WHAT makes a revolution? I have always been curious about revolutionaries just as I find of great interest also the lives of the religious. The two represent life choices that traverse roads less traveled and both are enveloped by a deep mystery and secret charm the details of which many of us just imagine.
Though I have taken on a completely different path as a sociologist academic, I have a sense that the revolutionary, the religious, and the academic – are somewhat kindred spirits. We are bounded by many things apart from the contemplative practices we undertake trying to make sense of human beings’ relationship with the world, the cosmos, with ourselves, and with each other.
To think about the evasive peace in our land is also an opportune time to reflect on the similarities and differences between us and those who have opted to stand in the shadows. Whereas our lives as teachers, researchers, and religious servants of our flock are readily accessible to those who wish to know, the revolutionary is more of a conundrum, prone to be misunderstood. They are vilified and hailed, persecuted and celebrated depending on which quarter of our divided society you ask.
The hidden nature of their struggle operating as members of secret organizations in and around us and the 47-year civil war they have been waging in the Philippine countryside have generated lore and myths that further obfuscate their true character. Add to this the relentless propaganda offensive over the decades that depict them as monsters who are less than human.
But there is actually a platform or venue where this veil of secrecy is lifted. There has been a mechanism in existence readily available for anyone who wishes to know what are the reasons why promising young men and women continue to take the road less traveled to wage armed struggle within and among marginalized Filipino communities in the Philippine countryside and beyond for decades now.
The National Democratic Front, the political arm of the armed revolutionary movement in the Philippines, has been engaged in peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. And while the group has been depicted as a power-hungry lot desperate to capture state power, the documents of the negotiations actually reveal the serious engagement of the group with the Philippine government for a possible and promising political settlement.
Since 1992, upon the momentous signing of the Hague declaration, there had been significant advances in the peace talks between the GRP and the NDF. The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) was signed in 1998. There are other components waiting to be finalized and the component on socio economic reforms appears to be the most significant among all the agreements to be made between the two negotiating sides over and above the agreements on politico constitutional reforms and disposition of forces.
There is shared recognition between the two sides that the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reforms (or CASER) stands to be the landmark document that will finally put an end to the insurgency entering its half century mark in a couple of years.
Unfortunately, the two sides have not been able to sit down to thresh out their draft versions with each other in formal talks because of complications related to the VFA, the Hacienda Luisita Massacre, and the arrest of NDF consultants guaranteed immunity under the JASIG agreement of 1998 among others in the intervening years up till now. And the GRP version has seen various modifications the latest of which was the 2011 framework that curiously places climate change as the root cause of armed conflict.
The NDF version of the CASER first drafted in 1998 and finalized in 2004 provides us an incisive view into the motives why ordinary Filipino men and women become revolutionaries and reveals the revolutionary group’s foremost conditions for ending their armed struggle.
Each section is preceded by an introductory section providing a socio-historical situationer of the particular aspect of Philippine realities under discussion and proceeds to detail programs of action to respond to specific issues. There are provisions that address what are we to do with the problems of landlessness, large-scale foreign-controlled agricultural and mining operations, labor contractualization, foreign borrowing, ecological wastes, the importance of scientists, educators, and cultural workers in Philippine society.
The document actually reads like a textbook in progressive public administration, political science, or sociology grounded on astute historical analysis about our problems as a nation. At times, it also reads like a tract on liberation theology and or dependency theory.
The concentration is on identifying the major causes of the poverty and oppression of the Filipino people that provides fodder for the revolutionary fervor in the countryside. CASER identifies the long history of economic exploitation under our foreign rulers in cahoots with our landed and economic elite and the state of landlessness afflicting majority of the Filipino population as the primary reason why our nation remains poor and underdeveloped. Then it proceeds to offer a solution to these problems by pushing for genuine agrarian reform not just to animate the local economy but also resolve the problems of inequality and provide the economic push for the development of national industries always cognizant of the welfare of the powerless and the marginalized.
The NDF CASER is a document that encapsulates the dreams, aspirations, heartbreak and frustrations of a wide segment of the Filipino people, in my belief. By laying these points down for deliberation with the GRP, the NDFP provides a chance for all of us to see the end of this painful and costly war that has pit Filipinos against fellow Filipinos THAT IS if we address its root causes. The CASER is a document that lets us know what makes a revolution and also what unmakes it.
I am thankful for this moment of contemplation that has allowed me to achieve a better understanding of the shadows in our midst. I have come to the observation that there is nothing really mystical or beyond the ordinary, neither are they thoroughly evil - these fellow Filipino brothers and sisters who have gone up to the hills because of their aspirations for all of us. They are Filipinos, first and foremost, not much different from anyone. Their only fault it seems is that they dared dream for and stand with the least of us.