Henry C K Liu

Part 1: The Philippines revisited


On November 6, addressing the National Endowment for Democracy, a neo-conservative organization founded during the Reagan era, US President George W Bush sought to justify the predictably endless and unsustainably high cost in lives and money of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Bush set out the argument for America's war against Iraq no longer in terms of defense against a threat to US security, but as part of a proactive "global democratic revolution". Even if no weapons of mass destruction can be found in Iraq despite an exhaustive search, the blood and money Bush is expending in that troubled land is now justified by the noble-sounding aim of promoting Arab democracy.

The president was speaking in Washington on a theme that freedom is "worth dying for" at the same time that a memorial service was being held in Iraq for the 15 US soldiers killed in a Chinook helicopter shot down by guerrilla fighters four days earlier. The first half of this month saw 44 US occupation soldiers killed by hostile fire from unidentified sources in Iraq. As of last Friday, some 9,200 US soldiers had been wounded since the war started in April, with the bulk injured by guerrilla forces or evacuated for non-combat medical reasons associated with occupation after the war formally ended.

While ignoring press inquiries on why he has thus far avoided attending any funerals for soldiers killed in action, Bush predicted that successfully implanting a democratic government in Iraq would energize a democratic revolution that would sweep away alleged tyrannies from Cuba to North Korea. Specifically, Bush proclaimed a new "forward strategy" for advancing freedom in the Middle East, declaring that six decades of excusing and accommodating dictatorships there on the part of the United States "did nothing to make us safe, because stability cannot be purchased at liberty's expense".

Bush acknowledged that the United States has historically failed to support overseas the values that it claims to uphold at home. Yet the "war on terrorism" now threatens those same values even at home, as former vice president Al Gore pointed out in Constitution Hall in Washington on November 9, three days after Bush's speech.

Gore said: "In fact, in my opinion, it makes no more sense to launch an assault on our civil liberties as the best way to get at terrorists than it did to launch an invasion of Iraq as the best way to get at Osama bin Laden. In both cases, the administration has attacked the wrong target. In both cases, they have recklessly put our country in grave and unnecessary danger, while avoiding and neglecting obvious and much more important challenges that would actually help to protect the country. In both cases, the administration has fostered false impressions and misled the nation with superficial, emotional and manipulative presentations that are not worthy of American democracy. In both cases, they have exploited public fears for partisan political gain and postured themselves as bold defenders of our country while actually weakening, not strengthening, America. In both cases, they have used unprecedented secrecy and deception in order to avoid accountability to the Congress, the courts, the press and the people.

"Indeed, this administration has turned the fundamental presumption of our democracy on its head. A government of and for the people is supposed to be generally open to public scrutiny by the people - while the private information of the people themselves should be routinely protected from government intrusion. But instead this administration is seeking to conduct its work in secret even as it demands broad unfettered access to personal information about American citizens. Under the rubric of protecting national security, they have obtained new powers to gather information from citizens and to keep it secret. Yet at the same time they themselves refuse to disclose information that is highly relevant to the war against terrorism."

Gore went on to cite specific cases of abuse of the rights of US citizens: "In an even more brazen move, more than two years after they rounded up over 1,200 individuals of Arab descent, they still refuse to release the names of the individuals they detained, even though virtually every one of those arrested has been 'cleared' by the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] of any connection to terrorism and there is absolutely no national security justification for keeping the names secret. Yet at the same time, White House officials themselves leaked the name of a CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] operative serving the country, in clear violation of the law, in an effort to get at her husband, who had angered them by disclosing that the president had relied on forged evidence in his State of the Union address as part of his effort to convince the country that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of building nuclear weapons. And even as they claim the right to see the private bank records of every American, they are adopting a new policy on the Freedom of Information Act that actively encourages federal agencies to fully consider all potential reasons for non-disclosure regardless of whether the disclosure would be harmful. In other words, the federal government will now actively resist complying with any request for information." Gore pointed out that since the Bush administration has warned that the war on terrorism will last a lifetime, it follows that the suspension of civil liberties in the United States will be permanent.

Bush acknowledged that putting realpolitik ahead of freedom in the past has backfired. Yet it is doubtful that a preference for realpolitik is the sole cause of the current anti-US rage in the region and indeed worldwide. The detente policy of the late president Richard Nixon, a modern master of realpolitik, elevated the international image of the United States as a leader for world peace, mostly a result of his historic opening to China, a communist state. The problem was not realpolitik, but realpolitik in support of bogus democratic claims.

