Amparo Pamela H. Fabe
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), is a violent terrorist group founded by Jose Maria Sison. It has fought against the Filipino government for more than 45 years. In the early days of the organisation, much of its support came from the youth sector. The CPP formed the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the youth sector which focused on staging peaceful protests. However, in later years, the tactics of the youth sector changed to that of terrorist activities. The KM is deemed a major source of new membership for the CPP-NPA. The CPP’s politico-diplomatic arm is the National Democratic Front (NDF).
In the period from 1970s up to the 1990s, the trend towards youth recruitment by the CPP accelerated. Most of the educated young members of the CPP were recruited from the country’s top universities. Many of the CPP ideologues became faculty members of prestigious state universities and colleges all over the country. Marxism, Leninism and Maoism were taught openly in schools and colleges. The CPP ideologues, who became excellent professors, recruited actively on campus. For example, the University of the Philippines Diliman, the University of the Philippines Los Banos, Ateneo de Manila University and Central Luzon State University became the seedbeds of youth recruitment for the CPP.
During that time, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were not able to implement a counter-strategy to disrupt or limit the campaign for the recruitment of the youth. The AFP was focused on military strategies to handle the armed rebellion of the farmers in the rural areas. It was only in the early 1980s that the AFP set up a counter-strategy, through the Civil Military Operations office.
In addition, CPP members infiltrated the various trade unions of the Philippines and transformed them into recruitment centres for the NPA. The strategic thrust of the CPP was to unite the struggle of the youth, the young professionals and the workers. Due to its successful recruitments of thousands of supporters, the CPP terrorist organisation gained preliminary success in the form of public recognition. Mr. Jose Maria Sison and his colleagues then started to setup a specific Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology that could be assimilated by the members, through regular indoctrination classes given in the universities, workplaces and in different public venues commonly known as “sit-ins.”
Youth Recruitment Campaign of the CPP-NPA
In addition, reports from various international organisations have revealed that the CPP has been recruiting child soldiers. For instance, a report by The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers in 2008 stated that approximately three to 20 per cent of the NPA forces were made up of children under the age of 18 (Global Report, 2008). The children who joined were predominately from large, impoverished, rural families, in areas where economic opportunities were limited and government delivery of social services weak. According to one estimate, around one-fifth of the NPA’s 7,500-strong force was under 18. Another estimate pegged the youth battalion as consisting of three per cent of the NPA’s 9,500-strong force. The executive committee of the CPP central committee noted in a public statement in November 2005 that “units are confronted on a daily basis by youthful volunteers who wish to join the people’s army but fail to meet the minimum age requirements”. This interest of the young people resulted in them being drafted by the NPA military squads (News Today, December 23, 2010).
For example, 33 per cent of the children who were involved in the armed conflict from January 2005 to 2007 admitted that they were recruited by the NPA. The Department of Social Welfare and Development handled their rehabilitation. Then in 2004 and 2005, the Abu Sayyaf Group recruited the youth as young as 15 years of age and gave them heavy types of weapons (Child Soldiers Global Report, 2008).
Marxist Indoctrination of Filipino Youth Recruited by the CPP-NPA
The theories of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought (or Maoism) became the main references for the continued indoctrination of the youth members. These theories encompass dialectical materialism, political economy opposing capitalism to socialist construction, the social science of class struggle and the class dictatorship of the proletariat, party building and rectification movement, people’s war and the theory of continuing the revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution. The youth recruits were required to study the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. This mastery of the theoretical knowledge enabled the communist members to possess the necessary hindsight, acuity and foresight to advance the armed struggle. The CPP’s revolutionary commitment was strengthened for long-term struggle by the profundity and appropriateness of the theory. The party developed a scientific and pro-worker perspective, outlook and methodology (Speech of Jose Maria Sison, December 2010).
The CPP is faithful to the teaching of Mao that says correct ideas do not fall from the sky but come from the social practices of production, the class struggle and scientific experiment. The CPP regards the revolutionary armed struggle as the highest form of struggle as it is focused on the question of political power. The members believe that the social revolution by workers and peasants and those from the middle of the social strata will succeed if these people have the political power to do so. The development of the people’s war of the Party advances via three stages: strategic defensive, strategic stalemate and strategic offensive. The Party aims to influence the balance of forces at every stage by pursuing various tactical offensives and increasing its armed and political strength in the process. The CPP works closely with the NPA to integrate the revolutionary armed struggle, the intermittent agrarian revolution and the expansion of the mass base through the establishment of mass organisations and local organs of political power.
Criminal Activities carried out by the CPP-NPA
The Philippine Army estimated that the CPP/NPA raised almost one billion pesos in 2008 from “revolutionary taxation, small-scale mining and marijuana cultivation,” according to Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. Burgos. He noted that young farmers are vulnerable to the recruitment activities of the NPA. Being in the hinterlands and interior areas, they are the first ones to come into contact with the rebels. He stated that more than half of the around 4,100 insurgents are young farmers. (The Philippine Star, January 11, 2011).
The Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts
The increasing number of children involved in armed conflict can be traced to these reasons: (1) psychological reasons such as the excitement of being empowered; (2) social tension (i.e., peer pressure); (3) propaganda; and (4) forced recruitment or abduction. Armed groups target the emotional, psychological, mental, or physical vulnerabilities of the children, as well as the situations in their families or communities (Makinano, 2005). The Human Rights Watch stated that child soldiers who will be most likely to be recruited are: (1) poor; (2) separated from their families; (3) displaced from their homes; (4) living in a combat zone; and (5) with limited access to education. They also come from communities, which have inadequate social services (Human Rights Watch Report, 2008).
The recruitment of child soldiers takes place in areas where there is less or no government presence at all. The adolescents are usual targets for recruitment as soldiers. The youth soldiers are trusting and innocent and they have the strength and stamina of adults. Once they join an armed group, the child soldiers become impulsive and aggressive especially when their families have become victims of NPA liquidations or military aggressions. According to the Philippine military, an estimated 2,000 minors fight in the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Child Soldiers in other Philippine Terrorist Organisations
There were reports that children had joined the MILF in Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuwan and Lanao del Sur. According to one estimate, in 2005 up to 13 per cent of MILF’s 10,000 members were children. Martha Burham, the author of the bestseller, In the Presence of My Enemies, which is an account of the kidnapping of her and her husband by Abu Sayyaf terrorists, wrote that the terrorists who stood guard over them were young boys who were barely in their teens (Burnham, 2009).
When the MILF established Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao in 1982, they recruited children to undergo comprehensive training on military preparedness. However, recruitment of child soldiers was being carried out during the American colonisation, even earlier than the Moro uprising in the 1960s, General Leonard Wood, the Governor of the Moro Province during the American Occupation wrote that the children were being used as human shields while the American troops charged. The Moro children fought the Americans in the battles of “BudDajo” in 1906 and “BudBagsak” in 1913 (Makinano, 2005).
Main Thrusts of the CPP-NPA
The Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) was founded as a radical leftist student organisation by Jose Maria Sison in 1964. The KM was the group’s main student organisation. The KM was organised and supervised by educated youth and peasants who were in their mid-20s. In 1969, Sison founded the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA. In the 1970s, some CPP members established the New/National Democratic Front (NDF), a legitimate political party, which serves as the legal face of the CPP-NPA. The strength of the CPP-NPA stems from its young members, recruited from the top state colleges and universities. The CPP-NPA is the most active and violent terrorist organisation in the Philippines. The KM further evolved into a reliable protest group by becoming an active participant during the student protests between January and March 1970, known as the “First Quarter Storm.” These protests resulted in violence and radicalised many youth, thus sustaining membership within the organisation.
The Important Role of Youth Recruits in the CPP-NPA
Jose Maria Sison was only twenty-one years old when he began to do revolutionary work at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1959. He led the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) running it as a patriotic organisation in direct opposition to the UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) an anti-communist organisation of the Catholic Church. His close colleagues who collaborated to form this organisation, were mostly University of the Philippines students, also in their early 20’s. The SCAUP changed the debate at the university level between the Left and the Right on social issues concerning the national and social liberation of the Filipino people. They formed alliances with the bourgeois liberals in preserving academic freedom and secularism in the university. The group conducted study circles to promote national independence and democracy against US domination. The SCAUP also held secret study circles on Marxism. The Anti-Subversion Law of 1957 at that time penalised officers of communist organisations with the death sentence. The Congressional Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAFA) identified faculty members and students who were deemed as Marxists (Speech of Jose Maria Sison, December 2010).
Jose Maria Sison stated that he and his colleagues started the KM in 1964 by bringing together the young workers and young peasants and the students and young professionals. Sison was twenty-five years old when he started the KM. The KM assisted the working class in carrying forward the national democratic movement. This youth group became known for protest actions against the oppressive policies of the government and US interests in the Philippines. It campaigned against the US-Vietnam War (Speech of Jose Maria Sison, December 2010).
Sison spearheaded the publication of the rectification documents, “Rectify Errors” and “Rebuild the Party and the Constitution and Program for People’s Democratic Revolution” with the motive of re-establishing the Communist Party of the Philippines under the principles of Marxism- Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought on December 26, 1968. The CPP transformed itself into an advanced off-shoot of the working class in terms of ideology, politics and organisation. The CPP pushed for the revolutionary armed struggle and the united front as weapons to destroy the Philippine state and install the people’s democratic state (Speech of Jose Maria Sison, December 2010).
