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NYTimes.com Article: Communist Revolt Is Alive, and Active, in the Philippines
by threehegemons
26 March 2003 03:51 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by threehegemons@aol.com.

Communist Revolt Is Alive, and Active, in the Philippines

March 26, 2003


SAN AGUSTIN, the Philippines - A seeming anachronism that
was almost eliminated in the mid-1990's, the world's
longest-running Communist insurgency, is coming back to
life. It took the Rev. Paul Sahagun by surprise the other

He was leading a group of women in choir practice when,
without a word of warning, armed soldiers were clambering
all over his little whitewashed church - up the stairs,
onto the roof, across the terrace. 

"I just told the women: `Let's keep on practicing. Just
ignore them,' " he said the other day. "All of a sudden we
heard shooting, loud shooting." Everybody screamed and

Just beyond the little dirt-floored pool hall beside the
church, five Communist rebels were hiding in the shanty of
a farmer named Felipe Mallari. 

For more than two hours, the priest said, there were bursts
of gunfire followed by periods of dead silence. Then the
soldiers were carrying out the bodies, four men and a

"People say the girl was just taking a bath, the amazon,
and she went inside to change her clothes," said Zenaida
Sigua, who owns a tiny grocery opposite the house, using
the popular term for the women among the guerrillas.
"That's why the amazon, she's the only one fighting. The
others, they were taking a snack outside the door, under
the guava tree." 

So common have such encounters become around the country
that this shootout in the rice fields north of Manila drew
just four paragraphs in a national newspaper. In the past
three years, the Philippines has seen a steep rise in
attacks, ambushes and assassinations by the insurgents, as
well as raids by the military. 

A nationwide movement that feeds on the country's
widespread poverty and government abuses, the Communist
rebels - the New People's Army - pose a greater potential
long-term challenge, according to analysts, than does the
Muslim insurgency in the south that today preoccupies the
military, as well as the United States. 

Active in a number of areas around the country, the
insurgents generally operate in small units, although they
sometimes carry out attacks with as many as 100 or 200

Here in the shadow of Mount Arayat, a rebel stronghold,
villagers say the Communists are more active than ever. "Do
I feel safe?" said Father Sahagun. "Who feels safe in a
place like this? Nobody feels safe." 

Adding to the danger, the Communists have threatened to
form a "tactical alliance" with the Muslim insurgents, who
are fighting a separatist war on the southern island of
Mindanao and on smaller neighboring islands. Some of the
Muslims are believed to have links with terrorist groups
associated with Al Qaeda. 

The United States has placed one small, violent band, Abu
Sayyaf, on its list of terrorist organizations and earlier
this year offered to send some 2,000 troops to help fight
it. It is the much larger group, the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front, with which the Communists have been in

Last August, at the request of the Philippine government,
Washington also added the Communist insurgency and its
front organization, the National Democratic Front, to the

A party leader, insisting that only his underground name,
Ka Oris, be printed, denied that the Communists' carefully
selected targets constitute terrorism. But the designation
seems to have fired the insurgency into showier attacks and
more belligerent statements, including threats against
American military personnel here on training exercises. 

"Any deployment of United States troops within or along the
periphery of the territory of the revolutionary movement
may be regarded as acts of provocation," said Gregorio
Rosal, a Communist spokesman. 

A freeze on money transfers to terrorist groups also
appears to have led to an increase in the extortion of
"revolutionary taxes" from plantations, fisheries, logging
operations, bus companies, cattle ranches, construction
projects and cellular telephone companies, as well as to
reprisal raids against those that refuse to comply. 

Along with ambushes of military patrols and raids on
armories, newspaper reports show, the guerrillas are busy
burning farm equipment, logging trucks, bulldozers,
generators, buses and cellular telephone relay stations. 

The Communist insurgency, founded in the mountains near
here 34 years ago, reached its peak in the mid-1980's as
the main outlet for opposition against the martial-law rule
of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was driven from
office in 1986. 

Undermined by amnesties and weakened by military
offensives, surrenders and internal purges, the insurgency
withered in the following years. But the poverty and
corruption that gave rise to the movement continues to
animate it today. 

A local reporter who has watched the insurgency come back
to life here in central Luzon said that time was on the
side of the rebels. "I believe it's easier to recruit these
days because people are so poor and there is so much graft
and corruption in government," he said. 

After the Marcos years, many of the group's leading figures
returned to the Philippine mainstream as social workers,
professors, even in some cases as prominent members of

But the movement's founder, Jose Maria Sison, who had fled
to the Netherlands, remained an inflexible Marxist. The
party slowly reconstituted itself behind his hard line and
began to rebuild its fighting force. 

"As long as you have a society that is 40 to 50 percent
poor, 40 to 50 percent hungry and 40 to 50 percent
oppressed, the grammar of insurgency will be there," wrote
Teodoro Benigno, a columnist and former government
official, after Washington labeled the movement terrorists.

"You can't expect peace," he wrote. Recruits for the
insurgency "are going to be around," he added, "because of
poverty and oppression, because of an economy that is a
failure and a democracy that does not work." 

The revolutionaries might seem quaint if they were not so
dangerous, their statements cluttered with the clichés of
an earlier century. Ka Oris, the underground leader, said
that despite the decline of Communism around the world, it
remained the wave of the future. 

"It is not a matter of how many revolutionary movements are
following the Marxist path," he said. "It is a matter of
which path is correct. As for the revolutionary movement in
the Philippines, we adhere to Marxism, Leninism and Maoism
because it is the right way for a semifeudal and
semicolonial country to launch a revolution for its
national salvation." 

It appears now that a new generation of Philippine rebels
is learning to view the world through this ideological

"The future is bright," Ka Oris said. "I would not give a
time frame, but I would only say that in the next two or
three decades we will see the victory of the revolution."


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