The main part of the blame for the recent rise of post-Cold War global antagonism toward the US has to go to neo-liberalism, which, through unregulated markets, has made a few select elites around the world rich, but left the masses in dire poverty and hopeless desperation, thus providing a fertile breeding ground for terrorism not just against the United States, but against many of its allies. Economic democracy has not been part of the values of the US democratic system in the past decade, if ever, as the disparity of wealth and income not only widened but was condoned by policy and ideology both at home and abroad. It is true that political terrorists tend to come from the well-educated middle class, not quite indigent members of society. But that is because of the poor lack the education, the wherewithal and, above all, the political consciousness to understand the geopolitical causes of their plight. It falls upon the educated among the exploited to develop the political consciousness, the intellectual awareness and the personal courage to make the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for national liberation. American terrorists against British tyranny before the War of Independence were no exception.

Bush is not the first president to promise to put democracy at the forefront of US policy. He cited Woodrow Wilson, who put forth his idealistic Fourteen Points proposal to a skeptical, war-torn Europe, but failed to save the world from another World War within a couple of decades. He also cited Franklin D Roosevelt's Four Freedoms, annunciated in a January 6, 1941, message to Congress proposing lend-lease legislation to support war allies. The Four Freedoms (of speech, of worship, from want and from fear), FDR proclaimed, should prevail everywhere in the world, but they were largely sidetracked by the postwar US fixation on anti-communism, particularly freedom from want.

Freedom of association has not always been an American heritage. The Alien and Registration Act of 1940 proposed by congressman Howard Smith of Virginia, generally referred to as the Smith Act, was signed into law by FDR on June 28, 1940, 16 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was the first statute since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to make the mere advocacy of ideas a federal crime. So much for freedom of speech and freedom from fear in the Land of the Free.

FBI director J Edgar Hoover, proud of his leading role in the government's nationwide persecution and deportation of political radicals and left-inclined immigrants during the 1919 Palmer Raids, suggested to president Harry Truman in 1948 that the Smith Act be used against the US Communist Party and its sympathizers. Truman embraced the idea as a way to outflank Republican rivals who were accusing the Democrats of being "soft" on communism. Going after domestic communists also complemented Truman's international policy in subduing "subversion" in Greece, Italy and France, where communism was popular and Communist parties could conceivably win elections and share or take total control of national governments outside of the Soviet bloc through democratic means.

The Smith Act trials of the 1950s, the most significant political-heresy trials in US history, brought Cold War hysterics into US domestic politics. The 11 defendants were not charged with any overt acts, only that "they conspired ... to organize as the Communist Party and willfully to advocate and teach the principles of Marxism-Leninism", which the government alleged to mean "overthrowing and destroying the government of the United States by force and violence" at some unspecified future time. The defendants were also accused of conspiring to "publish and circulate ... books, articles, magazines and newspapers advocating the principles of Marxism-Leninism". The Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Lenin's State and Revolution, and Joseph Stalin's Foundation of Leninism were placed into evidence as books from which the defendants taught, which the prosecution, the judge and the jury all concluded to be criminal acts.

The defendants fought the thought-crime nature of the proceedings, claiming, to no avail, that they were for majority rule and against violence, except as a method of self-defense. They pointed out that Marxism-Leninism sees the collapse of capitalism as a dialectic inevitability of the inherent contradictions of capitalism, that revolution was only necessary when reactionary oppression of workers was unleashed against the tide of history by governments undemocratically captured by capitalist interests.

Given the climate of hysteria generated by controlled mass media, guilty verdicts for all were foreordained. Ten were sentenced to and served five years in federal prison as political prisoners in all but name, and had to also pay fines of US$10,000 each. The 11th defendant, Robert G Thompson, a bearer of the World War II Distinguished Service Cross for bravery, received his government's gratitude in the form of a slightly shorter sentence of only three years. While in prison, Thompson had his skull crushed by a group of Yugoslav fascists armed with a pipe, and another defendant, Harry Winston, denied essential medical care in prison, was left blinded. As if that were not enough, each of the defense lawyers was cited for contempt by the biased judge and had to serve a prison sentence. Among those who served six months was George C Crockett, a black lawyer who, later in his career, was elected as a judge in Detroit's criminal court and then as a Michigan congressman.

