The best of my life was in the NPA
[An open letter to the 5th CMO Battalion — Philippine Army and Task Force ELCAC – Northern Luzon and simultaneously a response to the invitation of Radyo Natin in Bontoc, Mt. Province to the CPP-NPA to join the Philippine Army on air]
I am a retired Red fighter of the NPA, among those you are offering to surrender. Unfortunately, I can not afford to renounce my loyalty to the revolution and to the masses we ardently serve. I thank the Radyo Natin (in Bontoc) for inviting us to join and discuss with you on air. But I am sorry we can’t heed. With your (Anti) Terror Law, it is too risky to be lenient.
If you are sincerely eager to discuss with us, the appropriate venue must be at the peace talks, wherein our representatives of the CPP-NDF take the responsibility of formally talking with your representatives of the GRP so that the proposals for the essential socio-economic reforms that would eventually resolve the armed conflict between us, for just and lasting peace, would be agreed upon.
I was challenged to also publish my REVELATIONS as a (real) former member of the NPA, to belie those “revelations of former rebels” you hype which are entirely different to my experience for nearly three decades of serving as an NPA warrior.
I joined the NPA in my mid-20’s, at the prime of my youth. And now, I am at the golden age of 50’s. I refuse to retire as a Red fighter of the NPA, but my unit in the CPP-NPA had to send me off for other important tasks of the revolution. Until now, I can’t get over leaving the Red Army, because I consider that the best of my life was spent here. Spending my youth in serving the people through the armed revolution, is the milestone in my life. For this, I consider my life fulfilled in the NPA, contrary to what you are vaunting as “revelations of former rebels” that their lives were “miserably spent and lost in the NPA.” Opposite to what you are brandishing that we revolutionaries are misled, we have been enlightened and have trodden the right path towards freedom, democracy and prosperity of life for the Filipino people. I was born and raised in the dark period of US-Marcos fascist dictatorship. I was a student youth who was enlightened by the rottenness of the society at a time the Filipino people have kicked-out Marcos and was replaced by the Cory Aquino regime who pretended to be pro-people and pro-democracy. I dreamt of becoming a lawyer if not a professor, and was also obsessive of becoming an international war correspondent but I set aside these ambitions because I was roused of a greater service that I could render to my countrymen through direct and fulltime involvement in the revolution.
I was a consistent scholar since high school, yet I was not blinded by the state’s “charity” for my stable education and the “surety” of my future, when the education and future of the Filipino youth are not stable and ensured in a commercialized and repressive system of education run by your negligent state. My father was an employee of the US Military Bases and yes, of a US-owned Benguet Mining company, too. But I was not duped by the US “benevolence” in providing for our family’s living, when the Filipino people are deprived of adequate living in this backward and decrepit Philippine society long dominated by US imperialism. I wasn’t yet an activist and there were “no NPAs deceiving me’, but only through the subjects in my AB Political Science course, I appreciated socialism and communism that uphold the well-being of the poor and equal rights of all, and understood that capitalism and feudalism enrich only the capitalists and landlords by exploiting the workers and peasants. And as my study on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism deepened in my involvement in the revolution, I was further awakened that the Philippines is a waning semi-feudal and semi-colonial society that needs to be changed by waging a people’s democratic armed revolution and installing a socialist society until exploitation is eliminated and equality of the human race is achieved in a communist world society. I wasn’t yet an activist and there were “no NPAs inciting me,” but my mind was raging and seeking for a venue where I could dispute the social discrimination and despotism I was clearly witnessing, from the school. As editor of our school publication and writer-contributor of the local periodicals, I poured on my dissent to the state negligence pand repression of the youth and students, as well as the exploitation of the landlords to the peasants and the capitalist companies to the workers in our province. I organized student debates too, where I could express and assert my contention for the abrogation of the US Military Bases in the Philippines. In all debates, the NO to US Bases position prevailed, and was propagated in our province. Because of these, I was blacklisted and our school pub threatened to be closed. I was accused of creating “havoc” in our university and in our province. They should have expelled me, but because I was due on graduating, I was allowed to pursue my course but was put on stiff surveillance and harassment by the intelligence agents of the university, the ROTC, military, police and even the security agents of the reigning warlords of our province.
