassy, opisina ng UN, at mga tagong kampo ng militar. Nasa mapa ng Pilipinas pero hindi sakop ng batas ng bansa.

Protektadong looban ang mga engklabo. Mahalaga daw sa ekonomiya ng bansa ang kita mula sa paglalabas (export) ng mga produkto mula sa assembly line sa loob ng mga engklabo. Pansinin ang ginamit na termino: assembly line at hindi manufacturing industry. Tama ang obserbasyon ni Klein: Walang makikitang usok mula sa loob ng mga engklabo. Hindi kasi mga pabrika ang makikita sa mga loobang ito. Walang bagong kagamitang nililikha na kailangang para sa industriyalisasyon ng lipunan.

Kung ang paglago ng sementeryo ay nakabatay sa paglawak ng siyudad, ang loob naman ng engklabo ay hindi apektado kung ano ang nangyayari sa kanyang labas. Magkaroon man ng pagbabago ng liderato, bumaha, o manalo si Pacquiao, may ibang ritmo ng buhay o dinamikong sinusunod ang mga engklabo. Tuloy ang paggana ng assembly line, tuloy ang kontraktuwalisasyon, tuloy ang pasok ng mga manggagawa, lalo na kung peak season sa Amerika at Europa. 24/7 kumbaga. Ibig sabihin, tuloy ang pagsasamantala.

Samantala, ang labas ay binabago ng mga aktibidad sa loob ng engklabo. Halimbawa, nagkaroon ng pundamental na transpormasyon sa Rosario, Cavite nang tinayo ang isang EPZ dito. Ang mga bukid ay naging barung-barong. Nagsulputan ang mga masisikip na dormitoryo ng mga manggagawa. Nawala ang mga magsasaka, naging migrant town ang bayan. Dumating ang mga magsasaka mula sa ibang bayan upang maging manggagawa sa EPZ.

Lumaki ang populasyon ng Rosario dahil sa EPZ. Pero hindi nadagdagan ang kita ng lokal na pamahalaan. Walang legal at pinansiyal na pananagutan diumano ang EPZ sa mga pagbabagong naganap sa Rosario. Ayaw kilalanin ng EPZ ang mga masasamang dinulot ng pagpasok nito sa bayan ng Rosario tulad ng paglala ng polusyon at kahirapan.

Ayaw kumilos ng pamahalaan. Malayong magbago ang tindig ng pamahalaan. Ang estado ay nariyan upang pangalagaan ang interes ng kapitalista. Paano babaguhin ang di-pantay na relasyon sa loob-labas ng mga engklabo? – Sa pamamagitan ng pag-oorganisa sa mga manggagawa ng EPZ. Ang mga manggagawa ay nagbubuo ng mga organisasyon sa labas ng EPZ: Unyon sa labas. Isa itong epektibong halimbawa kung paano babaguhin ng labas ang loob; kung paano pupwersahin ng labas ang pagbabago sa loob.

Sona

Maraming looban sa kanayunan. Maraming looban sa labas. Ang tinutukoy ko ang loob ng mga sonang gerilya. Ang paglabas, ang pagtahak sa landas ng labas ay pagpasok din sa isang espasyo ng loob. Ang mga taong-labas ay mga taong-loob din. Ang mga loobang ito sa kanayunan ay kinakatakutan ng naghaharing uri, kinukutya, minamaliit, kinakaila. Bakit? Dahil ang paglawak ng mga loobang ito ay hudyat din ng paghina ng kapit ng Kapital sa bansa. Ibig sabihin, gumugulong ang proseso ng pagbubuo ng mga bagong loob at bagong labas.

Ugnay

Sementeryo, engklabo, sonang gerilya?