The convicted communists appealed their cases but, in 1951, the United States Supreme Court upheld the convictions by a vote of six (including four Truman appointees) to two. Chief justice Fred Vinson wrote the decision for the majority. Justices Hugo Black and William O Douglas dissented. Black noted that the government indictment was "a virulent form of prior censorship of speech and press", which is forbidden by the First Amendment and therefore unconstitutional. Douglas wrote of his belief that the Communist Party could not possibly represent a "clear and present danger" as required in the law to qualify as an outlawed organization. A true defender of democracy, he made clear the distinction between defending the party's legal rights and supporting its ideology.

Unlike George W Bush, Woodrow Wilson did not try to impose his version of democracy with smart bombs and cruise missiles, nor with invasions and occupation of small nations, or dead-or-alive cash bounties for enemy leaders. Still, the idealist Wilson did remain silent about US occupation of the Philippines, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, in clear violation of one of his Fourteen Points, the right of self-determination for colonies. FDR stood for the dismantling of European imperialism and for global decolonization, but deferred to Winston Churchill, who insisted that Britain did not fight the war to give up the empire and who found the perfect excuse for imperialism in anti-communism.

The Philippine failure
The Philippines is a living example of failed American democracy, which Bush understandably did not mention in his speech on world democratic revolution. The persecution of Muslims by Christians has been routinely condoned throughout the history of the Philippines and now as part of the US "war on terrorism" in that country. In the Moro Massacre in 1906, US troops led by General John Pershing slaughtered some 3,000 Muslim Filipino men, women and children on Mount Dajo during the Philippine-American War, a war of independence and resistance against US colonization. It was an atrocity not forgotten by Philippine Muslims. Among those Americans outraged by the massacre was Mark Twain, whose bitter satire about battle-glorifying oratory, "The War Prayer", was inspired by his opposition to US military policy. "The wounds over the massacre of our forefathers by the American colonializers have not been healed," said Temojin Tulawie, leader of a new group opposing the decision by the current Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to bring in US troops for combat duties against a militant faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The US government during the Cold War used the threat of communism as the pretext for tightening US hegemonic control over the Philippines. It sent military advisers and aid to strengthen the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and to guarantee subservience to US economic and military control. Today, Washington is using the "war on terrorism" as a cover for a renewed attempt to tighten its hegemonic control globally in the name of democracy. It aims to re-establish US military domination of the Philippines and to undertake military intervention in other countries of Asia and the Middle East.

In the southern Philippines, Muslims have been fighting government forces for more than 30 years. While some Mindanao Muslim leaders want a separate Islamic state, their separatist aims have been motivated by centuries of government exclusionary neglect, military repression and endemic poverty. Arroyo is talking peace with the MILF while waging war on the Abu Sayyaf, a militant wing. In a blow to Arroyo's bid to achieve peace in Mindanao, another Muslim rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front, recently staged an uprising on the southern island of Jolo. This Muslim faction had signed a 1996 peace pact with the Philippine government. Militants from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia have also reportedly trained with the MILF. Historically, the United States has played a controversial role in the Philippines, where 100 years ago it waged a major war on Mindanao Muslim freedom fighters who fiercely resisted US colonial rule.

In the 1970s, a new generation of Muslim freedom fighters waged war against the Marcos regime, which received military aid from the United States. One of the young freedom fighters was Al Haj Murad, now commander-in-chief of the MILF. "This is a longtime problem," Murad said from Kuala Lumpur, where peace talks with Arroyo's government were being held. "If we trace our history, America has played a role in the making of this problem."

On October 18, Bush, during a whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia, told the Philippine Congress of this former US colony that Iraq, like the Philippines, could be transformed into a vibrant democracy. Bush seemed oblivious to the possibility that the people of Iraq, like the Moro Muslims of the Philippines, would find the avoidance of a fate like the Philippines' worth dying for. Bush also pledged his help in remaking the troubled and sometimes mutinous Philippine military into a force for fighting terrorism, not particularly a tool of democracy.

During an eight-hour visit, Bush for the first time drew explicit comparisons between the transition he is seeking in Iraq and the rough road to democracy that the Philippines traveled from the time the United States seized it from Spain in 1898 to the present day. "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy," Bush said, taking on the critics of his goal to use Iraq as a laboratory for spreading democratic institutions in the Middle East. "The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. Those doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago." Few who are familiar with the history of Asia have any idea what Bush was referring to.

