Those who can, are underground; those who can’t, teach or write columns

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THAT title of course is a paraphrase of British playwright George Bernard Shaw’s aphorism, a rather harmless barb to deflate pompous professors’ egos: “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

However, in our country since the 1970s it has been a phenomenon that has had terrible and bloody consequences for our people. It partly explains why the Communist Party has been able to recruit idealistic yet naïve college students in the universities, and why, as communist leader Jose Ma. Sison wrote, there has been a “flow of continuous successors in the revolutionary movement” from the youth.

An Army general’s recent claim that the Communist Party has been recruiting students intensively creates an image of shadowy recruiters infiltrating campuses, luring teenagers to join the New People’s Army. 

That image is not quite accurate: It is the leftist professors who have long been in the universities who have been preparing students minds’ to join the communist revolution, by romanticizing armed rebellion as a legitimate project, and depicting Marxism and even Mao Zedong Thought as ideas that could stand academic rigor.

They don’t really tell the students to join the Communist Party or the NPA. They just tell them it’s OK or cool to be an activist, to be patriotic and “serve the people.” It would be the full-time cadres in the cells in the universities (called the Party Group), who would actively recruit the radicalized student, first by getting him to join rallies and then visiting guerrilla zones where NPA life is romanticized.

I should know. Many of these university professors had been my former comrades who no longer by choice or circumstance live the hard life in the urban underground, much less fight as guerrillas with the New People’s Army. Some have never actually joined the underground, unable to give up their petty-bourgeois lifestyle, and instead enjoy a vicarious life as leftist intellectuals.

Ipil Rehabilitation Center
Take Judy Taguiwalo, whom I can identify since she has chosen to be a public figure when she accepted President Duterte’s appointment as secretary of social welfare and development. (She was not confirmed by Congress, however.)

The last time I personally saw her was during a stormy night in November 1974 in the biggest political prison then called the Ipil Rehabilitation Center at Fort Bonifacio. She had crawled, covered with mud, to the quonset hut I was detained in, to convince me (unsuccessfully) to join her and her companions in their escape. With 12 other top communist and NPA cadres detained there, she stealthily crept inch by inch to reach the prison’s fences, and bolt out.

Taguiwalo of course rejoined the communist insurgency, and I had heard stories of her exploits as one of the boldest NPA “amazon” commanders. She was recaptured in 1984 and released only after EDSA I. After that, she became an academic at UP, getting a doctorate in Philippine Studies, and becoming a professor at the UP College of Social Work and Community Development. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, in its usual naiveté or ignorance, of course portrayed her as a freedom fighter when she joined Duterte government, saying that she had “spent over three years in various prisons for resisting the Marcos dictatorship.”

From her positions in leftist organizations and her published works (Serve the People, Ang Kasaysayan ng Radikal na Kilusan sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas was one), I don’t think she ever abandoned Maoism. Do you think she ever denounced the Communist Party to her students? Most likely she even idealized the NPA, of which she was after all a leader, and encouraged them to join the Revolution.

Another case is that of this former top communist leader captured in 1974 and released, who went on to become an instructor in Philippine Studies at UP Diliman for decades. Only when he died did the Communist Party itself issue a long statement that eulogized him as responsible for the growth of the youth and student movement in the 1970s, for reasons that are publicly unknown. Before he was captured, he was number three in the Communist Party hierarchy.

Even if he probably was no longer a party cadre at UP when he became a teacher, do you think he didn’t constantly tell his students to “serve the people” and join the NPA?

Martial Law
UP’s Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Dalisay quickly condemned the Army’s claims that the communists have been actively recruiting in the university, pointing out that these “claims were nothing new, considering the university has had to deal with such accusations for almost 70 years since Martial Law.“

That was so intellectually dishonest of Dalisay. A renowned writer, few know that Dalisay was first recruited into a leftist organization at the UP, the Samahang Demokratiko ng Pilipinas in the 1970s, and then recruited into the party’s Cultural Bureau. He was with Taguiwalo (and me) for two years at the Ipil political prison. He should know from his very own experience that there is basis for the military’s claim.

One episode very clearly demonstrates how even the university’s top professors have romanticized the communist movement.

In 2011, the launching of communist leader Sison’s biography was held at the UP, attended by a significant number of UP faculty. The book was an unabashed paean to Sison, depicting him as national hero deserving of a place in the same pantheon of national heroes as Rizal and Bonifacio, as is obvious from the book’s title, Jose Maria Sison: A Celebration.

It was published by Aklat ng Bayan headed by Luis Teodoro, former dean of the UP College of Mass Communication, who I think single-handedly radicalized a generation of media men to be anti-government and pro-communist. Anthologist (who for some strange reason became a National Artist) Bienvenido Lumbera in that launching praised Sison to high heavens, saying that “he made the masses the center of his brand of intellectualism.”

“The art and culture in Sison’s intellectualism have had political content that is being practiced by all believers of national democracy,” Lumbera said.

I know of several other faculty members at UP who had been leftists or even party cadres in their youth, some of whom even spent years abroad as academic OFWs to earn enough money to build their retirement nest, and then to return home to remain as fans of the communist insurgency.

Bloody useless project
None of them have ever denounced the communist insurgency as a bloody, useless project that cannot by any stretch of imagination win in this day and age.

At the minimum level of support for the communists, they tell their students that there will always be a communist insurgency as long as the country’s poor remain poor. They never discuss the point that one reason the country remains poor is because of the threat to security that have discouraged businesses because of the communist insurgency. They never wonder why in all of Southeast Asia, we are the only country with such an insurgency.

What kind of mindset do you think a teenager in angst and seeking meaning in life have, after listening in the classroom to his teachers glorifying the communists and the NPA, telling them they are heroes “serving the people”?

The communists’ pedagogic reach has extended beyond the university. Except for this newspaper — which has two columnists with leftist backgrounds in their youth, myself and Mauro Gia Samonte, but who have denounced the Left — all of the country’s five broadsheets have leftist columnists who consistently espouse the Communist Party’s propaganda line, often disguised as its struggle for “national democracy.”

I can name them as they have been public figures of the Left movement. Satur Ocampo, who had once been the political officer for the National Democratic Front and former representative of the Red party-list Bayan Muna writes in the Philippine Star. Ironically, two columnists who have spent almost their entire life as leftists are writing for Business World, the paper by, of and, for capitalists. These are Teodoro, publisher of Sison’s glowing biography and Carol Araullo, current chairman of Bayan Muna.

The communists claim Duterte is a tyrant. But what other country in the world has communist propagandists writing in mainstream newspapers, and teaching in universities funded by the government?

At least revolutionaries in the mountains risk their lives. But these academics and writers enjoy their comfortable lives in the city, several even having “rest houses” in adjacent provinces. They discuss politics and poetry over wine and cheese, yet continue to prod our youth to kill and die in some godforsaken jungle. All because it is their way of reliving their glorious, rebellious past.

Sison — whom the Philippine and US governments have concluded is a terrorist — has deviously created an entire pedagogic infrastructure defending his communist party and its propaganda.

No wonder this insurgency, which only idiots would believe has any chance of victory in this day and age, continues to survive and pull down the nation.


Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Twitter: @bobitiglao