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A pause from the killings in Samar and Pilipinas...

A FERVENT PRAYER FOR PEACE

By CESAR TORRES*
May 6, 2006

We talk of Jose Ma. Sison and his believers, the NPAs, in whispers as if they are enchanted, elusive beings or shadowy figures offering their lives to right the wrongs in Philippine society and provide a better life for the poorest of the poor in Samar and Filipinas, perhaps a classless society where the fundamental law would be “From each according to his work, to each according to his needs.”

However, in this bloody, violent, and sad struggle to attain the ideal society, the process is agonizing and bloody. The costs are heart-rending, especially in terms of lives. Hence, we sigh mournfully when we learn of a deadly encounter between the NPAs and the government soldiers especially if there are deaths, and the dead include innocent children.

For every encounter and ambush, for every death of a soldier, an NPA guerilla, a militant critic of this unjust society, an innocent child, we wonder if we are next. But we don’t die. So fearfully and without any enthusiasm we continue with our daily activities, living from day to day and hoping for the best, whispering about Jose Ma. Sison and wondering what he and his comrades and friends are doing in the Netherlands in Europe while their young and idealistic believers in the NPA and the fraternal organizations are being hunted by the Government Soldiers and being called “Bobo” or “Bulok” while being strafed and bombed from helicopter gunship because they have a sworn duty to defend democracy, the Trapos, and the kawatans.

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At the heyday of the Conjugal Dictatorship when Bongbong was dancing to the tune of “We are the World…”, the Rose of Leyte wooing the crowd with the immortal, “Dahil Sa Iyo”, and the No. 1 UP alumnus was singing “Pamulinawen” and thinking how he could become No. 2 next to Suharto of Indonesia, reputed to be the most corrupt dictator in contemporary times, according to Transparency International, that list of the most corrupt dictators in modern times, an Outstanding Samar High Alumnus was praying how the Church in Calbayog and the Samarnons could forgive him, Samar was almost a “howling wilderness” again.  But this time it was not the pale-faced and handsome Americans whom we see in the movies who were brutalizing and shooting the Samarnons.  They were people with the same flat noses like most of us.

During the First Arangkada of this Kagi-osan in the time of the Samar High’s Outstanding Alumnus Jose Roño and his bosses from the White House, Batac, and Leyte — many of us will recall how a fellow UP alumnus of Ferdie, Ninoy, Joma, Enrile, Dodong Nemenzo, Randy David, and Jude Latorre — Dr. Remberto “Bobby” de la Paz, a graduate of the UP College of Medicine who believed that we alumni of the UP should indeed serve our people, because it was our people who made it possible for us to study — was gunned down in broad daylight in Catbalogan on April 23, 1982.  That was 24 years ago. Until now the Government for which the salaried soldiers of the Philippine Government are fighting for has not solved that sad killing of a doctor who only wanted to help the poor Samarnons, instead of coming to America.

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I doubt if the NDF and the Government Soldiers, including the civilian officials, keep a tally of those who have perished in this Kagi-osan which has been going on for 37 years now. But according to a Canadian-based organization, "Swords into Ploughshares", some 40,000 people have already died as a result of this protracted war of the NDF against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). How many have died in Samar? We don’t know.

In this Second Arangkada of this Kagi-osan we do know that many have disappeared. Many have been shot on mere suspicion that they might be associated with the NDF. Many have been abducted, tortured, brutalized, and killed mercilessly. To cite a few:

A poor peasant in handcuffs was beheaded. His body dumped along that miserable excuse for a road, somewhere in Calbiga.

A farmer in San Andres, Villareal, Samar who was pointed out by two hooded men to men in uniform without name tags was beaten and brutalized while his young children, his wife, and the barrio people were watching in horror. He was then hogtied, slung on a bamboo pole like a pig, brought somewhere and then dumped 12 days later along that terrible Government Provincial road in Villareal, Samar with a wound each on the left and right side of his stomach and on his neck. If the killers were human and not Evil incarnate, they could just have shot the poor man on his heart or on his head after being summarily judged guilty as a criminal based on the testimony of two hooded men. But No. They had to torture him. What they were doing was okay. And they will not be punished anyway. Part of the game, according to a bemedaled Gen. Palparan. And they are not afraid of God and our priests and Archbishop Jose Palma, anyway, including the Santo Papa who is far away in Rome.

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This road in Villareal, Samar, incidentally, which has caught world-wide attention because of the massive contributions of Villahanons from all over the world through the Internet to make it passable, has been the source also of massive corruption and thievery of Government people before — those whom the Government Soldiers are defending and fighting for with their lives. Two beloved civic leaders of Villareal, during the First Arangkada, a husband and his wife, died here on their way to Tacloban to get some funds to help the starving fishermen who were victims of the Red Tide. They rumor was that they were ambushed by mistake.

