First of 3 parts
SO long indeed does Truth overtake Lie.
In one of his recent columns, Ambeth Ocampo reported that it was one Joseph Salice who in his 2017 PhD thesis provided evidence that it was Jose Ma. Sison who ordered his closest Communist Party cadres to bomb the opposition miting de avance.
This is wrong. Salice relied almost entirely on his conclusions on journalist Gregg Jones’ book, Red Revolution: Inside the Philippine Guerrilla Movement published 28 years ago, in 1989.
It is a remarkable, courageous piece of investigative journalism, not only because of its wealth of detail that he managed to get ranking Communist Party leaders to reveal. He published the book when Marcos’ portrayal as Devil Incarnate was at its height, so few believed his revelations. It was a book ahead of its time.
Truth appearing one day doesn’t mean she will always be there.
Jones’ book was largely ignored, what with the famous pro-Cory journalist at the heyday of the Yellows, Time magazine’s Sandra Burton, claiming that he was terribly misinformed. The book is out of print and one can get a copy through print-on-demand facility for P8,513 — a price that wouldn’t make it circulate widely here.
Jones informed me that the Ateneo Press a few years back got publishing rights for a Philippine edition. However, a rabid anti-Marcos institution that it has even published books by communists glorifying their exploits, Ateneo I think junked their plan, realizing that even if the book was sympathetic to the anti-dictatorship movement, Red Revolution broke the myth that it was Marcos who ordered the Plaza Miranda bombing.
So to help out Truth, I am posting in my column excerpts from the book’s chapter “Ghosts of Plaza Miranda,” in three parts.
Jones’ writing starts here
In 1988, several former top Communist Party officials — some of whom continued to maintain close contacts with the underground — told me the actual story of the Plaza Miranda bombing, which proved that Marcos had not been lying when he accused the communists of the attack. In separate interviews, these men provided never-revealed details of a plot to bomb the Liberal Party rally conceived by the Communist Party leadership and carried out by party operatives.
Why had the information not come out earlier? Fear was the overwhelming reason. For those former rebels who no longer enjoyed the protection and anonymity of the underground, fear of retribution from former colleagues in the revolutionary movement or the threat of retaliation by right-wing extremists had enforced a troubled silence for nearly two decades. “Disclosure of the Plaza Miranda plan would destroy the prestige of the party. And if you destroy the prestige of the party, you will be six feet under the ground,” one founding CPP central committee member explained. “When you seal a secret in the party, you must not talk about it anymore.”
Those who decided to challenge the code of silence have done so out of mixed motivations. Most had served time in military prisons and no longer viewed their former revolutionary activities as romantically as they did in their youth, and they appeared to have been genuinely troubled by their involvement in a bloody attack on innocent civilians. For some, long-simmering differences with Jose María Sison, described by several former senior CPP officials as the “mastermind” of the Plaza Miranda plot, led them to set aside their fears and talk about the bombing.
Nearly two decades later, the Plaza Miranda bombing stood as one of the pivotal points in the history of the Philippine revolutionary movement. More than one CPP veteran remarked that Sison had used the attack to force Marcos’ hand, at a crucial moment for the communist movement. Marcos had played right into Sison’s maneuver. The bombing considerably widened the gap separating Marcos from his moderate opponents, thus pushing the president further to the authoritarian Right and his opponents toward the Left. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the accompanying repression that followed the bombing also pushed many liberals into alliances with the communist underground and at the same time opened the door to systematic military abuses against the citizenry, particularly in the countryside. Martial law brought wholesale state repression and forced into the communist movement many young Filipinos who otherwise might never have joined.
By 1971, Sison was convinced that the Philippines was on the brink of revolution. It would take only a well-timed, traumatic incident to spark the great upheaval that would lead to an early communist victory, he believed. In early February, Sison met in Manila with three of his most trusted CPP central committee colleagues — secretary-general Jose Luneta, Politburo member Ibarra Tubianosa, and the party’s chief finance officer — and laid out a plan for party operatives to attack an opposition Liberal Party rally. Such an incident, Sison maintained, was sure to speed up the revolution’s timetable.
