EVERY September since EDSA we get reportage condemning the strongman Marcos for alleged human rights abuses during his regime, and the killing of young people who were purportedly merely fighting for “farmers’ rights.”
These accounts are so naïve, their writers so gullible to the narrative of the Communist Party and the Yellow Cult, or guided by their outfits’ owners who were the oligarchs that Marcos had put away during Martial Law.
If there’s a single person to be blamed for the killing of young people by the police, the army and even by village militias during martial law, it is Communist Party founder Jose Ma. Sison.
I know this for a fact as I was witness to his madness. In his delusion that he is the Philippine Mao Zedong who would lead the communists to victory through armed struggle, he sent in the 1970s hundreds of idealistic youth to far-flung rural areas with hardly any military training and armed with only rusting World War 2-vintage rifles and pistols. These were teenagers and those in their early 20s, roused to revolutionary fervor by the 1970 demonstrations and the global youth uprising of that era.
The urban activists that Sison deployed to the countryside, who believed Sison’s propaganda that they were warriors of a formidable “New People’s Army,” headed by a legendary Kumander Dante, and armed with brand-new AK-47s that China had provided, were no match for the police and the military. With that impression, do you think a platoon of soldiers – as young as the NPA fighters – who might have chanced upon them in the middle of a dark night in some jungle, would first ask them to surrender, before firing? Just last June, Army rangers on a long-range patrol mistakenly killed six police officers and wounded nine more during an operation against NPAs in a thick jungle.
In many cases, these radicalized, naïve drop-outs were killed just by village militias, who thought that they were bandits.
Decades later the communists, the Yellows, and gullible clergymen would call them human rights victims, or heroes in the “struggle for democracy.”
Jopson and Arceo
I say this with a heavy heart as several of those killed were not just my friends at the Ateneo, but idealistic youth that I had recruited into the party – among them Edgar Jopson and Ferdinand Arceo – killed in the course of the “people’s war” they believed in. If they were looking down on us from some proletarian heaven, I don’t think they would like to be portrayed as “human rights victims.” They would prefer to be seen as revolutionary heroes killed in battle.
Edjop would have certainly abhorred the description of him in a recent article by a naïve San Francisco-based writer that he was a “labor organizer” killed helplessly by the Marcos regime. That’s unadulterated trash.
Edjop rose in a year’s time to become one of the top leaders of the Communist Party. With legendary NPA commander Romulo Kintanar— assassinated years later by the party he served when he left it—Edjop made Mindanao the most advanced front of the revolution. Without Ed, the National Democratic Front would not have grown as it did. If his revolutionary career wasn’t cut short, he would have easily replaced Sison as a more humane chairman of the party in the 1980s.
The party’s Manila-Rizal Committee which I headed was its leadership center that roused students in the metropolis in the early 1970s to dedicate their lives to the “Revolution.” Right after martial law was declared, the committee also facilitated the deployment of activists – mostly teenagers – to the countrysides to join what was romantically labelled as the “armed propaganda units,” teams to rural areas to preach that the armed revolution had arrived and the villagers better cooperate with the NPA. I was horrified when I learned that these young men were not sent to join veteran NPAs in secure bases, but to recklessly open up new guerilla areas.
Reality of course wouldn’t cooperate with Sison’s delusions. The young men and women of these units were killed in ambushes by the military or just by the village militia, who were so frightened of them that they were not given any quarter. As all youth are, they believed that they were immortal, and ignored the reality that their own lives could be snuffed out by the military they also really planned to kill.
I remember a comrade and friend Eugene Grey, a hippie kind of intellectual with whom I enjoyed several sticks of weed in safe-houses in a few occasions. Two months after martial law was declared, he visited me, so proud of his new Army camouflage jacket and combat boots he had just bought from Quiapo. I was surprised as he was a fun-loving petty-bourgeois who wouldn’t be able to stand a night in some jungle. He was proud to tell me he was being deployed by Sison himself to Negros to set up the party committee there. A month later, I was told he had been killed by militias.
I myself would been killed, and now referred to as a human rights victim. In 1970, I was deployed to Samar and Leyte to lecture a group of activists on Marxism. I was told only when we were in some godforsaken barrio by my superior Jorge Cabardo that we were organizing the party’s first Eastern Visayas Committee.
After a month of “reconnoitering” with a few young Cebu-based activists in the mountainous and seaside areas of Samar with one old World War 2-vintage Thompson, a Carbine and a 45 Colt, I got so sick of eating crushed corn instead of rice, and asked to go back to Manila to recuperate.
If I had not been re-deployed to instead become a member of the Manila-Rizal Committee (and three years later arrested), I would now be among the Ateneans like Ed, Ferdie, Eman Lacaba, Emmanuel Yap, and Billy Begg who boldly fought martial law, killed because of “organizing farmers to fight for their rights.” I guess I owe my life to a sensitive stomach.
Sison’s real guru is not Mao but Hitler, and he has followed much of Hitler’s playbook. One of the most important rituals of the Nazis when they gained power in 1933 was to honor what they melodramatically called their 16 “blood martyrs” in a huge memorial. These martyrs were actually among Hitler’s brown-shirts killed in Hitler’s foolish beer-hall putsch.
