Communist Party of the Philippines

Big sticks, chopsticks, and a cake

In World War II Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin forged an alliance to defeat Adolf Hitler. It was a reality sandwich they had to eat – as distasteful to the capitalist leaders as it was to the communist leader – because there was nothing else on the table.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin served a similar sandwich last week. Thank God it was nowhere near as foul-tasting as the sandwich that those three WWII musketeers ate.

Gazmin said, “At this point in time, we can’t stand alone. We need an ally. If we do not do this, we will be belittled by bigger forces. That’s what’s happening now. China is already there, they are sitting on our territory. They are not leaving. What will we do? Will we just wait until they are already by our doorsteps? Right now, they are already at our garage…While we are filing cases and at the same time building up our capability to address our security concerns, it’s important that we collaborate with other countries friendly and sympathetic to us.”

That was a warning to China’s leadership, reminding them that although we may not carry a big stick, we have friends who do and are just dying for an excuse to bash Chinese heads. It’s about time, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, some Filipinos with a weakness for chopsticks believe that the administration’s policy of “speak softly but ride with friends who carry big sticks” is unpatriotic and should be opposed at every turn.

The Communist Party of the Philippines claimed we are “provoking China to be more aggressive in its defense of its territories and push beyond its sea borders”. So China’s behavior is our fault

Bayan Muna’s Renato Reyes tried to scare us, “Is the Philippines really prepared to face a confrontation of that scale? Or will be be dragged into a war between two competing superpowers?” We’re shaking in our boots, Sherlock.

Party-lister Neri Colmenares went jingo-ballistic, “While we should strongly assert our territory against China we should not allow a bully to replace another bully. It also serves the imperialist agenda of the US making its pivot to Asia to reinforce its hegemony and promote the US war industry. We denounce President Benigno Aquino III’s subservience, undermining of our sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of the dispute.The U.S. troops should be pulled out and we will file a resolution to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

He also used Gazmin’s statement to distract us, “This is an insult to our veterans and comfort women who suffered under the Japanese during World War II.” As if scars deserved more attention than the thousand cuts China is inflicting on us even as he speaks.

Gabriela’s Luzviminda Ilagan, thinking she was among pre-schoolers, played show and tell, “What’s in a name? Access arrangements, military exercises or routine port calls – they all mean the same thing, translating into unhampered use of facilities and structures in Philippine territory for foreign military use.”

KMP’s Antonio Flores turned constitutionalist and warned, “The President is courting an impeachment complaint for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for trampling our sovereignty and rabid puppetry to the US.” Seriously, dude, a puppet capable of betrayal and rabidity? I hate to be the guy to break the news to you but Pinnochio was not a real person.

However in fairness to the CPP-NDF there is some bite behind their bark. Yes, there are potential downsides for the weakest member in a partnership where each party has to mind its selfish national interest even in the face of a common threat. Yes, the partnership with Japan and the US could leave us with the short stick.

But we are not going into the partnership with our eyes closed. We know the greater risk is not to do anything, specially in the face of threats from a country that lives by Erap’s code, “A hungry stomach knows no law.”

China will eat us up if we remain defenseless and alone. We need backup for now. Backup that carries bigger sticks than our adversary. That is why Sec. Gazmin enunciated the policy of partnering with bigsticks who also see China as a threat to their national interest.

An alliance with Japan and the US against China may not be the ideal policy but it is the only one on the table. The CPP-NDF has not presented an alternate plan. All it has done so far is to tell us what we must not do and who we must not offend.

I suspect it is because a nationalistic CPP-NDF security plan will simply mirror the administration’s “subservient” plan. Once in power they will find that the Philippines is still the same defenseless little country at the mercy of big powers. It will still be unable to defend itself by itself.

Consequently, all that the CPP-NDF will be able to do is rearrange seating arrangements. Japan and the US will become the threat and the “friendly and sympathetic” country will be China. Sorry but musical chairs is a parlor game, it is not a solution to our national security deficiencies.

I favor a plan that addresses the cause rather than the symptoms of a problem. Let’s stop the flag-waving for a minute and look for the root cause of the territorial disputes. It’s money. There is a lot of money beneath that sea, enough for all of us to live comfortably.

So let’s walk away from the “over our dead bodies” mentality. That insanity only leads to a lot of dead bodies and no money. Let’s all sit-down and agree on an equal-sharing arrangement. Because a slice of the cake is better than nothing at all.

