I am honored to speak at the 9th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace February 18-19, 2021 commemorating 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines and celebrating God’s gift of human dignity on the subject of Compelling Visions of Just Peace: The Ethical Imperative of Human Dignity in Social Transformation.
The 9th Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace is a chance once again to express our unity amidst our diversity as the 500 years of Christianity in our country is being commemorated. In the spirit of Pope Francis, let us seek unity in diversity in dealing with issues that beset society such as when he pontificated: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. …Even the atheists. Everyone!” on careerism, on judging homosexuals, on consumerism, on the environment, on marriage, remarriage and divorce and most importantly, on the option for the poor (Evangelii Gaudium) as he strives to make the Church relevant to the lives of the people.
Oppression and exploitation are a systematic violation of human dignity. It is in this regard that I wish to discuss human dignity as the core of the revolutionary process of transforming the oppressive and exploitative society we have in the Philippines towards a life of dignity for the Filipino people.
I share your vision of a just and enduring peace for the Philippines, which means peace beyond the silence of guns to the active presence of justice, right relationships with others and the rest of creation. It is tangible and manifested through food on the table, decent jobs and wages, clothing, shelter, education and access to the basic needs. To me this means Man proposes and God disposes, with the masses not only voicing the will of God but realizing it on earth. We make the plan but it is up to the masses, the people, to make this successful. In other words, our prayers are not enough, these must be substantiated by human effort.
Let me present to you the just demands and just aspirations of the people that have inspired the rise of the armed revolutionary movement in the Philippines. I shall also refer to the willingness of the same movement to negotiate a just peace, so brutally frustrated by the all-out war policy and termination of the peace negotiations by the Duterte regime.
These aspirations and demands are precisely among the objectives of the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution as well as the 12-Point Program of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which you may find at <https://liberation.ndfp.org/our-program/>
In both documents are the most important objectives of the national democratic revolution in the Philippines, which are to achieve full national independence and people’s democracy. The old democratic revolution of 1896 was anticolonial and led by the liberal bourgeoisie and was aimed at building a bourgeois democratic republic.
It was preceded by the secularization movement of the clergy in the Philippines led by Monsignor Pedro Pelaez, ecclesiastical governor of the Church and continued by native (Filipino) priests, the most famous of whom were the martyred priests Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora. Their martyrdom, their Christian sacrifice, inspired the national consciousness and coherence of the Filipino people as single nation of diverse ethnolinguistic communities. It is a historical fact that Spanish colonialism brought Christianity to the Philippines. It is also a historical fact that the Filipino people have adopted it as a redemptive and liberating moral force in the same manner as one type of society after another has adopted science and technology as a progressive factor in advancing civilization.
Today’s new democratic revolution is led by the working class and is aimed at proceeding to the socialist revolution in consonance with the era of modern imperialism and the world proletarian revolution. The revolutionary leadership of the working class and its vanguard party ensures that the new democratic revolution has a socialist perspective, takes a socialist direction and is the preparation for the socialist revolution.
With the peasantry as the main force of the revolution, it is certain that the main content of the democratic revolution is fulfilled with the satisfaction of the peasant demand for agrarian revolution through free land distribution. And the line is set for agricultural cooperation and mechanization when the stage of socialism is reached.
It is necessary for us to study the different classes in Philippine society in order to know who are the motive forces and friends and who in varying degrees are the enemies of the revolution. The motive forces of the revolution are the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and middle bourgeoisie.
The enemies of the revolution are the imperialists and their domestic collaborators: the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists. They are the forces of counterrevolution that wish to perpetuate the semifeudal ruling system of oppression and exploitation.
The comprador big bourgeoisie are the chief financial and trading agents of the US and other imperialist countries. The landlord class perpetuates private ownership of lands and subjects the peasants and farm workers to feudal and semifeudal conditions of exploitation and oppression. The bureaucrat capitalists are the political agents of the big compradors and landlords but they have become a distinct class by accumulating power and wealth by using their governmental authority. They have gained notoriety as political dynasties wanting to perpetuate themselves in power in order to accumulate private capital and land.
The big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists are considered the class enemies because they exploit the people, especially the workers and peasants, and they use the semicolonial state to oppress the people and keep them within the bounds of the ruling system through violence and deception.
