I. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE
The Filipino people have long been enslaved and humiliated by foreign powers and by the local
exploiting classes of big comprador capitalists and landlords. But our history as a people has not only been one of oppression and exploitation. It has also been a history of struggle against foreign domination and for a liberating social order with independence, freedom, justice, equality and prosperity.
For more than three hundred fifty years, the Filipino people sustained their struggle against Spanish colonialism. There were numerous uprisings against the conquistadores, some lasting for more than fifty years, in various parts of the archipelago. The Moro and Cordillera peoples waged fierce resistance and preserved their cultural identities, In I896, the Philippine revolution led by the Katipunan broke out and succeeded in less than two years to overthrow Spanish colonial rule. The Philippines was the first colonial nation in Asia to proclaim its independence and establish a republic.
But the United States, then a rising imperialist power, intervened and launched a brutal war of aggression against the new republic. Our people fought bravely against the cruel and better armed veterans of the genocidal war against the native American-lndians, The aggressors killed nearly a million Filipinos out of a population of seven miIIion, and reconcentrated thousands of villages in the first case of strategic hamletting by the US in Asia. The ilustrado leadership
of the new republic capitulated, and the Philippines became a formal colony of the United States in 1902.
The struggle for national independence against US colonialism took on an added dimension with the emergence of organizations and political parties committed to promote and protect the rights of the toiling masses or workers and peasants. The struggle for national freedom was interwoven with the struggle for democracy and social justice. Under US colonial rule, peasant uprisings and workers’ strikes became widespread. The colonial government actively used the
Filipino big comprador and landlord classes till suppresses the people’s yearning for independence and democracy.
The Japanese occupation of the country during World War II pushed the people into spontaneous armed resistance. Guerrilla groups proliferated throughout the country. In Central and Southern Luzon, the Hukbong Bavan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) led by the merged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) was the biggest guerrilla force. It established local resistance governments and carried out land reform. But these gains were abandoned upon the return or American troops and the restoration of US colonial rule.
The grant of bogus independence was preceded by the signing into law by US President Truman of the Philippine Rehabilitation Act and the Philippine Trade Act. These legitimized the colonial pattern of production, trade and finance, and perpetuated the rule of the local big comprador and landlord classes after July 1946. The Parity Amendment was forcibly passed in the Philippine Congress. This was followed by the signing of other unequal treaties that allowed US military bases on Philippine soil and maintained US military control over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Philippines was formally into a neocolony of the US.
The facade of independence and democratic elections did not dampen the people’s aspirations for national freedom and democracy. The Huk rebellion was defeated due to the errors of its leadership and not to the “desire of the people for peace.” The nationalist upsurge in the late fifties brought renewed vigor to the struggle as a new generation of workers, peasants, students and professionals became involved in the movement. They led and took part in the pro-people and anti-imperialist mass actions in the following years.
The late sixties saw the emergence of the national democratic movement on a clear programmatic Iine and perspective. It gained strength in the first quarter storm of 1970, took deep roots among the people in the seventies despite the imposition of martial law, and developed into a national force in the following decade, The US-Marcos dictatorship tried to stem the growth or the movement through open fascist rule. But the peasants’ demand for land gained momentum after the fake land reform proclamation by Marcos. Workers’ strikes broke out in 1976. This was followed by the democratic reform movement among students, teachers and professionals. The religious took to the streets to defend civil liberties and human rights. The Moro people launched armed resistance in 1972, the Cordillera people in 1976.
The assassination of Benigno Aquino in 1983 saw the explosion of huge demonstrations against the dictatorship. At the core of these mass actions was the national democratic movement leading such broad alliances as the Justice for Aquino; Justice for All (JAJA), the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Denl0cracy (NAJFD), and the Coalition of Organizations for the Realization of Democracy (CORD).
BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (BAYAN) was established in May 1985. It brought together more than one thousand mass organizations with a total membership of more than one million, representing different classes and sectors of society and committed to the people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy. The founding chairperson was Senator Lorenzo Tañada. With the dissolution of JAJA and CORD, BAYAN became the coordinating center for open mass mobilizations against the dictatorship. It led big demonstrations in Metro Manila and carried out nationally coordinated strikes and welgang bayan (people’s strikes) in major cities of the country. These mass actions greatly contributed to the downfall of the Marcos regime.
In the snap polls of 1986, BAYAN tried to negotiate with the representatives of Mrs. Aquino to take a firm stand on the dismantling of the US bases. It decided to boycott the elections. But it put up a center to monitor the conduct of the polls and held nightly vigil at the Batasang Pambansa. After the elections, BAYAN was among the first organizations to call for massive civil disobedience. It joined the spontaneous gathering of people at EDSA and massed its forces before municipal buildings andll1ilitary camps in many parts of the country when the military mutiny began. On the night of the departure of the dictator, BAYAN was the main contingent in the mass of people gathered around Malacañang Palace.
Under the US-Aquino regime, BAYAN steadfastly stood up for its principles. It lobbied for nationalist and democratic reforms in the constitutional commission and raised the people’s agenda during the ceasefire talks between the regime and the National Democratic Front. It exposed and opposed the anti-national and anti-democratic policies of the regime. Together with its participating organizations, BAYAN led seminars, pickets, strikes, marches and demonstrations on the following major issues: land reform, better wages and working conditions, US military bases, foreign debt, IMF-WB impositions, oil price increases, urban renewal, women’s rights, human rights violations, the regime’s total war policy, peace and ecology. After each coup attempt against Mrs. Aquino. BAYAN called on her to stand with the people but to no avail.
BA YAN and its participating organizations became the targets of repression by the regime. KMU workers were killed and maimed in violent dispersals of picket Iines. KMP peasants were victims of massacres in Mendiola, Lupao and other places. KADENA, a youth organization was brutally suppressed in Metro Manila. Several national and regional leaders of BAYAN were assassinated with impunity to sow fear and paralyze the organization. These included Lean Alejandro, its founding secretary-general, Rolando Olalia, its founding vice-chairman, Dave Bueno, Ramon Cura, Noel Mendoza, Oscar Tunog and Vic Mirabueno, all regional leaders from Northern Luzon, Central Luzon. Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao, respectively. BAYAN survived the Aquino regime intact.