On the Short-Term and Long-Term Prospects of the Struggle for National and Social Liberation

By Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson Emeritus

International League of Peoples’ Struggle

October 2, 2021

Dear colleagues and friends,

I wish to thank the leading committee and member-organizations of the Philippine chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle for inviting me to be one of the speakers in the third part of the educational webinar series on the national democratic struggle in the Philippines. I agree with the declared objectives of the webinar series. 

The first part on September 11 was on understanding the roots of the crisis of semicolonial and semifeudal Philippines and second part on September 25 was on  imperialism in a multipolar world: where does the Philippines stand?  Today, the third part is on the Filipino peoples’ struggle for national and social liberation, development, and lasting peace.

I am assigned to discuss the short-term and long-term prospects of the national and social liberation movement in the Philippines. I propose that two-thirds of my speech are on the  prospects. But I shall use the first one-third of the speech to discuss the current conditions that favor the struggle for national and social liberation to lay the basis for the prognosis.

I. Current Conditions that Favor the Struggle for National and Social Liberation

The persistent semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system, which is dominated by foreign monopoly capitalism and directly run by the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists, is in ever worsening chronic crisis. The escalating conditions of exploitative and oppressive conditions drive the people to assert and fight for their national and democratic rights and interests.

Since the end of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the revolutionary forces and people led by the Communist Party have been willing  to engage in peace negotiations in order to confront  the basic problems of the Filipino people, such as imperialism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism, which are the roots of the civil war, and to work out comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms as the basis for a just and lasting peace between the belligerent forces.

But under every post-Marcos regime, the ruling reactionaries followed the pattern of pretending to be for peace negotiations and eventually bowing to US imperialism and the pro-US reactionary armed forces as objectors to the further progress of the peace negotiations. The Ramos regime seemed to be truly interested in the peace negotiations because it agreed to The  Hague Joint Declaration  of 1992 as the basic framework of peace negotiations and several other major agreements but failed to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, already initialled in 1996 by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels.

The worst of the post-Marcos regimes is the current one of Duterte after promising in the 2016 presidential elections that he would amnesty all political prisoners and negotiate a peace agreement. But in less than a year, it became evident that he was out to sabotage and terminate the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in order to scapegoat the CPP and the NPA and use state terrorism in the style of Marcos  to pursue his own ambition of fascist dictatorship. 

He continued Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan until he adopted his own Oplan Kapayapaan in January  2017. On May 23, 2017, he included the CPP and NPA as targets  of  martial rule in Mindanao. On November 23, 2017 he formally terminated the peace negotiations. On December 5, 2017 he designated the CPP and NPA as “terrorist organizations”. He launched focused military operations against the revolutionary forces and mass base in certain regions.  And on December 4,  2018 he created the National Task Force-Elcac to red-tag social  activists, peace advocates, human rights defenders and target them for abduction, torture and murder. He applied against them the same brutal methods applied in the bogus war on drugs.

Since then, the Duterte regime has increasingly manifested its character as traitorous, tyrannical,  addicted to extrajudicial killings and obsessed with plunder. He has acted as the puppet to US imperialism in order to obtain advice and weapons for the  armed counterrevolution as well as to Chinese imperialism in order to sell out Philippine sovereign and maritime rights over the West Philippines Sea and to seek personal benefit from lopsided loan agreements and construction and supply contracts and from the smuggling out of mineral ores to China and smuggling in of illegal drugs, rice and other commodities and from gambling operations and human trafficking by Chinese criminal syndicates.

Under the brutal and corrupt Duterte regime, the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions  have become far worse than ever before. The exploitation and oppression of the toiling masses of workers and peasants have escalated as never before. Unemployment, low incomes, destruction of livelihoods and mass poverty are rampant while inflation is raging. When Duterte became president in 2016, the public debt was Php 5.9 trillion incurred by all previous governments since 1902. Now , it is Php 11.6 trillion and will be more than Php 13 trillion next year, more than double in one presidential term of six years.

