«After Kintanar, the killings continue THE POST-1992 CPP ASSASSINATION POLICY IN THE PHILIPPINES Pierre Rousset July 4, 2003 New murders against Left ...»
After Kintanar, the killings continue
THE POST-1992 CPP ASSASSINATION POLICY IN THE PHILIPPINES
July 4, 2003
New murders against Left and popular organizations’ cadres have been committed these recent
months by the CPP-NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its guerrilla force, the
New People’s Army. As we feared, after Kintanar’s death last January, new killings occurred. It
is then necessary to analyze the political fabric of the post-1992 CPP's assassination policy.
This is what I aim at here. I do not intend and I am not in a capacity to give a complete picture of the murders committed the last ten years. Through various examples, I simply wish to illustrate the gravity and the "logic" of what is presently going on.
Organizations and individuals abroad share a very important responsibility in today's situation.
The condemnation of the CPP's killing of Left activists is widespread in the Philippines, among other revolutionary and progressive movements. They all feel threatened. But many of them hesitate to confront too openly and strongly the CPP, because they fear to put in danger their own members in the localities: being most of the time unarmed, they cannot protect them from the well-armed NPA. We, abroad, can move more safely. It is then, for us, an elementary duty of solidarity toward the Philippine Left, toward the various revolutionary and progressive movements, to mobilize, act and force the CPP to change its policy, for it to stop killing its former comrades and the members of other progressive organizations.
* **** January 23, 2003: Romulo Kintanar, former member of the CPP Politburo and head of the NPA, was killed in a Manila restaurant. Abroad, the CPP tried to justify this assassination by accusing Kintanar of having become a military agent. But in the Philippines, the official statements issued by the party leadership and the interviews given to the media by its spokesperson, Gregorio Rosal, showed that much more was at stake. Not only had Kintanar been first condemned to death as early as 1993, but also other former leaders of the CPP were again denounced as "traitors" and "counter-revolutionaries".
Kintanar's killing was clearly used as a way to threaten former members of the party and Left organizations not belonging to the CPP "bloc" (the "Reaffirms"). All progressive movements in the Philippines understood it as such. Unfortunately, we did not have to wait long for the reality of this threat to be confirmed. Three more Left activists have been murdered by the NPA in
recent months, in different provinces:
- Raymundo Tejeno, killed February 4, 2003 in the Bondoc Peninsula. He was a peasant leader from Unorka.
- Florente Ocmen, killed May 28, 2003 in Agusan del Norte. He was a municipal officer from Akbayan! Citizen Party.
- Donie Valencia, killed mid-June, 2003, in Bataan. He was an unarmed organizer of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) and its guerilla (RHB).
The killing of Raymundo Tejeno has been officially claimed by the CPP-NPA. The two others not, but local eyewitnesses, the families and the concerned organizations have no doubt that they did it. We speak here of cold blooded murders. All of them were abducted and detained at least for hours if not days before being physically eliminated.
These recent killings confirm what we have said all along: Romulo Kintanar’s murder is part of a general trend and has to be understood in that framework. It represents a new and grave step in the post-1992 assassination policy of the CPP. With Kintanar, it was the first time that a 'legal', very well known figure was killed right in Manila-Quezon City, the capital of the country. With Florente Ocmen, it was the first time that an officer of Akbayan has been murdered. Until now, various underground revolutionary organizations were targeted by the NPA assassination teams, but not Akbayan, a broad Left, “above ground”, legal party and electoral front.
All components of the Left in the Philippines feel now under threat, including political parties and various mass movements which are “above ground” and find it very difficult to protect themselves from a well armed group as the CPP-NPA.
Ten years after 1992, the CPP leadership's policy of assassination is escalating instead of fading away.
BEFORE 1992 As far as I know (there may be cases I am not aware of), before the 1992 crisis, political elimination of former members, even turned “traitors”, was not a policy of the CPP.