David E Sanger, reporting in the New York Times, wrote: "While the administration often speaks of the occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II as rough models for the effort to rebuild Iraq, Mr Bush used the visit to the former US colony to make a less explicit analogy to the American administration of the Philippines, which also led to the formation of a democracy. But the comparison has less power to reassure, given that the Philippine government did not gain full autonomy for five decades.

"Aides traveling with Mr Bush made it clear that he was worried about the stability of the Philippines. After meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cabinet shortly after he landed, Mr Bush announced that the two governments had formalized a five-year plan 'to modernize and reform' the Philippine military, although his aides said it was unclear how much of the cost the United States would contribute. 'The numbers are still in flux,' a senior administration official told reporters, adding that the administration was still looking for roughly $20 million to provide the Philippines with used US military helicopters that Mr Bush promised a year ago to help root out Abu Sayyaf, the group that the US strongly suspected of being linked to al-Qaeda. The announcement was part of a broad plan to provide help to the Philippine military, which Mr Bush sees as the best hope of preventing the Philippines from becoming a terrorist haven."

Since Bush apparently thinks the Philippines already enjoys democracy, it begs the question why terrorism continues to flourish in a democracy and by extension, how a "world democratic revolution" would end terrorism.

Sanger continued: "The White House and Philippine officials made much of the fact that Mr Bush was the first president to address a joint session of the Philippine Congress since Dwight D Eisenhower came here in 1960, at the very end of his presidency. But in a taste of the anger that Mr Bush has generated around the world, several thousand protesters filled the streets near the Philippine Congress and forced an hour-long delay in the arrival of the president's motorcade while the Secret Service assessed whether it was safe to move him through the streets ...

"The extraordinary security around Mr Bush's visit here underscored Washington's continuing concerns about the stability of the Philippines. Mr Bush flew in with American F-15s off the wings of Air Force One. The Secret Service would not permit Mr Bush to stay overnight." Attending a state dinner at Malacanang Palace, "Bush used his toast to salute the Philippines as 'the oldest democracy in Asia', and to recall that 17,000 US soldiers are buried here, having fallen in bitter combat with the Japanese during World War II." The instability of the Philippines as the oldest democracy in Asia and 17,000 US deaths are sobering thoughts for his world democratic revolution.

There was no indication that talks between the two leaders touched on the ban by the Philippine constitution against foreign troops engaging in combat on Philippine soil. The Pentagon had announced nine months earlier, on February 20, that the United States would send 1,700 more troops to the Philippines to fight Muslim extremists in the southern part of the country, opening yet another new front in the "war on terrorism". A six-month training mission in the Philippines in 2002 was limited to 1,300 US troops, including 160 Special Forces soldiers, to an advisory role and permitted them to fire only in self-defense in the rare cases when they accompanied Philippine soldiers. But this new mission would be a combat operation with no such restrictions on US and Philippine troops serving side by side. Under the plan, about 750 ground troops, including 350 special-operations forces, would conduct or support combat patrols in the rugged jungles of Sulu province. In addition, about 1,000 marines, armed with Cobra attack helicopters and Harrier AV-8B attack planes, would stand ready aboard two ships offshore to act as a quick-response force and provide logistics and medical support.

The operation would last as long as necessary "to disrupt and destroy" the estimated 250 members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group, a Pentagon official said in February, and would mark a sharp escalation in the "war on terror", as the United States was then building up for an imminent war against Iraq while continuing to hunt al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Negotiations between the two countries have been under way for months, but Abu Sayyaf's repeated attacks and the bombing death of an American Green Beret in October spurred Arroyo and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to hammer out an aggressive plan in short order.

Dispatching US commandos to the jungles of the southern Philippines came at a convenient moment for Pentagon officials, who had sought to show that the US military could fight a war with Iraq and still carry out a global hunt for terrorists. The ratio of 3,000 US troops to root out a guerrilla force of 250 comes to 12:1, still inadequately low by conventional military standards on counter-guerrilla warfare. Arroyo has walked a political tightrope at home on the sensitive issue of welcoming US military help to defeat a deadly political foe, but careful not to aggravate domestic tensions tied to America's role as a former colonial ruler consumed with intense racism and religious intolerance.