Under the neoliberal policy, the regime has wasted limited resources and rising local and public debt through unbridled bureaucratic corruption and profligacy, military overspending at the expense of social services (education, health and so on), depressed production in agriculture and manufacturing in favor of the big compradors and their foreign principals, debt-fuelled and import-dependent consumption and rising debt burden due to huge budgetary and trade deficits.  The debt bubble is unsustainable and about to burst.

The global crisis that began with the 2008 financial meltdown was, by end of 2019, again taking a  steep fall when Covid-19 began to spread worldwide, pushing more than one-third of all countries to go into general lockdowns. These served to ensure what is widely perceived as the start of a  Great Depression even worse than that of 1929 onward. The Philippines, being heavily dependent on the global capitalist system, is now drowning in a tsunami of collapsing international trade and supply chains, capital flows, and labor markets. By early 2020, the country began to feel the impacts of this global tsunami in terms of the sudden drying up of overseas jobs and tourist arrivals.

The chronic crisis of the ruling system was already rapidly worsening when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in early 2020 due to the regime’s earlier decision in November 2019 to continue the influx of tourists, especially half a million Chinese tourists and casino players. Duterte has taken advantage of the pandemic by pressing Congress to give additional emergency powers to the executive, especially to his narrow militarist clique masquerading as an “inter-agency task force against emerging infectious diseases” (IATF-EID). 

He then used these powers to short-circuit regular governmental processes, tightly control people’s movements and other civil rights through lockdowns, realign already budgeted funds supposedly for mass testing, medical treatment and economic assistance to the people severely affected by the lockdowns, and  then siphon massive amounts of funds in tens and hundreds of billions of pesos into his own pocket and those of his gangmates by overpricing and faking purchases of supplies. This hijacking of public funds and loans surpasses any robbery done previously in the history of puppet presidents.

Duterte has also used the pandemic and the extreme lockdown restrictions  to railroad the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 which is a license for state terrorism.  This is a key move in his scheme to realize a fascist dictatorship. And the retired and active generals he has been corrupting and using to promote fascism and militarize the civilian departments and agencies of the reactionary government are happy to have a law of state terrorism in order to commit atrocities freely against the people and steal from them larger amounts of public money under such pretexts as Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program, Community Support Project and Barangay Development Program.

They have the notion that they can defeat the revolutionary movement of the people by blaming it for the underdevelopment, mass poverty, oppression and exploitation done by the imperialists and exploiting classes, by offering palliatives and false promises of development,  by unleashing state terrorism and military campaigns of suppression and by facilitating land grabbing by bureaucrat capitalists and domestic and foreign owners of logging, mining and plantation companies. But the reactionary armed forces, police and paramilitary units are never enough to terrorize and control the 111 million Filipino people and the highly motivated revolutionary  forces, especially the people’s army that is skillfully waging the people’s war.

Duterte and his armed minions boast from month to month that they can totally destroy the revolutionary movement of the people by using these programs in combination with focused military operations. But in fact, they steal most of the funds by faking lists of NPA surrenderers and death casualties, faking intelligence, psywar and  combat operations and by faking community development projects. The open rule of terror, as previously exercised by Marcos from 1972 to 1986, failed to destroy the armed revolution and only succeeded in generating the conditions for its  nationwide expansion, especially among the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the intelligentsia. The Marcos path of state terrorism is the same path of failure that Duterte has taken.

There is no way that the Duterte regime can destroy the revolutionary movement. The rapidly worsening conditions of oppression and exploitation are driving the people to carry out various forms of struggle for national and social liberation in both cities and the countryside.  The legal  forms of mass struggles in the cities have been irrepressible. And the rural-based armed revolution  is even far more difficult to suppress because the CPP and NPA are using the strategy and tactics of protracted people’s war to carry out the people’s democratic revolution.

