The Philippine revolutionary movement: Combining armed and legal struggles

By Luis G. Jalandoni
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)

Contribution to Workshop #1:
National and social liberation from imperialism and all reaction
and resistance to foreign aggression and intervention

For the past hundred years, the Filipino people have been struggling for national and social liberation against US imperialism and its local agents, the big compradors and feudal lords. In the mad scramble for new colonies among the world’s old colonial and emergent imperialist powers at the turn of the 20th century, the US had acquired the Philippines from Spain for $20 M, snatching victory from the Filipino revolutionaries who were then on the threshold of liberating themselves from three centuries of colonial and feudal rule.

The 1896 Revolution, a national democratic revolution of the old type, was decisively crushed in the Fil-American War, a genocidal war of US aggression killing one-seventh of the Filipino population. Direct American colonial rule would last for half a century, imposing a semi-feudal economy that would provide US imperialism cheap raw materials and a ready market for its products. But the Filipino people’s struggle against foreign domination and feudal oppression persisted in various forms – from cleverly disguised nationalist literature to militant workers’ and peasant strikes to pocket peasant uprisings.

The founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1930 heralded the working class’ leadership in the Philippine revolution. With the outbreak of the second world war, the CPP formed the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon—HUKBALAHAP (Anti-Japanese People’s Army) and waged armed resistance against the Japanese aggressors.

After the Second World War, US imperialism granted political independence and shifted to neocolonial rule in order to forestall the resurgence of an anti-imperialist national democratic and pro-socialist movement. Despite the aggravation of the crisis of semi-feudal and semi-colonial society, the Communist Party self-liquidated in the late 50s as a result of a series of reformist, adventurist and then defeatist and collaborationist policies.

The anti-imperialist and democratic mass movement was revitalized in the 1960s with massive youth, workers’ and peasant protest actions. On December 26, 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines was reestablished on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. The CPP called for a new democratic revolution led by the working class and with socialism as its perspective. It established the New People’s Army on March 29, 1969 as its main mass organization and instrument in waging a protracted people’s war to overthrow US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism in order to attain national liberation and genuine democracy. The National Democratic Front was established in 1973 as a formal alliance of all forces fighting for national freedom and democracy , with the worker-peasant alliance as its base.

The Filipino people‘s struggle for national and social liberation has advanced since then despite great odds. The archipelagic character of the country compelled the revolutionary movement to be self-reliant. The revolutionary forces not only survived but also grew and gained strength amidst relentless fascist attacks, including fourteen years of martial law. At the height of the worldwide onslaught of bourgeois and imperialist propaganda following the collapse of the Soviet and East European revisionist regimes, a thoroughgoing rectification campaign was launched that would reaffirm the general principles of the new democratic line and revitalize the revolutionary movement.

Three decades of arduous revolutionary struggle have underscored the correctness of the following principles that guide the struggle for national and social liberation from imperialism and all reaction in the Philippines:

  1. The Philippine revolution is guided by the most scientific and advanced social theory and methods of analysis, combining theory and practice, raising practice to the level of theory and enriching theory with summed up experiences or practice.

  2. It resolutely and militantly combats bourgeois, imperialist and modern revisionist ideology and policies

  3. The revolution is part of, and consciously contributes to, the international people’s struggles against imperialism and reaction the world over.

  4. Philippine society is semi-feudal (i.e., agrarian and pre-industrial) and semi-colonial; its chronic and ever-deepening crisis stems from this character.

  5. This crisis can only be resolved through a new democratic revolution with the following characteristics:

    1. Its main objective is the overthrow of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism and therefore its principal targets or enemies are US imperialism and the b ig comprador bourgeoisie and the landlord class;
    2. It uses the strategy of protracted people’s war, encircling the cities from ever widening and deepening base areas in the countryside where the enemy is weakest;
    3. its main content is agrarian reform (anti-feudal struggle) and its main force the peasantry which constitutes the largest majority of the population;
    4. it is led by the working class through its party;
    5. it unites the broadest range of class forces (workers, peasants, urban petty-bourgeoisie and middle bourgeoisie);
    6. it takes advantage of contradictions and splits among the reactionaries, builds temporary or tactical alliances with unstable allies among the reactionaries in order to isolate and deal the strongest blows against the enemy at every given time.
    7. it creatively employs and combines all forms of struggle against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism.
    8. at the very moment political power is seized from the imperialism and the local ruling classes, the socialist revolution shall commence.

