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The New International, January 1946


Saul Berg

The Post-Liberation Struggle in the Philippines

Political Trends in the “Model” Colony


From New International, Vol.12 No.1, January 1946, pp.15-17.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The war has left the Philippines in a state of complete economic dislocation. In the colony which American imperialists have always held up as a model of “enlightened colonial policy” the masses are today the victims of the policies imposed by the United States and its political agents, the Nacionalistas.

For forty years the Nacionalistas have been in office – for the last thirty without even major opposition. During this time the party built up an all-embracing political machine. Among its leaders were the most prominent capitalists and landowners in the country. In many sections the agricultural workers and sharecroppers were herded to the polls by the estate owners to vote the straight Nacionalista ticket. On matters of social and economic policy there were never any serious differences between the party leaders, but rival factions would struggle to gain dominance in order to get a larger share of the political spoils. Usually such struggles are accompanied by “differences” designed to appeal to different elements among the voters, but so brazen were the Nacionalistas that even the historians of the Philippines, in analyzing the struggles between the Osmena and Quezon factions of the Nacionalistas over a thirty-year period, remark that there was no discernible difference in political program.

The labor and socialist movements throughout this period were very weak. There is very little industry outside of Manila, and the industry of Manila is all light in type. A National Federation of Workers existed, but worked closely with the employers and the government. Strikes were extremely rare.

The one exception to the general lack of organization of the masses was the radical agrarian movement of central Luzon. Here the National Peasants Union carried on agitation against the oppressive conditions of existence of the sharecroppers and tenant farmers. In a single province of central Luzon, Pampanga, a strong Socialist Party existed, with an astounding record of agrarian struggles to its credit, considering its isolation in a single small part of the Philippines. This party had, however, no influence or link with the workers of nearby Manila. In 1939 it fused with the tiny Communist Party to form the Socialist-Communist Party, and it emerged from the war with the Socialist part of its name deleted. Its actions since have proven that it is thoroughly Stalinized in leadership.

Several small bourgeois opposition parties exist. The Democrats, strong up to thirty years ago, but weak ever since, are the traditional party opposed to independence. The Frente Popular (founded in 1912 and not related to the Peoples Fronts of Europe), Young Philippines and the Philippine Youth Party are all small parties that snipe at the Nacionalistas, but have no substantial differences in program or outlook. Lastly, the Sakdalistas, the most militant and anti-American nationalists, were a well-organized minority before the war, but they degenerated into a pro-Japan movement and are non-existent today. In any case, the Nacionalista Party consistently obtained more votes than all these parties put together.

Ruling Class Collaborationist

With the conquest of the Philippines by Japan, the bourgeoisie and the landowners, together with their political machine, plumped whole-heartedly for collaboration. Of the 300 leading Nacionalista politicians, 270 held office under the puppet “Republic of the Philippines.” The difference between these and the remaining thirty seems to have been merely one of political and military judgment as to the future of the war, because these thirty, far from representing any radical tendency among the Nacionalistas, included big capitalists. One of these was Andres Soriano, Manila millionaire and vociferous Falangist sympathizer, who went through the war as “Colonel Marking,” a guerrilla leader in the Luzon mountains. Such men as Alfredo Montelibano and Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, guerrilla leaders now holding leading posts in Osmena’s cabinet, and both big business men, are other examples.

During the period of Japanese rule, the radical agrarian movement made rapid strides. The Hukbalahap (anti-Japanese people’s army) was built up by the Communist Party, starting in Pampanga, and achieved a strength of 15,000 men under discipline, plus countless thousands of peasants who could be mobilized in an emergency, if only with knives for arms. The stubborn resistance of this movement, in the face of the col-

laboration of ninety per cent of the Nacionalista leaders, resulted in their mass support spreading from Pampanga to all the neighboring provinces of central Luzon-Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pangasinan – comprising the richest agricultural section of the country. In this area, with a population of about 3,000,000, they are today a powerful political force. The role played by the American Army in Luzon was the same as elsewhere in the world. The Counter-Intelligence Corps saw as its main enemy not Japanese Intelligence but the Hukbalahap. Throughout central Luzon the American landing at Lingayen was the occasion for the Huks to drive out the Japanese garrisons. Huk municipal governments were set up, which welcomed their American “liberators” with red flags flying from the municipal buildings. Result – the Huk commanders, Luis Taruc and Castro Alejandrino, were thrown into prison without charge, the local governments disbanded, and Osmena appointees installed. But the official governments here remain without real power. To this day the appointed mayors find it necessary to consult local Huk leaders if they want any national government decrees enforced.

Huk Leaders Imprisoned

The Counter-Intelligence Corps was much tougher on the imprisoned Huk leaders than on collaborators. Half the Congressmen and Senators who sat in the puppet government were cleared of any charge of collaboration, on the ground that they did not actively aid the Japanese in the prosecution of the war. Of course, any real definition of collaborators would have meant imprisoning almost all the politicians of the ruling class. To make it perfectly clear who was considered most dangerous, those politicians who were imprisoned were released on bail, while the Huk leaders were still kept in prison. Recently they were released, after a demonstration in Manila of peasant delegations numbering several thousand, who marched to Malacan, the presidential palace.