In both cities and countryside, there is no way for the enemy to stop the time-tested  processes of recruiting, training and deploying people as cadres and members of the CPP, NPA, the mass organizations, alliances and local organs of people’s democratic power.  The enemy will have to kill so many noncommunists before it can kill one communist. The indiscriminate abductions and murders being done by the enemy are futile and have succeeded only to goad the revolutionary forces to increase their ranks from the millions of oppressed and exploited masses.

Enemies and detractors of the people’s democratic revolution led by the CPP have maliciously claimed that it is already a proven futile project by failing to seize political power in Manila during the last 52 years.  We must recognize that the CPP has scored a great achievement in defeating so many campaigns to destroy it and has succeeded in building itself, the NPA, revolutionary mass organizations, alliances and the local organs of political power constituting the people’s democratic government on a nationwide scale in an archipelago, on a self-reliant basis  and without the advantages of cross-border connection with any socialist bulwark that the Chinese and Indochinese revolutionaries had during and after World War II.

II. Short-Term Prospects of Struggle Related to the  2022 Presidential Elections

We can be certain that the Duterte regime will not be able to destroy the armed revolutionary movement before the 2022 presidential elections. But it keeps on drumming up the psywar line that it will be able to do so before the end of 2021 or  2022 to try to deceive the people and persuade the US to support the continuance of Duterte’s power through a stooge. We are certain that the social, economic and political crisis of the ruling system will deteriorate faster than ever before, will rouse the broad masses of the people and the organized forces of the national democratic movement and the conservative opposition to intensify mass protests and will isolate the Duterte regime.  

The more notorious Duterte has become due to his grave crimes and the grave deterioration of the economic and social conditions, the more he is touted as extremely popular by paid poll survey firms, radio broadcasts, troll armies in social media and many local and foreign corporate mass media. This phenomenon is the result of the fear factor and deference to authority not only among the deprived and insecure masses but also among members of the exploiting classes who are protective of their interests and are afraid of Duterte’s vindictiveness. But as in the time of Marcos from 1982 to 1986, the reality of the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation and the rapid discredit and isolation of Duterte is increasingly crying out louder than the propaganda churned out by his regime and his agents.

Right now, the Duterte ruling clique is the target of public outrage and mass struggles because of its betrayal of the people by personally profiting from relations with the Chinese state and criminal triads, the rampancy of illegal drugs under the dominance of the Duterte crime family, the unprecedented high proportions of plunder by Duterte, his business cronies and favorite generals before and during Covid-19, his notorious alliance with his predecessors in plunder (Marcos, Arroyo and others), widespread corruption among the high bureaucrats and military officials and the extrajudicial killings and other atrocities perpetrated in the bogus war on drugs and in the armed counterrevolution.

The Duterte policy and campaigns of state terrorism, characterized by abductions, torture and mass murders, takeover of civilian functions by the reactionary armed forces and widespread daily acts of systematic abuse against the masses in the guise of “strict enforcement of health protocols” are inflicting intolerable  suffering on the people, driving them to join the various forms of resistance and impelling some of the people who have relatives in the reactionary military, police and paramilitary forces to turn against the Duterte ruling clique as the chief oppressor and exploiter of the people. Even among the armed minions of the Duterte regime, there is a system of favoritism, corruption and bullying at the expense of the lower officers and enlisted personnel.

There are manifestations of the structure of Duterte loyalists cracking up at a faster rate even if for a while Duterte tried to use his propaganda machinery to conjure the illusion that he is immune to the usual phenomenon of a sitting president becoming a lame  duck in his last year and his blessing for his chosen successor is a kiss of death. He rigged the 2019 mid-term elections to gain control of both houses of Congress and to strengthen his clique’s hold on local governments. 

But in the Senate some of his key apologists in the recent past are now active in exposing the extreme cases of corruption in which Duterte and his cronies are directly involved.  Certain governors and mayors have also become bolder in their own assertions of local authority against the worst of Duterte’s arbitrary impositions. Whether related or not to their own plans in the approaching 2022 elections, these are clear-cut signals to the electorate and the opposition that they have begun to be more vocal in their own anti-Duterte criticism and to distance themselves from his narrow clique.