People Power II, the Resumption of Peace Negotiations and Elections

Recently, the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation gained international attention when 1.8 million people demonstrated at EDSA/Manila and in other urban centers all over the country in January calling for the ouster of the utterly corrupt and immoral arch-bureaucrat-capitalist Estrada. As 75,000 protestors marched to Malacanang on the morning of January 20, Estrada abdicated his office and fled through the backdoor. People Power II, the broad united front of the Left, Middle and the anti-Estrada Right had toppled the hated Estrada regime. But learning their lesson from the 1986 People Power that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship, the Filipino people are now more aware that the social system has not been overhauled, and the crises inherent to it remain.

Barely three months later, on April 6, the New People’s Army released to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and eventually to a Humanitarian and Peace Mission and to the Manila government negotiating panel a Philippine Army intelligence officer it had captured and held as prisoner of war for close to two years.

Shortly thereafter, on April 27, delegations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under the new President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), representing the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and 15 other allied revolutonary organizations, met in Oslo, Norway to resume peace negotiations which had begun in 1992 but were scuttled by Estrada in 1998.

More recently, on May 14, BAYAN MUNA, a legal progressive party advocating national independence and democracy, fielded candidates in the party-list elections and garnered three seats in the Philippine House of Representatives.

This series of events underscores the various complementary forms of struggle being waged in the struggle for national freedom and democracy. The democratic mass protest movement, the peace negotiations, and the electoral struggle are all legal forms of struggle.

Relation of Legal Struggles to the Armed Revolutionary Struggle

How are they related to the revolutionary armed struggle that the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front have been waging for the past three decades?

People Power 2 showed once again that it is possible for the legal mass movement and the broad united front to overthrow a tyrant like Marcos and a corrupt president like Estrada, together with the entire ruling clique. But more than People Power 1, it has also shown that it is impossible to overthrow the entire ruling system of big compradors and landlords without armed revolution.

The NDF Program states: “Only the power of a united people, achieved through revolutionary armed struggle and the united front of revolutionary forces, can isolate and destroy the dominance of the US and other foreign monopoly capitalists and the counterrevolutionary state of the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class.”

On March 29, 2001, the 32nd anniversary of the New People’s Army, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines reiterated that “The New People’s Army is the main organization for carrying out the principal form of revolutionary struggle, which is the armed struggle. This is the only way by which we can overthrow the state power of the exploiting classes and establish the people’s democratic power.”

As a result of the victory of the Second Great Rectification Movement launched in 1992, which rectified grave errors of “Left” and Right opportunism, the New People’s Army has consolidated and expanded its revolutionary ranks. It now operates in more than 100 guerrilla fronts throughout the country.

Ironically, the renegades and opportunists who opposed the rectification movement and attacked the revolution did so under the guise of seeking or advocating purportedly more creative and comprehensive strategies and tactics for the revolutionary struggle. Wishing to denigrate the strategy of protracted people’s war, they accused the CPP and NDFP leadership of being “dogmatic” and one-sidedly fixated on the armed struggle and neglecting the legal democratic movement They conveniently obscure the fact that since its inception, the people’s democratic revolution had grown by creatively employing and combining different forms of struggle, but always correctly upholding armed struggle as the principal form.

NPA Role in People Power II

Did the NPA play a role in the overthrow of the Estrada regime? Yes, it did, but not by playing a direct role in the urban mass actions. The Party made it a point to stress publicly that the NPA should stay in the countryside to launch tactical offensives and not to join in the mass actions in the urban areas. This was to dispel the fear of reactionary allies about joining mass actions and to deprive Estrada of any pretext for attacking the unarmed demonstrators. It was also meant to reinforce the calls of the broad united front on the reactionary military and police to withdraw support from the Estrada clique and respect the people’s democratic right to assemble and express themselves.

