The phenomenal rise to power of Faustino Del Mundo alias Commander Sumulong began after the capture of Benjamin Hizon , another ranking Huk commander in 1962 and the slaying of his rival Ceasrio Manarang in Barangay Almendras, Concepcion, Tarlac in 1965.\
It was immediately after the massacre of Manarang and his group that Del Mundo became both respected and feared. Del Mundo headquartered himself in Angeles City. His unfailing sanctuary after every hot pursuit by government forces. It was the major source of his logistical support too.
It was in 1967 when the influence of the Sumulong led HMB was strongly felt. Urban and rural areas with Angeles City as the nerve center of their operations, and was comprised the undisputed turf of the Huks.
Not only provincial politicians but prominent national figures wooed HMB support for political advantage. There were even intelligence reports that even President Ferdinand Marcos made secret trips to undisclosed places somewhere in Central Luzon to meet with Sumulong.
A number of senators, Cabinet officials and aspiring politicians found time and sought honor sitting with Huk commanders in a secret dialogue.
It was also during this period when minor field commanders made the headlines of national newspapers because of frequent with government troopers. Commanders like Freddie, Dante, Tony, Melody, Pusa, Tapang, Ely, Diokdiok and few more others carried top rewards on their heads as they ascended to the hierarchy of leadership.
HMB support to local politicians almost always insured their poll victories. The price was unstinting loyalty, unquestioned cooperation. It was a perilous dancing with the wolves, so to speak. In the local elections of 1967,many if not all of the Huk supported candidates trounced well entrenched opponents. Even military commanders based in Camp Olivas seemed helpless as the dissident group was extended a surreptitious mantle of protection by both the central and local governments. The dissidents had a hand in the appointments of local police chiefs, the protection of some and the transfer or relief of many police officers.
Sumulong’s political influence expanded beyond his expectations. He had an iron-clad grip on the business life of urban centers, chiefly dollar rich Angeles City. His network of rabid supporters and dependable sympathizers provided both legal cover and protection over his realm and his personal security.
Military intelligence informations were positive of Huk immersion in many business enterprises founded by trusted Sumulong lieutenants. The city which was cashing on the Vietnam war spending of USAF personnel didn’t mind the huk’s operations at all or if it did, concealed its resentment. The city’s entertainment establishments willingly parted with the fraction of their profits since the war-fatigued American soldiers squandered their dollars freely.
Even local name professionals were either induced or coerced into extending support to the ‘invisible government’.
This ‘invisible government ‘ was felt by every structure of the society in the whole Central Luzon region but more pronounced in Pampanga.There were lawyers, physicians, CPAs and media persons who somehow got linked to the organization because of their sympathy or support. It was a mutual relations in the manner of quid pro quo.
Shares from profits of business enterprises swelled the treasure chest of the HMB. In later years the division of spoils and malversation of these funds caused dissension and a wide split among its ranks. From top commanders like Bernabe Buscayno alias Commander Dante and Commander Freddie expressed their discontent through whispers. But those whispers reached Sumulong.
(On the next part of the series, it will be the death of Commander Freddie and the rise to power of Commander Dante).