Lunes, Pebrero 11, 2013

Ka Popoy Remembered - by Merk Maguddayao

KA POPOY REMEMBERED | Inspiring Filipino workers 12 years after his death
By: Merk Maguddayao
February 10, 2013 7:04 AM
The online news portal of TV5

Merk Maguddayao is a cultural activist with the Sanlakas bloc and a founding member of Laya Sining. The views he expresses here are entirely his. 

Mentioning the name Popoy Lagman will draw mixed reactions from people who know him or of him.

To those he led and influenced, he was maverick master of polemics who never minced words in attacking the political follies of his party and comrades. He was fear-inspiring leader of the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB), the dreaded Manila-based communist militia known for its vigilante operations against “enemies of the masses." He was also the tireless and feisty working-class leader who fought for socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

The man headed the communist movement in Metro Manila during Martial Law and later defected from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after rejecting its Maoist and Stalinist orientation. He then formed an alternative Marxist movement that put premium on the emancipation of the working class and the formation of a workers-led government. He was felled down by an assassin’s bullet 12 years ago.

A dozen years hence, it is still uncertain who ordered his murder.

But for his close comrades at the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), the labor federation he formed immediately after the split from the CPP in the early 1990s, who killed him does not matter anymore.

“Hindi makakamit ang hustisya para kay Ka Popoy sa simpleng paghahanap sa kung sino-sinong pumatay sa kanya (There will be no justice for Ka Popoy in the simple search for those who killed him),” explained Victor Briz, a long-time leader of BMP from Southern Metro Manila.

“Wala tayong inaasahang pagpupursigi mula sa ating gobyerno para makamit iyan. Ang tunay na hustisya para kay Ka Popoy ay makakamit lamang sa paglaya ng uring manggagawa (We cannot rely on any effort from the government to get that. The real justice for Ka Popoy will only be achieved in the liberation of the working class),” he said.

Here lies the Filemon “Ka Popoy” Lagman’s indelible legacy in history: He fought for neither his personal nor organizational gains per se. He stood for the class interest of the Filipino workers, and the workers of the world in general. He was not content in merely serving the people, or fighting merely for the liberation of the Philippines from US imperialism, or even in simply toppling a corrupt and incompetent president only to be replaced by other members from the elite class. He pushed for socialism, a system wherein political and economic power lies in the hands of the workers.


Despite being “abrasive, harshly polemical, and brutally frank” (as his close companions described him), and much to the chagrin of the Jose Ma. Sison-led CPP, Ka Popoy was a Filipino revolutionary with a profound ideological sharpness and sincerity. At the risk of being “disciplined,” including the penalty of death, he did not shirk from criticizing the dogmatic strategy and tactics of the CPP, and later the adventurist tendencies of the post-split ABB.

He may not have had the biggest number of followers in the Philippine Left, but history has proven that the political line of his bloc has been consistently correct and prescient. These included the participation of the Manila-Rizal unit of the CPP in the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa elections, when the CPP central leadership called for boycott; the participation of CPP-led forces in the first EDSA Revolution, when the CPP insisted on its militarist strategy; the campaign against economic globalization in 1990s which resulted in trade liberalization, labor contractualization, and privatization of key industries in the Philippines and which in 2007 resulted in the still-raging global financial crisis; and at the tail end of his life, the “Resign All” call in EDSA II at a time when everybody called for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to replace the beleaguered Joseph Estrada.

Spending more than 30 years in the revolutionary movement, Ka Popoy’s prescience was founded not on whims but was a result of his vigor in mastering scientific socialism and dialectical materialism, his tool of analysis in assessing local, national, and even international situations. He did not parrot or copy-paste abstract dogmas and set them as solutions for all situations.

His ideological wizardry culminated in the publication of the Counter Thesis documents that unmasked the CPP’s dogmatic and unscientific and unrealistic program of protracted people’s war and the struggle for national democracy -- a document that has never been officially answered by the CPP up to this day.

Renewal and redemption

Under Ka Popoy’s leadership, a new batch of activists were recruited to the Left after the split and a renewed call for radical change ushered in what Sonny Melencio, Ka Popoy’s long-time comrade and current chairman of the Partido Lakas ng Masa, termed as the “Second Period” in the Philippine Left.

This new batch, popularly called “Rejectionists” (or RJ, although the RJs would later further divide into more contending blocs), primarily defined themselves as revolutionary socialists, combined various forms of struggles and revolutionary tactics, and opened its doors to various forces in society, thus eschewing the sectarianism of the old.

After Ka Popoy’s death, the Philippine revolutionary movement may still be divided, and people may say that it has weakened, but the worldwide crisis of the capitalist order has worsened. As Ka Popoy predicted in 1999, “Globalization by its very nature transforms the economic turmoil in one nation into a world crisis.”