Hindi ba’t ang proletaryo, tagahukay ng puntod ng kapitalismo, ay minsang nang hinusgahan na tapos na ang kanyang historikal na misyon na gapiin ang pwersa ng kapitalismo? Laos na raw ang teorya’t praktika na umaasa sa pag-aalsa ng manggagawa upang baguhin ang lipunan. Tapos na ang kasaysayan. Nailibing na ang sosyalistang mithiin ng proletaryo.

Pero nariyan pa rin ang proletaryo. Nariyan pa rin ang pagsasamantala sa manggagawa. Buhay pa rin ang mga engklabong pumapatay sa mga manggagawa. Paano sasabihing lipas na ang rebolusyong proletaryo kung ang kondisyon upang maisakatuparan ito ay hindi pa rin nawawala? Hangga’t nananatiling mabangis ang kapitalismo, higit na nagiging makatwiran ang pagsusulong ng alternatibo nito: sosyalismo.

Ang tanaw ng proletaryo ay lagi sa hinaharap. Kaya ang pagnanais niya na palayain ang kanyang uri sa pamamagitan ng pag-aalsa ay nananatiling buhay.

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Space and resistance

Space and resistance (Part 2)

Part 1: Metro Manila and deregulation

The Metro Manila Development Authority or MMDA is an effective tool of the State to exercise its authority in the metropolis. It is used to control public spaces, especially the areas where the working class wields a strong influence. It has legal functions but its operations are extralegal, even undemocratic. It ignores public criticism of its practices because it is not directly accountable to the voting public; it reports directly to the President of the Republic. The MMDA fulfills the fantasies of a fascist state without fear of legal punishment.

It has jurisdiction over the whole of Metro Manila, sometimes even Mega Manila. It is ready to bypass the authority of elected local officials in order to complete its priority projects. It does not want to be hampered by petty ordinances or court injunctions. It demolishes urban poor communities even without a court order because it derives its mandate directly from Malacanang, and it does not fear the voters in the next elections.

The MMDA is not only part of the reactionary state; it is supported by the ruling class and secretly admired by the middle class. It has established a semblance of order in the most important public spaces in the metropolis. Order is equated with the absence of eyesores: homeless families, street vendors, topless men, dirty drivers, slums. Since the semifeudal economy is always under crisis, a façade of a working state has to be achieved by implementing order in the streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces. This visible lack of chaos in the streets is important to show that the weak state is still able to govern; to hide social conflicts; to mask class struggles.

The MMDA serves the interests of the elite. Therefore it is clothed with ample power, funding and even the right to violate local and national laws if it is crucial to maintain public order. MMDA-like agencies are now being planned in other urban areas. The MMDA, more than the police and military, is the most valuable instrument of the State in dominating the urban public spaces which are controlled by the working class.

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In his book The Condition of Postmodernity, scholar David Harvey emphasizes the significance of dominating space to wield political and economic power. He writes:

“The ability to influence the production of space is an important means to augment social power. In material means this means that those who can affect the spatial distribution of investments in transport and communications, in physical and social infrastructures, or the territorial distribution of administrative, political, and economic powers can often reap material awards.”

It is crucial to learn how to “influence over the ways of representing space, as well as over the spaces of representation.” The State is in control because it controls the space. Harvey adds:

“One of the principal tasks of the capitalist state is to locate power in the spaces which the bourgeoisie controls, and disempower those spaces which oppositional movements have the greatest potentiality to command.”

Harvey notes that “Working-class movements are, in fact, generally better at organizing in and dominating place than they are at commanding space.”

To exercise control, we should remember that “Any struggle to reconstitute power relations is a struggle to re-organize their spatial bases.”

The State through the MMDA, among other oppressive instruments, is able to command space in Imperial Manila. It protects capital by dominating space; it weakens the working class by reclaiming public spaces which are supposed to be under the influence of radical forces.

The challenge is not to mimic MMDA’s Gestapo tactics. A leftwing MMDA is also not required. But it is important to understand how the MMDA invades and reclaims space to strengthen the State. The power dynamics of space and hegemony must be further integrated into the theory and practice of resistance movements in urban Philippines.