It is a source of widespread speculation whether the current exposés in the Senate  of Duterte’s corruption and cronyism, the intensified campaign of religious leaders to denounce his crimes,  the growing clamor among certain business groups against Duterte’s extreme favoritism and arbitrary impositions amid the bankrupt economy and the decision of the International Criminal Court to investigate the extrajudicial killings in the bogus war on drugs are definite indications that major domestic and international forces which he used to ignore or make fun of are now determined to junk him as an intolerable liability to the entire ruling system.

Many people are still wondering why there are yet no clear signals from the US authorities that they cannot take the risk of letting Duterte continue his rule through his daughter or another  stooge and allow China to acquire more advantages in the Philippines.  And there is yet no sustained  campaign by  retired generals to expose Duterte’s crimes and prepare the active disgruntled officers of the reactionary armed forces and police to express their rejection of a commander-in-chief who has betrayed their trust.

In contrast, China, the Chinese cronies directly around Duterte and the Chinese criminal triads in the business of casinos and smuggling continue to support Duterte for their own purposes.  The biggest gains made by China under the Duterte regime include its successful building of artificial islands as military bases in the West Philippine Sea, control of its marine and mineral  resources worth so many trillions of dollars, control of the national power grid, insertion of cell towers in AFP military camps and smuggling  out of mineral ores from open pit mines all over the archipelago. China and Chinese private interests can easily put their money on the Duterte slate in the forthcoming 2022 elections.

In the meantime, the Duterte ruling clique appears to be confident of retaining US support if only because Duterte is still useful in the bloody counterrevolution. It still appears  that he can continue to use to his advantage his incumbency as president, the bureaucracy and the military machinery, the relentless flow of his press releases to the corporate media and black propaganda campaigns of his troll army.  And most important of all, with regard to the 2022 presidential elections, there is yet no visible counter to his complete control of the Comelec and TIM-Smartmatic. Not even a Namfrel-type of independent body with a mass-based network has arisen, with legal authority to mirror instantly the Comelec vote count from the precinct level upward.

The 1Sambayan has already taken the initiative to put forward the line that there must be one presidential candidate to challenge the candidate put up by the Duterte dynasty and thus facilitate    the electoral victory of the opposition candidate (like Cory Aquino in 1986 against Marcos) and generate a mass uprising to topple the fake victory of the Duterte candidate. Indeed, if there would be three or more presidential candidates, it would be easier for the beneficiary of Duterte’s rigging the 2022  presidential elections to claim that the opposition lost because it had split its votes.

It is widely presumed that Duterte is confident of being able to rig the 2022 presidential elections and does not have to take the high risk of proclaiming a “revolutionary government”, even though some of those who were his previous sycophants in Congress have become become disgruntled or have been rejected by him. Nevertheless, all patriotic and democratic forces must be vigilant and be ready to fight any attempt of Duterte to impose a fascist dictatorship through the proclamation martial law nationwide and the use of the ATA to carry out mass arrests and mass murders.

According to sources close to Duterte, he retains the option of either rigging the 2022 presidential elections or proclaiming nationwide martial law in order to retain power and prevent his arrest either by order of the International Criminal Court for the extrajudicial killings in the bogus war on drugs,  the Philippine courts for charges of corruption now being exposed in the Senate or the people’s court of the people’s revolutionary government for all the grave crimes that he has committed. He is uncertain whether he can escape to China or any other country in order to avoid arrest.

The imminent possibility of a prolonged Covid-19 pandemic and failures in the mass vaccination strategy, a new financial meltdown, or major outbreaks of social unrest, have their own dynamic which could greatly impact the short-term political and socio-economic conditions in the Philippines. This may include changed priority levels that the US and China (as two imperialist powers with major Philippine stakes) may give to the 2022 presidential elections. 