I cannot fathom why those claiming such human rights abuses during martial law—especially the academics at UP and the Ateneo—totally ignore the fact that since its founding in 1968 by Sison, the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines declared war on the Republic. (Followed of course by the Malaysian-funded Moro National Liberation Front in 1972.)
Sison in fact broke away from the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas because of his dogma that communists’ main task is to wage armed war to violently overthrow what he claimed was a government of landlords and compradors who are puppets of “US imperialism.” With such a belief, he set up the New Peoples’ Army less than a year later, formed out of a dozen guerrillas tired of the old Huks.
“Armed struggle” and the more romantic “people’s war” are abstract ideas for most ordinary Filipinos. The reality on the ground is that it is hell on earth, where men become predators and torturers.
For the communists, it meant at the initial stages of organizing a village to support the NPA, the summary execution of all suspected cattle-rustlers, rapists, and even of those committing such small crimes as thievery – which the NPA termed as “demonyos.” This was meant both to strike fear among the villagers to follow the NPA—and to portray the communists as a Robin Hood of sorts in that area—and the State that would replace the Philippine Republic. Compared to the NPA’s execution of thousands of “demonyos” in the countryside, President Duterte’s war vs illegal drugs has been a clearing operation by tanod-bayans.
Worse, villagers, especially leaders, who refused to support the NPA were routinely executed as “enemies of the people.” To this day, the military has been unearthing mass graves in areas that had been controlled by the NPA.
Even in the earliest years of the communists’ growth in the 1970s, those suspected of being ‘military infiltrators” were executed with hardly a trial, but merely on the suspicion of some ranking party member.
I know that for a fact. A Lyceum University activist in 1970 whom we admired and who had been giving my group at the Ateneo lectures on “Mao Zedong Thought’ suddenly didn’t visit us anymore. I was only told later that he was an “ahente” and was executed.
One of Sison’s original core group, Noli Collantes, who headed the so-called Trade Union Bureau was captured by the military in 1973. He was released a few months later, as his father Manuel Collantes, a ranking diplomat, promised Marcos that he would no longer wage revolution. Noli decided to leave the party and live a normal life, and started finishing his college studies at the UST. He was gunned down by communist hitmen near the gate to the campus.
The party’s ruthlessness of course would reach horrific levels in the 1980s when it was faced with military setbacks. The communist leaders became paranoid and claimed it was massively infiltrated by military agents. The party undertook two horrific purges, the so-called Oplan Missing Link and Kampanyang Ahos. These resulted in at least a thousand of its members executed and tortured; a male cadre was anally raped by a ranking homosexual party official.
These are not rumors: There have been a dozen survivors of this purge who have exposed it. One NPA guerilla Robert Francis Garcia who was tortured for being suspected of being military agent wrote a tearjerker of a book on this, “To Suffer Thy Comrades: How the Revolution Decimated its Own”. Philippine Star columnist Satur Ocampo, the party’s top propagandist, should disclose what he knows about this very sad chapter of the communist movement. I am not sure if he was part of the group that directed the purges, or if he stopped it, belatedly.
Sison’s “People’s War” most probably resulted in the killing of so many Filipinos which would eclipse any manufactured estimate by the communists on the number of human rights violations by the Marcos regime. It won’t be an exaggeration to believe that Sison’s communists killed in its 50 years of insurgency at least 10,000 police, military, and militias who believed they were defending democracy, as well as civilians who refused to support the NPA.
Only the Vietnamese socialists it seems, didn’t have the communist DNA of penchant for mass murders, as Stalin demonstrated he had in the fledging Soviet Union, Mao during the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962 during which recent scholarship claims as many as 45 million Chinese were killed, and of course the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields of the 1970s where as many as 3 million Cambodians were brutally executed in pursuit of Pol Pot’s delusion of a classless society.
War is war, when not just hate but terror of unbelievable depths takes over men’s minds. There were of course police and military atrocities against both civilian activists and NPA fighters, many of whom were simply suspected of being guerrillas and communists.
But there were also similar killings and atrocities by the NPA, much more I think, as the intrinsic value of individuals had not been part of communist dogma. The NPA could not have become the significant force that it was on the eve of EDSA I, if it had relied on nonviolent persuasion to recruit its members and get villages to support it.
What is essential in determining whether Marcos is guilty of human rights abuses during his dictatorship is whether he or his inner group had a policy of silencing dissenters to the extent of systematically killing them.
The alternative, more credible explanation is that the detention and killings were 1) casualties in the war launched by the Communist Party and the MNLF to violently topple the government; and 2) the rampage by the dogs of war, always unleashed in any war since ancient times by both protagonists.
There hasn’t been an iota of evidence that there was a Marcos policy to murder dissenters. This is in contrast to the mountain of evidence for instance that Chilean strongman Pinochet helped by the CIA killed thousands of dissidents or that Suharto plotted the massacre of over 500,000 Chinese-Indonesians to ensure the total destruction of the Indonesian Communist Party.
On the other hand, we have Sison’s published works and the thousands of statements by the Communist Party issued through its newsletter Ang Bayan calling for its NPA to kill police, military men, and even civilian elected leaders.
It is time to confront the communist scourge which Sison had been primarily responsible for.