By March, the plan to send 3,000 US troops to the Philippines to track down Muslim guerrillas was left in limbo after military leaders from both countries failed to find a way to reconcile Philippine constitutional law with the prospect of US combat operations in the island nation. Speaking after talks with his Philippine counterpart, Rumsfeld told the press that both countries remained interested in arranging for expanded US military assistance to Philippine forces combating the Abu Sayyaf group. But he offered no estimate of the size, timing or exact purpose of any US force that might eventually be dispatched. General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who appeared beside Rumsfeld at the Pentagon news conference, said the commander of US forces in the Pacific had been asked to prepare other options that would be more in accordance with the Philippine constitution, which prohibits combat activities by foreign troops except in self-defense. The freezing of the original plan, only a week after a Pentagon spokesman had detailed it to journalists, was an embarrassment for Manila and Washington and a setback for the Bush administration's effort to widen its global war on terrorism. Philippine Defense Minister Angelo Reyes, at a separate news conference, described the basic problem as essentially "one of definitions and semantics". It is also the basic problem of Bush's world democratic revolution.

The negotiations about the role of US troops came amid renewed violence on the main southern island of Mindanao, where government troops earlier in the year overran a stronghold of the larger Muslim separatist group, the MILF. The guerrillas responded with bombings and stepped-up attacks on military and civilian targets. In March, a bomb blast at Davao airport killed 21 people, including an American missionary, and injured more than 100 others. The government blamed the MILF, which denied involvement. A day before, suspected MILF rebels seized a bus near Pikit town, 925 kilometers southeast of Manila, and held 40 passengers hostage before fleeing, leaving one soldier and a government militiaman dead.

The Philippine Hukbalahap movement, known simply as the Huk, was the culmination of internal Philippine conditions rooted in the country's pre-colonial period. Economic, social and political inequities existed before the arrival of the Spanish in 1521, whose aversion toward modernization further coopted ancient inequities into their own variety of mercantilism. These inequities were perpetuated into the 20th century by US policy, which added racism to economic oppression. This social and political history divided the Philippines into classes of severe disparity of wealth and opportunity, with the majority of the population left with little but a desperate desire for change.

In 1920, the Third International, or Comintern, headquartered in Moscow, met in Canton (Guangzhou), China, under the sponsorship of the then decade-old Chinese Nationalist Republic. The worldwide growth of interest in communism coincided with a rising disaffection in the Philippines fanned by two decades of oppressive US colonial policies that promised no progressive future. Most Americans viewed the Philippine people as virtual slaves, on the level of blacks, who at least spoke better English. After the Third International, an American Comintern representative, Harrison George, joined with several Philippine socialists to form the base for the first Philippine communist party. In 1927, the Philippine Labor Congress officially associated itself with the Comintern and organized the nation's first legal communist political party, the Worker's Party. Within the year, Crisanto Evangelista, as head of the Worker's Party, visited Zhou Enlai and Stalin. Upon his return to Luzon, he organized four new socialist and communist organizations against the colonial Manila government in a revolutionary movement based on class struggle.

On the 34th anniversary of the 1896 Katipunan Revolt against Spain, on August 26, 1930, Evangelista announced the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP). Less than three months later, on the 13th anniversary of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, he formally established the PKP and proclaimed its revolutionary objectives. In his November 7, 1930, address, he set forth five guiding principles for the Philippine communist movement: to mobilize for complete national independence; to establish communism for the masses; to defend the masses against capitalist exploitation; to overthrow US imperialism in the Philippines; and to overthrow capitalism. In 1932, two years after the birth of the PKP, the colonial Philippine Supreme Court declared the PKP illegal. Evangelista and several of his chief lieutenants were imprisoned as political prisoners, charged with plotting the overthrow of the colonial government and instigating riots in Manila. Other PKP members went underground to continue to fight against landlords on behalf of peasants.

Although not widespread, PKP attacks unsettled central Luzon. In reaction, president Manuel Quezon of the colonial government instituted several minor land-reform measures, including putting a 30 percent limit on the amount of a tenant's crop that could be demanded by the landlord, but they were ignored by landlords, the colonial courts and the colonial bureaucracy.

A side-effect of the 1932 Supreme Court decision was a dramatic rise in prestige and membership of the heretofore weak Philippine Socialist Party (formed in April 1932 in Pampanga) and the militant Worker and Peasant's Union (WPU). With the PKP in an outlaw status, the socialists and WPU became the legal foci for many law-binding PKP supporters. Both organizations gained considerable influence during the next six years as poor socio-economic conditions remained unchanged for Luzon's tenant farmers and urban poor.