The NPA played a major role in weakening and overthrowing the Estrada regime by continuing and accelerating tactical offensives against its forces in the countryside and encouraging the rural masses to participate in mass actions all over the country. In the second half of the year 2000 alone, sixty-six (66) tactical offensives were successfully launched in 32 provinces in various regions of the country.

The Role of Peace Negotiations

What about peace negotiations, are these the way to achieve a just and lasting peace? The NDF has repeatedly stressed that there should be no illusion whatsoever that a just and lasting peace can be attained solely or mainly through peace negotiations. Indeed, the NDFP faces the GRP on an equal political and legal footing every time they meet at the negotiating table and try to address the roots of the armed conflict and arrive at agreements. However, it is clear that this status could only be reached and maintained as a result of the real strength the NDFP has gained in the battlefield and in other political arenas.

Through negotiations, the NDFP has been able to draw benefits for the people by being firm on revolutionary principles and flexible in policy. But it has been able to do so only on the basis of a revolutionary armed struggle that is growing in strength and advancing.

Of more than 200 political prisoners, the GRP has released only 56 out of the 73 it announced would be released. The militarists in the GRP are delaying the release of the remaining 17 and the 40 who are on the next batch to be released. Furthermore, the US government has meddled to object to the release of Donato Continente and Juanito Itaas who have been unjustly convicted of killing US Colonel Nicolas Rowe in 1989. On a wide scale, the militarists are perpetrating human rights violations. The are undertaking a policy of murder, torture, looting, arson, forced mass evacuations and seizing suspected revolutionaries and noncombatants as political prisoners but later charging them with criminal cases.

The NDFP negotiating panel has articulated the rights and demands of the people at the negotiating table: the workers’ call for a P 125 across the board daily wage increase and P 3000 monthly increase for government workers, a stop to contractualization, the reinstatement of dismissed workers, and the dissolution of regional wage boards; the peasants’ call for an immediate stop to land-grabbing and the reclassification of land that cancels their certificates of ownership and emancipation patents; the urban poor’s call for decent means of livelihood and as stop to demolition; the national minorities’ call for respect for their ancestral lands; the fisherfolk’s call for a stop to eco-tourism; and the demands of other sections of the Philippine population.

The NDFP is aware that the GRP will always try to gain on the negotiating table what it cannot in the battlefield. In fact, the GRP uses the peace negotiations in a vile and vain attempt to push the NDFP into a position of capitulation in violation of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 that stipulates a framework of non-capitulation, equality, parity and mutual benefit. From time to time, the GRP accuses the NDFP of using the peace negotiations to seek the status of belligerency. The most rabid among the reactionaries try to demean us by claiming that we are insurgents rather than belligerents under the laws of war. They claim that we are merely a domestic police problem and that we must submit ourselves to surrender negotiations in a Philippine venue under the control and surveillance of the reactionary government, instead of peace negotiations in a neutral foreign venue.

Status of Belligerency

The NDFP position is that we have acquired the status of belligerency under international law by waging revolutionary armed struggle, building organs of political power, organizing the people and defending our own territory in more than 100 guerrilla fronts throughout the country. In fact our revolutionary government proves its status of belligerency whenever the NPA captures and detains prisoners of war for various lengths of time and accords them humane treatment under the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I. Thus we comply with the NDFP’s Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I of 1977 issued on July 5, 1996 and subsequently deposited with the Swiss Federal Council.

Upon the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway on April 27, 2001, all ten previous bilateral agreements have been revived. The most important of these are: The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The CARHRIHL is the first substantive agreement in accordance with the 4-point agenda of the peace negotiations. At the resumption of the peace negotiations in Oslo on April 27, the negotiations on social and economic reforms were opened. The NDFP negotiating panel presented the economic, social and cultural rights and demands of the people in a 38-page document.

Armed Struggle is the Principal Form of Struggle

On the 32nd anniversary of the NPA, March 29, 2001, CPP Chairman Armando Liwanag reminds all Red commanders and fighters to “understand the principled position of the NDFP in the peace negotiations and prevent the spread of any false illusion, which undermines our revolutionary consciousness and fighting morale. They should continue their revolutionary work among the masses and carry out their fighting tasks.”