CPC at 90 / Whatever happened to PKP and CPP?

I was shopping yesterday nearby SM China when I saw a box on the shopper’s hallway full of free 90th Founding Anniversary of the Communist Party of China souvenirs up for grabs. I picked 5 pieces of [email protected] stickers for posterity’s sake. Going home I thought about how far CPC has come a long way from a small group of idealists in Shanghai to the world’s biggest political party and helmsmen of one the world’s superpower. At the same time, I thought about whatever happened to the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and its splinter-group and more known Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

CPP was founded on July 1, 1921 in Shanghai by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao with USSR’s help. At that time Russians were exporting their ideology and they’ve found willing recipients among Chinese intellectuals and students foremost of which is the young Mao Zedong. According to some Chinese historians the original purpose of the Russians in co-organizing CPC was to infiltrate the ruling Koumintang (KMT) government and to reform the party from within. The Russians were at that time had access to KMT given the cordiality and open-mindedness that KMT founder Sun Yat-sen had given to communists. Hence, for the Russians it was but practical and more efficient to just be part of KMT. Regardless of several oppositions to this move, CPC was incorporated into KMT and the Chinese United Front Party with KMT spearheading was formed.

With the death of Sun Yat Sen in 1925 came the split of the United Front. Sun was replaced by Chiang Kai-shek, an ardent anti-communist military man. 2 years later, in 1927, the CPC and KMT fought in a bloody civil war. The young Mao Zedong and his peasant fighters gained prominence among CPC members as he successfully waged battles against KMT.

It was at this time of disunity and strife in China that the Empire of Japan launched its deadly attack in 1937. With China and its people fighting and killing one another, the Japanese saw a perfect time to start its brutal Greater East Asia colonization campaign. To the surprise of Japanese Imperial Army, KMT and CPP re-united and successfully won over them in 1945. Soon after, KMT and CPP continued on their war. KMT was backed by US while CPP was backed by USSR. CPP now led by Mao Zedong emerged as the victors in 1949. KMT fled to Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China was born.

From 1949 to Mao’s death in 1976, China has experienced painful experiences on their course of finding solutions to social problems and challenges using Marxism-Lennism-Maoism as guiding principles. Foremost of this experience is the Cultural Revolution which many Chinese now consider as their nation’s lost decade. With the death of the Mao came Deng Xiaoping and his Reform and Opening-up Program. From that time on until the present time, China zoomed from a backward, ideologically-driven country to a progressive and ever-prospering state.

With the rich history of CPC and with its share of great failures and overwhelming successes, CPC under Hu Jintao has a lot to celebrate and be proud of. But it would do well for CPC not to rest on its laurel and be complacent. The 90th anniversary is a perfect time not just for celebration but for them to make a sincere reflection on whether they are really living up to its ideal on giving the Chinese people a better, happy, and peaceful life. CPC ought to reflect on their recent actions on the Spratlys, on curtailing civil rights, and most importantly, on the deep disenchantment of the Chinese people on government corruption. I suppose Hu Jintao is very well aware of this. On his speech on CPC @ 90 celebrations he emphatically mentioned that corruption is the number 1 enemy of CPC and China. How true, after all, the old generation CPC leaders gained the trust and support of the Chinese people because of the corruption and decadence of KMT.

Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) was founded 9 years after CPC was formed. PKP was established during the American colonial era in November 7, 1930 by Crisanto Evangelista and by members of various labor groups. PKP like CPC has links with Moscow and the Comintern. Banned by the Commonwealth government, PKP made the Socialist Party of Pedro Abad Santos as its legal front. Pedro is the brother of former Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and grand uncle of former Sen. Jamby Madrigal’s granduncle. This history kind of explains Jamby’s soft-heart and association with the Philippine Left.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, PKP with its armed group HUKBALAHAP (HUKS) was at the fighting front against the Japanese Imperial Army. At the end of the war in 1945 PKP enjoyed increasing support from the Filipino people most especially from the ranks of peasants and workers. During the 1946 elections, PKP allied with Sergio Osmena’s Nacionalista Party and the Democratic Alliance as against to Manuel Roxas newly-formed Liberal Party. Osmena lost to Roxas on a very tight race. PKP on the other hand, gained 6 seats in the Congress but were not allowed to exercise their functions and duties because of some unscrupulous accusations. Frustrated by government harassment and repression and worsening inequality in the society, PKP and HUKS now led by the Lava Brothers and Luis Taruc went underground in late 40’s and launched bloody campaign against the Manila government. By mid-50’s the PKP and HUKS were neutralized by the hard and charm offensive of the Manila government.

