BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Frank Fernandez, the former priest who became a Communist leader, was headquartered in the mountains of Guihulngan, Oriental Negros in the early 1990s to lead a resurgence of the so-called Reaffirmists or the Communist Party bloc loyal to Jose Maria Sison after it was almost crippled by a split of the “rejectionists” or those loyal to Arturo Tabara, Filemon Lagman and other Philippine-based cadres of the CPP.
Guihulngan, now a city, is one of the poorest localities in Oriental Negros, a province under the Eastern Visayas region along with Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor provinces.
Intrerestingly, these four provinces are all Bisaya-speaking and are now under one CPP regional leadership, the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor.
Before the Duterte government (2016 to 2022) these four provinces had separate regional leaderships of the Communist Party commanding their own armed units.
Guihulngan’s upland villages were the centers of gravity of the CPP’s Probisyonal nga Komiteng Tagpatuman (Provisional Executuve Committee) headed by Fernandez and composed of his wife, Cleofe Lagtapon, and two other senior cadres codenamed Ka Mauring and Ka Ian.
There, Fernandez led the local Communists in their first ever post-split front, the Larangan Gerilya Uno (LG1).
Jessie Lipura, whom the military captured, later released on bail, in the mid 90s, was said to be Mauring and the head of the NPA then.
Former Party cadres and Red fighters told this writer Fernandez was accompanied by a former hitman of the NPA, a member of the Alex Boncayao Brigade, in his deployment to Negros island to fill the leadership void left by the split in the 1990s and the eventual capture of top CPP cadres at the Hongkong Lodge here.
This ABB operative, said to be one of the best Red assassins in the country, has long laid low, some of his former comrades under the LG1 told this writer.
This writer, then a new radio reporter, covered the event involving the capture by Col. Pedro Cabuay – then an Army commander – of Tabara, former priest Ben Escrupulo, top guerrilla commander Primo Lamayo alias Boy Gat, and several others.
These arrests were a prelude to the deployment of Fernandez to Negros, especially after almost a battalion of Red fighters swung to the Revolutionary Proletarian Army commanded then by Carapali Luwalhati, the nom de guerre of now Abang Lingkod Rep. Stephen Paduano.
Guihulngan is one of the poorest localities in the Eastern Visayas region in 2015. State statistics show it was among the top 10 poorest cities/towns with more than half of its population (54 percent) classified as poor. It came in fourth after the towns of Bindoy, Jimalalud, and La Libertad.
It was a poorer place in 1994, its uplands less accessible for lack of roads, an ideal base of operations for Fernandez who led “recovery efforts.”
Political documents of the Party like “Gabay sa Pag Organisa (Organizing Guide)” and books written by Amado Guerrero, the nom de guerre of Jose Ma. Sison, that serve as guides to organizimg like Struggle for National Democracy (SND), Our Urgent Tasks (OUT), and Five Golden Rays (FGR) – all point to building a mass base in the countryside.
These books, written in the 1970s and promoted by cadres as “still reflective” of current realities, form the guides to action for a “protracted people’s war” or a lengthy armed struggle patterned after Mao Tse Tung’s revolution in China.
A section on the OUT, now available on the Internet, exhorts Party cadres and national democratic activists – mainly Party members in waiting or cadres deployed to urban-based organizations waiting to recruit for the Party or “mobilize” or use hapless and witless youth – to do organizing work in the countryside.
The CPP considers the countryside the “weak link” of the “fascist State,” where “government is absent” and the peasants are “most exploited.”
In the romantic notion of the Party, the peasants and workers form the “basic alliance” with the workers as the “leading force” and the peasants the “main force.”
In a roundabout mumbo jumbo, it simply means the workers, through its vanguard, the CPP, commands and leads the peasants to fight for national liberation.
In simple terms, the peasants will do the fighting for the proletariat, in Hiligaynon, bala sa kanyon (cannon fodder).
Sison exhorts in OUT:
“We must build the revolutionary mass movement in the countryside; and we must build the basic mass organizations for the peasants, youth, women, children and cultural activists to be able to generate it. Not much can be accomplished in mobilizing the great masses if our propaganda teams and guerrilla squads limit their organizing to the barrio organizing committees and small local armed groups.
The key point in our rural mass work is to arouse and organize the peasant masses in the shortest possible time and carry out the land reform movement step by step. In the course of focusing attention on the organization of the peasant association in a typical farming barrio, the other basic mass organizations can also be organized. The peasant activists can easily move the youth, women, children and cultural activists of their own class to accomplish their self-organization.