But to go on with the killings... A group of health and dental personnel assigned to the Philippine military in Maulong had just come back from Samar's most interior town after doing some "civic" work in San Jose de Buan. They were ambushed on their way back reportedly by the NPAs. In the exchange of fire, a father and his 12-year old son were killed. An unarmed Samarnon reporter was lucky not to be hit by a bullet. The Bishop of Calbayog communicated to God his unhappiness at these unjust killings.

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Some soldiers were on their way to Tacloban aboard a vehicle.  Somewhere near Basay, a bomb exploded killing some soldiers and an unarmed civilian who probably just wanted a free ride aboard a military vehicle, too poor to take public transport.

The military "invaded" a barrio in the hinterlands of Jiabong. In the firefight five young men and a young woman died.  Including an 8-year old boy. Their bodies were brought to the Jiabong Municipal Hall. No relatives claimed the bodies of the dead. They were afraid they might be suspected as NPAs and suffer the consequences. And that barrio in Jiabong’s hinterland? Perhaps, only the Mayas are chirping mournfully fleeting from one hut to another, in the company of the ghosts of the poor young farmers and the 8-year old boy.

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There are many more sad stories that we can tell. The pages of this souvenir publication would not be enough to print them. We would be depriving our fellow alumni from plastering their pictures on this publication if we just go on and on.

What are the most comprehensive and lasting consequences of a “protracted armed struggle” and a seemingly endless war aside from these dramatic, isolated, and cruel incidents? There are many that come to mind. But we can cite the following:

Of ordinary peasants evacuating their barrios in the hinterlands of Samar to escape the clashes between armed groups and waiting in the poblaciones of Calbiga, Basay, Motiong, and San Jose de Buan till the bullets are no longer flying. 

Those unable to survive in their farms in the hinterlands and caught between the Government Soldiers and the NPAs go to Metropolitan Manila and other urban centers, even Catbalogan itself. To survive, some become garbage scavengers, prostitutes, hold uppers, drug dealers, homeless children sniffing rugby to assuage their hunger, living and making babies in their pushcarts, under the bridges and in their smelly shanties along the railroad tracks and probably sleeping with the dead in the graveyards. Even in Catbalogan itself, there are homeless and hungry children as young as six years old whose mothers shoo them away because there is no more bilanghoy or camote to feed them.

There are elementary and high school children without books and school materials; an elementary school in the hinterland of Samar without a toilet despite the abundant trees, bamboos, rattan, and other materials that can be used to construct a toilet, all because their leaders are unable to think coherently and rationally, unable to do anything, aside from being in constant fear of their lives.

There is that provincial hospital without the simple tools and equipment and materials and medicines that will cure those who are brought there.

There is that national road from Calbiga to Calbayog where carabaos can frolic in the mud holes, or even elephants, if we had elephants.

We feel the pain of underpaid, sickly, provincial and national employees who are at the mercy of the plunderers and the usurers. Some of these plunderers and usurers are even elected to powerful positions in the government and addressed as “Honorable”.  You can just imagine the grin on their ugly faces.  Aside from being addressed as “Honorable”, they are protected by our Government Soldiers with their lives. How lucky they can be!

But lately, we are afraid of an honest-to-goodness rat-ta-tat, like in the movies, involving not only the NPAs on one hand, and the Government Soldiers, on the other hand but of ordinary and naïve civilians who want to imitate a high school dropout. (We may not be handsome but at least we persevered and endured all the difficulties. We graduated from the Samar High School.) We have observed how some people in Catbalogan, in Paranas, in Pinabacdao have been organized by the Government Soldiers to denounce the NPAs. Some speakers may have been manipulated to denounce their former comrades; some are probably sincere. If America will feel charitable again and give its unneeded and surplus firearms and bombs to the Philippines as its foreign aid to feed the impoverished and starving Filipinos, and the ruling elite in the Philippines through the Generals will decide to distribute those surplus arms to the friends of the Government Soldiers, you don’t need a crystal ball to imagine the consequences.

Of course, 8 million of us are all over the world as exploited menials, ladies of the night, teachers, doctors who are working as nurses, engineers, clerks, so that we can send $11 billion to the Philippines to prop it up.

Indeed, the litany of pain and death can go on and on, ad infinitum.

And yet, in the midst of the intolerable poverty and hardships of our people, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines now headed by this lady who has been called all sorts of names and now assisted by among others, our Most Outstanding Alumnus of our Alma Mater and one of the Golden Jubilarians, the Hon. Antonio Eduardo Nachura, whose kins were known to be likewise in the thick of the struggle for “National Liberation” before, can afford helicopter gunship, war planes, gunboats, weapons carriers, tanks, Armalites, probably Kalashnikovs, Uzis, rocket launchers, rocket propelled grenades, Fals and other powerful weapons to kill people. And perhaps the NDF guerillas are armed with the same powerful firearms and bombs and grenades too.