In 1964, Jose Ma. Sison, a young member of PKP, founded Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in an attempt to reinvigorate Philippine communism. Sison later on moved out of PKP after several of its leaders became pro-government. Sison, together with his KM stalwarts formed the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. CPP with its armed group New People’s Army (NPA) were at the forefront of the anti-Marcos dictatorship in the 70’s and early 80’s but was eclipsed by mainstream political personalities during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. After the restoration of democratic process in mid-80’s, Sison decided for CPP not  to participate in the 1987 elections despite strong clamor from among its members to take chance in the new democratic space. It was only in the 90’s after CPP produced splinter-groups and bloody in-fighting that it decided to field and support candidates (irony is several party-lists denies association with CPP, what’s the truth?) while at the same time maintaining NPA to carry on their armed struggle. Meanwhile, the weakened PKP re-organized itself, changed its name to PKP-1930, and is currently being led by Pedro Baguisa.

It is worthy to mention that both PKP and CPP had access to Beijing prior to China’s Reform and Opening-up Program. The pro-Soviet PKP enjoyed affiliations with CPC before the Sino-Soviet split. The CPP with its ideology anchored on Maoism replaced PKP’s seat in Beijing. One persistent rumor is that the infamous 1971 Plaza Miranda Bombing was plotted in Beijing by young Filipino communists.

In reviewing the history and current news on CPC, PKP, and CPP one can easily notice one sharp contrast between the Chinese Communist Party and the communist parties and left-leaning parties in the Philippines. While CPC maintained unity in purpose and vision and was flexible and innovative enough to adapt to the changes in time, its Philippine counterparts were not. Filipino political scientist Mon Casiple on his analysis of Philippine Left said that as long as the Left is fragmented it would be incapable of going mainstream and it will never become a strong force in Philippine politics.

Clearly, Philippine Left leaderships’ penchant for ideological purity and the “correct line”, political radicalism, and organizational sectarianism are its stumbling blocks to fully and effectively “serve the people”. CPP and the Philippine Left ought to have sense of urgency to shape-up and innovate as most people in the Philippines (correct me if I’m wrong) are now feeling alienated and disenchanted, with many of them accusing CPP and the Philippine Left as one of the nation’s stumbling blocks to peace and progress.

 

Image credit: UK Telegraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making sense of EDSA

“I know, for a fact, we cannot go back to the old society, where a few enjoy the fat of the land, and the many suffer. But today, in spite of martial law, the rich are getting richer and the poor are growing in numbers. That cannot be. The meaning of our struggle is to be able to return the freedom. First, you must return the freedom so that all segments of our community, whether from the left or from the right will have the right to speak, and then in that open debate, in that clash of debate in the marketplace, we will produce the clash between the thesis and the antithesis and we will have the synthesis for the Filipino people.” – Ninoy Aquino, Los Angeles, February 15, 1982

That in a nutshell was Ninoy Aquino’s raison d’etre for continuing his struggle against the authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos back in 1981 when he spoke before a gathering in Los Angeles. That was his reason for deciding to go back to the Philippines after spending seven years and seven months in prison, having in the process endured periods of solitary confinement, a forty day hunger strike and as a consequence of that a heart by-pass operation performed on him in the US.

Despite his enjoying the comforts of freedom at the time having been granted indefinite leave from prison after his operation and having accepted a fellowship at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard, Ninoy was committed to his cause. Even if it meant incarceration, he said that if it would help speed up the return of democracy to the Philippines before things took a truly ugly turn for the worse, he would dedicate every last ounce of his blood to make it happen.

I saw for myself the simple yet comfortable life he had made for himself and his family. In May 1982, while on a cross-country tour of the United States, my family and I paid a visit to the Aquinos in Boston. Their home had become a Mecca of sorts for opposition figures like my father who ran with him in the 1978 parliamentary elections under the party Lakas ng Bayan. So almost like a revolving door, Ninoy welcomed us in just as Joe Burgos, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Malaya was about to leave. This was the second time I was to meet Ninoy. The first was at his home on Times Street during his three week furlough from prison in December 1979.

For three days, Ninoy acted as our tour guide. Each day he would take us from the Holiday Inn where we were staying and drive us around in his station wagon to see the major sites in the city including the JFK Memorial Center, Harvard of course, Bunker Hill, the aquarium and the port where some ships from the Boston Tea Party were docked, not to mention the local Toys R Us store!