The State is aware of its dominance over public space in Metro Manila. It taunts the radicals to launch protest actions in all the Freedom Parks of Metro Manila, even without city permits. It can tolerate resistance in several places as long as it maintains a firm grip on important public spaces.

Harvey points out that “The capacity to link workers in united action across space has always been an important variable in class struggle.” The Philippine Left has demonstrated in the past that it is able to control public spaces by effectively linking and coordinating protest actions in public spaces (For example: 1978 noise barrage, welgang bayan during the 1980s).

The State has since then mastered the brutal art of preempting serious attempts by progressive forces to expand their controlled spaces in Metro Manila.

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The State is dominant but its hegemony is not total. The battle to dominate the public spaces of Metro Manila is not yet over.

Today, the State is invading bigger spaces occupied by the poor. These spaces are being transformed into exclusive and protected domains of the elite and their middle class employees. The working classes have to fight back.

The State has succeeded in “reterritorializing” EDSA (formerly known as Highway 54). Working class spaces along the popular highway are now the target of the State’s modernization projects. These investments include the building of malls, railways, business centers, IT parks, residential villas. The State will remove the last remaining traces of subversive territories in EDSA (by building billboards? MMDA signposts?)

The State no longer tolerates the working class attempts to reclaim EDSA-Ortigas. It is not God’s altar which is being desecrated every time a rally is conducted in front of EDSA Shrine. It is the ruling class which could not bear to see the subalterns exercising ownership in a space which has been already claimed by the elite.

There are two unfinished urban-political-spatial projects which the working class can effectively dominate in the coming years: Commonwealth and C-5.

The two national roads – longer and wider than EDSA – have not yet been completely placed under complete hegemony by the State. The working class is still influential in many areas of the two roads. The military was dispatched earlier to start the cleansing process. If not challenged, the working class will also lose Commonwealth and C-5. The ruling class will seize these spaces. The poor will be removed; their communities destroyed; their culture/politics defeated.

The future is certainly red. But it is possible for “eternity to intervene in time.” The task of the liberating forces from the countryside will be made easier if Metro Manila’s public spaces are already under the control of the urban progressives.

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Rice revolution

Jun Lozada is now blogging. Thank you Erwin of Inquirer and Trina of Abs-Cbn for the write-ups. Bloggers Kapihan will participate and help in launching the blog of Pampanga Governor Among Ed Panlilio. Free transportation and food will be provided to 30 Manila-based bloggers. If you’re interested in joining the trip to Pampanga, please email me or visit our group blog for details.

Rice continues to be more expensive despite the announcement of the agricultural department that local rice production is higher this year. The harvest season failed to stabilize the soaring cost of rice. Perhaps unscrupulous merchants are hoarding supplies again. Or maybe the government has not procured enough rice supplies from local farmers.

This news is disturbing. What will happen during the lean months of the year? What will be the cost of rice when supplies dwindle in the next few months? Strong typhoons are expected to affect rice production. Rice importation is the convenient solution but rice exporting countries like Vietnam and Cambodia are also experiencing food supply problems.

The people should expect the worst during the third quarter of the year. Food prices will continue to go up. Hunger will worsen. Consumer panic will rise. Protests will intensify. The agricultural and economic policies of the government will be questioned.

Malacanang said food riots will never occur in the Philippines. This statement should be clarified. The government should not worry about food riots. It should prepare for peasant uprisings. Mass unrest over rising food prices could lead to revolutionary upheavals.

In the past one hundred years, more than forty land reform programs were implemented by the government in order to quell discontent in the countryside. But these token programs have failed to weaken peasant-led mobilizations. Thousands of farmers have been recruited in the red army of the communist movement. Land reform and food security are the basic programs of the armed left.