For instance, should the Covid emergency in the country extend to the 2022 election period, the incumbent Duterte regime and its candidates will definitely take advantage of their power to rig the vote count from the precinct level to the national level. They can use their authority to impose local lockdowns, restrictions on mass gatherings, relief aid and vaccine deliveries as carrot and stick, control of media airtime, special Comelec and police powers, and so on.

In any case, the national democratic movement and the conservative opposition are obliged to form a broad united front against the Duterte ruling clique to denounce its gross and systematic crimes against the people and to prepare against the immediate prospect of Duterte’s rigging of the 2022 presidential elections. Such a broad united front can allow the national democratic mass movement to continue calling for the ouster of the Duterte regime.  The possibility of ouster can gain reality only when Duterte loses control of his own reactionary armed forces and police as Marcos did in 1986 and Estrada in 2001. 

It is not an idle exercise in futility for the national democratic movement to keep on calling  for the ouster of the Duterte regime. The call can help to intensify the people’s hatred for the crimes of the Duterte regime and to step up the efforts of the broad popular movement to oust Duterte. Without such call, the possibility of ouster before or after the presidential elections is given up in advance. 

Such a call of the national democratic movement and the broad united front  must result in large and sustained mass struggles of the workers, peasants, and other progressive sectors in their millions on a nationwide scale. It can also be inspiring to the people in their revolutionary armed  struggle for national and social liberation..

In the coming years from 2022 to 2028, if it is necessary for the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces to wage the armed revolution, they will have excellent conditions and opportunities for bringing about the maturation of the advanced phase of the stage of strategic defensive in the people’s war and the beginnings of the strategic stalemate in certain provinces and regions. We are assuming that despite current enemy campaigns  of suppression the CPP and NPA will further excel at carrying out the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever growing and deepening mass base and that  the crisis of both the domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system will continue to worsen.

III. Long-Term Prospects of the People’s Democratic Revolution with Socialist Perspective

If the Duterte ruling clique continues to rule the people by rigging the 2022 presidential elections,  the patriotic and democratic forces must arouse, organize and mobilize the people to rise up to topple the usurper of power in the same manner as Marcos was removed from power in 1986. If that were not immediately possible, then the people have to proceed to continue the struggle for some longer time, even if only to oust the fake president. 

We must recall that the 1986 snap elections and people’s uprising were preceded by more than two years of gigantic and sustained nationwide mass campaigns, united front developments,  such as JAJA, CORD, NAJFD and the people’s congresses (BAYAN and KOMPIL), and major street mobilizations with peak strength in the hundreds of thousands of participants in major cities, from the 1983 Aquino assassination onward. 

The extension of the power of the Duterte ruling clique cannot last very long because Duterte has already bankrupted the economy and the reactionary government and the broad masses of the people cannot tolerate for a long while a ruling clique that is extremely detestable because of its crimes of treason, tyranny, mass murder, plunder and swindling.  The longer such a clique remains in power, the faster will all forms of revolutionary struggle develop and advance against the entire ruling system.

If an opposition presidential candidate wins, it is possible that he or she will stand or pose for a while as the patriotic and democratic opposite of Duterte and will probably offer the resumption of peace negotiations to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.  Such a new president has to come on top of the crisis that the Duterte ruling clique has so extremely aggravated. And there is the need for the broadest possible national unity to address the roots of the armed conflict and achieve a just and lasting peace. In this case, the peace negotiations can be resumed by reaffirming all previous agreements and improving the safety and immunity guarantees for the negotiators, consultants, resource persons and staff of the two negotiating panels.

But it is also possible for the winning opposition candidate to accept the dictates of US imperialism and pro-US military officers to continue the campaign of Duterte to destroy the revolutionary movement or to pretend to engage in peace negotiations but only to seek the capitulation of the revolutionary movement.  The Filipino people and the revolutionary forces must therefore be ready to continue the revolutionary armed struggle without any let-up. If there are peace negotiations but the reactionary government turns out to have no serious interest in attaining a just peace, then the NDFP can disengage anytime from such a waste of time.