One night he brought us home and we got to chat with Cory in their dining room while their kids watched television in the adjacent lounge (see photo). After spending the whole day listening to Ninoy recount the many tales he had, this time it was Mrs Aquino who did most of the talking. The contrast was obvious. While Ninoy who had gained a few pounds since the last time I saw him was very jovial and showed no sign of rancor or bitterness from all the years he had suffered in prison, you could tell from the way Cory spoke in her soft-spoken manner that they had indeed been through hell and back.

Clockwise from the top: Cory Aquino, my sister Primavera, myself, Ninoy, my younger sister Katrina, and my mom Carmelita at the Aquino residence in Boston, Massachusetts in 1982. Behind the camera was my father Noli..

And so the question was would Ninoy Aquino return to the Philippines after having felt abandoned by his people for so long. The answer was an emphatic yes. And the reason? Well, it was as he put it to restore freedom. This was as he said in his speech what our forefathers had died for, and it was what countless Filipinos were dying for at the time. He wanted to restore it not by force but through peaceful means following the example of Mahatma Gandhi in India.

This is what transpired although not in the manner he had foreseen. Had Ninoy lived, he would have sought to bring about a political settlement along the lines of South Africa’s end to apartheid. Knowing how Marcos operated though it would not have been easy. Events in the Philippines might instead have mirrored those in Zimbabwe where despite a power-sharing deal with the opposition, President Mugabe remains in charge of the military and continues to oppress his people.

We know from his speeches that Ninoy was in talks with Nur Misuari of the MNLF as well as the Communist Party of the Philippines. He would have sought to bring to the table all political forces to forge an end to conflict by promising a more open democratic space through political and social reforms. The political philosophy that he personally espoused was based on Christian Socialism or the left of center social democrat ideology, but he did not claim to have the solution for governing the 48 million Filipinos at the time and was willing to work with parties of all political persuasion to find one.

A Quarter Century Hence

As we look back on the 25th anniversary of EDSA People Power I, there is a sense of poignancy to this year’s commemoration with the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The desire and yearning for freedom it seems is not confined to the West alone. You might say that the social cauldron that prevailed in the Philippines at the time prevails in these countries now as well. These conditions being a large urban population, with a growing proportion of them under 30 years of age and well-educated, coupled with high unemployment and corrupt, oppressive rulers that have overstayed their welcome.

The utility of material wealth in the absence of guaranteed political and civil rights in this environment is greatly diminished as repressive rulers can at any time arbitrarily strip these privileges away. As evidence mounts on the extent to which these rulers will preserve their grip on power (which in a digital age becomes impossible to cover up), the citizenry begin to demand freedom and are willing to lay down their lives for it. This is exactly what happened in the lead up to EDSA I and to the MENA uprisings.

But, unlike those living in the MENA region, we have the benefit of hindsight–twenty five years of it. As humans we are often prone to try and make sense of past events. As we reflect on those days, we find ourselves asking what did it all mean? What was it all about? Apart from bringing down a dictator and restoring democracy, was there/is there anything more that they were supposed to deliver or signify?

How we answer these questions will determine the way we ultimately evaluate the event. If we say that EDSA was meant to usher in social reforms that would underwrite our political and economic development as a nation, we might conclude that EDSA as a project has failed so far or is incomplete. If we say that EDSA was just meant to bring back democratic “space” from which society could get on with the task of reforming itself, then we might say yes, EDSA has truly delivered all that it promised or is in the process of delivering.

Unfortunately,  many seem to to take the former view that EDSA has failed. Even Bongbong Marcos, son of the deposed Ferdinand, and now a senator has on the eve of the celebrations tried to engage in some historical revisionism by saying that the Philippines would have rivaled Singapore in achieving first world status by now if not for the uprising in February. Expectations are for him to make a bid for the presidency in 2016 using the relatively well-off North as his base.

The more progressive elements in our society point to the incomplete retrieval of the hidden wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, the lack of closure for the human rights victims of Martial Law, the continuing conflict with the communists and the Islamic separatists in the south, and the unfulfilled promise of agrarian reform that all point to the failure of EDSA I in bringing about social justice and social equity for the broad majority of Filipinos.

In many of the indicators of human development such as child and maternal health, poverty, hunger and education, the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbors in the region. The nearly ten years of economic growth that we have just witnessed produced very little in terms of social inclusion.