Transnational Connections of CPP with the Maoist Movement of the Naxalbaris
The Communist Party of the Philippines established initial contact with the Naxalbaris of India in the late 1980s. The young members of the CPP went to West Bengal, India to assist the Naxalbaris launch the so-called “people’s war”. Filipino CPP members helped recruit young Indian students, workers, farmers and indigenous peoples known as the “adivasis” from different parts of India. Some of the young Naxalbari recruits went to the Philippines to undergo military and ordnance training under the CPP-NPA group. The Naxalbaris and the CPP members shared the same goal and five common features. The highest goal of both terrorist groups is the overthrow of the existing political system and social conditions through an agrarian revolution – the uprising of poor peasants who inhabit the Philippines and Indian countryside. These two groups share six common features.
First, both revolutionary groups are inspired by Maoist writings. Mao’s writings are known by heart by each and every comrade.
Second, these groups are expert in handling ordinance and explosives and setting up landmines. These groups render precise bombing tactics that can negatively affect government counter-insurgency efforts. In West Bengal, a landmine exploded in 2008 prior to the uprising of the tribal “adivasis”, in an area developed by Jintal Steel.
Third, both revolutionary groups derive their primary income from criminal activities such as kidnap-for-ransom, business extortion and weapons smuggling. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the CPP generated US$ 20 million in revenue for the “permit to campaign” fees from the political candidates of the 2010 Presidential elections in the Philippines. Moreover, the CPP is able to collect millions of pesos as “revolutionary tax” for foreign businesses operating in CPP-NPA controlled areas. For instance, in Southern Luzon alone, the CPP collected 36 million pesos in “revolutionary taxes” in 2010, up by 11 million pesos from 2009 (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 30, 2010).
Fourth, both groups maintain a Party Central Committee, a political bureau and a military wing. The political (Polit) bureau of the Naxalbari is the international liaison officer who is in charge of international fund-raising from known communist sympathisers. The political bureau of the CPP is handled by the Communist Internationale section. The military wing of the Naxalbari is in charge of the recruitment, selection and training of young comrades for the military campaign. The CPP New People’s Army conducts training operations for young cadres in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Fifth, both groups place a heavy emphasis on political training as part of the genuine parliamentary struggle that is part and parcel of the “people’s war”. Proof of this excellent strategy is the election into office of many CPP members in the Philippine House of Representatives for 2010. In the case of India, the Naxalbaris were unlucky in as they were decimated in the 2010 polls. However, there is a possibility for the Naxalbaris of West Bengal State to gain political power with the support of the “adivasis”.
Sixth, the communist cadres share a strong faith, hope and love for the Communist Party. This personal dedication of the cadres is what makes them formidable as a group (Roy, 2010). The two groups share a similar flag (the Maoist Party’s hammer and sickle), military training and formation, ordnance (landmines), weapons training and guerilla style of warfare.
The two groups also share a similar strategy with respect to the indigenous peoples (IPs) or tribal peoples. In the Philippines, the CPP leaders and committed members are active in skillsfocused activities, and educational training related to the empowerment of the indigenous peoples (IPs) of all tribal groups. In West Bengal, the Naxalbaris gained political and popular support from the “adivasis.”
The Filipino CPP members were instrumental in the establishment of sustainable Maoist indoctrination among the Naxalbaris. The Filipino CPP members in India were the ones who conceptualised and organised the Young Communists Mobile School which teaches basic communist principles to groups of ten Indian kids (Shell, 2009). This early engagement or indoctrination with kids was essential for keeping the communist spirit alive among the younger members of the tribal groups of the Indian state.
The KM, the youth sector of the CPP-NPA, effectively helped the CPP-NPA to make it nationwide in scale during the first ten years of the group’s armed revolution. The positive characteristics of youthful idealism, braggadocio, love for the Motherland, the capacity to offer physical and mental sacrifices, and the promotion of various energetic initiatives all contributed to the attainment of the CPP-NPA’s aims and objectives. The Kabataang Makabayan recruited thousands of Filipino youth resulting in a widespread organisation, ably surpassing the workers’ trade unions and the peasants’ associations.
Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. Child Soldiers-Global Report 2008. UK: Bell and Bain.
CPP Collects P36 Million Pesos in “Revolutionary Taxes” in 2010. (2010, December 30). Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Felipe, Cecile. (2011, January 11). DA Chief Asks AFP, PNP to Stop NPA Recruitment of Farmers. The Philippine Star.
Human Rights Watch. (2008). Report on Child Soldiers. US: Human Rights Watch Publications.
Makinano, Merliza. (2005). Child Soldiers in the Philippines. International Labor Affairs Service, Philippine Department of Labor and Employment.
Military Warns of NPA Recruitment of Youngsters. (2010, December 23). News Today.
Roy, Arundhati. (2010, March 19). Walking with the Comrades. Outlook Magazine.
Shell, Sam. (2009). Revolution in India. Lalgarh’s Hopeful Spark. US: KASAMA.
Sison, Jose Maria. (2010). Guest Lecture to Students on Political Mobilisation at the Center for Conflict Studies, University of Utrecht.