Malacanang may be correct when it asserted that food riots are highly unlikely to develop in the Philippines. But who needs food riots when a peasant revolution is gaining strength in the provinces? Food riots will just be a sideshow to the great street battles between the urban proletariat and the defenders of the ruling order.

Rice has the potential to spark an uprising. The August 1945 revolution in Vietnam was led by hungry peasants and urban dwellers who stormed public halls demanding food, rice and independence. The food issue unified the Vietnamese nation and became the launching pad for future armed insurrections.

The slogan in 1945 was very powerful: “Break open the rice stores to avert famine.” This mobilized the masses which ended colonial occupation and paved the way for the establishment of an independent democratic Vietnamese nation.

Scholar Gabriel Kolko further explains the success of the revolution in Vietnam:

“When the Viet Minh declared a general insurrection on August 12, the millions of euphoric people who filled the streets of Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, and dozens of other cities also led to Viet Minh takeovers of villages and towns everywhere. What had initially been a peasant mass movement now merged with the urban population to strike at the crucial organs of the colonial system in the cities.”

Imagine a political force in the Philippines capable of commanding the poor to “Break open the NFA stores to avert famine.” Then the people will be told to occupy the streets, government offices are to be raided, vital public installations are to be seized. The rice and food question will sustain the Philippine revolution.

Perhaps the sudden obsession of the president to pacify the restless masses by promising lower power rates, tuition and text services is a desperate measure on the part of the government to delay the inevitable rebellion of the poor. What this government wants to prevent is not food riots but a people’s war.

Food riots

Food riots are taking place in many parts of the world. These bold actions could inspire local activists to intensify street protests in the country. Consumer groups can learn from the tactics of campaigners in other countries.

A "Rice Revolution" has erupted in Bangladesh last month. Thousands of workers, most of them women, clashed with the police during a rally where the workers protested skyrocketing food prices.

The general strike in Egypt last April started when employees of a textile plant announced plans to go on strike over low salaries and price hikes. A big coalition of workers supported the protest and called a general strike to demand decent living conditions. Consumers “joined” the strike by staying home, while others participated in street processions leading to city squares. The strike was announced through text messages, emails and through the popular social networking platform, Facebook.

The general strike in Egypt can be replicated in the Philippines. It is curious that Egypt is the world’s biggest consumer of bread while the Philippines is the biggest importer of rice.

A few days ago police fired teargas on hundreds of demonstrators protesting against high food prices in Kenya. Fuel protests are spreading in Europe. Fishermen from Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and France have gone on strike to protest skyrocketing fuel prices. Ten years after the massive street protests in Jakarta, students are once again leading the rallies in Indonesia today.

Reuters reported that housewives and youth were the frontrunners in the street rallies in Ivory Coast last April. They blocked the roads with barricades and burning tires as a protest against rising food prices. The prime minister of Haiti was forced to resign after food riots gripped the country for many days.

Food protests were also reported in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mauritania, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Yemen and Jordan.

Economists claim the era of cheap food is over. Activists warn the era of elitist politics will soon come to an end too.

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Defending human rights

In its year-end report on the Philippines, human rights watchdog Karapatan noted the decline in the number of human rights violations this year, with 68 victims of extrajudicial killings and 26 enforced disappearances compared to 185 killings and 93 disappearances in 2006.

Despite this development, there is still no reason to celebrate. Summary killings and forced abductions are not acceptable in a society which claims to be the most democratic in Asia.

Karapatan revealed that 29 victims of torture, 116 victims of illegal detention, and 7,542 victims of illegal displacement or forced evacuation were recorded this year. Karapatan’s documentation shows that from January 2001 up to Oct. 31 this year, there were a total of 887 victims of extrajudicial killings and 185 victims of enforced disappearances. There are still 235 political prisoners languishing in Philippine jails, 204 of whom were imprisoned during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term.

Karapatan attributes the lower figures to the successful campaign to bring to international attention the high number of human rights violations in the country. A strong lobby from international institutions and local peoples’ organizations helped in exposing the repressive policies of the Arroyo administration.