In 1934, the US Congress, controlled by liberal New Dealers, passed Public Law 127, the Tydings-McDuffie Act. The act, ratified in May by the colonial Philippine Congress, promised full Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, after 48 years of colonial rule, and established conditions under which the islands would be governed until that time as the Philippine Commonwealth. In the name of freedom, the act cut Filipino immigration to the United States to a quota of 50 persons per year, and all Filipinos in the United States were reclassified as "aliens", instead of US persons or subjects, including those who had served in the US military, mostly in the navy as cooks and servants. The US racist exclusion of Filipino immigration was continually connected with the issue of Philippine independence from US colonization. The United States retained control of Philippine foreign relations, defense, monetary policy and major financial transactions but granted the Philippine president and legislature the power to administer internal affairs within the limits of US tolerance.

The Tydings-McDuffie Act created dissension within the colonial Philippine government, for it promised independence at the price of formalizing colonial economic ties with the United States for the next 12 years. Many critics in Manila, and in the growing Communist and Socialist parties as well, objected strongly to the near total disregard for Philippine nationalism that these strict controls mandated. After the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935, US economic and political policy did little to alleviate the basic Philippine problems of poverty and land tenure.

To moderate growing incidents of violent nationalist demonstrations in Manila in 1938, Quezon released PKP leaders Evangelista, Luis Taruc, the Huk supreme commander, and Isabelo de los Reyes, a PKP founder, after they pledged loyalty to the government and to US efforts against Japanese expansion.

Evangelista's bitter opposition to the Quezon administration continued until 1941, when the threat of imminent Japanese invasion brought a temporary truce and offers from the PKP to support the Commonwealth. With the approval of General Douglas MacArthur, commander of US forces in the Philippines, Quezon, who trusted neither Evangelista nor the coalition, refused the offer and refused to negotiate any cooperative agreements with them.

Philippine nationalism struggled for cultural, political and economic independence after years of colonial rule and foreign exploitation. In the Philippines, as in most of Asia, nationalism had no place to turn except to communism. The 1960s were the height of a renewed nationalism in the Philippines. More than a decade after gaining independence, many Philippine nationalists were reexamining their country's cultural, political and economic ties with the United States, their former colonizer. Facts were not supportive of US claims of freedom and democracy that promised to bring prosperity and equality and end racism. Attesting to these growing nationalistic sentiments was, for example, the move of the official date of the Philippine independence from July 4, 1946, the day the US granted the Philippines complete independence, to June 12, 1898, the day the Philippine Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain, the same year the US acquired the Philippines as a colony.

The Cold War solidified continuing US domination of the Philippines. On September 8, 1954, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was organized in Manila by nine countries including the Philippines to deter communism in the region. Growing nationalism in the Philippines was again repressed when martial law was declared in September 21, 1972, by Marcos. Many Philippine nationalists, among them student activists, who could not afford to flee into exile, took up arms and were arrested by the Philippine Constabulary. They were summarily branded as communists and executed. Many others were "silenced" by wholesale violation of their constitutional rights, such as the freedom of press, of speech and of assembly as Marcos begun to rule by decrees until the evening hours of February 25, 1986, when Marcos, his wife Imelda, and their 60-member entourage fled the grounds of the presidential palace in Manila for exile in Hawaii.

The United States supported the Marcos regime, which lasted for 15 years, to combat the threat of communism in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and to secure US military presence in the region with military bases in the Philippines to maintain strategic advantages during the Vietnam War, as well as throughout the Cold War. Persistent Philippine nationalism finally forced the removal of US bases in 1992.

Two parties are better than one
The first Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was formed in 1930 under the leadership of Crisanto Evangelista, a radical labor leader. This party was inspired by Soviet communism and it aimed to establish a Soviet-type government in the Philippines. The party was outlawed in 1932 but legalized by president Manuel Quezon in 1937 during the Commonwealth Period under the liberal Roosevelt administration.

Having acquired legal status, the CPP decided to participate in Commonwealth elections. In 1938, it merged with the Socialist Party of Pedro Abad Santos. The Socialist Party was also instrumental in the formation of the Popular Front, which participated in the congressional and local elections during the Commonwealth Period. During Japanese occupation, the Communist Party, the merger of the Communist and Socialist parties, went underground to fight the Japanese imperial forces after the imperious US Lieutenant-General Douglas MacArthur fled to Australia, leaving Lieutenant-General Jonathan Wainwright to surrender a combined US and Philippine force of 145,000 soldiers to the Japanese, despite MacArthur's parting order to hold at all cost. Some 16,000 US soldiers were taken as prisoners by the Japanese.