I realized that it was practically hard fighting alone, so I joined the youth and student movement that fights for democratic rights. All the more, I became determined in leading the legitimate struggle of the youth, peasants, fisherfolk, workers, and other poor people. All the more, I became bolder in exposing and in seeking justice for the masses’ oppression, in the streets, on the radio and on the local papers. And all the more, I was hounded by the fascist government agents, in a vicious double-bladed tactic of direct intimidation and spy conversion by tempting me of scholarship and fat allowance. Failing on both tactics, they exposed me as “an NPA” and was cited as “persona-non-grata” in my town. Because my life was at risk, I rather decided to enlist to the NPA. I realized that in the open democratic mass movement, where my weapons were barely my voice and pen, I cannot fight evenly. Read: Nobody recruited me to the NPA, I volunteered to enlist.
With the NPA and peasants in the countrysides, I found my new home. In the NPA, I was all the more enlightened that the people’s war is the ultimate means of achieving their democratic rights and that my fighting will was steeled even more. Aside from my voice and pen, I now have a gun as real weapon. The fight is now even. I am now free to expose the oppression of peasants by the landlords and merchant-usurers, to organize and lead them along the youth, women, workers and the middle class in the national democratic revolution. Even if you attack us, we just withdraw and position on the hills and we’ll ambush you. The masses are our wide net of intelligence, as well as support. We don’t need to extort, because the voluntary support of the masses is profuse. Because of the warm embrace the masses give us back, we can surmount all the adversities and challenges of life in the mountains away from our loved ones.
One day, when we chanced by a soldier who took vacation, he bragged that if they get short of supply on their operations, they would stew pebbles for their viand, as he challenged me, “and you, can you do that? (boiling pebbles for a viand)” I laughed as I retorted, “Why do you need to stew pebbles for your viand? We do not experience that because even if you are running after us, the masses run the stewed chicken after us. Why would we eat stewed pebbles?” He was awed, realizing that boiling pebbles for a meal is not a strength, rather an indication of lack of the masses’ support to you.
If these scripted storylines of “gruelling life of the NPA” are the “revelations” of these “NPA surrenderees”, I would not contest that, because life in the armed revolution is really that hard. When I joined the NPA, the comrades did not entice me of an easy life in the mountains, but rather forewarned me that life is arduous here, because this is a class war between the oppressed and the oppressors. I could have quitted and just returned to my comfortable life downtown and pursue my ambitions, but as my world broadened in the countrysides, I was all the more enlightened that the greater number of the impoverished masses are here. It is here where I should instead serve as a lawyer and teacher of the masses. And yes, my ambition of becoming a war correspondent would be realized here afterall, because I am actually in a war now! Truly, life of the NPA is full of sacrifices. But the issue is, for whom these sacrifices serve? That if the sacrifices serve for the liberation of the greater number of the oppressed class, you wouldn’t mind hurdling the difficulties of life in a war. If you die, your death is worth dying for. The lesson I learned here is that, if the essence of serving the people is not profoundly ingrained in you, and if you are not deeply rooted to the oppressed class you are supposed to serve, you cannot withstand the sacrifices that are indispensable in a class war. Worst, if you surrender and make yourself an instrument of the enemy. Like the plant if not properly rooted, easily withers in heat and breaks in a typhoon.