Within the framework of the broad united front policy and tactics, the CPP refers to these enemy classes as the reactionary classes in order to focus the term “enemy” on the most reactionary clique that is in power. The sharpening of the term is meant to take advantage of the splits among the reactionaries and narrow the target of the revolution to the ruling reactionary clique as the enemy in a given period.
As I explained above, the motive forces and the friends of the revolution are the following: a. the working class as the leading class from the new democratic stage to the socialist stage of the Philippine revolution, b. the peasantry (essentially the poor and middle peasants and the seasonal farm workers) as the main force or democratic majority of the people and c. the middle social strata of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the middle bourgeoisie.
Their needs and demands are expressed in the program of people’s democratic revolution (PPDR). And they participate in the revolution in order to realize this program. Their participation in the revolution spells the growth and advance of the revolution towards victory.
Why are the workers called the leading class of the revolution? The working class is the leading class of the revolution because it is the most advanced productive and political force among the various classes in Philippine society and in the world. It is the class that can sustain and further develop an industrialized economy even without the bourgeoisie. It is indispensable in the development of an industrialized socialist economy.
It is the class that is capable of leading the toiling masses to overthrow the state power of the bourgeoisie and replace it with the state power of the proletariat and fulfil the historic mission of socialist revolution and construction. The working class has the most developed theory for revolutionary change and the accumulated practice of leading successful socialist revolutions, despite the subsequent revisionist betrayal and capitalist restoration in the Soviet Union and then in China. The theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism encompasses philosophy, political economy and social science.
The working class has created the Communist Party as the vanguard party to focus on revolutionary theory and practice on the basis of the revolutionary mass movement. The Communist Party is the instrument of the working class for leading the revolution from the people’s democratic stage to the socialist stage of the revolution.
The peasant class (mainly the poor and middle peasants and traditional seasonal farm workers) is still the most numerous class in the Philippines and comprise the democratic majority of the people. The satisfaction of their demand for land through agrarian revolution is the main content of the revolution.
The protracted people’s war in the new democratic revolution is possible in the Philippines because the peasant class has provided the people’s army with the social and physical terrain, the widest sphere of maneuver for the people’s war against the enemy that is superior in terms of military personnel, equipment and training before the people’s army gains the upper-hand by capturing the weapons from the enemy.
The actual social investigation and class analysis done by the CPP belies the claim of the enemy that the Philippines is already a newly-industrialized country, even without having the capability to produce industrial capital goods. The trick of the enemy is to claim that out of the 45 million labor force or manpower in the Philippines 58 per cent are workers in the service sector and 19.1 per cent are workers in the industry sector. Thus, the working class is now supposedly 77.1 per cent, while the peasantry has dwindled to 19.1 per cent without the need of genuine land reform and national industrialization. Most of the so-called service workers are oddjobbers and are the off-shoot of the semifeudal economy and not the consequence of industrial capitalism.
The CPP is the principal instrument of the working class for leading the national democratic revolution and, subsequently, the socialist revolution. To be able to take this role, the CPP has to build itself as an ideological, political and organizational instrument of the working class. It has to realize the class leadership of the working class in the entire revolutionary movement of the people.
As the ideological instrument of the working class, the CPP is guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and has applied this theory on the history, circumstances and revolutionary practice of the proletariat and people.
As political instrument, it has formulated the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war and with a socialist perspective and has done the political work to build itself, the people’s army, the revolutionary mass organizations, the united front and the revolutionary organs of democratic power. As the organizational instrument, it has built itself under the principle of democratic centralism in order to make collective decisions from the grassroots to higher levels of representation on the basis of democracy.
The CPP established the New People’s Army (NPA) to defend, advance and serve the people’s interests. In upholding human dignity in the Christian and Marxist sense as well as in accordance with the international covenants on human rights and humanitarian conduct in war, the CPP sees to it that as an imperative every fighter abides by the simply-worded three main rules of discipline and the eight points of attention to wit:
1) Obey orders in all your actions,
2) Do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses,,
3) Turn in everything captured;
1) Speak politely,
2) Pay fairly for what you buy,
3) Return everything you borrow,
4) Pay for anything you damage,
5) Do not hit or swear at people,
6) Do not damage crops,
7) Do not take liberties with women,
8) Do not ill-treat captives.
