DNX interviewed during its podcast on 24 June 2020 Ka Juanito Magbanua, spokesman of the New People’s Army’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command in Negros island, over a variety of issues, ranging from the COVID pandemic and its effects on workers to political developments in the island, the death of Danding Cojuangco and the possible emergence of new kingmakers.
Magbanua spoke mostly in Hiligaynon and we have transcribed the interview to English below.
Transcribed by Bianca C. Montilla, edited by Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles: Firstly, what are your observations about the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming Tiempo Muerto here in Negros, especially to the workers?
Ka Juaning Magbanua: As for the pandemic, the Duterte Administration must be blamed for its failure to heed the warning of WHO (World Health Organization) regarding the virus outbreak last December 2019. Also, the government didn’t take an initial response to this outbreak like issuance of travel bans to those from affected countries. Almost half a million Chinese were infected and 14,000 people from Wuhan Province – the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus, travelled back to tge Philippines which caused the virus to spread.
The pandemic cost a lot of damages to the lives of poor Filipino people yet the Duterte regime still plotted a plan to utilize the health issue as a way of opprrssing and immobilizing the Filipino people and also made it a tchance to declare again Martial Law.
But as early as now, the provisions of Martial Law is clearly visible with how are rules and regulations are imposed that hugely affect the everyday lives of the poorest of the poor, which includes the farmers.
Hunger and poverty worsened among the poorest people due to the rising prices of products brought by taxes and heightened militarization.
Currently adding to these issues is the passage of the Anti-Terror Bill under this regime which will strictly take control the people’s movement which can affect their day-to-day lives.
Therefore, our agricultural sector, especially here in Negros is now experiencing an early season of great loss of livelihood or what we call Tiempo Muerto due to this pandemic.
JDM: Except for what you’ve said about Duterte’s fault in the rapid virus spreading, there were accusations from United States that the Chinese Communist Party must be blamed for the spread of the virus. What can you say about this matter?
KJM: The Communist Party of China is actually arevisionist. It was seen earlier during the term of Mao up to the current leaders of CCP today, Xi Jinping. It was also believed that China evolved from being a capitalist nation to an imperalist nation.
With regards to the information that China was behind this pandemic, we still don’t have any confirmation about that but there is this possibility that China has to be blamed for this deadly virus.
Going back to our country, if early precautions were taken seriously to combat the dangers of this virus then we wouldn’t be having troubles right now as other nations did like Taiwan, their government didn’t announced a lockdown yet they had a concrete and appropriate plan of facing the pandemic.
According to our research, the Philippine government generated 275 Billion Pesos for the COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
Only 15 Billion Pesos was initially released and there is still 160 Billion Pesos left for further expenditure but that whopping money will never be seen and felt by the people.
Add to that the aids and donations of other nations and private organizations that supposedly must be spent for the welfare of the people. This is why the regime of Duterte must be blamed for the damages that the Filipinos are now experiencing.
JDM: Ka Juaning, you’re trying to say that the CCP is not communist but they are already imperialist. With the fight of the imperialist powers – America and China, do you think CCP does not care about lives of people? Is that okay for them?
KJM: China recently became an imperialist country with its recent offensive steps of taking over nearby territories for their economic consumption.
Here in the Philippines, people opposing American imperialism while the Chinese are taking over certain islands. The US is strategically planning to have absolute power of controlling the whole Asia-Pacific region. With that, the rivalry ignites between supreme nations by securing their military forces first for possible war.
JDM: Sir let’s move away from the COVID-19 topic, let’s talk about the local issues. According to tge AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), the NPA is being weakened by surrenders, battlefield losses and other factors. What would you like to say about this?
KJM: Regarding the claimed surrender of our members, this is solely part of the military scheme under the Duterte regime through imposing programs that aim to take the members back to the government’s control.
Actually, there is this funding for surrenderees to receive P50,000 for livelihood assistance and an additional P15,000 from their respective LGUs (Local Government Units).
I assume that you are already aware of our 2,210 members from Escalante who surrendered themselves to the government.
First, their cryptic scheme surely benefits their own pockets because none of our members had ever received those mentioned money assistance.
Second, they are falsely implying in their propaganda n degrading the CCP and NPA.
About the couple from the mountainous areas of Himamaylan who surrendered recently, they were legitimate members of NPA but they became inactive starting from 2018 up until now.
We don’t known the details of that incident but we were told that they were placed under the enemy’s custody. They were also saying that more and more top commanders have surrendered.
Talking about our tactical offensive, the revolution is still in strategic defensive stage of the people’s war here in the Philippines.
Which is why we are conducting attritive and annihilative military actions.
They were also claiming about the NPA’s inadequacy of initiating ground battles but what happened in Camuag, Himamaylan where the platoon CO was targetteed was proof of the capability of our organization.
It is not true that the military officers were guarding the relief goods to be distributed to the people because of the prior announcement of ceasefire while they were having a one week operations. Our members had to evacuate their places and put themselves in defensive mode.
It really is not true that our organization is incapable of initiating big offensives but we are greatly taking the challenge of our principles right now wherein we are currently reaching the level of resistance against the government that leads us to massive and illegal actions.
JDM: Let’s hop on to politics now. The death of Danding Cojuangco is widely discussed right now. So what would be the organization’s thoughts about Danding’s possible successor?
KJM: With Bayani Obrero’s statement about Danding’s death, he said that the people are saddened by his death knowing that Cojuangco did not suffer any punishment and penalties for his wrongdoings.
If you’ll see, Danding is not the sole big landlord of Negros. While tracing back the roots, not all big landlords are class enemy. But since Danding is now dead, there are still more bigger landlords like the Marañons and the Montelibanos which are known to be despotic but weren’t classified by our organization as a threat.
All in all, they are still a class enemy in the eyes of our farmers who were in an endless arguement of owning their lands.
In our views, if we’ll talk about the same class enemies like Danding Cojuangco, his party mates will surely take over his place.
JDM: What would be your views to the current situation of our politics here in Negros now that Danding is dead, who do you consider to be the next kingmaker; for example, what can you say about Albee Benitez? What are your thoughts about this?
KJM: Albee Benitez is greatly known to be a contrador borgecia and identified to be an anti-movement. He has money and influence that may make him occupy that position but we aren’t in power to dictate something because they have their own. organization dynamics. But one thing is for sure, we classify him as a class enemy.
JDM: Okay, except for Albee Benitez, and by the way his brother – Cong. Kiko, voted against the Anti-Terror Bill. Despite that, do you see Albee Benitez as a fascist, sir?
KJM: We are not saying that Albee is a fascist. According to his work records, he is clear from putting dangers and threats to the welfare of the people. But as we are looking into his class interest, we are looking forward to his career as a politician. As for our views, we still don’t have an outright decision of announicing Albee as an enemy but we can see some prior indications of his actions like his inclination to the Abang Lingkod group. As we all know, the Abang Lingkod group strongly supports anti-movement agendas. With that, we can say that they are the people’s enemy.