The Wars Within Struggles of a Former Top CPP-NPA-NDF Cadre by Phil Fortuno MindSpark Publishing 2020/275pp
HINDSIGHT - F. Sionil Jose (The Philippine Star) - September 28, 2020 - 12:00am

Inside the NPA

Autobiographical accounts of the disillusion with the Communist Party like Arthur Kessler’s “The Light That Failed” are common enough.

What makes this account, as told to Phil Fortuno, veteran Scout Ranger and Ph.D., different is because it deals with thorough details on how a young idealist is lured into the movement. Victor Patria (his nom de guerre) details not just how he was recruited but the process by which the armed struggle waged by the Communist Party has lasted this long – 50 years. He lists down the front organizations, the cultural program and the tactics of the New People’s Army (NPA). For 30 years, Victor Patria lived harshly, believing in the righteousness of his cause.

But like most apostates, he soon realized, not just by mistake, that the Communist Party was an opportunist organization. He left the Party and decided to tell his story. This book is a must-read for all Filipinos who want to know more about the Communist Party and the NPA which have waged the longest insurrection in the world today and which continue to win adherence, particularly among the young. As for the ancients who hold on, for them to admit their mistake is self-mockery – that they wasted their lives for nothing. They cannot afford to do that.

It has been said that one of the achievements of President Marcos was preventing this country from falling into the hands of the communists, that Marcos declared martial law to halt the communist-induced anarchy that had engulfed the country at that time. It is, of course, a possibility that, that anarchy was promoted by Marcos himself – the staged ambush of former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile a few days before martial law was declared. In reality, the power of the rebel movement in 1972 was not as great as it was with the Huks in 1949-1952 when they surrounded Manila.

The Cold War was also at its height – the American bases were still here, America was fighting the Communist Viet Cong in Vietnam and they would have certainly fought the NPA had it grown.

Why then is the Communist Party still attracting many young people? Victor Patria, the NPA cadre, reveals why in this book. What is important is for the young people and those who are already in the movement to realize that a revolution is possible and even necessary but need not be violent, although violence is an option. I think it was the French who said it first, “If you are not a communist when you are 20 you have no heart. But if you are still a communist when you are 30, you have no head.”

The idealistic youth, the dispossessed and the poor, and the victims of injustice are the easiest converts to communism and the revolution it espouses. Thus, there is a need for a better understanding of revolution itself, that its main objective is freedom from tyranny, the transfer of power from the oppressor to the oppressed. Revolution means the modernization of archaic autocratic society, and the ultimate modernizer is the revolutionary.

We must now turn particularly to our part of the world to the exemplary experiences of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. The modernization of these countries was made with the least of violence because they were modernized by their elites themselves, by the middle classes, professionals, and businessmen – not by the revolutionary proletariat. The modernizers took advantage of the intelligence, the vaulting nationalism of the awakened people and a strong State.

We have a very strong revolutionary tradition and an Armed Forces that developed from this tradition. Our Armed Forces is composed primarily of the lower classes from all sectors of society, an Armed Forces that is the only institution capable of holding the country together. This country cannot be sundered by violence anymore. Many of the NPA cadres come from the poor; so do most of the soldiers. When the poor kill the poor – who profits?

Doctrinally, the communists are correct in fighting the Army as an instrument of the State without quite understanding that our real enemy is the oligarchy, the very rich Filipinos who control the economy and the State as well. If the Filipino communists are real Marxists, this is what they will discover. As the American reformer Wendell Phillips stated, “If the land (wealth) is in the hands of a few, you don’t have democracy – you have an oligarchy.”

National Security Adviser retired general Hermogenes Esperon Jr. is deeply aware of how poverty is a major rationale for the NPA’s longevity. He observed that sometimes, a simple barrio road is all that is needed in distraught areas to banish poverty.

As it is composed today, the Army continues to battle the NPA out of a sense of patriotism and duty. So many soldiers have already given up their lives in this struggle. Yet, even with all the inequalities and the crippling physical and moral poverty, there is great social mobility for the very poor. The public school system has made this possible. To cite just a few instances of those who rose from the dumps, there is Bulakeño Blas Ople, for instance, who rose to become senator and minister of foreign affairs, the Caviteño banker Ramon Sy, the Cebuano tycoon John Gokongwei and Tondo’s Isko Domagoso who is now Manila’s mayor. Though I haven’t become as comfortable as these people, I like to think of myself as having risen from the dregs, too.

We need that Revolution now – with the ballot and not with the bullet. That chance for social change comes regularly with the elections. This requires from all of us more discerning intelligence, for the young people to strive for excellence and, above all, for us to love this country for it is all that we have.

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