The Philippine Supreme Court has decided to take a more pro-active role in guaranteeing respect of human rights in the country. The Arroyo regime is also under pressure as it prepares for the April 2008 Universal Periodic Review as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

As expected, local police authorities insist there are fewer cases of human rights violations. They claim only five incidents were reported and validated this year compared to the 38 cases reported last year.

Could the upcoming U.N. review be the motivating force behind Philippine officials who insisted on the creation of a human rights body in the Southeast Asian region? Could this be the Philippine government’s source of confidence in reprimanding Myanmar’s junta for the latter’s murky human rights record? Could this be the reason why a university in Spain recognized Arroyo as a human rights champion? What’s next for Arroyo, a Nobel Peace Prize?

To sustain the momentum in improving the human rights situation in the country, it is necessary for the national leadership to implement bold steps like prosecuting military officials accused of masterminding the assassination of activists and journalists. The government should revise its anti-insurgency program which identifies members of legal activist groups as legitimate military targets.

The government should also release political prisoners as a gesture of peace and national reconciliation. After all, wasn’t the pardon granted by Arroyo to convicted plunderer and former President Joseph Estrada to promote unity in the country?

It is also advisable to review domestic laws, programs and mandates of institutions which seek to protect human rights. For example, the Commission on Human Rights should be strengthened to fulfill its objectives.

The CHR is tasked by law to investigate all forms of human rights violations involving civil and political rights. It can exercise its visitation rights over jails, prisons and detention facilities. It can monitor the Philippine government’s compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights. Unknown to many people, it can also grant immunity from prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession of evidence is necessary to determine the truth in any investigation it conducts.

But the CHR is unable to exercise its functions effectively. In several instances, the body was reminded by the courts that it may investigate, receive evidence and make findings of fact as regards claimed human rights violations, but it cannot adjudicate. The CHR cannot issue a restraining order or writ of injunction. It is only empowered to investigate human rights violations involving civil and political rights. Economic and social rights are not included in its mandate.

Members of Congress should discuss how the commission can be further empowered to advance human rights in the country. The CHR should be an independent body with sufficient authority to prosecute human rights violators.

Congress has other options to promote human rights in the country. Next year, Congress can review or repeal the anti-terror law. Right now, Congress should assert its oversight functions in monitoring the implementation of the draconian measure. Congress can prioritize the passage of a law against torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. There are international legal instruments which can guide Philippine lawmakers.

Members of Congress should read the vital provisions in the Philippine Constitution on human rights protection. In Article XIII, Sec.1 of the Constitution, it says that "Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good." In Article XI, Sec.11, one of the principles of the state is to value the dignity of every person and guarantee full respect for human rights.

Religious politicians can refer to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church which reminds the faithful that "the movement towards the identification and proclamation of human rights is one of the most significant attempts to respond effectively to the inescapable demands of human dignity."

Human rights protection is not one of the achievements of Arroyo. On her watch civil liberties were curtailed. Unknown assassins have targeted activists and journalists. Political violence has gripped the Catholic-dominated Philippines. But the people are fighting back. There is still hope in recognizing, respecting, and protecting human rights in Philippine society.

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Southeast Asia’s longest insurgency

Many foreigners are stunned to know that a communist rebellion is still raging in the Philippines. In other countries of the region, either the communist threat has been quelled or there are no more armed guerrillas fighting the government.

Next year, the Communist Party of the Philippines will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding. Since 1968, the CPP has waged an armed struggle in the countryside with the aim of toppling the government and creating a Maoist society. The guerrilla warfare pursued by the CPP is now the longest running insurgency in Southeast Asia.

Based on official documents on its Web site, the CPP is not yet on the threshold of clinching victory in the country. It claims to be operating at the strategic defensive phase of the protracted people’s war. But the CPP continues to be the number one national security threat in the Philippines. Its armed forces, though much smaller than the military, are strategically scattered throughout the archipelago. In short, the armed rebellion led by the CPP is neither winning nor losing at the moment.

