EDITOR’S NOTES: The author had his first interview with a New People’s Army commander at the age of 20 when he was a radio reporter. In 1994, he was one of few local journalists granted access by the Communist Party of the Philippines to interview Ka Frank Fernandez, then the secretary of the Provisional Regional Party Committee of the CPP’s “Reaffirm” or RA faction.
Years later, he was also one of a select few reporters to have interviewed former Army general Raymundo Jarque when Jarque “defected” to the rebel movement.
In the early 2000, he was again one of the few Negros-based reporters granted access to another “defector,” former police officer Joel Geollegue.
Then CPP spokesman Ka Roger Rosal was also one of the rebel personalities who has allowed him to do live radio interviews when he was still a broadcast journalist.
In 1992, the CPP suffered its second major split that resulted in the breakaway of the Rebolusyunaryong Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino or RPMP that was described by its leading cadres as “more Marxist-Leninist” – the rejectionists or RJs – than the “predominantly Maoist-Stalinist” CPP.
Of the more than 15 members of the CPP, only one declared allegiance to the RA group.
Militarily, the RJ had the upper hand, wresting at least a battalion of New People’s Army guerrillas from the CPP to form what was then known as the Revolutionary Proletarian Army or RPA commanded then by now Cong. Stephen Paduano who used to identify himself by the nom de guerre Carapali Luwalhati.
The writer, driven by a Quixotic sense, was drawn to the RAs and extensively covered them.
By the late 90s, he stopped becoming a journalist and became a full-time activist for the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or New Patriotic Alliance, an aboveground umbrella organization of activist groups consistently linked since the 70s to the underground CPP-NPA.
He returned to broadcast journalism in 2001 and by 2004, he was included in the Armed Forces’ order of battle, what some call a hit list, and was identified as a CPP cadre codenamed Miko and deployed to the partylist Bayan Muna.
His article today is based on his personal observations during a series of coverages deep in rebel territory and as a fulltime activist and his interviews with underground personalities, most of them using nom de guerres.
“Ka, may siyam ko di ka bala sa. 45 ko kag duha ka granada. Kon magbunggu-anay gid man masinggit kami ‘ipalusot ang mga sibilyan’ kag may masa lang nga madala sa inyo; dalagan lang kamo todo,”
“Comrades, I have nine. 45 caliber bullets and two hand grenades. If an encounter happens, we will shout ‘let the civilians pass.’ A mass sympathizer will be with you; you just run as fast as you can,” Ka Corbarry, then 40ish, his teeth stained deep red by chewing betel nut told us – me, a fellow radio reporter now dead, and a senior journalist I used to call Manong (a gesture of respect for an older brother).
I leaned into him and whispered into his ear: Nong, ano himuon ta (Brother, what should we do?) I asked.
He looked at me, seemingly fearless, and said: “ti madalagan ta eh (then we run).”
We just had canned sardines and boiled corn rice for dinner.
“My last supper,” I thought. Inferior in all aspects to a death row convict’s last meal, that last thought coming like a ripple of regret.
Nevertheless, I told myself, the people had to be served and they should know what the revolution’s guiding light in the island thought.
Last year, 2018, the CPP’s Central Committee, “together with the entire membership of the CPP, the Filipino people and all their revolutionary forces, (celebrated) 50 years of great achievements and revolutionary victories accumulated by the Party through five decades of leading the people’s democratic revolution since it was established on December 26, 1968 under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism,” a statement of the CPP on its website said.
Like in most anniversary statements years back, the opening paragraphs also enjoined the reader to “salute all the revolutionary heroes and martyrs who gave their all for the people and served the Party and the revolution to their last breath.”
The CC or Komite Sentral as it is called in Filipino, underscored that it is these martyrs’ “dedication and sacrifices that made possible the revolutionary victories of the Filipino people.”
Early into the more than 10,000-word statement, the CC gave “…highest honors to Comrade Jose Ma. Sison, the Party’s founding chairman, who masterfully applied Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to the concrete conditions of the Philippines and set the revolution along the correct path and steered it from strength to strength.”
The succeeding paragraphs heaped more praises on Sison.
“Even during his prolonged incarceration and exile since 1987, his theoretical, socio-historical and practical insights continue to illuminate the Filipino people’s revolutionary path, help guide the Party as well as rouse the international proletariat and people to wage anti-imperialist resistance and socialist revolution,” the CC added in the statement.
Conversations with Isoy
I asked a senior urban-based cadre of the CPP years ago why Sison is a gravitational force in the CPP. This cadre was the lone member of the regional party committee who decided to go with the RAs during the 1992 split.
Marginalized several times post the 1992 debacle, he is now largely forgotten, his “daring decision” to go against the tide by choosing to be with the RAs hardly being spoken about among new party members and activists.
We spoke over several nights in one of my coverages of the armed movement in a CPP base in the Negros hinterlands.
“Chairman Joma is at the top of the Party ladder,” he tells me, then goes on to explain that there are several types of people in the party.
The first is the Party member. This type is the most common one. They attend meetings, do the tasks assigned to them and live their lives like normal people.
The second is the cadre. They are the nucleus around whom the Party thrives. They are usually secretaries of Party collectives, branches or sections.
They are well-read and highly indoctrinated, most in the 90s during the so-called Second Great Rectification Movement have finished the Batayang Kurso ng Partido (basic Party course), some have advanced to the intermediate course.
The next are the leaders. Those who become regional secretaries or spokespersons or deputies of national commissions.
But there, too, are the teachers.
“Chairman Joma is one of them,” this cadre told me, his eyes fixed at me, seemingly watery, his voice sounding both respectful and admiring, almost adoring.
“Their views and teachings are universal, applicable to all nations, whatever the dominant economic system,” he says, and takes a draw, as if for emphasis, on his half-finished Fortune cigarette. Red.
“Wala flas, bisan sigarilyo patyon (No flashlights, even cigarettes must be put out),” Ka Corbarry told us as we shuffled our way across the dark, moonless night.
It was cold. December cold. 1994.
We were walking for almost eight hours already. Over palay fields, sugarcane patches, coconut groves, and mostly, mostly cogon fields.
I counted almost a dozen “duol ra (just over there),” when I would ask how far was the rebel base.
Then we stumbled on it.
With a heave and a curse.
We were following the river upstream when we came upon a big rock, like two jeepneys big.
It was slippery.
Manong (the senior journalist), climbed it first then heaved his backpack on the flat top of the rock. With a curse.
“Yudiputa,” he said, the curse ringing clearly in the still early morning air.
“Shhh,” someone answered in the dark.
It was 4 am.
We have reached the base.
(to be concluded)