MacArthur, as head of the US military mission to the Philippines and field marshal of the Philippine Commonwealth Army since 1935, was responsible for the establishment of an effective training and defense plan, which even after five years of preparation, with a combined force of 145,000 under his command, failed to foil the Japanese invasion. MacArthur had badly underestimated Japanese capabilities and intentions. Yet, unlike the army and navy commanders at Pearl Harbor who were caught off guard and subsequently faced accusation of derelict of duty, MacArthur was not cashiered. Instead, his image took on heroic dimensions in the American public eye, made famous by his public vow: "I shall return."

In truth, MacArthur had mishandled the defense of the Philippines against the invasion, opting to meet Japanese amphibious assaults on the beaches, despite the grave qualitative deficiencies of the new Philippine army he was responsible for training and despite the decimation of his air force on the ground by Japanese bombers in the first three days of the campaign. The result was a military debacle.

MacArthur ordered a fallback of his battered troops to Bataan, abandoning supplies allocated forward, thus foreclosing any chance of a prolonged defense. The Japanese attack on the Philippines occurred nine hours after their attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Despite that nine-hour warning of the outbreak of hostilities with Japan, MacArthur was paralyzed by indecision during these crucial hours and failed to bring his forces to a state of readiness to meet an imminent Japanese attack. MacArthur's indecision, combined with poor military judgment and the slackness in his command structure, led to the destruction of half of his air force of 277 aircraft on the ground (the air force in Hawaii had 231 aircraft on December 1, 1941, one week before the Japanese attack) and his troops being denied adequate supplies to withstand a lengthy siege. One squadron of fighter planes, ordered to relocate to a secret airbase safe from Japanese attack, could not find their well-camouflaged destination, and had to return to their exposed old base. With the US surrender, the resistance fell entirely on the shoulders of the Philippine communists.

The Communist Party formed a military arm known by the historical name of Hukakahap, which kept up the resistance throughout Japanese occupation and contributed significantly to the successful return of the United States in 1944, with a force larger than any in the European theater except the Normandy invasion's Operation Overlord. The Japanese defense of the Philippines cost its army 500,000 deaths.

MacArthur, whose anti-communism fervor was legendary, acknowledged the courageous war efforts of the Philippine communists and awarded many of them medals of honors. After the war, the Huks participated in the formation of the independence government in 1946, and participated in the election. Its winning candidates, however, were not allowed seats in the legislature because they were communists. Hence, the Huks resumed their armed struggle and renamed themselves the HMB (Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan). During the administration of president Elpidio Quirino, the Huks were granted amnesty and Luis Taruc, the Huk leader, pledged loyalty to the Philippine government. But the amnesty program was not honored and the Huks returned to the mountains to wage armed struggle.

During the administration of president Ramon Magsaysay, the government conducted a vigorous campaign against the Huks and sent reporter Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino as a special emissary to negotiate for an amnesty for Taruc on February 17, 1954. The task launched Aquino's political career, which ended with his assassination on August 21, 1983, on the plane on which he was returning from exile, in full view of world television. His window, Corazon, assumed the presidency on February 25, 1986.

CCP secretary general Jesus Lava was arrested on May 21, 1964, during the administration of president Diosdado Macapagal. On September 11, 1968, Taruc was given executive clemency by the administration of president Ferdinand Marcos on the request of publisher Joaquin Roces of the Manila Times. During this period, the CPP internal ideological struggle reached its height. Jose Sison, leader of the Kabanataang Makabayan and a very active youth cadre of the old CPP, re-established the Communist Party of the Philippines following Maoist ideology.

The re-established CPP was launched on December 26, 1968, coinciding with the 75th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong. The new party used Maoist thought in analyzing the "chronic crisis" besetting Philippine society. Thus, two communist parties existed in the Philippines in the late 1960s, namely: the old Communist Party of Lava and Taruc and the new Communist Party of Sison. The former was a Soviet-inspired communist party while the latter was Maoist-inspired. Both claimed to uphold the ideology of Marxism-Leninist thought, with the new CPP adding Maoism as a central ideology.