Despite the political ebb of the Philippine Left under the PNoy administration and the continuous backwardness of Philippine society, Ka Popoy's forecast offers a word of hope for those who desire for systemic change to usher in a humane world: “The first decade of the new millennium will be the eve of the socialist revolution in the era of globalization.”

Currently, the socialist movement is gaining strength in Latin America, with the establishment of socialist-led governments in Venezuela and Bolivia, the popularization of Left politics in other Latin American states, and the increasing protests in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East against the bankruptcy of the rule of the 1 percent.

The struggle for radical change might be far from over, and Ka Popoy would never have the chance to witness what he called “the Armageddon of capitalism,” but for as long as the exploitation of the many by the elite few exists, Ka Popoy’s determination and tenacity for change will continue to inspire the powerless.

Huwebes, Pebrero 7, 2013

Green Left Weekly 1994, Issue 147

Campaign to free Filemon Lagman gains support
June 15, 1994
Green Left Weekly, Issue 147
By Max Lane

MANILA — FILEMON, the Free Lagman Movement, was official launched on June 2 at the University of the Philippines. Filemon Lagman, also known as Carlos Forte or Ka [Comrade] "Popoy", was captured by agents of Naval Intelligence in Manila on May 26.

Lagman is the secretary of the Manila Rizal Committee (Autonomous) of the Communist Party of the Philippines, familiarly called MR, which leads worker, urban poor, women's and student organisations with a mass activist base of close to 100,000.

MR supporters and activists have held a series of pickets and demonstrations calling for his immediate and unconditional release. At the June 2 launch of FILEMON, more than 50 representatives of mass organisations and groups, as well as several prominent individuals, family and friends, attended to give testimonials to Lagman and to add their support to the calls for his release.

Among the signatories to a manifesto of unity for the release of Lagman are congressman Edcel Lagman, Filemon's brother, Renato Constantino Jr, the chair of the Manila East Timor conference, Senator Ernesto Herrera, Francisco Nemenzo, Ronald Llamas from BISIG, Arsenio Sy from PANDAYAN, Tony Cabardo from SANLAKAS, Sonny Melencio from MAKABAYAN, Arturo Tabara, a central leader from the progressive left in the Visayas region, Arno Sandidad and other progressive lawyers, and several trade union leaders. Renato Constantino Jr has accepted the position of convener of FILEMON.

The Manila Rizal Regional Committee also issued a statement calling for the release of Lagman. "We dare the Ramos government to show its sincerity in the peace process by releasing Filemon Lagman and opening up exploratory talks with the autonomous Manila-Rizal Party organisation. If Fidel Ramos is really for peace, then he should immediately release Lagman. Lagman's continued incarceration derails the peace process and slams the door to the negotiated political settlement as a way to resolve the long-time conflicts between the government and the urban-based revolutionary forces."

The statement condemned the government for arresting and jailing CPP leaders instead of initiating dialogue with them and for not coming forward with any policies that can address the root cause of the insurgency in the country. The statement declared: "Our openness to enter into peace dialogue is not in exchange of Lagman's release. First, it is our way of recognising that revolution does not automatically mean war and a negotiated peace settlement could also be effective in realising a substantial part of our revolutionary program. Second, it is also our way of recognising the people's clamour to pursue far less bloody and violent means to attain their demands."

The MRRC concluded that if the government continued its policy of arrest and jailing, then "they are giving us no option at this stage but to meet force with force."

More actions are planned by FILEMON, including daily pickets, banner drops, a letter barrage, petition and a major rally later in the month. Already more than 100 congressmen have signed a petition demanding Lagman's release.

PCIJ: Flashback: The Great Left Divide

PCIJ: Flashback: The Great Left Divide
Published August 31, 2007 9:28pm

The recent arrest under strange circumstances of Jose Maria “Joma" Sison by Dutch authorities on charges that he allegedly ordered the killing of two former comrades is only the latest twist in the continuing saga of the fractured Left in the Philippines.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, of which Sison was founding chair (and whom the Philippine government suspects to have reassumed his position while in exile in The Netherlands), owned up to the murders of Romulo Kintanar, the former chief of the CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army, and Arturo Tabara, who once headed the Visayas Commission (VisCom). NPA hit squads gunned down Kintanar in January 2003 and Tabara in September 2004.

The two, along with another assassinated Left leader Felimon “Popoy" Lagman; Ricardo Reyes, former editor of the communist publication, Ang Bayan; and Benjamin de Vera, were central figures in the split in the CPP in 1992, all of whom the exiled Sison branded as “counterrevolutionaries." Basically, the accusations stemmed from major ideological differences and deviations from what the local communists uphold as theory and practice, that of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. In a nutshell, that means:

* maintaining the view that Philippine society is “semifeudal" and “semicolonial" as it has not become industrialized and urbanized;

* pursuing the general line of new democratic revolution by relying on the alliance of workers and peasants and winning over the urban petty bourgeoisie or the middle classes;

* recognizing the CPP as the vanguard force of the proletariat or the working class;

* waging the protracted people’s war (PPW) strategy of “encircling the cities from the countryside," among others.

The split, though internal in nature, came on the heels of the dramatic dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of most communist party governments of Eastern Europe. The rectification movement ushered by the “Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors" document issued by Armando Liwanag (believed to be Sison’s nom de guerre) drew a sharp dividing line between those who agreed with these views (the “revolutionaries") and those who didn’t ("counterrevolutionaries") — or in more popular Left parlance, the “reaffirmists" (RAs) and “rejectionists" (RJs), respectively.

Our i magazine report in 1999 tried to document and make sense of the unprecedented period of metastasis that the Left, particularly of the national democratic (ND) tradition, endured after seven years of the rectification movement. At that time, we counted at least eight disparate splinter groups that had continued to wage “revolution" in similarly disparate forms.

Then, the report noted as well how, despite the major and intense upheavals in the ranks of the Left, the ideological fights had not reached the level of physical violence that characterized the splits in the old communist party, the Jesus Lava-led Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP). Much like the 1992 split, Amado Guerrero (Sison’s nom de guerre then) broke away from the PKP over ideological differences and re-established the CPP under the sway of Maoist praxis.

But apparently we spoke too soon. Two years later, Lagman was dead, felled by assassins’ bullets (though the NPAs denied any responsibility) at the Bahay ng Alumni inside the University of the Philippines campus. Kintanar would meet Lagman’s fate two years later, and then Tabara, almost two years after Kintanar’s murder.

Once monolithic, the Communist Party has splintered into warring factions.

by Alecks P. Pabico

A SPECTER is haunting the revolutionary movement in the Philippines — the specter of seemingly interminable splits.

In the seven years since Armando Liwanag issued his "Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors" document, the Left — or more appropriately, the Left of the national democratic (ND) tradition — has gone through an unprecedented period of metastasis. The once monolithic movement that at its peak in the mid-1980s commanded 35,000 Party members, 60 guerrilla fronts, two battalions and 37 company formations, and foisted ideological and organizational hegemony in the progressive politics during the Marcos dictatorship is now history. Out of it have emerged fragments of disparate groups — eight at least — that continue to wage "revolution" in similarly disparate forms.

Not since the "re-establishment" of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under the banner of Mao Zedong Thought by Amado Guerrero (nom de guerre of Jose Ma.'Joma' Sison) has there been a serious split in the revolutionary movement. In 1968, Guerrero broke away from the Jesus Lava-led Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, or PKP, over ideological differences, criticizing its abandonment of armed struggle and its shift to nonviolent legal and parliamentary means in pursuing the socialist revolution. In turn, the Lava leadership expelled him from the party on charges of "left adventurism."

Three decades later, Guerrero (now believed to be Liwanag) would find his dominion stirred by a similar storm, this time whipped up by his "Reaffirm" document. Reminiscent of the Lava act, he had also charged the "splittists" with Left opportunist sins such as "urban insurrectionism," "military adventurism," and "gangsterism."

While internal in nature, the crisis in the ND movement has not been insulated from the shock waves generated by the dramatic dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of most communist party governments of Eastern Europe. Though he dismissed the USSR and Eastern Europe's ruling parties as revisionist regimes, Liwanag himself admitted in "Reaffirm" the serious setbacks suffered by the local revolutionary movement with the onslaught of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost ideas espousing "liberalism, populism and social democracy."

Ideological responses to the crisis of existing socialism and its repercussions on its constituencies worldwide have been varied. Liwanag's own antidote is the so-called "Second Great Rectification Movement," which the mainstream ND bloc he leads continues to undergo to firm up adherence to the principles laid down in 1968. Basically, that means upholding the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. That is to say:

* maintaining the view that Philippine society is "semifeudal" and "semicolonial" as it has not become industrialized and urbanized;
* pursuing the general line of new democratic revolution by relying on the alliance of workers and peasants and winning over the urban petty bourgeoisie or the middle classes;
* recognizing the CPP as the vanguard force of the proletariat or the working class;
* waging the protracted people's war (PPW) strategy of "encircling the cities from the countryside," among others.

In so doing, Liwanag has drawn a sharp dividing line between those who agree with these views (the "revolutionaries") and those who don't ("counterrevolutionaries"). In more popular Left parlance, those who abide by the Liwanag document are the "reaffirmists" (RAs), while those who aren't into its "sweeping" conclusions are "rejectionists" (RJs).

Declaring themselves the "democratic opposition," the RJs — among them regional party committees of Metro Manila-Rizal, Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao, the Visayas Commission (VisCom), National United Front Commission (NUFC), Home Bureau of the International Liaison Department and the National Peasant Secretariat (NPS) — initially rejected only the "bogus" 10th Plenum that approved "Reaffirm" since it did not have the required quorum. But they soon realized that the Party leadership had not the slightest intention to be conciliatory.

The petition calling either for the reconvening of the 10th Plenum or holding a new one to discuss "Reaffirm" signed by 15 CPP Central Committee members was rejected, as were calls to hold the long-overdue Party Congress. Insisting the plenum was legitimate, the leadership instead began expelling members and dissolving units identified with the RJ bloc, ushering in the Left's own days of disquiet and nights of rage.

MORE OFTEN than not, personal antagonisms have helped shape the contours of the splits and dictated the ever-shifting alliances as much as the interplay of ideological, political and organizational differences. At times, personal differences were garbed in ideological clothing. At other time, the rifts were reduced to sheer clashes of personalities.

Former Ang Bayan editor Ricardo Reyes laments the way the "Reaffirm" document glossed over the ideological and political debate with character attacks and past mistakes. Himself tagged by Liwanag as "counterrevolutionary," Reyes thinks internal matters such as "mistakes, errors in the past for which we should be held responsible one way or another" should have been addressed in a different forum.

''In the first place, the Party's leadership is collective," he says. "It's very rare that an error, especially a big one, was committed by one person. Second, these errors have long been committed. There have already been judgments on those either in the form of censure discipline or punishment."

No sooner had different opposition groups joined ranks, though, the RJ camp itself fell into personality-driven feuds. An initial falling out on how to handle the "Reaffirm" debate served to polarize the RJ groups as a majority did not take to the brand of polemics of Felimon 'Popoy' Lagman, ex-secretary of the CPP's Komiteng Rehiyon ng Metro Manila-Rizal (KRMR) and now working aboveground as Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) chair.

Argues Reyes: "Perhaps he (Lagman) has his own justifications but I don't think we should reply in kind to the RAs. His attacks are just like Joma's. He'd hit Joma, saying, here are your mistakes. And he'd employ character attacks, too."

Lagman himself finds it laughable that the reason behind the splits were not about principles. "It's always Popoy is just like Joma. Any discussion is always about the 'five little pigs and the big bad wolf,'" Lagman says, he being the wolf, of course. He says it politically immature of Left leaders to dwell more on his character or style.

The truth is, Lagman is not exactly the opposite of his nemesis Sison, burdened as he is by accusations of being "ruthless," "dictatorial" and "utilitarian." In 1993, his "arrogance" abetted the crumbling of the loose foundation on which RJ groups stood. Before an ideological summit to discuss theoretical and political positions could be held, and a national coordinating body to discuss the building up of a party formed, a split had ensued between the groups that collectively called themselves the "Third Force" on one side and Lagman's KRMR on the other. Using the KRMR Counter-Thesis, Lagman was adamant about meeting Liwanag's theoretical and tactical positions head-on, even if the group had not been through with the collective review of Marxism-Leninism.

There is also the precarious KRMR-VisCom formation, which materalized in January 1994 when VisCom chief Arturo Tabara made a surprise shift to KRMR's side, splitting the VisCom in the process. Three years later, it was KRMR's (now Komiteng Rebolusyonaryo ng Metro Manila-Rizal) turn to fragment. Lagman was expelled for acts violating the basic principles of collective leadership and democratic centralism. His character was also said to be unbecoming of a "proletarian revolutionary." The rift, Lagman says, arose from his perceived "liquidationist" attitude — for his refusal to help in the Party congress preparations.

In the wake of Lagman's expulsion, KRMR split into two bitter factions. Lagman claims to have the support of majority of the party branches. The rest of KRMR, now under the name of Metro Manila Rizal Regional Party Committee (MRRPC) and occasionally referred to as 'Bloke,' consisted of the bulk of the region's underground cadres, including the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB). The 'Bloke' later decided to disengage from the pre-party formation of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa (RPM), which was established in May 1998, citing that its party building efforts ended in "an organizational project without resolving ideological unity or coming up with any party program." Only the former ABB chief and a few followers remained with the RPM.

The Lagman faction suffered yet another split when one of Lagman's closest lieutenants, Sonny Melencio and forces from the "Progresibo" (Progressive) tendency within the pre-split KRMR, bolted out to form the Liga Sosyalista in 1998. An open socialist organization, the Liga deplored the continuing drift of the Lagman group's politics to the right. Eventually, it merged with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Proletaryo (RPP), the revitalized left-wing faction of the 1930 PKP, to give rise to the pre-party formation of Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP).

Melencio's "Left Unity" project, which anticipates the formation of a legal socialist party in the tradition of Australia's Democratic Socialist Party, has drawn varied reactions from other Left groups. Joel Rocamora of Akbayan finds the recruits to the "Left Unity" a very strange ideological mix — PKP, a small group from the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), social democrats, the left-wing group of the discredited Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA). Others are open to such a unity project as part of tactical considerations, which thus implies a propitious element to it. Only that now is just not the right time.

PERSONAL RIFTS aside, differences that later gave substance to demarcations on theoretical and tactical questions among RJ groups were apparent from the very beginning. Such differences, recalls Reyes, revolved around how the RJs looked at the past and how they saw the future.

One side took to the KRMR Counter-Thesis, developed by Lagman, that views the crisis in the revolutionary movement as a crisis of the "Maoist tendency in the Philippines." In general, this says the CPP's theoretical line was erroneous from the very start, when the CPP was founded in 1968. It claims that "the CPP is Stalinist-Maoist in orientation, an aberration of real Marxism-Leninism. The Party's understanding of class realities in the Philippines is similarly erroneous in that it overplayed the role of the peasantry and underplayed the role of the working class. Instead of a protracted people's war (PPW), it should have been a working class-based and -led insurrection strategy."

The other was Reyes's formulation. Reyes did not find fault in the national-democratic framework of th revolution, its class analysis, the armed struggle and the working class-peasant alliance. But he took exception to the protracted people's war strategy. In a recent interview with PCIJ, he argued, "My only point is, sometime in the 1980s after the period of experience, and after study, the PPW was no longer appropriate. We might as well shift to a political-military combination strategy. It's combination of an insurrectional approach in the urban areas and armed struggle for the countryside."

The KRMR counter-thesis held sway over those who do not see the presence of a "revolutionary situation" to merit the primacy of armed struggle at all times as waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF. This, and some other basic positions served as basis for the establishment of Marxist-Leninist parties both clandestine — RPM, Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP) — and legal — SPP. Even the 'Bloke,' the mainstream KRMR that ousted Lagman, is said to have consolidated its ranks under the politico-military framework, which combines armed and mass struggles.

Set up just this year, the PMP embraces Marxist-Leninist orthodox teachings on the socialist revolution, the working class party and movement. While it acknowledges that the revolution is still in the national democratic stage, the party adheres to a Marxist concept of a continuing revolution that is not dependent on the ND revolution's victory.

To the PMP, a revolutionary movement in a Third World country sans an armed force is unimaginable. But while it doesn't discount the inevitability of the revolution leading to war, it believes this must happen in the context of the developments of the class struggle. Thus, it views the protracted people's war strategy as a vulgarization of the concept of armed revolution. Says a PMP leader: "They're like the alchemists concocting artificial conditions to create a revolution. The artificial condition is the armed struggle. It's like a script, because since 1968 Joma had mapped out how the revolution was going to advance — strategic defensive, strategic stalemate, strategic offensive. Just like a three-act play."

The RPM, for its part, espouses a similar return to orthodox Marxism-Leninism. It views Philippine society as basically capitalist though in a backward or "maldeveloped" stage. The main vehicle of the revolution is the open mass movement and is working class-led. Unlike the PMP, though, RPM retains an army in the countryside, the merged Revolutionary Proletarian Army-ABB Negros (RPA-ABB), mainly for defense, considering that democratic institutions are still very weak.

Reyes eventually abandoned the Party concept and broached the formula for a united front type of organization within the Third Force bloc. "If you look at the RJ, the whole array of forces and individuals who criticized the RA position, they were already developing different frameworks. Setting up a single organization, a more solid one, could wait. If it's going to be a Party, then let it be a Party."

Such a contentious issue spelled the further break-up of the fragile union as majority still favored establishing a clandestine party, whose expression today is the Partido Proletaryo Demokratiko (PPD). Formed in July 1995 during a Third Force bloc assembly initiated by the NUFC, the PPD upholds Marxism-Leninism, criticizes the CPP's "closed door-ism" to Mao and its curtailment of studies on other Marxist trends and schools of thought. Particular emphasis is given to Marxist humanism in its conduct of revolutionary work that holds human beings as the center of development, whose ultimate end is the liberation of human beings from exploitation by their own kind.

Finding no travelling companions in his united front path, Reyes went his own way and helped form the open mass movement Padayon (Visayan for "continue"). "It is," says Reyes, "a commitment to continue what is good, what is worthwhile, that there is something to be proud about the national democratic struggles." It endeavors to wage democratic struggles like land reform and expanding these to empower the people.

UST WHEN it all seemed that disunity and dissolution plagued only the RJ forces, the mainstream RA endured another shakeup in its ranks in August 1997. Majority of the Central Luzon regional party organizations bolted out of the CPP following the expulsion of three Party leaders tagged with having sown "revisionism" and "factionalism" in the region by openly defending the militarist and insurrectionist line of the strategic counteroffensive (SCO). The SCO, an '80s tactical program aimed at a decisive victory against the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship, had been criticized as wrong in "Reaffirm."

Cadres of the pre-party formation of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP) claim to also repudiate the SCO. But they say they only raised the validity of regular, mobile warfare — now no longer part of the strategic defensive stage — in its present conduct of the protracted war. What proved most unacceptable, the cadres say, was that political and organizational questions relating to the PPW strategy merited them charges of an ideological nature — that of carrying a two-line struggle — when they were not enemies in the first place.

It is also an open secret that two centers exist in the mainstream RA bloc — one foreign, in Utrecht (Sison), and another local, (the Tiamsons). Both are said to be at loggerheads.

In the aftermath of the CL split, an open mass movement, the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), emerged. Although it abides by the "Reaffirm" document, the KPD departs from the mainstream RAs on certain organizational and tactical questions. Much of the reason for the disaffiliation revolves around the attitude toward open mass struggles. The KPD, for instance, recognizes these to be crucial and should go hand-in-hand with the armed struggle.

If the mainstream RAs are "deteriorating," Primo Amparo of the KPD labor arm Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan (Makabayan) says, they have only themselves to blame, because they treated sectoral struggles as a matter of propaganda, waged only "pana-panahon" (occasionally), "pili" (selectively) and are "lokalisado" (localized), and their legal organizations as mere mouthpieces. But RA sources dispute this, saying the ND movement remains responsible for the strong legal mass movement in the country. Internal documents also continue to stress the role of legal mass organizations.

"THE OLD is not yet dead, the new is not yet born," says Ronald Llamas of the socialist Bukluran para sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG), describing the current state of the Philippine Left. "That's this moment. There are intimations of the new, there is consolidation among the old. In between, there is a transition. Here, a lot will be formed. But many of those formed will be morbid."

Whether what has so far emerged of the fractured ND movement are morbid expressions, or mutations, only history will determine. But for all the viciousness that has attended the splintering of the Left, there is an incredible optimism among Left groups themselves.

Francisco Nemenzo, also of BISIG, believes the fragmentation is borne out of an expressed desire to come to grips with present realities in the Philippines. "Let's study first, search for a new paradigm, try out different methods," he advises, trustful that there is always the potential for the right situation that they can get their acts together.

One distinct aspect many in the Left would like to emphasize in the major upheavals in their ranks is that intense as they are, the ideological fights have not reached the level of physical violence that characterized the splits in the PKP. At this, it helps that no group presently has an ascendant of dominant status over the others.

Despite the vanguardist and totalistic claims of some parties, Reyes says the makeup of the Left has become pluralistic. By his reckoning, the broad Left formation should also include socialist groups of the non-ND mold like BISIG, Akbayan, and Pandayan. And the sooner all other forces in the Left accept this, he says, the better.

Even Lagman has had a change of heart, finding it irrelevant to claim correctness of one's social praxis. His present concern is where hopes are high for the revolutionary movement's revival. And he sees it in the working class. His positive attitude toward the other Left groups has likewise defined for all a division of labor in organizing their respective sectors —- for them, the urban workers and rural farm workers; the RAs, the peasantry in the countryside; and the others, the petty-bourgeoisie.

At this stage, only the mainstream RAs claim ideological certainty. By affirming that waging revolution is not the monopoly of any one group, its estranged theoretical sibling, the KPD, has become more open to tactical alliances with the other political blocs. But the RAs act as if the 1986 People Power Revolution never happened, and maintain such rigid framework for political work that has only isolated them from the rest.

The reason for this attitude towards other groups in the Left is best understood in the way one RA leader put it. "The 'Contras' (the RJs)," he says, "are no more than mere obstructions in the revolutionary course of the masses. Having lost faith in the revolutionary principles, with their wrong analyses, they only confuse the masses instead of arming them to wage revolution." - Alecks P. Pabico, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, April-June 1999

A 'Dirty War' And The Death Of Popoy Lagman

A 'Dirty War' And The Death Of Popoy Lagman
The theories and possible conspiracies in the death of one of the Philippine revolutionary movement’s most controversial figures.


Over a week after Felimon “Popoy” Lagman was gunned down last February 6 in the sprawling campus of the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, all that police could come up with in their investigation are “leads.”

Some crucial leads, however, pointed to the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB) and the Revolutionary Proletariat Army (RPA), factionalist groups that bolted the mainstream leftist revolutionary movement several years ago, as possible perpetrators.

The leads include a cartograph of a man that, Popoy’s son Dante said, matches the face of one of the four suspected gunmen he saw at the crime scene.

Another is that the .45 caliber slugs recovered on the scene most likely came from the same pistol used in the killing of Chinese-Filipino businessman Wilson Ong in Valenzuela, Metro Manila, in 1998. The ABB had owned the killing.

Certain eyewitness accounts also said some of the gunmen looked familiar as they used to be seen along with the slain labor leader.

Because the police could not come up with arrests last February 12 – the deadline set by Popoy’s colleagues and, incidentally, the day of his funeral – the Lagman family decided to hire private investigators to ferret out the truth. Former Rep. Edcel Lagman, Popoy’s brother, said police investigators were not moving fast enough. The Lagmans want the gunmen as well as their mastermind arrested. And soon.

Popoy’s murder was turning out to be part of a bigger assassination plot engineered either by his own enemies or by a group identified with ousted president Joseph Estrada seeking to destabilize the newly nstalled government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Theory No. 1

Popoy broke away from the underground Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1993, along with some cadres of the Metro Manila-Rizal Regional Committee. To top it all, he brought along with him the urban guerrilla group ABB, carting away a cache of arms, ammunition and logistics. The factionalism, it is said, was the offshoot of a line struggle in which he espoused urban insurrectionism in place of the protracted people’s war of the mainstream revolutionary movement.

The ABB, headed by Nilo dela Cruz, eventually split with Popoy reportedly due to, among other reasons, a rift over a P250 million payoff deal with the PEA-Amari in 1997 in exchange for the relocation of the slum dwellers in the reclamation land. Two years later, workers at the Philippine Airlines accused Popoy of treachery for reportedly selling out to Estrada crony and PAL owner Lucio Tan in a labor row at the airlines.

Dela Cruz, meanwhile, joined forces with Arturo Tabara who had also formed his own group, the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA). Both men entered into peace talks with Estrada in late 1999 where the former president, along with Philippine National Police chief Gen. Panfilo Lacson, reportedly hatched an assassination plot against exiled National Democratic Front (NDF) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison.

Popoy’s slaying could be a spin off of this bigger plot against Sison.

In a radio interview on January 31 or a few days before Popoy was killed, Lacson’s arch enemy, cashiered police Col. Reynaldo Beroya, confirmed the plot to kill Sison. Their own accounts as well as other reports suggested that the plot on Sison’s life became operational in May last year with Romulo Kintanar as alleged project officer, along with Tabara, Dela Cruz  and police and military intelligence agents.

Kintanar once headed the CPP’s military commission and also bolted the party where he was accused of military adventurism leading to the bloody purge of innocent cadres and Red fighters particularly in Mindanao. He was, at the time the plot to kill Sison was begun, a top official of the government TESDA.

In the plot to kill Sison was a five-man hit team headed allegedly by one Joey Mortera (aka Redford) and Nana, the chief triggerman. Reports said that Sison, while crossing the street to the NDF office in Utrecht, the Netherlands, was about to be shot but the assassins backed out upon seeing a child being carried by the target.

The backup triggerman was eventually arrested and detained by the Dutch police thus aborting the October plot. Another plot was scheduled last December but was likewise aborted.

Reports said Popoy could have known of the plot considering he had personal ties with Kintanar. His second wife (the first was killed by Marcos soldiers during martial law) is the sister of Edgar Jopson while Kintanar’s second wife is the widow of Jopson. (Jopson, an Ateneo moderate who turned national democrat, was killed by Marcos agents in 1982 in Mindanao, southern Philippines.)

In a statement last week, the NDF said that the RPA-ABB could have killed Popoy on suspicion that he leaked the plot. Popoy was said to have been consulted by military agents in connection with the plot to kill Sison.

Leaders of the RPA-ABB have long been denounced for being “military assets.” In fact, the group was accused a week ago by Rafael Coscolluela, governor of Negros Occidental in the Visayas, for collaborating with the police and military in anti-insurgency operations. They have also been accused of acting, in the guise of rounding up petty criminals, as the private army of Marcos and Estrada crony Eduardo Cojuangco in his vast plantations in the same province.

The police cartographs and eyewitness accounts so far matched those of certain RPA-ABB elements and the slugs were similar to those used by the group in Ong’s killing in 1998, an incident owned by the group for what they claimed was the victim’s “anti-labor” practices.

If this indeed was a strong lead found by police investigators, why the apparent delay in arresting the alleged culprits and brains as their whereabouts are probably known to police and military authorities? Is the RPA-ABB, so far the prime suspect in Popoy’s murder, indeed enjoying protection from certain top military and police officials?

Sison, meanwhile, has long been wanted by security forces since his release from Marcos imprisonment in 1986. His and his family’s passports had been canceled. There is likewise a long-standing reward for his capture, dead or alive.

Other Theories

Popoy could have also been killed as part of a destabilization plot by a group of political cronies and military loyalists of Estrada.

A coup plot had been revealed late last year at the height of the jueteng (illegal numbers game) scandal and constitutional crisis involving Estrada. The plot was to be staged by his cronies and military allies with the aim of installing a junta where Estrada would act as figurehead president. The plot has been confirmed by Justice Secretary Hernando Perez when he appeared before the Supreme Court on February 15.

Reportedly part of the plot was the December 30 bombings in Metro Manila where scores of innocent civilians including children were killed and almost a hundred wounded. Police were quick to blame the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the bombings but its leaders denied any involvement. A dawn raid was mounted by military agents on a Moro community in Quezon City but, finding no evidence, those arrested were released except at least three who were instead charged with “illegal possession of firearms.”

Before the explosions, however, was the November 24 abduction of public-relations man Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver. Close to both Estrada and former president Fidel Ramos, Dacer was said to be in possession of damning information that would have tightened the impeachment case against Estrada. Dacer was suspected of leading a “demolition job” against Estrada and he was silenced probably to preempt any further damage on the president. Estrada had earlier denied any role in Dacer’s disappearance. Still, groups loyal to him could have staged his abduction with or without his knowledge.

But with his ouster on January 20, the group loyal to Estrada became more desperate to stage a comeback to regain power and this was to be achieved by reactivating the coup plan. President Arroyo herself warned she would crush any coup plot against the new administration. A few days later, Popoy was gunned down.

Sources formerly privy to Estrada theorize that this elaborate plan would be preceded by an orchestrated move consisting of a possible assassination as well as legal, legislative and political activities, including the use of “mass mobilizations” and pressure crowds. The pro-Estrada crowds now massing up outside the Supreme Court and other government offices could be part of a build-up.

According to this rightist plan, Popoy’s killing would incite his colleagues to retaliate against suspected militant organizations or would just simply provoke actions that would have a destabilizing effect on the new administration. Such a scenario is similar to the plots in 1986 and 1987 where, respectively, Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1 Movement) president Rolando Olalia and his driver Leonor Alay-ay were abducted, hogtied and tortured before they were killed in Antipolo, Rizal, and Bayan secretary general Lean Alejandro was ambushed in cold blood in Quezon City.

The killings were instigated by a rightist military group allegedly with a politician’s backing and were meant to enrage the organized Left and take vengeance on the new Aquino government. But with the identities of the killers and their mastermind already established, the militants never allowed themselves to be used by these provocations that would have led to further bloodshed and the plotters taking over government in the end. Justice, the militants thought, would take its own course later.

Other theories said that Popoy, who was identified closely with the ABB before, courted many enemies including the police and incorrigible company executives. In a moment of security lapse, the ever alert Popoy was gunned down in a reprisal .

But he could also have been a victim of a covert move by US or US-backed psy-war experts in the AFP and the police force to initiate yet another process of purging the legal radical mass movement that has, despite its various ideological colors, recently renewed its challenge to the reactionary establishment and American security interests in the Philippines. In the new millennium, this cold war mentality remains a danger.

This theory is not entirely without basis. In the Aquino presidency, rightist elements in the AFP and police instigated the Mendiola massacre of January 1987 in the process scuttling the peace talks between government and the NDF. This was followed by an all-out war against the revolutionary movement, at the center of which was the US-devised low-intensity conflict (LIC). The LIC “dirty war” resulted, among others, in the extermination of mass leaders in the cities and mass terror in the countryside. But a series of coup d’etat was also mounted against the government. The Aquino administration was given no respite and no chance to repair the economy until a new government led by a former Marcos police general came into power. #

The Maverick of the Proletarians - by Erwin R. Puhawan

The Maverick of the Proletarians” 

Today marks the 12th year death anniversary of Filemon “Ka Popoy” Lagman. Feared by the abusive capitalist class but admired by the working class. As a former student leader turned revolutionary, the works of Ka Popoy inspired many revolutionaries to take the challenge and take the path of the revolution unconditionally.

His idea of a strong and independent workers movement gave the workers an opportunity to lead and be the vanguard class. Under his guidance, the establishment of the Kapatiran ng Mga Pangulo ng Unyon sa Pilipinas (KPUP) Brotherhood of Union Presidents in the Philippines broke the barriers between rival unions. His effort to organize the first Labor Party in the Philippines Partido ng Manggawa (PM) is an attempt to put the working class as a strong political force.

The killing of Ka Popoy shall not stop the working class from continuing the struggle. With the onslaught of Globalization and the continued political circus in the government of “hacienderos” the need for a strong independent working class movement should be the primary trust. 

The issue of poverty, the disintegration of trade unions, and continued political harassment and killings of activist , the demolitions will only prove that the present administration is not for the working class. The issue of PALEA is one indicia that the present Administration cannot and will not defend the interest of the masses.

This is a clear indicia that social injustice exist and continued to exist unless the entire working class will be emancipated and from their chains of slavery and oppression. His killing will clearly show that the perpetrators are nothing but cowards and mindless barbarians. His death should not be the end of a legacy but a start of a strong proletarian movement .


Erwin R. Puhawan
Former National Chairperson 
KAMPI (Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Manggagawang Pilipino)
(Solidarity of Sons and Daughters of the Working Class)

Sanlakas Sugbo - on Ka Popoy

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