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Democracy in the NPA and Lack of it in AFP

By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines

August 16, 2003

Since July 27, 2003, hundreds of military officers and enlisted personnel, calling themselves the Magdalo group, have dramatically aired their long pent up grievances against their commander-in-chief Gloria Macapagal, defense secretary Angelo Reyes and some high officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

They complain against the corruption of their superiors, including the overpricing of equipment, the privatized use of military planes and land vehicles and cheating the soldiers of their basic supplies. They also complain against the use of terrorist bombings to demonize the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to lay the ground for increased US military intervention and logistical assistance and to justify the declaration of martial law.

Grievances and Lack of Democracy in AFP

I take seriously the grievances of the Magdalo group. I am not at all confounded by the fear being whipped up by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and some quarters in the mass media that the Magdalo group could have made a successful military coup at the incalculable expense of the people, were it not for the vigilance, cleverness and strength of those in power.

As of Sunday, July 27 at Oakwood, the so-called "power grabbers", "putschists", "mutineers" and "military adventurists" were already limited to nothing more than a protest action. They had been rendered desperate by a series of preemptive and provocative actions taken against them since Thursday, July 24 by a regime that takes more pride in proclaiming itself a beneficiary of a military coup than in crediting the mass movement for the overthrow of Estrada in 2001.

What should be more threatening to the current regime and the prospective one is the rampancy of corruption, the practice of state terrorism and mendicancy to the US among the highest officers of the AFP. All of these conditions incite the lower officers and enlisted men to rebel in the light of any modicum amount of patriotism and concern for public interest. I would not be surprised if in the near future a real coup attempt would be launched, with the directness of a flying wedge.

Aside from the Magdalo group, there are several active clandestine groups of aggrieved officers and enlisted personnel within the AFP. There are those that know no better than to make a military coup in order to make a banana republic attached to the US. There are also those that attach themselves to reactionary politicians and expect reforms or concessions from them. Still there are others that have become convinced to coordinate themselves with the national democratic movement.

The military establishment tends to rot faster than the whole ruling system. The highest officials of the defense department and the highest officers of the AFP take bribes in the procurement of domestic and foreign supplies as well as operate criminal syndicates involved in smuggling, illegal logging, drugs, gambling and prostitution, extortion from legitimate businesses, kidnapping for ransom and the like. They flaunt their ill-gotten wealth by acquiring mansions and expensive cars that are far beyond their official earning capacity.

The outrageous crookedness of their superiors had driven the aggrieved officers and enlisted personnel to undertake the dramatic protest action of July 27. The lack of democracy in the AFP has allowed the most corrupt and brutal officers to intimidate their subordinates and prevent them speaking up. But the anger of the oppressed and exploited is collected and eventually breaks out.

No democracy in substantive terms can exist in the AFP because it is the coercive apparatus of the exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords. It is also a tool of a foreign power, US imperialism. It is violently opposed to the national and democratic rights and interests of the people. Even only in terms of method, the current grievance mechanism within the AFP permits no democracy.. Obedience to the US and local exploiting classes is easily translated into an obedience to the corrupt and brutal officers.

Democracy in the NPA

Democracy thrives within the New People’s Army (NPA), despite the limited resources that it has and the tremendous odds it faces from the enemy. In the first place, it is fighting for the revolutionary cause of the people. It is the instrument for the armed revolution to attain national liberation and democracy. The Red commanders and fighters are self-sacrificing in the service of the people.

The policy for political work in the NPA is fully to arouse the masses of soldiers, the commanders and all working personnel in order to achieve, through a democratic movement under centralized leadership, three major objectives, namely, a high degree of political unity, an improvement in living conditions and a higher level of military technique and tactics.

With regard to political democracy, the NPA officers and enlisted personnel have the right to freely discuss the principles, policies and line of the new democratic revolution. The lower officers and enlisted personnel have the right to criticize higher officers and cadres in study and work meetings in order to rectify errors and misdeeds and improve work and style of work.

With regard to economic democracy, the representatives elected by the soldiers have the duty to assist the unit leadership in managing the supplies and mess and the right to go over the accounts upon the inquiry or complaint of any soldier. There is no way for the officers of the NPA to cheat on the supplies.

With regard to military democracy, in periods of training there is mutual instruction between officers and soldiers and among the soldiers themselves; and in periods of fighting, the units at the front must hold meetings of various kinds. Under the direction of the unit leadership, the masses of soldiers are roused to discuss how to attack and capture enemy positions and how to fulfil other combat tasks.

Democratic Movement in the AFP?

The cadres who wish to do revolutionary work within the reactionary armed forces can be guided by the democratic standards of the NPA. They can promote a kind of democratic movement that is reasonable and acceptable among military cadets, among reserve officers and among the active officers and enlisted men. Such a democratic movement can be aimed at exposing the pro-imperialist and reactionary character of the armed forces, causing their disintegration and facilitating the rise of a new and just social order.

The cadres can promote political democracy by undertaking various forms of education in the new democratic revolution against the US and exploiting classes. They can form patriotic and progressive associations with legal objectives among the cadets and among the active officers and enlisted personnel. In the face of a possible crackdown, they can form discreet groups.

They can promote economic democracy by electing soldiers’ committees to oversee procurement and management of supplies and mess and to look into accounts and inventories upon the inquiry or complaint of any soldier. They can demand the right to form unions of soldiers in order to look after their economic and social rights and interests and to prevent or discourage corruption and theft of the retirement, separation and death benefits for soldiers.

They can promote compliance with the international law on human rights and humanitarian conduct in war and with the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. While they are still in the reactionary army, the enemy officers and enlisted personnel are still obliged by their masters to fight the NPA and the people. But the revolutionary cadres within the reactionary army can dissuade them from committing acts of state terrorism and encourage them to shift to the people’s side.

It is not idle and futile for cadres of the national democratic movement to do revolutionary work within the reactionary army. The soldiers here are mostly recruited from the toiling masses of workers and peasants. Thus, they can respond positively to the call for the new democratic revolution. Even the officers who come mainly from the petty bourgeoisie can at crucial moments be persuaded to join the revolutionary side of the people. This is well demonstrated in the history of the Philippines and other countries.

GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations

The NDFP holds the view that its peace negotiations with the GRP can be a way for the Filipino people in their millions and even for the bureaucratic and military personnel of the GRP to learn quickly the content of the program for the people’s democratic revolution and to consider how a just and lasting peace can be achieved.

But the likes of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Angelo Reyes have scuttled the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations because they think that, by waging an all-out war against the revolutionary forces and the people and by staging bomb attacks against civilians, they pave the way for increased US military intervention, US military and financial assistance under the pretext of anti-terrorism. They calculate that these would enable them to stay in power longer and to enrich themselves further through corruption.

In the process, Arroyo and Reyes overspend on graft-ridden military equipment and other supplies and widen the budgetary deficit.They overstretch and overstrain their armed forces and subject the field officers and enlisted personnel to more and more miserable and lethal conditions. Consequently, more and more military officers and enlisted personnel become disgruntled and rise up in resistance

The socio-economic, political and moral bankruptcy of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system has gone so far that the reactionary state cannot oppress and exploit the broad masses of the people without sharpening the oppression and exploitation of the very personnel of the coercive apparatuses. The crisis of the ruling system is daily worsening and is pressing the decomposition of the state. The subjective forces of the revolution are growing in strength in the present circumstances.#

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