Contrary to what you are highlighting as “revelations” of these “former rebel rape victims”, that “women in the NPA serve as sex slaves of their comrades,” it is in the NPA that I achieved the liberation, empowerment and respect of women oppressed in this macho-feudal society. I have experienced how the recognition and protection of the rights of women are institutionalized in the NPA, through its code of conduct and policies strictly implemented such as the Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points to Keep in Mind as well as The Policies on Relations and Family in the Communist Party of the Philippines. My mother who had gone sleepless since I went uphill anxiously assuming that my comrade men “could just do whatever they want of me in isolated NPA camps deep in the forests,” was relieved after seeing for herself the discipline and proletarian camaraderie being practiced in our rank. Too impressed of what she experienced in the Red Army, she couldn’t hold back exclaiming, “It’s in the NPA where you could find the gentlest of the men afterall! (Well, aside from my father, she adjoined…. ) Probably, what you are referring to as rape cases and exploitation of women in the NPA were the cases of Conrado Balweg. Balweg who was found guilty by the revolutionary court to have exploited women in the NPA, was repudiated by the people and later on punished by the revolutionary government. Ironically, he was patronized by your government. By pounding on the dirty prop of “sex slavery in the NPA,” you are desperately passing on your filth to the People’s Army. Wherever you are destined to, your impudence to women are rampant, customary and common-knowledge, because that is institutionalized in your fascist army as an instrument of this ruling patriarchal-bourgeois-feudal state that endorses women oppression.
My uncle, a retired Philippine Army officer, who heeded to my invitation to see for himself what the NPA looks like, got teary-eyed, admitting that all the while, he thought that the NPA is a band of monkeys, and that, all the while, he couldn’t accept that his niece whom he pampered that much joined this band of monkeys. And now, seeing through his very eyes that the NPA is a band of nice people, he got the biggest shock and disgrace in his life. By showcasing “revelations of former rebels,” you are trying to illustrate a “grim image of the NPA” while creating a real-life shoddy image of your regime being seen and decried worldwide as champion of human rights abuses. You are callously flaunting fabricated “acts of terrorism of the NPA” while murdering and terrorizing tens of thousands of civilians in your savage anti-drug and counter-insurgency war and political repressions. By exhibiting a “bleak future they are leading in the revolution” you are desperately discouraging the youth to act for change, while denying them of a guaranteed future by holding on to neoliberal policies that continuously drop them out of school and leave them into the widening hollow of unemployment and poverty. You are desperately pulling the Filipino youth away from the NPA while maneuvering them into the AFP-PNP only to make them bloodthirsty triggermen of your extra-judicial killings and frontliners of your violent Oplan Kapayapaan.
When I joined the NPA, I guess the masses were testing me when they remarked, “Are you sure you are not misled? With your looks and wit, you could have even turned into an actress. You could have been a millionaire!” I answered, “No thanks, I’d rather be your penniless servant than a self-serving millionaire.” The P20,000 or millions more you are offering if I surrender is a small amount that I could earn, should I preferred to be a millionaire if I turned into an actress, instead of the NPA, as what the masses have told. The P20,000 or millions more you are offering us should we surrender is not the amount of genuine land reform, national industrialization, sovereignty and self-determination, freedom and democracy of the Filipino people that we are fighting for. Even if you spend billions of pesos for our surrender, that cannot pay for the lives of the masses and comrades that you have extinguished in your brutal war of suppression. Justice must be rendered instead, by intensifying the people’s war and toppling your tyrannical rule.
May you open your eyes and be enlightened of the nauseating corruption in your government while the people are reeling in this pandemic and now again in this spate of typhoons. May you open your eyes and be enlightened of the the glaring injustice to our suffering countrymen by continuously depleting health, social services and calamity funds, while wantonly beefing-up counter insurgency funds that are only squandered on senseless surrender baits and only devoured by your corrupt officials. May you open your eyes and be enlightened that the social prejudices and human rights abuses you are exacerbating in your futile ELCAC crusade only drives the people to seek justice by joining forces with the CPP NPA-NDF and advancing the armed revolution even more.
Just pray that those lawmakers, simple activists, social critics and innocent civilians you are red-tagging and putting their lives at risk won’t be driven away to the mountains like what was done to me and other more.
Ka Maria Nel joined the NPA in the early 1990s and currently a member of the Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) in Cordillera. The MAKIBAKA in Cordillera is a member-organization of the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front.