Even taking the weaker argument that EDSA was only meant to usher in democracy into consideration, there are many signposts that tell us that project remains incomplete. The nation has slipped from being a “full democracy” to being a “flawed democracy” in the Economist’s Democracy Index. As a result of extra-judicial killings, disappearances and violence against journalists, the impunity index ranks the country as among the top offenders in this regard.

The conduct of the last elections shows the costly nature of our electoral system and the prevalence of electoral fraud. The flawed judicial system and the low rankings of the country in several rule of law indicators shows just how prone our legal system is to corruption. The restoration of the old order of elite politics, the old society that Ninoy had argued was untenable is demonstrated by the prevalence of warlords and money politics.

Indeed from both the broad objective of inclusive development to the more narrow one of creating democratic space, the EDSA I revolution seems to be an imperfect one. How then can this be rectified?

Perhaps it starts with us envisioning where we want our nation to be over the next twenty five years. A quarter century hence in the year 2036, what kind of country or society do we want for ourselves, our children and grandchildren? Given the experience of the previous quarter century, there is much to be done.

It would take the same indomitable spirit that Ninoy showed to ensure that this impossible dream of his is realized.

Dumpster diving

“Communism to me is one-third practice and two-thirds explanation.” – Will Rogers

I read the eight thousand words 42nd anniversary message of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines just for the hell of it. Hell is an apt description for the experience of laboring through the annual pastoral letter from the native communist party hierarchy, that perennial pathetic reaffirmation of faith in Marxist economics, Leninist politics, and Maoist armed struggle.

“Don’t you have better things to do other than dumpster diving?” asked my bourgiosecapitalistfeudalimperialistpuppet friend.

“Not everything discarded is trash,” I replied.

“Did you find anything useful?” he asked.

“I discovered a couple of gems: waste-basketting and continuing condonement.”

“Huh?”

“Waste-basketting” as in “the waste-basketting by the Arroyo-dominated Supreme Court of the so-called Truth Commission,” and “continuing condonement” as in “as well as by the continuing condonement not only of the Arroyo regime’s human rights violations but also those of the current regime itself,” I explained.

“The current regime…” he mused ignoring the new additions to my vocabulary. “But didn’t Aquino drop the charges against Morong 43?”

“Yes, but the native communists said it was only because of intense pressure from human rights group here and abroad.”

“But that shows the Aquino administration listens,” he said.

“The communists said it’s just a ploy.”

I quoted the relevant passage from the anniversary message, “By all indications, the Aquino regime is hellbent on using the slogan of human rights in order to continue the gross and systematic human rights violations. It is obviously going to use the peace negotiations with the NDFP and the MILF as an occasional propaganda device and to block the demands of the people for basic social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace. So far, most important to the Aquino regime is beefing up the military, police and paramilitary forces and unleashing them against the people and the revolutionary forces.”

“Wow, that’s a mouthful!” he exclaimed. “Aren’t peace talks scheduled soon?”

“The communists think that’s also a ploy. Besides, they aren’t settling for anything less than the transformation of the country into a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist paradise.”

“How’s that?”

I read from the message again, “The US-Aquino regime intends to use the peace negotiations with the NDFP as an instrument for deceiving the people and pressuring the NDFP towards capitulation. It is scheming to junk the peace negotiations when these cannot be bent towards the counterrevolutionary objectives of the regime. The revolutionary forces and the people are aware of these objectives and thus, even if they push for whatever can be achieved through peace talks, they harbor no illusions that revolutionary objectives could be achieved through these alone or in the main. They are fully aware that their patriotic and democratic aspirations can only be effectively pushed in peace negotiations alongside the primacy of people’s war and mass struggles.”

“So the peace talks are a waste of time,” he concluded. “The communists talk peace but they wage war.”

I continued reading, to rile my friend some more.

“Benigno Aquino III has emerged as the chief representative of the exploiting classes, having drawn the biggest amount of campaign funds from them, enjoyed the support of the media lords, run the most guileful propaganda campaign and benefited from the manipulation of the US-controlled automated voting system. Thus, he is hellbent on continuing the US-dictated policies of neoliberal globalization, the preservation of the neocolonial fascist state and support for the global war of terror.”

“There’s really no point talking to them. They don’t even believe Aquino is his own man, they just called him a puppet of the US.”

“No, I think talking to them is an excellent idea.”

“What? Why?”

“Because we might pick up a couple of new words.”