One of the most underreported events in the world today is the national democratic revolution currently taking place in the Philippines, led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and its united front, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
In late March a presentation from a visiting speaker from Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle took place in north London with a showing of the documentary “Communist Lives.” The meeting opened with a minute silence to commemorate the revolutionary life of Founder-leader Joma Sison (1939-2022).
The meeting, part of a promotion of support work for the Philippine revolution, raised the question of how solidarity could be expressed for one of the world’s longest ongoing struggles for national liberation. It served to raising a wider awareness of the intensifying struggle, providing information and explanation of the National Democratic strategy of civic society united front work, and armed struggle from its rural base with the New People’s Army. The NPA active in guerrilla warfare in all but a handful of the 81 provinces of the Philippines. Due to the archipelagic nature of the Philippines, (discussed by Sison in his Specific Characteristics of our People’s War) the NPA is not aiming to build liberated zones, as were built during the people’s wars in China and Vietnam, and as is being built in the present day by the forces of the people’s war in India. Instead, as the London presentation illustrated, the NPA has built over 110 guerrilla fronts, across the archipelago, in which, organs of new popular power are developed.
Since the 2016 2nd Congress of the CPP, calls have multiplied to enlist in the New People’s Army that sees its 54th anniversary in 2023. The vision and aspiration is to have reach a state of strategic equilibrium by the decade’s end. The reintroduction of American military bases in the Philippines – seen in terms of superpower contention and pivot in American foreign policy to face rising China – could complicate the balance of power through its intervention in the field of training, logistics and field advisers to state forces. Direct foreign intervention cannot be ruled out.
Solidarity opposes the terrorist designation
Western nations, by designating one party to the conflict as a ‘terrorist entity’, the CPP/NPA, has provided encouragement to elements within the Armed Forces of the Philippines counter-insurgency solution to the conflict, that includes the targeting of members of non-violent civilian legal left wing political parties, trade unions, student groups and peasant organisations. Extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture of left wing activists by the military have intensified following the overseas terrorist designations.
Norway’s government, which has not designated the CPP/NPA, facilitated peace talks between the movement and the Philippines government. The US and European Union, whom designated the group in 2002, have not provided support to peace talks to end the conflict.
Over the decades the government and the communist party have held intermittent peace talks. Following the overthrow of the US-Marcos dictatorship, the first peace negotiation between the new government of then President Corazon Aquino and the NDFP took place in November 1986. Sison had been released from prison detention by Aquino that year, but talks with the government quickly stalled.
Negotiations reopened during the administration of President Fidel Ramos, resulting in the signing of various pacts, including the 1992 Joint Hague Declaration urging both parties to resolve the armed conflict through political negotiations, although little movement in that direction was made by the Philippine state.
Talks resumed under successive presidencies interrupted by clashes between the NPA and state forces. Rodrigo Duterte also continued peace talks when he became president in 2016. But he terminated Peace Talks in November 2017.
There are, of course, conflicting claims about the struggle, however, through the past decades, all of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s past predictions of crushing the NPA have all been proven wrong. The government has no plans to resume peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), instead opting to sustain the use of military force to end the decades-old rebellion. Major General Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the Army division in northern and eastern Mindanao, acknowledged, “I admit that fulfilling the command’s mandated mission will prove challenging.”
Strands of solidarity
Every broad transnational solidarity social justice movement, should have a broad range of participants, from humanitarian impulse to political response, women’s organizations, trade federations, civil society groups, and concerned individuals engaged in the traditional awareness activities from petitions, letter writing campaigns, sharing on today’s social media to street protests and boycotts.
There are a multitude of strands to the solidarity banner with various activist coalitions for Human Rights in the Philippines. Often active in the diaspora – there are over 10 million Filipinos working abroad, making the Philippines one of the biggest export countries of labour – People of faith often subject to lurid accusations of a Communist conspiracy that was driving church aid projects in the Philippines. This, the consequence of a red-baiting analysis and intimidation of those concerned about human rights violations. They may not go as far as “Christians for National Liberation” but there is an ecumenism of solidarity in defence of civil society. The concerns extend beyond the question of governance as expressed in solidarity with Indigenous communities in the Philippines e.g. Canadian commemoration, Cordillera Day: A Day of Solidarity for Life, Land and Rights.
There is increasing international concern and support developing for environmental practices and sustainable economy development in the country. An important concern when the Philippines was identified as the fourth-most affected country in the world by long-term climate change as its geographical location renders it vulnerable to stronger typhoons, longer droughts, higher temperatures adversarial affecting both people and production.
On the solidarity front there is a need to raise awareness and provide informed commentary and analysis to shape the actions in aiding that struggle. Further developments maybe in the offering as a more political identity as Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle may see concrete expressions of solidarity that go beyond a signature on a statement, supportive of the Philippines movement forging of alliances while building for a mass armed revolutionary seizure of power.