For us who are deathly afraid of even just touching a toy gun because we might get shot by the real gun, we are praying that these instruments of death be transformed into something useful to sustain life, to make the miserable lives of our poor people a little bit better.

So what to do?  What to do?

If we believe in God, we can pray for peace. Let us say 3,000 Hail Mary’s like what Filipinos are doing in California. Even if some of our NDF “Dialectical Materialists” consider the Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, Islam, the Iglesia ni Kristo, and other organized religion as the “Opiate of the Masses”. Let us pray for this civil war to stop.

Beyond praying, supposing God will not answer our prayers, we can implore the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army to rethink its avowed goal of instituting a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Jomaist “National Democracy” on the Philippines through a protracted war and the armed struggle. After all, the achievements for the past 37 years do not seem to be impressive.

Moreover, if they are more socially-committed and more intelligent than the Trapos and their oligarchic partners, the initiative should come from them.

The age of mass revolutions to diminish hunger, poverty, exploitation, injustice, and oppression in the Third World might have been overtaken by massive, profound ideological, political, religious, and economic developments in the world today. In the case of the Philippines, we have to take note of the following:

If the NDF-CPP-NPA with 36,000 armed guerillas and thousands of sympathizers could not supplant itself on a much-hated and much maligned regime in 1986 during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, how much more today?

Can the revolutionary success in China and Mao’s “Long March” be replicated in the Philippines while an Armada of NPA Marines aboard their motorboats are crisscrossing Maqueda Bay, the Visayan, and the Sulu Seas, the Leyte Gulf without being machine gunned by gunboats of the Philippine Government or God forbid, the American torpedo boats, destroyers, aircraft carriers, submarines, and bombers?

The Vietnamese triumphed due to a host of factors especially the unity of those opposed to their ruling class, unlike the plethora of “progressive” groups who are fighting each other and waving their red and colorful banners every now and then in Metro Manila. In addition, there was the support of two giant “communist” countries — the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In America, there was a massive outpouring of continuous, relentless opposition to the intervention of the Americans in Vietnam. In Europe, the opposition to the Vietnam War never wavered. The war ended. But at what cost to the Vietnamese and the Americans?

Would the 8 million Filipinos in Singapore, Hongkong, Saudi Arabia, other parts of the Middle East, Japan, Europe, Africa, America, and all over the world harangue the governments of the countries wherever they are now to support the National Democratic Front if it engages its enemy in a bloody all-out civil war in a “Strategic Stalemate” or “Strategic Offensive”? Will the majority of the 3 million Filipinos in America brandish the placards and banners in opposition to some Filipinos who even now are asking President Bush, their friends, some American Congressmen, to intervene in removing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from power? I am afraid not. Many of them will just curse the red-flag waving Filipinos for rocking the boat and calling attention to themselves in America.

Will the American and European religious groups, the kind hearted ones, the liberals, stick their necks out to support a revolution lead by the Communist Party of the Philippines? At the moment, they are more interested in confronting the fanaticism of Al Qaeda. And they will ask: “A Communist Party leading the revolution in the Philippines which is supposed to be the only Christian country in Asia? Are there still Communist Parties hereabouts?”

In 1965, the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) was reported to be the largest Communist Party in the entire world with 3 million members, but probably next to the Communist Parties in China and the USSR. They were tricked by the Military under Suharto. And decimated. An estimated 100,000 PKI members were hacked to death, some were fed to hungry and emaciated Indonesian crocodiles. And yet at that time, there were two “communist” giants who could have helped the PKI — China and the USSR. They did nothing.

The so-called “communist” countries in Eastern Europe, like Russia, have collapsed. The corruption uncovered in some of those communist-socialist states in Eastern Europe was beyond belief.

 

The Maoist guerillas in Latin America, such as the Sendero Luminoso in Peru, have been decimated. The Frente Sandinista Liberacion Nacional (FSLN) in Nicaragua has lost mass support and has been out of power. And Cuba continues to be on guard against America. What happens when Fidel Castro takes his last breath? North Korea can hardly be considered the ideal communist country when its people are starving and escaping to South Korea and China.

Today, there is no country that can claim to be “communist” and which can serve as a model for the socialist revolutionaries in the Philippines. Are the economic systems in China and Vietnam “communist”? They are more capitalist. But their political and governmental leadership undoubtedly are very strong, not wishy-washy and are patriotic and pro-people. Something that we need so badly among our leaders.

The economic systems of Singapore and Japan are definitely not “communist”. But there seems to be more corruption in “Capitalist” Vietnam and China despite their Communist Parties than in Capitalist Singapore and Japan that are not led by communist parties.

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