TOMORROW, the New People’s Army (NPA) will be 50 years old. Fifty years. And the rebellion that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been waging has no end in sight yet. The CPP itself will be 51 years old this December.
For those who are still active in the so-called national democratic revolution (NDR) that the CPP is waging, and for those who at one time or another believed in the NDR principles or even in the communist ideas that the CPP espouses but are already on the outside looking in, there will always be things to celebrate or to even be poignant about on this day.
Somewhere in the countrysides of the country or even in some underground posts in the urban areas, people are gathered for an hour or two of singing revolutionary songs, viewing revolutionary dances and even holding memorials for those who died in the struggle. Victories, no matter how insignificant to the government, will be celebrated.
The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP and is mostly composed of peasants and workers hoping for a better deal from a society that consider their interests as mere afterthought. The promise of finally having a government that gives primacy to interests of the peasants and workers is what keeps the NPA, once derisively described by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as “ragtag,” going.
The main players in the founding of the NPA are old, many are probably dead or are no longer fighters in the strict sense of the word. The NPA tradition is now being represented by a young corps composed of fighters who were born a decade or two after its founding. I don’t even know what has happened to the once beloved Ka Dante years after he, as Bernabe Buscayno, went into cooperativism after he was released from detention by the Cory Aquino government.
The CPP’s main ideologue, Jose Ma. Sison, aka Amado Guerrero, has been holed up for far too long in Europe, which is apt considering his age. But he, as CPP’s founding chairman, and the other party leaders at that time, will always be remembered for that moment 50 years ago when a party without an army linked up with an army without a party to form the NPA. The daring move, apparently strengthened by the belief in the righteousness of their cause, was admirable considering the odds they were up against then.
I don’t know how the current generation of “red” fighters are conducting the so-called protracted people’s war now. But knowing the tradition, I am not yet prepared to call them a terrorist group. Call them idealists if you will, if the term refers to a group that is not pragmatic in its pursuit of its goals. Idealists are not always terrorists.
What happens when a guerilla gets too old to fight? The teenagers who composed the first NPA units and have survived are senior citizens now. They most probably are the grandfathers sitting on the bamboo benches of their yards reminiscing about the old days. For them, the idea that the struggle they are waging is protracted might have become all too real now.