The recrudescence of the Marcos fascist dictatorship in the form of the Duterte state terrorism with worse forms of mass murder and corruption proves the decadent and  moribund character of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.  There may be regimes that pose as bourgeois democratic, like the ones from Aquino the mother to Aquino the son, but they will continue to perpetuate the daily violence of exploitation and military campaigns of suppression against the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the revolution. The compelling reasons for the revolutionary movement will continue.

The multiplication of guerrilla platoons and companies and increase of guerrilla fronts on a nationwide scale and the continuance of extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare will characterize the strategic defensive stage of the people’s war from the  middle phase to the maturation of the advanced phase.  The platoons will continue to develop localized stalemates with the local police forces in many towns and the viability of organic companies in many guerrilla fronts in many provinces and regions will indicate the advance towards the stage of the strategic stalemate. The further advance from the strategic stalemate to the strategic offensive will be relatively fast but it is too early to dwell on it now in this webinar.

The enemy will continue to be unable to stop the expansion and consolidation of the CPP, the NPA, the revolutionary mass organizations, alliances and the local organs of democratic political power.  The CPP will expand and consolidate its ranks in both cities and countryside. The NPA will develop its forces in the guerrilla fronts and expand towards the urban areas. The revolutionary mass organizations will expand and consolidate even faster than the CPP and NPA. The alliances will expand their constituents and influence. And the local organs of democratic power will multiply at the grass roots and will develop to higher levels of self-government.

The conditions for the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war will become more favorable. Within the Philippines, the reactionary state will become more unable to control the various armed organizations of the Moro people and other national minorities whose continuing struggle shall benefit from the advance of the revolutionary forces led by the CPP.  The latter will in turn benefit from the advance of the armed struggle of the national minorities.  

The  people’s democratic revolution shall be basically completed upon the seizure of political power and the establishment of the people’s democratic republic under the leadership of the CPP and the proletariat.  This shall mark the start of the socialist revolution, with all the transitory measures. The national united front shall be maintained and further developed to ensure the fulfilment of the remaining tasks of the new democratic revolution and the success of socialist revolution and construction. 

The commanding heights of the economy shall be socialized. Land reform shall be completed and agricultural cooperatives will advance from one level to a higher one. National industrialization shall be carried out by the socialist state and the patriotic sectors.  A national, scientific and mass culture shall thrive. Foreign relations shall be based on independence, friendship, equality and cooperation and shall serve the purpose of development and peace against imperialism and all reaction.

The worsening crisis of the world capitalist system will aggravate the crisis of the domestic ruling system. And the advance  of revolutionary movements and anti-imperialist and socialist states abroad will favor the advance of the Philippine revolution. At the same time, the Philippine revolution will contribute to the advance of the revolutionary movements and anti-imperialist and socialist states abroad.  

It is of particular significance for those who are interested in the Philippine revolution’s medium-term and long-term prospects to analyze and monitor more closely the frequent convulsions of the global capitalist crises, the worldwide resurgence of the anti-imperialist and democratic movements and the fast-worsening rivalries among the imperialist powers, especially between the US and China. 

The Philippines and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia lie in a long “belt of flashpoints” in the worsening US-China rivalry, and every major tremor in this region may produce twists and turns in the country’s socio-economic and political situation, including possible realignments among the factions of the exploiting classes. Such developments will provide the Philippine national democratic movement with more opportunities for it to advance solidarity work and participate in a broad united front along the anti-imperialist and democratic line.

The international relations of the Philippine revolutionary movement adhere to the principle of proletarian internationalism among the communist and workers’ parties, the international solidarity of peoples and the international united front of all anti-imperialist and democratic forces.  In the course of the people’s democratic revolution, the revolutionary forces of the Filipino people develop mutual understanding and cooperation with corresponding forces abroad. Such relations shall develop further in the course of socialist revolution and construction.###

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