BRIEF MESSAGES & LETTERS, 2001 - Present
TRIBUTE TO COMRADE ANTONIO ZUMEL
By Jose Maria Sison
17 August 2001
Julie and I and our entire family join all the comrades and friends in grieving the death of Comrade Antonio Zumel. We express our sincerest condolences to Mela Castillo his beloved and loving wife and comrade, his children Malaya and Veronica, his sisters, brothers and other relatives.
We all share a sense of loss over his passing away. At the same time, we are comforted that his pain and suffering have ended. Comrade Zumel lived a full and meaningful life in the service of the people and we draw inspiration from his exemplary character and his revolutionary record.
Comrade Antonio Zumel is an outstanding communist. His contributions to the advance of the Philippine revolution are significant. He dedicated the best years of his life for the struggle to complete the new-democratic revolution and pave the way for the working class to fulfill its historic mission of building socialism and preparing the way for communism.
He reached the highest level of leadership in the revolutionary movement, as member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines since 1980 and as chairman of the National Democratic Front from 1990 to 1994. He became NDFP honorary chairman and senior adviser to the NDFP negotiating panel from 1994 onwards. He was editor-in-chief of Liberation and Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas at various times.
Comrades in various organs and organizations entrusted to him all these high positions by virtue of his dedication to the revolutionary cause of the proletariat and the people, his high level of ideological, political and organizational competence, his style of simple living hard work and arduous struggle and his humility and selflessness.
Throughout the periods that I worked with him closely, from 1976 to 1977 and from 1989 to the time of his demise, I knew him as a model of discipline and devotion to duty, conscientiousness in study and work, considerateness and warmheartedness. He was also lighthearted, apt to crack jokes at appropriate times. He was a wholesome, reassuring and comfortable person to be with in bad or good times.
Comrade Zumel dedicated his talent and skills as a journalist to the revolutionary movement. He excelled in information and education work. He carried forward the fine tradition of Marcelo H. del Pilar and Amado V. Hernandez. The pen complements the sword of the Philippine revolution.
Comrade Zumel was already accomplished in his profession before he joined the revolutionary movement. He rose from copy boy to reporter in The Philippines Herald. He was news editor of the Manila Bulletin and was twice elected to the presidency of the National Press Club (NPC) in 1969 and 1970, after having been elected 15 times as member of the NPC board of directors.
At the same time, he was consistently a union organizer and union leader in the newspapers that he worked for. He and his colleagues in the press were about to launch a federation of mass media workers’ unions when martial law was imposed on the country in 1972.
I did not have the chance to meet Comrade Zumel until 1974. But I followed his activities with keen interest through comrades mutually close to us. I was elated when he became close as an ally to the Party and eventually became a Party member.
In 1969, as NPC president, he acted in support of the beleaguered journalists of Dumaguete Times and came into close contact with highly responsible comrades. From the outbreak of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 to the declaration of martial law in 1972, he made the NPC a stronghold of the mass organizations in the Movement for a Democratic Philippines. He made the NPC building available to the mass activists as venue for press conferences and refuge from police and military assaults during mass actions.
He became the chairman of the board of directors of the Amado V. Hernandez Foundation (AVHF) and cooperated with Comrade Antonio Tagamolila, president of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philipines (CEGP), to publish the second edition of Struggle for National Democracy as joint project of the AVHF and CEGP.
It was in the 1970-72 period that he developed rapidly into a communist revolutionary. He joined a party group under the auspices of the National Press Bureau of the Party’s General Secretariat and became a member of the Preparatory Commission of the National Democratic Front under the United Front Commission of the Party Central Committee.
During his second term as NPC president in 1970-71, he aligned the NPC with the movement for national liberation and democracy. Upon the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, he helped establish the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties (MCCCL) and this was based in the NPC building.
He went underground on the day that martial rule of the Marcos fascist dictatorship began. In the period of 1972 to 1974, he worked in the staff of the NDFP organ Liberation and Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas (news agency). In this period we called him Ka KP.
We met somewhere in Pampanga in 1974. He was then slated for deployment to what was then called the Ilocos-Montanosa-Pangasinan region. Once more, we met in Pangasinan in 1975. He was then editing and producing Dangadang (Struggle) in our Ilocano regional language. Later on we called him from Ifugao to the Party center.
It was not until July 1976 that I met Comrade Zumel again somewhere in Pampanga when he came for briefing and discussions in preparation for reorganizing the staff of Ang Bayan. For about a month, we stayed together moving about from house to house and from barrio to barrio, together with other comrades. Then, separately we had to leave Pampanga because of the capture of Commander Dante (Bernabe Buscayno), then the commander-in-chief of the New People’s Army in August 1976.
We were able to regroup in order to form the new editorial staff of Ang Bayan only in the last quarter of 1976. Comrade Zumel was appointed editor-in-chief of AB. At that time, we called him Ka Art. Because I was AB political director, I worked closely with Comrade Zumel and the AB staff. The AB underground staff house became one of my retreat posts for writing until my capture on November 10, 1977 in La Union.
Soon after my release from military detention in 1986, I met Comrade Zumel and other comrades a number of times to discuss the new situation, prospects and tasks. From the latter part of 1986 to early 1987, he was a member of the panel negotiating with the Manila government. He came forward as a principled statesman of the people. He upheld the position of the revolutionary movement in the negotiations.
In 1989, he came for a two-year mission cum medical treatment abroad. He and Mela had to apply for political asylum the following year because the Manila authorities came to discover their presence abroad and were on the lookout to arrest them upon return.
While abroad, he continued to be a member of the Party Central Committee and performed important tasks under the direction of the Central Committee and its International Department. He participated in drafting important documents for the Party Central Committee and the National Council of the NDFP on many important issues.
He was elected in absentia to the chairmanship of the NDFP from 1990 to 1994 under the nom de guerre Manuel Romero. The NDFP Conference of 1994 named him honorary chairman of the NDFP and the NDFP National Executive Committee subsequently designated him senior adviser to the NDFP negotiating panel. He was also editor of Liberation International. We called him Ka Manong or simply Manong during the time of his exile.
Comrade Zumel made crucial contributions to the Second Great Rectification Movement. He stood firmly for the ideological line of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the political line of the new-democratic revolution through protracted people’s war and the organizational line of democratic centralism. He vigorously criticized and repudiated the major errors committed by the opportunists and renegades from 1979 to 1992.
He shared weal and woe with comrades and the masses and took the necessary risks to life, limb and liberty. So many times, he was directly in situations when the enemy forces pressed hard on our forces in urban and rural areas and he faced dangers and difficulties like the rest of us. He had the unique achievement of evading arrest and detention. Thus, he contributed greatly to the continuity of the revolutionary leadership when I was captured and imprisoned.
I can say more about Manong. But no matter how much I say, I can tell only a part of his rich experience. No single person, not even someone like me who is privileged with some vantage point and close comradeship with Manong, can give a full account of his revolutionary life and deeds. The full picture can be approached only by the available records of collectives and testimonies of many comrades.
Comrade Antonio Zumel has left an indelible mark in the history of the proletariat and people. His revolutionary qualities and deeds inspire us. Let us emulate his example and make it a living force for the advance of the Philippine revolution. Let us always remember him as a communist, a fervent proletarian revolutionary fighter and a patriot ever determined to struggle for the liberation of the Filipino people from national and class oppression and exploitation.
Long live the memory of Comrade Antonio Zumel!
Advance the struggle for national liberation and democracy!
Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!
Bring about the complete victory of the Philippine revolution!
Long live the Filipino people!