With the “liberation,” the old politicians have come to life, but with them a new party, the Democratic Alliance. This party has a mild program of social and agrarian reform and is a federated organization, roughly comparable to a federated farmer-labor party. Its affiliates at present are: Communist Party, Hukbalahap, National Peasants Union, Committee on Labor Organization and Blue Eagle Guerrillas. The National Peasants Union has some roots in Rizal, Lagana, Cavite, Tayabas and Batangas provinces, all in southern Luzon, where the Communist Party is weak, but its stronghold is central Luzon, and here Stalinist influence is dominant. The Committee on Labor Organization is the first genuine labor union in the Philippines and has already carried on successful strikes. The Blue Eagle Guerrillas are the guerrillas of the Chinese, who form a large part of the Manila population and who bitterly resent the anti-alien blasts that daily issue from most of the Senators and Congressmen and from the pro-collaborationist dailies.

Movement Limited

Aside from the fatal strategy of the lesser evil that the Alliance has adopted, and which we will examine below, it should be borne in mind that the movement is limited – strong in central Luzon, fairly well rooted in Manila and southern Luzon, but almost completely nonexistent in northern Luzon and all the outside islands, that is to say in two-thirds of the Philippines. There are many thousands of armed guerrillas in these other sections, but they were exclusively under the leadership of the anti-collaboration minority of Nacionalistas.

A number of large guerrilla organizations whose leaders were Nationalist in political complexion helped to found the Democratic Alliance, but these outfits soon found themselves uncomfortable in the same bed with the agrarian radicals and left. They form today the main base of Osmena’s political machine.

Osmena and his “guerrilla” faction of the Nacionalistas are threatened with possible defeat in the coming elections at the hands of Roxas, the darling of the collaborators. Roxas’ corkscrew career is typical of Filipino politics. Leaving his office of Senate president, he became a brigadier general in the Usaffe (US Army Forces in the Far East) at the beginning of the war. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he soon was busy working for the puppet government, whose constitution he wrote. However, Roxas kept contact with the more “respectable” guerrillas, and was at one time in a Japanese prison camp for six months as a result of his activities. Nevertheless he rejoined the puppet government later and was a member of the cabinet when the Americans landed. Escaping from thepuppet capital at Baguio, he reached the American lines and was given a clean political bill of health by MacArthur. All the out-and-out unvarnished collaborators are hiding beneath the skirts of this fence-sitter. The Manila Daily News and the Star-Reporter, who praise puppet President Jose Laurel as the savior of the Philippines, acclaim Manuel Roxas as their presidential candidate. He is the hero of the collaborationist Congressmen and Senators, the man who will kick the guerrillas out of office and put government back into the hands of the “experienced, responsible people.”

True to Stalinist class-collaborationist policy everywhere, the Democratic Alliance is now busy attempting to defend from criticism the present “guerrilla” cabinet of Osmena, concentrating their fire on the ultra-reactionary Congress. Since the cabinet members have already been exposed as guilty of the most rotten acts of corruption, the attempt of the Democratic Alliance to defend them has had the result of discrediting the Alliance itself.

Recently the biggest black eye of all was administered, when Osmena signed a bill providing three years back pay to Congress – the same Congress whose members had collected pay from the Japanese! At the same time, forty days’ back pay was voted for the government employees – a measly forty days’ pay to employees whose fixed wages had already been made almost worthless by inflation.

The peso in the Philippines today buys twelve per cent of what it bought in 1941. The majority of the workers of Manila, however, who today work as laborers for the US Army and the Commonwealth government, are paid two pesos a day, as against the pre-war wage of one peso. Rise in prices – 800 per cent. Rise in wages – 100 per cent. And around them these workers see the fortunes built by black market trading. They read in the papers about the $50,000 made by Secretary of National Defense Montelibano in black market sugar and of the thousands of yards of textiles from government stocks sold to big dealers foi resale to the public at fabulous prices.

The ferment among the peasants grows continually. Demonstrations in central Luzon have called forth as many as 50,000 peasants at a single time. These demonstrations center around pressing economic issues. The peasants who tilled the land under the heel of the Japs want the expropriation of their landlords who sat out the war comfortably in Manila. They refuse to pay the owners fifty per cent of the crop for all the years of the occupation (nothing modest about what the landowners want!). They want the full restoration of free local government for the municipalities of Pampanga. Tens of thousands of peasants throughout Luzon have shown their seriousness by their steadfast refusal to disarm. They remain today ready for action.

What they need is a clear call to independent struggle for their own class aims, through their own political and economic organizations, against American imperialism, against the native bourgeoisie and land owners, against their political agents, the Nacionalista Party.

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