Even as a legal form of struggle, the peace negotiations are inferior to the legal democratic movement, as the NDF’s strength at the negotiating table also derives from the strength of these popular mass actions. Indeed, it was People Power 2 that removed the main obstacle to the peace negotiations – Estrada himself – and paved the way for its resumption.

Among the legal forms of struggle, the legal democratic movement is the most important. Daily it takes up important issues and makes demands. The high potency of this form of struggle has been demonstrated in the overthrow of Marcos and Estrada. In the future, it can directly combine with the NPA in a strategic offensive to topple whoever is the president and the entire ruling system.

The Role of Electoral Struggle

What about the elections? The reactionaries have just gotten involved in an electoral contest. They are divided into the ruling coalition called People Power Coalition and the opposition coalition calling itself Puwersa ng Masa (Force of the Masses). A progressive party like Bayan Muna has emerged to engage in the electoral form of struggle, seeking only three congressional seats in the party list elections and supporting progressive candidates for other positions. Considering the high prestige that it has gained in the mass movement to overthrow Estrada, it is no surprise that Bayan Muna candidates have won easily, despite Red-baiting attempts by rabid anti-Communist groups.

The revolutionary movement is well aware of the limitations of the elections. It is our position that bourgeois elections are not and cannot be the solution to the fundamental problems of the Filipino people. The progressive candidates who are elected to various positions in the reactionary government in the near and long future can, at best, expose the rottenness of the ruling system, espouse the demands of the people and achieve some limited gains for the people. But the reactionaries will not allow them to replace the unjust ruling system with a just and progressive one.

The Revolutionary Forces Have Emerged Stronger

The analysis of the revolutionary movement is clear. One puppet regime has fallen and has been replaced by another. As in the successful struggle against the Marcos fascist regime in 1986, the ruling system remains intact. But it is stricken more than ever before by crisis. On the other hand, the subjective forces of the revolution have emerged stronger than ever before.

The domestic ruling system retains its own brute force with which to suppress the people and the revolutionary forces. But aside from having its own coercive apparatuses for carrying our armed counterrevolution, it is propped up by the US as its imperialist master which supplies it with weapons of destruction and engages in armed intervention and aggression.

It is therefore necessary to build the New People’s Army and carry out the people’s war in order to destroy the ruling system and achieve the national and social liberation of the people. Under the concrete conditions of the Philippines, where the peasantry is still the majority class, the NPA can pursue the strategic line of protracted people’s war. It can accumulate strength and develop in stages over a long period of time in order to encircle the cities until the conditions are ripe for seizing political power in the cities.

Under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the revolutionary movement in the Philippines shall continue to wage revolutionary armed struggle as the principal form of struggle and various legal forms of struggle in carrying out the new democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.

Towards a New Period of Great Struggles and Advances in the 21st Century

The Philippine revolutionary movement shares the firm stand of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties that are waging protracted people’s war. In a general declaration at the end of The International Seminar on Mao and People’s War in December 1998, they asserted: “The Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties, now waging protracted people’s war, play a crucial role in the transition of the revolutionary proletariat and people from a period of revisionist betrayal and temporary setbacks, following the great victories of socialism and national liberation movements, in the second half of the 20th century to a new period of great struggles and great advances in the world proletarian-socialist revolution of the 21st century.

“They hold high the torch of armed revolution. They light up the road of revolution and inspire the proletariat and people of the world, in both imperialist and oppressed countries, to wage ever more resolute and militant revolutionary struggles against the imperialists and the reactionary forces of darkness. The current victories of people’s war are the victories of the proletariat and people of the world.”

Furthermore, it is our conviction, as it is of so many anti-imperialist forces throughout the world, that it is necessary for the peoples of the world to unite against imperialism and struggle for the socialist cause. We recognize that the revolutionary struggles in the imperialist countries and those in the semicolonial, semifeudal and dependent countries support each other. We therefore hail the establishment of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle as a most welcome development in building a broad and powerful anti-imperialist movement throughout the world.

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