For the government, the CPP is the major stumbling block preventing the Philippines from achieving sustained economic growth like its more prosperous Asian neighbours. The CPP is blamed for the disunity and perpetual chaos in the country. The government insists that poverty will not be eradicated and foreign investors will shy away from the country as long as communist rebels are lurking in the provinces.

For the communists, the armed revolution is the antidote to widespread poverty. The CPP reminds the government that communists did not create corruption, landlessness, inequality and oppression. Rebels assert that hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of people sympathize with the communist cause since the revolution aims to uplift the welfare and dignity of workers, peasants and the poor.

Despite its failure to capture state power the CPP wields a little, and sometimes significant, influence on Philippine politics. During the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1986, the CPP played a key role in sustaining the pro-democracy movement. The CPP was the most consistent and formidable political force that opposed martial law during the Marcos years. It gained prestige and strength as it persevered in undermining the unjust Marcos rule.

After the downfall of Marcos, the CPP did not renounce its armed struggle. Peace talks were initiated between the government and the communist rebels, but they soon broke down after disagreements on the framework of the negotiations. An amnesty program was offered but it was ineffective in encouraging the rebels to surrender their arms.

A turning point in the history of the CPP was the rectification movement during the early 1990s. The CPP affirmed its adherence to the Maoist line of encircling the cities from the countryside. There were a number of cadres who disagreed with this theory and proposed urban insurrection as a model for advancing the Philippine revolution. There were members of the party who wanted to embrace a peaceful transition to socialism. The CPP also apologized for the brutal killing of some its own members wrongly accused of being double agents of the government. Those who disagreed with the basic principles of the movement broke away from the CPP.

According to the military, the rectification movement diminished the strength of the CPP and permanently affected the winning chances of the revolution. To entice disillusioned rebels into joining mainstream society, the government repealed the anti-subversion law. Congress also passed the party-list system to persuade the CPP to participate in the elections.

The CPP responded by pointing out that conditions in the Philippines were still conducive to waging an armed revolution. Poverty had worsened, land reform had not been implemented and the elite continued to rely on the military to protect their economic and political interests. The CPP also dismissed the token representation granted by the government to accommodate communists in Congress.

Another reason the CPP has refused to join mainstream politics is the dominance of militarist thinking in the government. While Marcos was removed from power, the generals continued to dictate the policies in dealing with the extreme left. It is wrong to assume that peace talks, amnesty programs and economic incentives were the tactics of the government to solve the insurgency. Since the Marcos era, the principal approach of the government in dealing with the CPP was to use violent and repressive tools against the armed and even the unarmed members of the left.

Accused sympathizers of the CPP are harassed and persecuted. Hundreds of peasant communities suspected of being influenced by communists are subjected to food blockades and hamletting. The rampant human rights violations in the Philippines are linked to the military strategy of liquidating the rebels and their alleged support base among the civilian population. The total war approach has resulted in the brutal assassination, massacre, torture and kidnapping of non-combatant leftists and even innocent individuals.

The CPP is criticized by political scientists for its refusal to join the elections. But admission to membership in the CPP is like signing a death warrant. The military will not allow communists to be part of the government. In the Philippines, "the only good communist is a dead communist."

The government has vowed to crush the rebel movement in three years. But the CPP seems resolute in continuing its armed struggle. Perhaps the CPP is inspired by the rebellion started by Francisco Dagohoy, who opposed Spanish colonialism for 85 years during the 1700s.

At a time when communism is supposed to be dead, a Maoist revolution is surviving in the Philippines. There is nothing surprising about this seemingly historical aberration since poverty, injustice, exploitation, repression and foreign intervention are equally astonishing in Philippine society. There are old-school Maoists, but the Philippines has plenty of old-school reactionaries as well.

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