Marihatag, SURIGAO DEL SUR– Military harassments and heavy rains failed to dampen the anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Northeastern Mindanao yesterday.
Thousands of members and supporters, as well as national legislators and local executives, trekked steep and muddy roads to attend one of the biggest public events in years held around a huge, tarpaulin-covered stage in a farming village of this town.
The underground party had foregone big celebrations since 2010, electing to donate its resources earmarked for such occasions to survivors of destructive typhoons Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda in succeeding years instead.
Philippine Army’s 401st Brigade put up barricades to prevent dozens of buses, trucks and smaller vehicles carrying thousands of attendees from proceeding to the event venue. Mindanao journalists were also delayed and were even taunted even after presenting identification.
But the government soldiers were forced to allow the long convoy to proceed an hour later after Surigao del Sur vice governor Manuel Alameda helped in the negotiations. Alameda later delivered a short speech and a message from provincial governor Johnny Pimentel at the celebrations.
The harassments succeeded however in delaying the start of the formal program by more than two hours, even as New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas scrambled to put up tarpaulins against the intermittent rains.
There was no sign of any security tension as the program remained upbeat once it got started.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos revealed to Bulatlat that at least a battalion-sized “people’s militia” was deployed around the area to complement several company-sized units of the NPA in attendance.
A company of uniformed NPA guerillas stood at formation and presented arms as the communist anthem “Ang Internasyunal” was sung to start the program.
In his speech, Madlos, popularly known as Ka (Comrade) Oris, said the CPP’s maintained its 46 NPA fronts despite unrelenting attacks from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which poured 55 infantry battalions throughout the island.
The NPA in turn launched around 300 attacks throughout 2014 that inflicted casualties against the AFP that would cumulatively amount to a battalion-sized enemy unit, Madlos said.
The CPP also announced it has active formations in urban areas in Mindanao, including Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Surigao, General Santos, Iligan, Zamboanga, Dipolog, Kidipawan, Cotabato and Tagum cities.
The CPP said its membership in Mindanao has increased to “tens of thousands, majority of whom are in barrios, factories, schools and communities,” without revealing exact numbers.
It said it maintained its organizational growth this year through ideological activities such as intermediate and advanced party courses among its members.
The CPP said it continues to exert strong influence on various sectors, including the religious, academic, legal and other middle forces, in their respective struggles against imperialism, local feudalism and graft and corruption in government.
The Party maintains relationships with different Bangsamoro organizations that are working for genuine autonomy, aside from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which “has turned its back on armed struggle,” Madlos said.
The NDFP spokesperson said that the grave conflicts among the ruling classes, represented by corrupt politicians, is weakening the dominant political system in the country. The Benigno Aquino III government exposes itself as a servant of the interests of United States imperialism, landlordism, and bureaucrat capitalism, he said.
These problems pushes the people towards the struggle for genuine change and serve as bases for the CPP’s people’s democratic revolution, Madlos said.
The CPP also took the opportunity to include a peace forum and consultation in the formal program of its 46th anniversary celebrations, marked by the presence of NDFP negotiating panel member Fidel Agcaoili.
Agcaoili accepted a manifesto of support to the (Government of the Philippine[GPH]-NDFP) peace talks and the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Agenda from Sowing the Seeds of Peace- Mindanao Movement for a Just and Lasting Peace (SSP-MMJLP) represented in the forum in the by bishops, priests, pastors and nuns.
SSP-MMJLP’s eight-point agenda includes calls for genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization and development, employment and respect of workers’ rights, socio-economic and democratic rights, respect of rights of national minorities, nationalist and scientific culture, independent foreign policy, and equitable resource allocation for Mindanao from the national budget of the GPH.
The movement is composed of church leaders and workers, lawyers, human rights advocates, Bangsamoro organizations, and local government unit officials.
In his short acceptance speech, Agcaoili promised to submit the documents to his colleagues in the NDFP negotiating panel upon his return to The Hague, The Netherlands.
A cultural program followed the peace forum when various individuals and groups representing provinces and sectors performed.
After the program the NPA guerrillas gathered at a clearing to wave the last of the civilian attendees off. They also took turns exchanging pleasantries with other guerrillas belonging to other units while partaking of fresh fruits and cake given by sympathetic businessmen and politicians.
Meanwhile, AFP soldiers were stationed along the road leading to the national highway well after dusk, even as the NPA guerrillas have left the village. Military checkpoints still littered the roads along the length of the province well into the night, long after most of the attendees have reached their destinations.
(Repost from Bulatlat.com/Raymund Villanueva)