The NPA is the Party’s principal mass organization. It is not only a fighting force. It conducts propaganda work for party building, it carries out the agrarian revolution in the countryside, builds and protects rural bases and the people’s government.
In contrast, we do not experience the reactionary armed forces of the oppressive classes observing such a code of conduct. What we observe daily is the abuse of authority and the lack of concern for the welfare of the masses on the part of the armed forces as instrument of the bourgeoisie for protecting their interests as exploiting classes.
The CPP also established and built the National Democratic Front, which seeks to develop and coordinate all progressive classes, sectors and forces in the Filipino people’s struggle to end the rule of US imperialism and its local allies of big landlords and compradors, and attain national and social liberation. The earliest of its current 18 organizations is the Christians for National Liberation, which preceded the NDFP by two years. Its formation was inspired by the anticolonial priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora martyred in the old democratic revolution as well as by Camilo Torres and liberation theology.
Your concept paper states: “The unpeace in our country has violated, defaced and deformed human dignity in our country and is a constant occurrence.” We must understand that imperialist powers and the local exploiting classes have built an economic system that grabs most of the social wealth created by the toiling masses of workers and peasants and have developed a system of organized violence to enforce exploitative and oppressive laws and to suppress any critique or movement that is construed as a threat to the fundamentals of the ruling system.
In representation of the revolutionary forces the National Democratic Front has agreed with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to engage in peace negotiations in order to address the roots of the armed conflict with mutual agreements on social, economic and political reforms in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration. It is not entirely impossible to agree on these reforms, which are of a bourgeois-democratic character and which have been carried out in a number of East Asian countries, such as in post-fascist Japan and the so-called newly-industrialized countries since the 1970s.
This is the reason why revolutionary and progressive organizations like PEPP persist in campaigning for the resumption of the peace negotiations under all circumstances. They remain optimistic that their efforts would alleviate the dire situation of the masses even under the worst of circumstances.
As you have noted, communities, both in urban and rural areas, live in fear of constant threat – threat from an unseen virus, threat from increasing poverty, threat from arbitrary use of power from those who have sworn to protect them – and other forms of violence from the virus of tyranny.
Because of the violent resistance of the Duterte regime to basic social, economic and political reforms and Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations, it becomes ethically and morally imperative for the Filipino people to participate and advance the protracted people’s war in pursuit of national and social liberation. It is also for this reason that a people’s armed force is both an ethical and moral imperative for the people to mobilize and defend themselves. Inaction on their part is to allow unpeace to reign in our country. It means allowing a tyrannical, treasonous and corrupt government to trample on the rights and interests and, therefore, the dignity of the people, especially the toiling masses.
The Duterte government unilaterally terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP when it issued Proclamation 360 in November 2017 and designated the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations under Proclamation 374 of December 2017. It has since launched an all-out war against the NDF, the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines and organizations it accuses as “front organizations”. The breakdown of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations has also led to unbridled ‘red-tagging’ of government critics, and church people and churches were not exempted from this practice by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Not satisfied with all the repressive measures it had already taken, the Duterte regime took advantage of the lockdown necessitated by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic to impose further suffering on the people through racketeering and profiteering on the procurement and purchase of medicine, protective medical equipment, etc.; and appropriating donations medical aid from governmental and private charitable institutions to line their pockets.
As we celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the country, let us strive ever harder to uphold human dignity and as your concept paper states, put this “at the center of our nation’s life in order for us to get in the right track for our collective journey towards peace”.
Let us strengthen our struggle for peace by striving to oust the tyrant and disable the instruments that victimize the people. We can then hope that upon the tyrant’s ouster or stepping down, a new administration that is patriotic, democratic-minded and concerned with the rights and welfare of the people, is willing to resume the peace negotiations with the NDFP.
At the same time, we do not foreclose the possibility that Duterte, like Saul, is struck by lightning on his way to Damascus and agrees to resume peace negotiations because of the miraculous combination of prayers for and advocacy of peace by the people and the irresistible demands of the rapidly worsening crisis of the ruling system.