Philippines Table of Contents
The CPP's efforts to broaden its grass-roots political support were based on the party cadres' systematic organization of support at the village level. The communists' network of barangay cells provided for the NPA's physical support and made the communists a potent political movement. Typically, a small band of CPP and NPA organizers first conducted a "social investigation" of a targeted barangay and identified key leaders and major sources of discontent. The cadres mixed with the people and gained their confidence by lending assistance, such as help in harvesting crops or in providing rudimentary medical care. Later, in a series of well-established steps, they set up an organizing committee and front groups representing peasants, youth, and others. Eventually, the organizing committee became the barrio revolutionary committee, the fundamental element of the communists' shadow government. The CPP's methodology for organizing barangays clearly had been successful.
Through the country, the communists' National United Front Commission operated a wide variety of front groups designed to draw legal left-wing organizations and sympathetic individuals into collaboration with the CPP. As part of this alliancebuilding program directed mainly at the "middle forces," the CPP maintained fronts targeted at labor, students, intellectuals, church workers, human rights groups, women, businessmen, and peasants, as well as umbrella political fronts. In some cases, these fronts were widely recognized as communist-controlled, and the party had difficulty attracting and keeping partners because of its dominance. In other instances, the CPP's influence was not as obvious, and fronts operated with greater outside participation and some autonomy. In general, the front groups prospered in the mid-1980s as a result of growing opposition to the Marcos government. Aquino's more popular presidency, however, frustrated the CPP's efforts to sustain and build on its legal and quasi-legal partnerships with "cause-oriented" groups.
The CPP's principal political front was the National Democratic Front. Many of the party's other fronts--such as those aimed at the students and the church--operated under the broad National Democratic Front umbrella. Founded in April 1973, the front emphasized nationalist themes over communist ideology in order to attract broader participation. Because its strong links to the CPP were recognized, however, the National Democratic Front remained underground. As a result, the CPP moved in May 1985 to establish another, even broader front, the New Nationalist Alliance (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan--BAYAN). Many of the CPP's other fronts quickly affiliated with the new political umbrella group. Although Bayan's founders included many wellknown non-communists, the CPP's early move to take control of BAYAN's council and agenda resulted in numerous defections.
The radicalization of elements in the Catholic Church beginning in the late 1960s provided another avenue for the expansion of CPP front operations. Recognizing how the church's unparalleled credibility and extensive infrastructure could benefit the revolution, the communists made the Catholic Church a primary target. The party established a front, Christians for National Liberation, in 1972 with the express purpose of penetrating the church. In 1986 an activist claimed that Christians for National Liberation had a clandestine membership of over 3,000 clergy and layworkers. Radical clergy and church activists, many adopting liberation theology (see Glossary), supported the insurgency in a variety of ways. Some church activities even provided facilities and financial and logistical support to the guerrillas. Other church activists joined the NPA, and several well-known priests led guerrilla bands. As a result, the armed forces became deeply distrustful of the church's role, especially in remote rural areas where the NPA was most active. There, some of the Church's Basic Christian Communities--support groups for poor peasants--fell under communist control.
Another prominent target of CPP front operations was the workers' movement (see Employment and Labor Relations , ch. 3). The communists' flagship labor front was the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement--KMU). An umbrella organization formed in 1980, the KMU claimed 19 affiliated labor federations, hundreds of unions, and 650,000 workers in 1989. Although it denied its ties to the CPP, the movement had an openly political and revolutionary agenda. As one of the country's largest labor groups, it played a prominent role in the anti-Marcos movement. However, the KMU-led general strikes during the Aquino administration sometimes turned violent. Peasant farmers were the target of another CPP-sponsored front, the Peasant Movement of the Philippines (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas). Established in 1985, this movement claimed 500,000 members and 2 million supporters for its agenda, which revolved around land reform.
Data as of June 1991
Philippines Table of Contents