APRIL - JUNE 1999
VOL. V   NO. 2

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Comrade Torturer
Once monolithic, the Communist Party has splintered into warring factions.

by Alecks P. Pabico

A SPECTER is haunting the revolutionary movement in the Philippines — the specter of seemingly interminable splits.

In the seven years since Armando Liwanag issued his "Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors" document, the Left or more appropriately, the Left of the national democratic (ND) tradition has gone through an unprecedented period of metastasis. The once monolithic movement that at its peak in the mid-1980s commanded 35,000 Party members, 60 guerrilla fronts, two battalions and 37 company formations, and foisted ideological and organizational hegemony in the progressive politics during the Marcos dictatorship is now history. Out of it have emerged fragments of disparate groups eight at least that continue to wage "revolution" in similarly disparate forms.

Not since the "re-establishment" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under the banner of Mao Zedong Thought by Amado Guerrero (nom de guerre of Jose Ma.'Joma' Sison) has there been a serious split in the revolutionary movement. In 1968, Guerrero broke away from the Jesus Lava-led Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, or PKP, over ideological differences, criticizing its abandonment of armed struggle and its shift to nonviolent legal and parliamentary means in pursuing the socialist revolution. In turn, the Lava leadership expelled him from the party on charges of "left adventurism."

Three decades later, Guerrero (now believed to be Liwanag) would find his dominion stirred by a similar storm, this time whipped up by his "Reaffirm" document. Reminiscent of the Lava act, he had also charged the "splittists" with Left opportunist sins such as "urban insurrectionism," "military adventurism," and "gangsterism."

While internal in nature, the crisis in the ND movement has not been insulated from the shock waves generated by the dramatic dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of most communist party governments of Eastern Europe. Though he dismissed the USSR and Eastern Europe's ruling parties as revisionist regimes, Liwanag himself admitted in "Reaffirm" the serious setbacks suffered by the local revolutionary movement with the onslaught of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost ideas espousing "liberalism, populism and social democracy."

Ideological responses to the crisis of existing socialism and its repercussions on its constituencies worldwide have been varied. Liwanag's own antidote is the so-called "Second Great Rectification Movement," which the mainstream ND bloc he leads continues to undergo to firm up adherence to the principles laid down in 1968. Basically, that means upholding the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. That is to say:

  • maintaining the view that Philippine society is "semifeudal" and "semicolonial" as it has not become industrialized and urbanized;
  • pursuing the general line of new democratic revolution by relying on the alliance of workers and peasants and winning over the urban petty bourgeoisie or the middle classes;
  • recognizing the CPP as the vanguard force of the proletariat or the working class;
  • waging the protracted people's war (PPW) strategy of "encircling the cities from the countryside," among others.

In so doing, Liwanag has drawn a sharp dividing line between those who agree with these views (the "revolutionaries") and those who don't ("counterrevolutionaries"). In more popular Left parlance, those who abide by the Liwanag document are the "reaffirmists" (RAs), while those who aren't into its "sweeping" conclusions are "rejectionists" (RJs).

Declaring themselves the "democratic opposition," the RJs among them regional party committees of Metro Manila-Rizal, Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao, the Visayas Commission (VisCom), National United Front Commission (NUFC), Home Bureau of the International Liaison Department and the National Peasant Secretariat (NPS) initially rejected only the "bogus" 10th Plenum that approved "Reaffirm" since it did not have the required quorum. But they soon realized that the Party leadership had not the slightest intention to be conciliatory.

The petition calling either for the reconvening of the 10th Plenum or holding a new one to discuss "Reaffirm" signed by 15 CPP Central Committee members was rejected, as were calls to hold the long-overdue Party Congress. Insisting the plenum was legitimate, the leadership instead began expelling members and dissolving units identified with the RJ bloc, ushering in the Left's own days of disquiet and nights of rage.

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PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM