This is a report on the violent purges committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines and their armed wing the New Peoples army. Within the party, hundreds of men and women who had dedicated their lives to what they believed was a noble cause, were suspected of being government spies, tortured and killed in secret camps.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Communist Party of the Philippines marks its 35th founding anniversary this Friday, the Inquirer is coming out with this special report on the bloody purges within the party in the 1980s. With the country under Ferdinand Marcos’ rule by martial law, the outlawed Marxist-Maoist party rose to the height of its political and military strength. It was also a time of infiltration by “deep-penetration agents” by the Marcos military. Within the party, hundreds of men and women who had dedicated their lives to what they believed was a noble cause, were suspected of being government spies, tortured and killed in secret camps. This is their story.
Victims of Communist Party purge seek justice
Dec. 25, 2003
Families still hopeful
LIKE most children who had never seen their father, Sol had longed to meet hers.
“Ma, doesn’t Papa love me?” the then four-year-old Sol would ask her mother Bernice Galang. “Why don’t I have a photograph of Papa and me together, like Kuya does?”
“Kuya” is Sol’s elder brother Karlo, who has a picture with his father when he was a five-month-old baby, but who has not seen him since he was about a year old.
“Ma, when is Papa coming back?” Karlo, then five years old, would ask. “I envy a friend of mine because he plays basketball with his father.”
Bernice had to learn basketball so she could assume the role of the “father” with whom her son could play ball.
At the time, Sol and Karlo had been told that their father Gary had passed away. But their young minds could not understand that he was not coming home.
Now 15, Sol wonders how it is to have both parents around — something that many children take for granted. “I don’t know how it feels to have a father,” she said.
Neither does Alleyne, whose father Josemarie “Kristo” Enriquez died when she was two years old. Until she was 11, she was made to understand that her father was working abroad, initially in Saudi Arabia and later in the United States.
Alleyne, Sol and Karlo are among the children who lost a parent in the bloody purges that swept the country’s underground communist movement between 1982 and 1989.
“How can I explain this to my friends?” said Alleyne, now 17.
The campaign of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) against suspected deep-penetration agents of the Armed Forces killed at least a thousand of its cadres, fighters, and trade union, community and youth organizers, plus non-party members, including peasants and church workers.
Scores survived, but they carry scars of physical and mental torture, and memories of how their comrades died in the hands of fellow comrades.
Many of the survivors eventually left the underground movement. Some stayed on to wage a “people’s war,” now Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency.
The CPP would later acknowledge that the victims had not been established as military spies.
Kristo, head of the party’s District 6 in Manila, which at the time comprised the Paco, Pandacan and Santa Mesa areas, died in 1988 in Metro Manila. Also that year, Gary, an organizer of out-of-school youth, was killed in the Southern Tagalog region, south of Manila.
Buried in unmarked graves, their remains, like those of hundreds of others, have yet to be found.
Love at first sight
BEFORE he joined the underground movement, Gary was organizing students at a university in Manila in the early 1980s. He later moved to the schools of his hometown, Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Gary’s and Bernice’s paths crossed in 1984, a year after the assassination of anti-Marcos opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
“We met in Los Baños [town south of Manila] while we were setting up a chapter of a national student organization in Southern Tagalog,” said Bernice, then a sophomore majoring in biology at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, in Laguna province.
“Na-LFS [love at first sight] ako sa ’yo,” Gary had told her.
Bernice laid down a condition: Gary had to join the CPP before they could marry.
He did, and on Aug. 17, 1986, they got married in nearby Pagsanjan town. She was 22, and he, 23.
Organizing work for Gary in Laguna and for Bernice in the province of Quezon kept them apart most of the time. They usually saw each other once in three months.
A year after marriage, Bernice gave birth to a boy they named Karlo.
Bernice was two months pregnant with daughter Sol on March 24, 1988, when Gary, by then a mechanical engineering graduate of Adamson University in Manila, told her that he was entertaining the idea of working in the Middle East.
“Kailangan nating ayusin ang pamilya natin kasi buntis ka at kailangan mag-aral ang mga anak natin [We need to get our family in order because you are pregnant and our children will have to go to school],” Bernice recalled her husband as telling her.
Dedicated to the party then, she told Gary that she would end their marriage if he left the underground movement. “If that’s what you want, it’s OK with me. But you will have to forget our relationship. I married you because we shared the same principles,” she said.
Bernice recalled that Gary had tears in his eyes when he replied: “I married you not because of the revolution. I would have still married you even if there was no revolution.”
AT THE time, Gary was feeling that his commitment to the revolution was faltering because of his worries about his family’s future. The month before, hoping to be recharged, he had requested that he be allowed to go on a six-month “exposure” program in a guerrilla zone in Southern Tagalog.
His request was approved in less than a month — a record of sorts because approval for some requests took a year, Bernice said.
When he was about to go into the guerrilla zone on March 25, 1988, Gary asked his wife to accompany him to the drop-off point. “Hindi mo man lang ba ako ihahatid [Aren’t you even going to see me off]?” he asked her while they were on a bus.
Bernice begged off because of a previous appointment.
“He said, ’[That group] is more important to you than me.’ I felt he was just being emotional,” she recalled.
She had no inkling then that she was seeing her husband for the last time.
Bernice first learned about Gary’s fate in January 1989, 10 months after the last time they were together. She did not believe the bearer of bad news.
She accepted the death of her husband only when Gary’s former political officer, a survivor of Operation Missing Link (OPML), the CPP anti-infiltration campaign in Southern Tagalog, told her about what had happened.
Anger at the perpetrators is usually the first reaction of a victim’s loved one, Bernice said. But it was not so for her.
She said, “My immediate feeling was: How can the party achieve its dream if its members are killing fellow comrades?”
Gary was not the only loved one Bernice lost to the OPML. She also lost her two younger sisters, Phil and Mimi.
Phil, a student at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, was 17, and Mimi, a high school graduate who passed the aptitude test but did not enroll at the same school, was 16 when they joined the underground movement.
While she can wax philosophical about her husband’s death, Bernice is tormented by feelings of guilt over what happened to her sisters.
“Why did I let them join the movement? Why did I allow them to go full-time? Why didn’t I stop them?” she lamented.
When her father died on Aug. 16, 1988, Bernice and her mother decided to extend the wake in the hope that Phil and Mimi would come. Mimi caught part of the “pasiyam” [nine-day novena for the dead].
“I cried and cried on the day she left,” Bernice said. “I followed her the following day to a safe house in [a town in Laguna]. But she had left. I felt then and there that something evil would befall her.”
HER mother, Aling Lita, was inconsolable, Bernice said.
Bernice recalled her mother’s words to her: “When your sisters left, they said I should not cry and worry because what they were doing was for the country. But now that they are gone, nasaan na ’yung bayan [(where is the country]? Bakit ako lang ang umiiyak [Why am I the only one crying]?”
“I could not answer her, and we both wept,” said Bernice, Aling Lita’s eldest and only surviving daughter.
As a way of honoring Phil and Mimi, Aling Lita still celebrates their birthdays.
“When it’s the birthday of one of my sisters, nakatunganga ang nanay ko [my mother sits there staring at nothing] because Phil or Mimi is not around,” Bernice said.
But they prepare special food, such as “pancit” [local noodles], spaghetti, ice cream and cake, which they distribute to their neighbors.
“We also sing ’Happy Birthday,’” Bernice said.
Despite having been told that the OPML had claimed the lives of Phil and Mimi, Aling Lita has nursed for more than a decade the hope that her daughters are still alive.
“Every Christmas, my mother would wish that Mimi and Phil could be with us,” Bernice said.
As was her practice when Phil and Mimi were still with the underground movement, Aling Lita would leave the front door of the house unlocked at night, in the hope that they would be home for Christmas.
Tomorrow: Victims’ accounts
Victims of CPP purge narrate tales of torture
Dec. 27, 2003
IN BROAD daylight on Nov. 19, 1985, three men believed to be from the military seized an assistant of an assemblyman at gunpoint in the office of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines on Edsa in Quezon City, according to a newspaper report the next day.
Three ex-members of the Communist Party of the Philippines said the abductors turned out to be members of the New People’s Army hunting down suspected military spies from Mindanao, who were believed to have infiltrated the underground movement. The NPA is the party’s armed wing.
The abduction of Dave Barrios — who, according to two of his ex-comrades, was an economics graduate of the University of the Philippines and member of a group in Metro Manila supporting the guerrilla war in Mindanao — was not typical of the methods used by the NPA in arresting suspected military spies during the party’s anti-infiltration campaigns in the 1980s.
Many cadres were lured by invitations to an emergency meeting, a conference, a cultural presentation, or an exposure program in a guerrilla zone, survivors of the anti-infiltration campaigns said in interviews with the Inquirer.
Once they were inside an NPA camp, they experienced the horrors of imprisonment, torture and, for some, death.
“We are arresting you in the name of the party because you’re a DPA (deep-penetration agent)” was what a cadre was told by the leader of the team that arrested him in a camp in Quezon.
Survivors said prisoners were stripped of their rights, setting the stage for maltreatment. The hands and feet of the prisoners in the anti-infiltration campaigns “Operation Missing Link” (OPML) and “Kampanyang Ahos” were bound with chains secured with padlocks.
The prisoners were held in wooden “tiger” cages (4 x 6 x 6 feet) or were bound to a hut without walls in the forests of Quezon and Laguna. (In Metro Manila, suspects were made to wear blue T-shirts to mark them as prisoners of the Manila-Rizal regional committee.)
Those who survived a camp were moved to another camp and then to another and yet another to avoid detection by the military.
There were no cages at an NPA camp at the foot of Mount Apo in 1985. Hounded by the military, the guerrillas and the committee conducting the investigation moved from one camp to the next, usually a group of houses abandoned by their owners because of military operations, according to a former member of the committee.
The prisoners were tied to trees or to house posts.
To humiliate the prisoners, they were given names associated with beasts. A cadre said he was called “Bornok,” the name of a monster in a comics series.
Another cadre said pictures of some of the captives were taken, with the threat that these would be made public.
Female prisoners were humiliated at a camp in Quezon through the “flag ceremony” treatment: They were hung by their wrists for days, with their toes barely touching the ground.
A woman on the kitchen staff of Task Force OPML was given such a treatment. She was arrested on the charge that she had planned to poison members of the task force by lacing the food with mothballs.
“I hung there for two days, and my jogging pants were pulled down, exposing my panties,” she said. “I was not given food.”
Other forms of physical torture included slapping, kicking, beating and hitting of the shin with a stick.
Also used in inflicting pain were hantik, large reddish ants with a fierce bite.
While Tatang, a 62-year-old supporter of the movement, was hanging by his wrists from a cage, ants were spilled on his body, according to a survivor whose cage was beside the old man’s.
The leaves of the plant “alingatong” (Dendrocnide meyeniana) were also rubbed on the abdomen of suspected military spies in northwestern Mindanao, causing itchiness, according to the relatives of some of the survivors.
In such cases, abrasions develop on the skin the more one scratches.
A potent weapon used against the prisoners was food.
“One of the worst punishments we endured was the denial of food,” Robert Francis Garcia, a survivor of the OPML, said at a forum.
He added: “We were fed just enough to keep us alive: no more than a teaspoonful of rice at mealtime, sometimes none at all. The rain was partly a blessing, as we could drink from pools of collected water. All of us turned skin and bones in a matter of time. During idle moments, we dreamt of food, getting delirious with the mere thought of eating. We spared not a single grain of rice. Some begged the guards for their leftover fish tails and bones.”
Psychological torture was likewise employed. One took the form of the children’s ditty “Penpen de Sarapen,” which the Task Force OPML used in singling out a prisoner to be killed. Unknown to the prisoners, the one chosen had been earlier sentenced to die.
A technique adopted from the military was letting a prisoner stand before a freshly dug pit, which would be made known to him as his final resting place.
A member of a party group in Metro Manila dedicated to supporting the guerrilla war in the Visayas was made to stand before such a pit in an NPA camp, preparatory to his being shot in the head. At the last minute, his execution was called off.
Before that, he was hung upside down and later injected with truth serum. To this day, he said, “I shake when I recall the torture.”
Not only drugs but also alcohol was forced on some prisoners.
Kristo Enriquez, then head of a party district in Manila and now believed dead, was forced to drink gin to make him talk even when he was fasting to protest his arrest, according to his sister who had spoken with his captor.
One method common to the OPML and Kahos was to ask a prisoner to reveal his supposed rank in the military. But interrogators in Southern Tagalog and the Visayas went beyond that: They demanded the captive’s serial number.
“After retelling my life story, I was asked about my serial number as a military agent. But I don’t even know my ROTC serial number!” said OPML survivor Manuel “Steve” Quiambao. (“ROTC” stands for the Reserve Officers’ Training Course for college students.)
“I was also asked how much salary I was drawing from the military, how I became an agent, who recruited me and what my rank was,” Quiambao said.
Not being a military spy, a prisoner in an NPA camp gave his college ID number to his interrogator.
This was how a former member of an investigating committee in Mindanao described the process of extracting information from a captive: “It’s question and answer. The suspect, whose hands and feet are bound, is tied to a tree. Sometimes he is made to sit. We beat him with a stick while we are asking him questions. If he is wearing pants, these will burst because the legs become so swollen.”
OPML interrogators used a modified form of the question-and-answer method.
Quiambao recounted his experience: “While someone was beating my feet, legs and thighs with a piece of rattan for hours, I was tied to a tree. Then my accuser was presented to me. He told me to admit that I am an agent, and I said the accusation was untrue. When my accuser was told to leave, my torturers applied the RxBK [Rx Bukaka, or split] method. While I was hanging from a tree by my chained hands, they spread my legs and someone hit my feet with yantok. I could not bear the pain. After 15 minutes I collapsed.”[The then head of the Southern Luzon Commission] let me inhale ammonia. Because I could not bear the pain, I ’confessed’ and made up a story."
As in Ahos, the testimony of “confessed” spies was jotted down in the OPML.
Those found guilty of spying for the military were stabbed just below the armpit or in the shoulder near the base of the neck so they would die quickly.
“It was like butchering a pig or a cow,” said a witness to an execution.
Guns were rarely used in executions so as not to betray the location of the camp.
Before the condemned was executed in Southern Mindanao, he or she was told: “You are sentenced to death for the crime of spying.” Then the executioner would ask whether the condemned wanted to be blindfolded.
It was not uncommon for the condemned to declare their innocence until the end. “Comrades, maglagom kayo (learn from the past). I am from [name of place]. I am not a DPA,” a guerrilla said before a hunting knife pierced his chest.
In the forests of the Sierra Madre in Southern Tagalog, Darmo made a similar declaration as he was about to die: “Wala akong kasalanan, mga kasama (I am innocent, my comrades)!”
Darmo was later found innocent, and the CPP hailed him and other victims of the anti-infiltration campaigns as “martyrs of the revolution.”
Tomorrow: Why it happened
Communist Party paranoia over spies led to witch-hunt
Dec. 27, 2003
Suspected for being too brave
PARANOIA drove the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) into witch-hunting frenzy in the 1980s.
It came to a point that party members could be tagged military spies on the basis of their being too hardworking or too brave. In a region in Mindanao, homosexuality was accepted as a telltale sign that a party member was a spy, said a former member of the CPP Central Committee [heretofore to be referred to as Al].
Setbacks in the battlefield, in which New People’s Army (NPA) commanding officers got shot in the back after ambushing government forces, also fed speculation that military spies had infiltrated the underground movement.
What further fueled the panic that triggered Kampanyang Ahos, the anti-infiltration campaign conducted by the CPP Mindanao Commission (Mindacom) in 1985, was a series of arrests of party leaders in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro in the early 1980s, as well as a report that a party member then being interrogated by the military heard the voice of the head of the Northern Mindanao regional committee.
Al also said the arrest of some senior cadres in the late 1970s and early 1980s — and their subsequent release on the condition that they give information to the military — strengthened the paranoia. If senior cadres were offered the deal, what more those in the lower units?
Ahos started in Cagayan de Oro, a “white area,” with the arrest of three suspected deep-penetration agents (DPAs) in May 1985.
When interrogated, the party members “confessed” to being spies. “They also said those in the regional committee were government agents,” Al said, adding:
“The pattern of admission and pointing to people was sideways and upward nationwide because of the use of torture.”
As the local units were weeding out suspected DPAs, the Mindanao caretaker committee took the initiative to coordinate the purges.
At the time, four Mindacom members had left the island for a Central Committee plenum in Luzon. The plenum started in March and ended in October.
The caretaker committee adopted the methods for the arrest and interrogation of suspects first used in the 1982 anti-infiltration campaign in the Quezon-Bicol Zone (QBZ).
Copies of the document on the lessons of the anti-DPA campaign were disseminated to other regions after it was declared a “big success.”
Torture was extensively used in the QBZ campaign, also known as Cadena de Amor, in reference to the military’s anti-insurgency drive of the same name.
“The [Mindacom] generally followed the pattern and methods adopted in Cadena de Amor,” Al said.
Special units were formed to go after suspected spies from Mindanao working in Metro Manila, Cebu and other places after the CPP Executive Committee set up a task force to supervise Ahos.
In an attempt to rein in Ahos, the Mindacom issued a set of guidelines in late October in which “generally, torture was not allowed,” Al said.
“But we allowed soft torture, which is an undefined terrain,” he said. “And we did not deal with the fact that party members lost their rights upon arrest.”
THE CONCEPT of due process was viewed as bourgeois, Al said. “It’s a luxury that can be afforded under normal conditions, but not in a guerrilla war. The survival of the party was more important.”
While Ahos was going on, an anti-DPA campaign was taking place in southern Quezon province, which covers such towns as Lopez, General Luna and Calauag. The “Takip Silim” [Dusk] campaign was triggered in part by the NPA’s arrest of members of the government’s Civilian Home Defense Force militias, who admitted that there was a military campaign to infiltrate the underground movement through militiamen.
Of some 60 people arrested in Takip Silim, some 30 were killed, including civilians, mostly peasants. The regional committee ordered it stopped in 1985.
The Mindacom supposedly stopped Ahos in December 1985, but it continued up to March 1986 in the provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon, which accounted for the bulk of those killed.
Not only cadres but also ordinary civilians fell victim to Ahos.
By Al’s account, the “most brutal” were those people, usually peasants, whose family members were killed by the military. They considered DPAs “the lowest form of animal,” he said.
The result was devastating. At least 400 to at most 1,100 cadres and supporters of the communist movement were reported to have died in the campaign. Many were buried in mass graves.
NONETHELESS, the CPP Politburo declared Ahos in 1987 “quite successful, although there were excesses,” said an ex-member of a regional committee in Mindanao.
DPAs were killed but the methods were excessive and unprofessional, Al noted. “Many were erroneously implicated.”
Because of the excesses in Ahos, the Politburo imposed an “absolute ban” on torture. But its acceptance “that there had indeed been a widespread enemy infiltration network frustrated by the Ahos campaign fueled renewed fears of infiltration in other regions and organs,” the CPP said in a 1992 document titled “General Review of Important Events and Decisions (1980-1991).”
What helped spark renewed fears of infiltration were the arrests in Metro Manila in March 1988 of party leaders, including Romulo Kintanar, then head of the NPA General Command; Rafael Baylosis, alleged CPP secretary general; and Benjamin de Vera, alleged member of the Executive Committee.
Juanito Rivera, also allegedly of the Executive Committee, was arrested a year earlier.
Amid the arrests and the government’s stepped-up anti-insurgency campaign, “Olympia” was launched in 1988 for the Manila-Rizal Regional Committee and CPP national organs based in Metro Manila. Similar witch-hunts were conducted in the Northern Luzon and Eastern Visayas regions.
“In Manila-Rizal, the arrests of suspected infiltrators began after an investigation of the enemy’s arrest and ’salvaging’ of an ABB [a member of the urban armed group Alex Boncayao Brigade],” the CPP said.
It added: “The National Organization Commission implemented a 1987 decision to arrest a cadre who had been implicated as a result of investigations made during the Ahos campaign, and proceeded to investigate other suspects. The United Front Commission and General Command were overwhelmed by the results of the arrests and interrogations undertaken by the Manila-Rizal Party Committee.”
The Executive Committee subsequently issued rules for the arrest and interrogation of suspects. It also alerted territorial cadres on what had been discovered as an infiltration network.
In Southern Tagalog, the regional committee’s own anti-DPA campaign can be traced to a resolution passed by a conference-an expanded meeting convened from December 1985 to April 1986-that sought an investigation of the capture and summary execution of committee members in 1977.
A 1987 directive from the Executive Committee for the regional officers to review the biography of party members and to check if they had a relative in the military in light of the infiltration issue unsettled the regional committee.
A conference participant said, “We were alarmed because even NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] were infiltrated. This was what happened in Mindanao.”
Further adding to the panic was the NPA General Command’s advisory to the regional committee at its plenum in December 1987 that the command was holding members of an NPA combat support group known as the Binangonan 11, among whom were suspected spies.
Eight of the 11 were later brought to the camp of the regional committee for “safekeeping,” a former senior cadre said.
The regional committee also decided that a sympathizer in Calamba town in the province of Laguna, south of Manila, be investigated because it had been observed that party members who visited his house were later tailed by the military, according to the conference participant.
AS PART of the investigation, the Melito Glor Command, the NPA unit in the Southern Tagalog region, was directed to arrest three people, signaling the start of Operation Missing Link (OPML).
By early 1988, Task Force OPML was in place with Kenny, a fan of Robert Ludlum and an intelligence officer of the urban committee, as head. Claro, head of the Melito Glor Command, supervised the task force.
The methods used by the task force were patterned after those of Ahos. The OPML had to learn from Mindanao because Ahos was 80-percent successful, an official of the Southern Luzon Commission reportedly said.
The OPML adopted the rule — first practiced in Cadena de Amor and later in Ahos — of arresting a suspect based on the confessions of at least two “infiltrators.”
Later, confessions of three infiltrators became the norm in Southern Tagalog.
The requirement was easily met because Task Force OPML relied heavily on torture in extracting information from suspects.
It was Kenny, valedictorian of the NPA General Command’s National Intelligence Officers’ Training, who pushed for methods of torture aimed at humiliating suspects, said a former senior cadre.
The opinion of two lawyers strengthened the use of torture in the OPML.
The lawyers, who were invited to the regional committee’s headquarters in Quezon province for their advice on the rights of prisoners of war, said soldiers had rights under the Geneva Convention but spies had none, according to two ex-senior cadres.
At the time, the Melito Glor Command was holding four Army lieutenants and a police sergeant it had seized at a roadblock while it was conducting a raid on a Magnolia Chicken hatchery of beverage and food conglomerate San Miguel Corp. in Tiaong town in Quezon on June 1, 1988. The prisoners were freed on Aug. 14.
With the lawyers’ advice and the go-signal from the head of the Southern Luzon Commission, who was supposed to guide the task force, torture became the norm.
To stop being tortured, suspects admitted to being spies and named other supposed agents, expanding the list of suspects in the party ranks.
No longer sure
BY September, “we were not sure of what we were doing,” said a former senior cadre in Southern Tagalog.
Three members of the United Front Commission, who were in the region, were thus brought to the detention camp under instructions from the Executive Committee to take part in the campaign.
As the torture became more brutal and the number of executions rose, some members of Task Force OPML and the regional committee were implicated. Of the six task force members arrested, four were executed, according to a survivor.
Also implicated were several members of the Central Committee, whom some suspects accused of planning to convert it into an insurrectionary party. [The CPP says it is waging a protracted people’s war by surrounding the cities from the countryside.]
Party leaders in exile in The Netherlands were not immune to the paranoia.
By Al’s account, they, too, conducted security checks on their staff and gave instructions to a group from the NPA General Command, which was then visiting Utrecht, the Netherlands, to check the background of four persons on the Central Committee.
The information that spies had infiltrated the Central Committee prompted Claro to form a squad to “Save the Center” — meaning, protecting the couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, alleged members of the Executive Committee, and “neutralizing” the implicated Central Committee members should they resist arrest.
The plan was called off after Claro accidentally shot himself while practicing with an Uzi.
To help clear the confusion, members of the Executive Committee were taken to the camp on All Saints’ Day.
Finding errors in the interrogation, treatment and sentencing of suspects, the Executive Committee ordered the OPML stopped and all cases were reviewed.
The Central Committee adopted the policy that anyone whose alleged link to the military was not “beyond reasonable doubt” should be freed.
Just before Christmas, 55 prisoners were released. But it was too late for 66 others, among them the best NPA fighters, cadres and trade union and youth organizers of the region.
WAS there a DPA?
“None,” said a member of the review team.
The Executive Committee also ordered Olympia and the anti-DPA campaign in other regions stopped.
But considerable damage had already been done.
“For a year, the party was not doing anything,” said a former senior cadre, who attended a Politburo meeting in 1989. “The killings were not caused by the enemy, but by fellow comrades.”
The CPP noted that under Ahos, “many party and army cadres up to the regional front levels were arrested and punished,” and “many more left or fled because they came under suspicion, became confused and demoralized.”
“The resultant devastation was unprecedented in the entire history of the Philippine revolution. Never has the enemy inflicted as much damage as this to the revolutionary forces in so short a period of time,” it said.
By 1986, according to the CPP, only two of the NPA’s 15 companies of the previous year could be maintained, and big chunks of the guerrilla front and mass base were lost in Mindanao.
The party acknowledged that the anti-DPA campaigns went out of control partly because the human rights of its members suspected of being enemy agents were not respected.
At a meeting in March 1989 to review the OPML and Olympia, the Politburo recognized the need to protect the rights of party members and called for the study of international humanitarian law.
“Even if one is a DPA, he still has rights as a person,” said an ex-Politburo member who attended the meeting.
“The suspect was first presumed guilty when it should be the other way around,” said a member of a team that reviewed the cases of the 66 OPML survivors.
The party was the investigator, sheriff, judge, executioner and gravedigger rolled into one, he said.
Said an ex-cadre who witnessed Ahos: “The purpose of the interrogation of a captured ’infiltrator’ was not to determine if he was a government agent or not, if he was guilty of a crime or not, but to extract information from him on the supposed infiltration process and other infiltrators.”His being an infiltrator was supposed to have been established already before his arrest.“Subsequently, the Central Committee issued a document titled”Rules on the Prosecution and Trial of Suspected Enemy Spies.“It condemned Ahos at its 10th plenum in 1992 and said Ahos”perpetrated grievous violations of the individual rights of the suspects, the standards of due process and the rules of scientific examination and weighing of evidence.“It also said the panic that gripped the CPP leadership in Mindanao turned into hysteria”when the arrests, torture, confessions and subjectivist judgment led to an ever widening scale and ever rising level, fueled each other, eroded mutual trust, ran over the integrity and the organizational processes of the party and shook the entire organization.“The Central Committee declared the OPML ”hysteria in its extreme and a grave error."
In 1993 the CPP said Cadena de Amor and other anti-infiltration campaigns had defective methods of investigating and trying suspects and of meting out punishment.
Why did the purges happen again and again in the 1980s?
A former senior United Front cadre cited the “mindset” of people in a “highly compartmentalized” organization.
“It’s easy to get paranoid when suspicion of a security problem arises,” the former cadre said, adding:
“The organization gets paralyzed and problems are attributed to the alleged security breach.”Once paranoia starts, it’s difficult to stop in a secretive organization. If you are accused, who will defend you?
“Deeper than that, if an organization is underground, there is no counterchecking, no open trial, no due process.”
The former cadre said the anti-DPA campaigns were also a result of “democratic centralism” — the party’s decision-making process in which orders from the top are hardly questioned and are given “the benefit of the doubt.”
In Part 4: Who are accountable?
Only 7 CPP cadres disciplined for purges
Dec. 29, 2003
SOME former senior cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines admit accountability for the anti-infiltration campaigns that killed hundreds of its members and supporters in the 1980s.
However, they declined to be identified for legal reasons.
The CPP also acknowledges that certain people still with the party are culpable, but does not name them.
Some of those involved in the purges have died. A number are living abroad.
A former senior united front cadre couches the accountability in philosophical terms.
“I feel a great sense of moral responsibility. Isang mabigat na kasalanan ko (It’s my big sin),” said the former cadre, who claimed to have “reflected long and deeply” about Operation Missing Link (OPML), the campaign against suspected government spies in Southern Tagalog region.
“I don’t know if it could be akin to the Christian concept of original sin, though,” said the former cadre, who was in Southern Tagalog in 1988.
Like the others, the ex-cadre acknowledged that all party officials involved in the OPML were accountable, but said: “Mabigat ang responsibility ng namumuno (The leaders bear a heavy responsibility).”
The former cadre has resolved not to be quiet the next time a similar situation arises: “I won’t keep silent because I know it is wrong. I will have to speak up and say that it is wrong.”
For now, the former cadre claims to have sought the forgiveness of some of the survivors and to have achieved “peace of mind.”
Yet another former senior cadre accepts responsibility for the OPML: “I am not washing my hands of my sins. We are accountable.”
A former member of the Mindanao Commission (Mindacom) declared: “We are the perpetrators.”
Asked who should be held accountable for the purges, he said: “The leadership, because of command responsibility. It was accountable. We all are.”
A former senior cadre who took part in Kampanyang Ahos, the anti-infiltration campaign in Mindanao, said national and regional party leaders should take the blame.
“The Executive Committee of the CPP Central Committee, the entire Mindanao Commission, the regional committees and the regional executive committees in Mindanao have to be held accountable for Kampanyang Ahos,” he said, adding:
“Although some Mindacom members were absent at the ’expanded caretaker committee’ meeting, all the Mindacom members were involved in the implementation of Ahos.”
The ex-senior cadre pointed out that some members of Mindacom and of the regional and regional executive committees were already engaged in anti-infiltration campaigns even before Ahos was implemented.
“For the anti-infiltration purges in general, the entire party Central Committee, as well as the commissions and regional committees in affected regions, should be held accountable,” he said.
But despite the errors and the havoc that the purges wrought on the CPP, its Politburo and later its Central Committee meted out disciplinary action to only seven party officers, all of them involved in the OPML.
No other party official who had a hand in other anti-infiltration campaigns like Ahos or Olympia in Metro Manila received disciplinary action. This, according to a member of the CPP Executive Committee, was part of the so-called “political brinkmanship” employed to save the party from further damage.
By the account of a former senior cadre, the Executive Committee member said expelling, suspending or demoting other party officials apart from the seven would leave a leadership vacuum in large parts of the country.
“The issue in Mindanao has become emotional,” the committee member was quoted as saying. “The remaining cadres who were involved in Ahos are crying. We will lose cadres [if they are punished].”
In a statement issued on Feb. 5, the Executive Committee said among those with the biggest accountability were officials who broke away from the party, especially in 1992 during “The Second Rectification Movement.”
The committee named five of them, but remained silent on other perpetrators still with the CPP who, it said, had already made amends.
“All leading comrades who had individual accountabilities concerning the OPML anti-infiltration hysteria were meted [out] various levels of disciplinary action, the highest being expulsion from the party,” the committee said.
“Most of them fully acknowledged their errors, accepted disciplinary action meted [out to] them, gave their all in repairing the damage that had been wrought, and made rectification. All those involved were assisted in their rehabilitation, including those who did not have serious accountabilities,” it said.
Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of which the CPP is a member, pinned the blame for Kampanyang Ahos on “criminal renegades,” including three members of Mindacom who had left the party.
Jalandoni, who is based in the Netherlands, said in an interview posted on a website in 2002 that the supposed renegades “erroneously ascribed the setbacks being suffered then  by the revolutionary movement in Mindanao to enemy infiltration rather than to the militarist line they were pursuing.”
“Because of their purely militarist line, they did not pay attention to mass work, land reform, and other programs that benefit the masses such as literacy, numeracy, health and sanitation,” he said.
’Erroneous’ line of thought
CPP chairman Armando Liwanag did not name names but partly attributed the purges to an “erroneous” line of thought among certain party leaders who espoused quick victory at the expense of painstaking mass work and solid organizing.
In the document titled “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward” dated Dec. 26, 1991, Liwanag said:
“The erroneous current of thought and action has brought ... about the lopsided distribution of cadres and resources, the costly building of urban-based staff organs and top-heavy military staff [which are vulnerable to the enemy], gross reductions of the mass base, the eventual isolation and passivity of the prematurely enlarged and unsustainable armed units, defeats and demoralization in a purely military situation and finally a wild surge of panic like the anti-infiltration hysteria.”
Liwanag said the arrests of party leaders, which the proponents of the purges attributed to enemy infiltrators, were a result of the concentration of leading staff organs in the cities where they were “vulnerable to surveillance and punitive actions by the enemy.”
In November 1992, the CPP Executive Committee said the “enemy” had arrested since 1988 more than 100 national and regional cadres, including a big number of Central Committee members, mostly in the cities, resulting in “repeated seizures of diskettes and documents containing sensitive information about the party.”
RJs and RAs
Liwanag’s attacks on the party leaders espousing what he called the “insurrectionist” line led to the breakup of the CPP into the rejectionist (RJ) and reaffirmist (RA) factions in 1992. Those belonging to the RA group are still with the party, while those in the RJ group broke away from it.
As a result, those involved in the anti-infiltration campaigns can be found in both the RJ and RA camps.
A human rights lawyer cautions against blaming the purges only on those still with the CPP.
“We have to point out that, as regard the Left purge, there is enough responsibility or blame to share among certain leaders of both the RA and the RJ factions of the communist or national democratic Left,” Soliman M. Santos Jr. said at a forum on the “The Left Purges and Their Human Rights Implications.”
Santos, regional director for Asia of the humanitarian organization Geneva Call, an international humanitarian organization devoted to engaging rebel groups on humanitarian norms, said it would be short-sighted to raise the serious violations of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law if this action was intended to put the blame on one’s opponents within the Left.
“That way, we will be missing the lessons,” he said, and noted that the two Left factions had agreed that the anti-infiltration campaigns were characterized by grave abuse of human rights.
Conclusion: Finding closure
Closure sought on dark chapter in CPP history
Dec. 29, 2003
Split in movement
AT A PUBLIC forum on Feb. 15 in Intramuros, Manila, a group in the audience objected to the airing by survivors and their friends of the horrors of the purges conducted by the Communist Party of the Philippines in the 1980s.
Furious, an official of a militant group rose and said the Dutch Embassy — sponsored forum on the CPP anti-infiltration campaigns and their implications on human rights was aiding the military.
“We don’t want the government to use us to destroy the revolutionary movement,” activist Carol Pagaduan-Araullo told the audience gathered in a high-ceilinged room at the San Agustin Museum where centuries-old icons, paintings and other church memorabilia were on display.
A number agreed with her position, effectively dividing the audience into those in favor of remembering the witch-hunts and those against.
The incident highlighted the challenges that stand in the way of closure to a dark period in the history of the Philippine underground revolutionary movement.
For many bereaved families, closure means recovering the remains of their loved ones for a proper burial.
Take the case of Felisa C. Herrera, a resident of southern California in the United States, whose son Lionel was executed by his comrades in Davao City in 1985.
“My family and I have accepted his fate, but until such time that we recover his remains and give him a decent burial, we have no closure at all,” Herrera wrote the Commission on Human Rights on March 29, 2002.
Before seeking the help of the CHR, Herrera traveled to Davao in July 2001 to look for her son’s remains. She had received a call from someone who claimed to be a former communist rebel and who informed her that Lionel was buried in Ma-a District.
“He gave me directions but he was not going to show up,” the mother said. “[He said the site] was easy to locate because there was an excavation at the side of the mountain ... apparently for some kind of construction.”So the next day, I went to that place with my sister and a couple of Pi Sigma members who knew my son. But we could not find anything, for the area was already a wilderness.
“I was so frustrated because the info came from a voice without a face or a name. I [returned] to the US without any positive result.”
At a memorial on May 10 for the victims of the purges, Ferdie Llanes, a fraternity brother of Lionel’s, said the latter was branded a military spy and arrested when his comrades found that he had a passport.
Llanes was citing the results of the CHR’s initial investigation of Lionel’s case.
Lionel, then 23, was left in Davao when his parents and younger brother migrated to the United States in April 1985.
“He used to communicate with me through letters and long distance [calls],” Herrera said. “His last call was sometime in August or September.”
For a few families, persistence helped to obtain information on their missing kin.
On the tip of a former partisan, three sisters dug for five days last year in northern Metro Manila, using shovels and a pick, in search of their brother’s remains.
“We had mixed feelings of excitement and fear because our informant did not know that we would excavate the place,” said one of the sisters. “We were also apprehensive of the military.”
Not giving up
They were able to dig up some 40 square meters, to no avail. “We were frustrated because we did not find him and Christmas was fast approaching,” said a sister.
But they are not giving up. “We resolved to continue the search,” she said.
With no one else to turn to, relatives of the victims have sought the help of the CPP-led National Democratic Front.
“We have the right to know and to be heard but these rights were curtailed by the local leaders of the underground in [northwestern Mindanao],” a group of relatives wrote to the then spokesperson of the NDF on Sept. 16, 1986.
Timoteo R. Sorronda included a copy of this petition in his letter to the Inquirer on May 8, 1989, in which he mentioned the names of the purge victims and their respective parents.
He listed them as Carlos, his son, of Dipolog City; Orfendo A. Maghanoy and Vicente Gonzales Jr., also of Dipolog; Jack Cagbabanua of Dapitan City; Ricky Cuizon of Jimenez, Misamis Occidental; David L. Barrios Jr. and his brother Dean of Polanco, Zamboanga del Norte; and Maui Veloso of Mandaue City.
“These young people were loved dearly by us and we want to see them once before we leave this world,” said Sorronda, speaking on behalf of the other families.
To the mountains
Ronnie Ignacio’s search for his brother Joselito (or Loloy), a New People’s Army guerrilla who had not been heard from by his family for two years, meant going straight to the mountains.
Their mother Elisea, 77, recalled what the NPA had told Ronnie: “When the military left after a fierce firefight with the NPA on Mt. Banahaw, Loloy was picking up the guns of fallen soldiers. But a wounded soldier shot and killed him.”
What actually happened was that Loloy died in Operation Missing Link (OPML) in 1988 in Mauban, Quezon, according to a survivor of the purge.
“They said Loloy was accorded a proper burial, and his personal belongings like a banig (mat), a blanket and a jacket were given to Ronnie,” said Elisea as she took a break from filling empty gin bottles with coconut oil, which she sells at her shack in Canlubang, Laguna.
Some of the victims’ remains have been found and turned over to their families. But truth eludes the parents of Benjie Liboro, a former commerce student of the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila, who joined the NPA but fell victim to the OPML.
His younger brother Raymund, who had recruited Benjie into the party, and his four other siblings made their parents believe that he died in a gun battle with the military. Raymund has left the party.
Benjie’s remains were recovered because a former NPA guerrilla, who had served as a guard in the OPML, led authorities to mass graves in Quezon and Laguna in May 1989.
The military said dozens of skeletal remains were unearthed in Sitio Cagsiay in Barangay Piapi in Mauban, and in Barangay Pulot, Cavinti, Laguna.
The CPP claims that it had made efforts to inform the victims’ families. But many never got to know.
A group formed by survivors, friends and families is demanding that the CPP-NPA locate the burial sites and return the remains to their respective kin.
“Many families of those who perished in the purges are still unaware to this day of what happened to their loved ones. They deserve to know now and there is absolutely no reason to delay this,” the Peace Advocates for Truth, Justice and Healing (PATH) said.
The PATH’s call has not gone unheeded. CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal has offered to help the families locate their loved ones’ remains.
“We call on the families to contact us through a group or an individual who is in good standing in the party. We are ready to address their concerns as much as we can, including helping them search for the remains,” Rosal said in a statement issued in May.
His offer was a turnaround from his stand the previous week, in which he assailed the “perennial recollection” of the bloody purges.
“So what’s the use of constantly resurrecting the issue?” Rosal said then, referring to the May 10 memorial for purge victims at the UP Freedom Park in Diliman, Quezon City. “This is the work of counterrevolutionaries masquerading as advocates of truth and justice for the sake of the purge victims.”
A cadre who was involved in Olympia, the anti-infiltration campaign in Metro Manila, and who is still active in the underground movement, wants to do more to help the victims and their families.
He is proposing that the CPP form a panel to identify and honor the victims, to reach out to their families, to seek redress of grievances, and to put closure to each case.
The PATH is also pushing for an impartial investigation of the death, torture and detention of the victims, and for a process of healing.
“We believe that justice will only be served if accountabilities are established,” it said. “The deep trauma caused by this carnage left deep scars, which remain unhealed. We believe that the wounds may need to be reopened if they are to heal properly. Therapy requires truth, healing requires unburdening.”
For Robert Francis Garcia, chair of the PATH and survivor of the OPML, writing on what he had gone through proved to be a therapeutic and cathartic exercise.
“Grief, at the moment when [it changes] into ideas, loses some of [its] power to injure our heart,” Garcia said, quoting Marcel Proust.
He added: “If that is closure, I don’t know. If I have no more traumas, I don’t know even more. I’m not sure if the character follies and flaws I exhibit can be attributed to the experience — or it’s really just me.”All I know is that the issue is far from closed — a long, long way to go before closure."
A few have achieved a measure of peace of mind and tranquility even in the absence of the bodies, finding solace in the transcendental — or spiritual closure, according to Garcia.
For some, closure means either forgiving their torturers or rejoining the movement, or both.
While the PATH seeks non-violent closure, a few survivors and relatives are seeking vengeance and retribution.
A survivor from the Visayas is looking for the people who tortured him, while a younger brother of a trade union organizer in Laguna wants to get even with the head of Task Force OPML.
“Why hasn’t his executioner been meted out punishment?” the union organizer’s brother said. “Pity my nieces who lost their father. They did not even get compensation.”
But others reject the settling of scores.
Bernice Galang said she had received an offer: the elimination of the members of Task Force OPML who were responsible for the deaths of her husband and two sisters.
She turned it down. “I told my friend, Enough [of the violence] so that the ranks of widows and orphans will not grow. Let the violence end with me,” she said.
Sarmiento Jr., Juan V. "Victims of Communist Party purge seek justice, closure." Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 25, 2003. http://www.inq7.net/nat/2003/dec/26/nat_2-1.htm.
Sarmiento Jr., Juan V. "Victims of CPP purge narrate tales of torture." Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 27, 2003. http://www.inq7.net/nat/2003/dec/27/nat_3-1.htm
Sarmiento Jr., Juan V. "Communist Party paranoia over spies led to witch-hunt" Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 28, 2003. http://www.inq7.net/nat/2003/dec/28/nat_3-1.htm
Sarmiento Jr., Juan V. "Only 7 CPP cadres disciplined for purges." Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 29, 2003. http://www.inq7.net/nat/2003/dec/29/nat_8-1.htm
Sarmiento Jr., Juan V. "Closure sought on dark chapter in CPP history." Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 30, 2003. http://www.inq7.net/nat/2003/dec/30/nat_4-1.htm