Corpus. Victor Corpus, for example, was not killed. He joined the NPA in 1970 while he was a young Army lieutenant. He left the movement in 1976 and, ten years later, was reinstated in the military where he now heads the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces (ISAFP).
Corpus seems to work for the enemy. Maybe the only reason for him not to be physically eliminated by the CPP was that he was too well protected by his bodyguards. And there are some early dark sides in the CPP history and in the policies of part of its leadership (to begin with Sison’s, before his arrest in 1977). But I do not recall that in the past, the CPP leadership projected a general policy of "death penalty and threat" as presently.
Purges. During the 1980s, widespread internal purges cost the life of many CPP members (estimates of victims’ numbers range from hundreds to two thousands). In no way should the gravity of these purges be minimized. The circumstances which made them possible (the use of torture against “suspects” and many other factors) should be well understood and all lessons should be drawn from that terrible side of the CPP’s history.
But the 1980s purges were not the outcome of a faction fight. They did not constitute political elimination of dissident cadres under the cover of “anti-infiltration” campaigns. They were paranoid purges, a process of self-destruction, which played a major role in the political decline of the CPP.
One can of course focus on the "dark side" of the CPP's history and conclude that what we are today faced with is nothing more than the continuation of past sectarism, lack of internal democracy, Maoist-Stalinist conceptions, militarism, etc. To do so would nevertheless be to miss the point.
From the 1970s to the 1980s. In 1968, the CPP was a very small group. In spite of this, it proved to be the only party able successfully to build on the national scale popular resistance to the Marcos dictatorship. It had to pay a very heavy price for that success and many of its members were killed or jailed and tortured, including many of its Politburo members (among them Sison). But the results were impressive: at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, the bulk of a whole generation of activists joined the CPP, the mass organizations it led and the NPA. Other Left political groups did not survive the Martial Law period, or remained local, weak. The bright side of the CPP's history was then much more decisive in the development of the overall popular movement than the dark side.
The CPP appeared then ideologically monolithical. But behind this facade, a certain political
pluralism grew from within, various regions exploring new ways of struggle. To put it simply:
when a party and its "bloc" (then called the National-Democrats, or NDs), embodies a whole generation of activists, its future "opens". It can evolve in more than one direction. Now that the Filipino Left is plural, it is significant that the majority of its present components are coming from the CPP and the National Democrats, beside some other original trends (coming from independent Marxists, Christian socialists or left Social Democrat sources).
From the 1980s to the 1990s. During the 1980s, a growing number of issues began to be raised within and around the CPP, questioning the validity of the traditional line of the party leadership on nearly all matters: theory (e.g. on the "mode of production", supposed to be "semi-colonial, semi-feudal" in the Philippines in spite of its integration in the capitalist world market), strategy (e.g. more concrete conceptions of how various forms of struggles can combine, opposed to the idea that armed struggle is always the main form, the countryside surrounding the towns), alliance (e.g. the project to make of the National Democratic Front -the NDF- a real front, able to integrate other political and military forces than the CPP-NPA), politics (e.g. the emergence of a concept of "popular democracy"), mass work (e.g. the scope and dynamics of peasant work), and the CPP's very fabric (e.g. the hierarchical relationships between the underground and the aboveground structures).
One could say that in 1984, the future of the CPP was "opened". There is no point in writing a CPP history here. But I feel that it is impossible to understand the nature of the post-1992 CPP assassination policy without picturing briefly the 1980s background - what I would call the lost opportunity. The 1980s represent a major turning point in the national and international situation. No party can just continue to do "more of the same", because the general framework changes too much. It can formally maintain, "reaffirm", its "line" unchanged to the comma. But even then, it will be deeply altered in content. This is precisely what happened to the CPP. At least, such is my understanding.