The new CPP campaigned against Marcos' decision to send troops to Vietnam. It also campaigned against US intervention in Philippine politics and condemned landlord domination of the Philippine economy. Cynical of legal political processes out of experience, the new CPP waged an armed struggle against the dictatorial Marcos government. It was during the Marcos period that the membership of the new CPP started to increase, usually coming from university students and young professors. On March 29, 1969, the new CPP founded its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA). The NPA was headed by a former Huk commander in Central Luzon, Dante Buscayno. Of peasant origin, Buscayno was encouraged by Sison to head the NPA in its struggle against US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. The NPA was able to strengthen its numbers by recruiting many peasant guerrillas in the countryside. The CPP and NPA worked together for the establishment of their vision: a national democratic government in the Philippines, which would serve as a transition stage toward socialism, much to the apprehension of the United States.

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he outlawed the CPP-NPA and conducted vigorous counterinsurgency operations against its members and sympathizers. Marcos banned student organizations and suspended the operation of student councils and publications in universities. Marcos also closed major radio and television stations and incarcerated many of his political rivals. He suppressed all political parties and suspended the holding of elections. Marcos' declaration of martial law was viewed by opposition forces as the "reign of terror" in the country's history.

Marcos signed the proclamation placing the Philippines under martial law on September 21, 1972. Under martial law, Marcos campaigned for his vision of a "New Philippine Society". Marcos consolidated his power by strengthening the military under his control and by conducting rigged referenda. He also changed the 1935 Philippine constitution, drafted a new one - the 1973 constitution - and abolished the bicameral Philippine Congress. To serve as the Philippine legislature during martial law, Marcos created a unicameral Interim National Assembly, but it never convened. Instead, the Interim Batasang Pambansa replaced the Interim National Assembly.

During the entire martial-law period, all political parties were proscribed. Political-party leaders including Benigno Aquino Jr, Sergio Osmena Jr, Raul Manglapus, Jose Diokno and Jovito Salonga, among others were arrested and detained immediately after the declaration of martial law. More than 30,000 people were reported detained during the early days of martial law and the total number of detainees swelled to more than 50,000 at its peak. By 1977, some 70,000 people had been imprisoned for their political beliefs at one time or another after martial law was declared.

During the martial-law period, the revolutionary activities of the old CPP waned considerably. It even entered into a "national unity agreement" with the Marcos administration in October 1974 and was granted legal status by the regime. Members of the old CPP imprisoned during the early phase of martial law were granted amnesty and were given an active role in some Marcos cooperatives and agrarian reform institutions. But the Maoist CPP intensified its revolutionary activities against what the new CPP members called a US-Marcos dictatorship.

The CPP increased its strength by recruiting more cadres and guerrilla fighters both from the universities and the countryside. In 1971, Sison claimed that the new CPP reached a mass base of 400,000 in 18 provinces in the country and stressed that the "problem is no longer how to start a revolution but how to extend and intensify it".

One of the most important events in the history of the re-established CPP during the martial-law period was the formation of the National Democratic Front on April 24, 1973. The NDF was the political arm and front organization of the re-established CPP. It was composed of underground associations of workers, the urban poor, youth, farmers, teachers and even religious leaders. On its founding day, the NDF issued a 10-point program, which was reaffirmed and elaborated on November 12, 1977. The top three points were:
1. Unite all anti-imperialist and democratic forces to overthrow the US-Marcos dictatorship and work for the establishment of a coalition government based on a truly democratic system of representation.
2. Expose and oppose US imperialism as the mastermind behind the setting-up of the fascist dictatorship, struggle for the nullification of all unequal treaties and arrangements with this imperialist power, and call for the nationalization of all its properties in the country.
3. Fight for the re-establishment of all democratic rights of the people, such as freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, movement, religious belief and the right to due process.

In 1976, NPA commander Dante Buscayno was captured by government agents, but it did not hinder the revolutionary activities of the re-established CPP. The party reported that from 1980 to 1981 alone, NPA operations expanded from 300 to more than 400 towns in 47 compared with 40 provinces. The NPA also claimed that in 1981, its military operations had moved from "early" to "advanced" strategic defensive.

The ratification of the amended Philippine constitution in April 1981 was followed by the holding of presidential elections on June 26, 1981. Marcos ran in this election to get a "fresh mandate" from the Philippine people. The election demonstrated the continued dominance of Marcos' Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL, or New Society Movement) when he was re-elected. Marcos' re-election to the presidency was expected. Nobody wanted to challenge him, believing that he would just manipulate the election to maintain his legitimacy. All opposition parties except one boycotted the election. Of all the factors that obstructed the development of democracy in the Philippines, US policy occupied the top of the list.

Next: The Bush vision