The CPP leader’s logic for bombing the political rally appeared sound: The Liberal Party would likely blame Marcos, its archenemy, for the attack and perhaps even retaliate. Marcos in turn would blame the communists. But with his credibility already sagging badly, few people would believe him. The resulting chaos and recriminations between Marcos’ Nacionalista Party and Benigno Aquino’s Liberal Party would heighten what Marx called the “contradictions” within the capitalist ruling class. If Marcos responded with repression, all the better, Sison reasoned. “Increased repression will result in increased resistance,” he told his colleagues.
This calculation became the keystone upon which the Plaza Miranda plot was fashioned. The conspirators were counting on a crackdown by Marcos to drive more people into the ranks of the radical movement and into the NPA in the countryside. It remains unclear whether any of the handful of CPP officials privy to the plan objected to the proposal to bomb a political rally. Only afterward would serious questioning occur.
In February 1971, Sison traveled to the NPA headquarters camp in Isabela where [Kumander] Dante and [Victor] Corpus were staying. Later, they were joined by Luneta. During the course of the next several months, Sison and other party leaders had long discussions about the political situation in the Philippines and about the strategy and tactics of the movement.
The party had a dilemma, Sison told his comrades. Hundreds of rifles and other weapons would be arriving from China in the months ahead, yet the NPA had only about 90 fighters in Isabela at the time. Somehow, the Party had to produce the conditions that would rapidly expand NPA strength. The rebels had to create one of history’s “quantum leaps,” as Marx described it. Sison gradually explained that they could create the conditions to achieve that quantum leap in membership. The key was intensifying conflicts between the opposing factions of the ruling class — in this case the opposition Liberal Party and the ruling Nacionalista Party.
If the two ruling factions could be set against one another in a violent fashion, the ruling class as a whole would be weakened. On at least one occasion in those Isabela sessions, Sison said those conflicts could be intensified by creating a “disruption” at a Liberal Party rally. “Joema explained that by forcing Marcos to be tyrannical, we could in fact push the Left as well as the more numerous moderate forces over to the side of the revolution,” one of those present recalled. “If the moderates were pushed over to our side, that would solve our problem of manpower to match the thousands of firearms coming from China.”
But Sison never spelled out explicitly to his colleagues in the Isabela camp how he planned to provoke Marcos. Only later, after the Plaza Miranda bombing, did the rebel leaders in the Isabela camp understand that Sison had proposed an act of mass violence. Sison left Isabela after the onset of the rainy season and returned to the capital in June 1971.
Back in Manila, the CPP leadership drafted a fiery cadre named Danny Cordero to carry out the bombing, Cordero had risen quickly through the ranks of KM [Kabataang Makabayan] in the late 1960s, and by 1971 was a powerful, charismatic party leader in the suburban industrial belt on Manila’s northern fringe.
Some of Cordero’s young KM recruits were intimidated by what they referred to as his “gunpowder temper,” and by what one activist later recalled as Cordero’s proclivity for “rash, violent tactics.”
But when it came to courage, Cordero was not lacking. He could be counted on for such a sensitive mission as the Plaza Miranda bombing. In mid-August 1971, CPP central committee member Reuben Guevarra arrived in Manila for discussions with party officials. Guevarra was a member of the CPP’s powerful military commission and was the political officer in charge of the northern Luzon region, which included the Isabela guerrilla front.
At dusk on August 21, central committee member Manuel Collantes picked up Guevarra and drove him to a communist safe house in a comfortable middle-class subdivision of Parañaque, a Manila suburb. Guevarra was greeted by Sison, Politburo member Hermenigildo Garcia 4th, and another politburo member who headed the party’s organizational department.
Sison talked in general terms about something significant that was about to happen. “We are going to execute a delicate plan that will intensify the split between the ruling class to the point that they are going to kill each other,” he explained to Guevarra. When Sison finished speaking, one of his Politburo colleagues took over. “Those people who will execute the plan will be assigned in your place [in Isabela]. You must take care of them ideologically and politically.”
To be continued on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022
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