Let's just here say that at least three elements combined then, to freeze and reverse the emerging process of evolution of the party: first, the consequences of some political choices. The leadership took the wrong sectarian turn (from 1984 Bayan Congress to the 1985-1986 "hard boycott" line) at a very wrong time (the crisis and fall of the Marcos dictatorship). It lost its political momentum and authority. Second, the paranoid internal purges of the 1980s had a deeply demoralizing, shock wave effect in the party. It lost the "moral high ground" it gained in the anti-dictatorial struggle. Because of these two factors, many cadres and members began to leave the party from mid-1980 on. Third, the top leadership eventually closed all venues for debate inside the CPP. It used the purges issue as a factional tool against the oppositions, which is one of the worst things that could be done because it made impossible a true collective assessment of what happened and why. It refused to call for a Congress in a party which had never, twenty years after the founding one, attended by a handful of militants, had another.
Instead, it begun to take disciplinary measures, which lead to the 1992-1993 crisis and splits.
From the mid-1980s to 1993, the CPP probably lost half of its members, including many trained cadres. But the main question is not quantitative. It proved able to recruit again, so deep is the social crisis in the country. The main change is qualitative. There is a sharp turn in the political dynamics of the NPA, the political fabric of the CPP and its role in society.
THE POLICY OF “DEATH CONDEMNATIONS”
The very synthetic elements of analysis presented here are of course debatable. The CPP history is much more complex than it first appears, and I know only part of it. But never in the past have we been confronted by such a generalized policy of condemnations to death, of threats and killings in the Left. It confirms that the 1992 crisis led to a qualitative change in this party, and for the worse. Today’s CPP is no longer the same as the one we knew in the 1970-1980s.
The 1993 “traitors”. The first “death condemnations” came in 1993, soon after the 1992 expulsion-splits of various territorial structures and national bodies of the CPP. The first “four principal traitors” (I quote) to be named and condemned were leadership members from Mindanao (Ricardo Reyes, Romulo Kintanar, Benjie de Vera), the Visayas (Arturo Tabara) and Manila-Rizal, the Capital Region (Felimon “Popoy” Lagman). (Note: I realize that the “four principal traitors” are here five).
Strangely enough, Joel Rocamora, from the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam), was also named and threatened, while he never was, contrary to the others, a key cadre of the CPP (living in the US and later in the Netherlands before going back to the Philippines).
The guess is that Joel provoked Joma's ire because of his action in the Netherlands (where he wrote a paper in 1991 critical of what became the "Reaffirm" standpoint and which circulated at the time of the 1992 debate), and back in the Philippines where he joined the "PopDem" crowd (the "Popular Democrats"), consolidating their international links. Joma Sison, chair of the CPPNPA, himself living in Utrecht (The Netherlands), had to find scapegoats after losing face: in 1993, most of the European-based members of the CPP-NDF rejected his line in spite of (or due to) his physical presence here.
Whatever, naming Joel Rocamora had a clear meaning: one did not need to be a former high ranking official of the CPP, and an underground cadre, to be threatened.
Policy of threat. Death penalty does not mean immediate assassination. The threat of execution is used as a very efficient way to silence opponents. The message from the CPP is: “either you keep silent and you do not engage in the building of another organization, and we shall not implement the death penalty; or, you prove 'unrepentant' and one day, sooner or later, you’ll be killed”.
Since the start of the post-1992 assassination policy, cadres of other communist underground organizations have been targeted. Former CPP members felt reasonably safe when joining Akbayan, because this political movements was initiated by various trends, including noncommunist (Bisig, for example), and is totally “above ground”, not seen as a direct challenge to the CPP. Akbayan still does not present enough of a political threat to the CPP to be seen as a direct challenge. But this is no longer sufficient for Akbayan members to be safe.
THE CHICKEN AND THE MONKEYIf the death penalty does not necessarily mean execution, the threat must be real. Which implies that some must die for those who live to know that they are actually in danger of being killed.
The ones not officially named can often be in more immediate danger than those openly mentioned in CPP statements.