The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) celebrated its 52nd anniversary last 26 December with hardly a whimper despite its threats to conduct massive actions against state security forces in answer to President Rodrigo Duterte’s refusal to declare a holiday ceasefire.
The CPP’s own armed force, the New People’s Army (NPA), will follow suit with its own 52nd anniversary on 29 March with its future in question as the Maoist group’s influence had waned in the last 30 years since the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted.
Marcos was the CPP-NPA’s most potent recruiter that, at the time of his ouster in 1986, various sources claimed the NPA’s strength was at 26,000 fighters with nearly half of it — some say 10,000 — fully armed.
Had the NPA received a stronger international support at that time, it would have achieved its target of a “strategic stalemate” with the government forces.
It means it could have either forged the CPP as an equal power to the government or pushed further and tried to bring down Marcos to build a government that would pave toward a socialist state.
But then, the EDSA revolution happened.
EDSA gave the more moderate social democrats and what remains of the still very strong traditional set of business-backed politicians to marry their political agenda.
They quickly gained control of the government and eased the nationalist forces and the Mao-influenced personalities out of the government. It did not take long before the Maoists cut their support to Cory Aquino and roused their army from sleep in the hills.
Before the first anniversary of the EDSA revolution and with the “yellow fever” still burning hot, farmers calling for land reform were massacred at the Mendiola Bridge leading to Malacañang where Cory sits. The then president’s family was yet ready to give up Hacienda Luisita, the vast track of sugarcane land in Tarlac and site of many other blooding dispersals that followed the Black Thursday event at the gates of the Palace.
Back again on the fringes, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison in early 1988 was still talking about the possibility of forging a “strategic stalemate” between the government and the “revolutionary forces.”
He was confident that it was to happen “in two to three years’ time” as he saw the “disintegration” of the national power structure and the “maneuvering and plotting” of its various factions. He could have been referring to the split between Cory’s then yellow majority and the rebel forces who needed her massive civilian following when they broke away from Marcos.
Sison’s reading of that present history could not have been wrong, except that the CPP and the NPA were not ready for the fight ahead like they were in 1986.
Joma had since been in exile in The Netherlands since he was freed by Cory to show an initial sign of goodwill when her government started the peace negotiations with the CPP.
The new government had also offered an avenue for reform and accepted personalities formerly in the underground — forced there by Marcos and his oppressive policies.
Leadership of the CPP-NPA had then been broken. There was no Internet then that would have made communication between Sison and the local leaders he had entrusted the party and its army with.
As Sison hoped for a brighter future for the party he formed when he broke away from the Soviet-backed Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-1930 (Philippine Communist Party, founded in 1930), his local leaders started purging their ranks in suspicion of their cadres serving as agents for the government and the military. The CPP and the NPA had their own EJK (extrajudicial killing) — decades before it became an oft-used term — purportedly to cleanse their own government in the countryside.
Various reports claim different numbers, but some 10,000 cadres had reportedly perished in that deadly purging of young and dedicated Maoist cadres.
It also led to a big split in the party that it suffered badly. It lost the strength it once brandished as it called itself the “vanguard of the revolution.”
In 2016, Sison was chummy with then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. After Duterte’s triumph, some personalities from the most dominant local Left party were named to various government positions until their split two years later.
Now at odds after Duterte’s refusal to revive the peace talks and the President’s favoring of the military in most his decisions, Sison is threatening to revive the NPA’s liquidation squads aside from the various military actions he said his NPA would conduct.
This was laughed off by Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Joseph Steven Paduano, who once led the Sparrow Unit/Alex Boncayao Brigade. The political and economic conditions pervading in the country could not sustain operations of an urban hit squad, he said.
Sison’s “protracted war” is not working, he added.
“We believed at that time that the war we have been waging for several decades during that time cannot be won. There’s no win in sight,” Paduano, known as “Lualhati Carapali” during his days with the underground movement, stated.
“As a matter of strategy, we objected at the time because we know that we cannot win with this particular strategy and tactics. It was 1992 and 30 years after, did they win? No. Because the strategy and tactics of the CPP-NPA are not clear,” Paduano added.
Sison’s statements, however, are giving the government more reasons to pour money into the military’s anti-insurgency campaign. For sure officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are happy with what they are getting as they continuously vow to eradicate the communists whom they brand as “terrorists.” They’ve been doing it for 52 years, too.
The AFP said there are only about 3,000 to 4,000 of them in the hills.
Those numbers are a pittance that Sison could no longer hope to achieve his dream of a “strategic stalemate” in his lifetime. Those numbers are easy for the AFP to erase if it wants to.