VIRAL: Testimonial video of prisoners of war held by communist rebels

I wrote this roundup for the Philippine Online Chronicles.

A testimonial video of Philippine state security forces held as Prisoners of Wars (POWs) by the Communist Party-led New People’s Army (NPA) has turned viral online with over 271,113 views, 7,498 likes, 5,928 shares, and 1,399 comments on Facebook.

The video was uploaded by citizen journalist Even Demata who contrasted the humane treatment of the POWs by the communist rebel group to the fate of the 44 elite policemen who were killed in Mamasapano in a blood encounter with Moro separatist rebels.

While many of the comments are reflective of the deep-rooted anti-Moro sentiments in the predominantly Catholic nation, they also serve as a gauge of the reception and popular support for the Asia’s longest-running communist rebellion which has waged armed revolution for 46 years and counting.

Many among those who commented on Demanta’s video recognize the revolutionary aims of the NPA which see the armed struggle as the only effective means of changing the unjust and unequal ruling system which have only benefited the rich at the expense of the poor majority.

While some of the commenters outright reject the violence inherent in CPP-NPA’s revolutionary project, many identify government abuses and systemic violence as the reason why they take up arms:

__________: The NPA are good people. They are rebelling because the system and rule of officials in government are unjust. Others because they are deprived of rights or are exploited... Their only dream is for each citizen to enjoy equality and peaceful. __________: Crocodiles leading the government are the enemies of the NPA.

The NPA was formed on March 29, 1969 in Capas, Tarlac as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which was reestablished on December 26, 1968 in Alaminos, Pangasinan. It is also part of the National Democratic Front (NDF) which is an umbrella group of various revolutionary groups.

Many comments emphasize the discipline and education of the communist rebels. They do not kill indiscriminately but are perceived by many to wield the gun according to serve political purposes.

__________: Why do I say they are good and not abusive? Because I personally experienced that in the Masbate area. They were sleeping among the people and were doing house work... they only kill abusers and thieves... take note they give 3 letters for the culprit to reform himself... unlike muslim rebels...

That's true... The NPA are good... Before when I was still studying elementary... when we went home from school sometimes we met some NPA and they tell us we should study well so we will have a bright future... The NPA is different, they retreat when they see that civilians might be hit in the crossfire... when someone from their side is killed they never leave him... Dead or wounded they bring him even in the middle of battle... They may be rebels but you don't know they are highly educated... they become like that because of our government.

Year after year, the Philippine government repeatedly announces the imminent defeat of the NPA. Yet the persistence of inequality and social injustice makes the thought of radical change continue to resonate among people.

Many still fondly refer to the armed group as Nice People Around. Some comments claim that it is in fact the NPA that keep their places peaceful and crime-free.

I was in the middle of gun battle between the NPA and Army when I was 15 years old. The NPA saved me and brought me to a safe place so I will not be hit in the crossfire. I was then walking for 3 hours from school to get home... I always encounter NPAs in the jungle. I am thankful because I am safe whenever they are present. In our place in North Cotabato and Bukidnon, the NPA serve as the police against rapists, thieves, and all evil doings.

That's true! Our place don't have thieves and is very peaceful whenever the "comrades" are in the area. They are afraid to do any monkey business! Now the comrades are away. In every barangay there are soldiers. The result is more disorder! The people are more afraid of the NPA than the soldiers! The NPA are good and don't kill lightly. It's because they're educated.

Some of the testimonials shared by commenters even detail their personal experiences with the communist comrades:

That's true because I experienced that when the NPA ambushed us in Brgy. Dona Flavia, San Luis, Agusan Del Sur. They revived me and even had me treated in the hospital because my wounds were very serious. It was March 12, 1998 when that happened.

You are right countrymen, the NPA have principles they are fighting for but they don't hurt their fellows especially in desperate times! I'm from Nueva Ecija and everyone knows this is one of the hotposts where they are present. My father told me, because we have a vegetable farm near the mountains, that they don't get anything without any permission. They are always courteous when speaking so when they ask for something my father happily give with open arms!

The positive responses can perhaps be attributed to what many perceive as the pro-people platform of the CPP. At the heart of its political program is land reform, which explains the continuing support of poor and landless peasants for the armed revolution.

The revolutionary movement has also consistently advocated for workers’ rights, women empowerment, gender equality, free education and healthcare, socialized housing, and environmental protection, among others, as part of its commitment against all forms of oppression.

This is to be attained in the last instance through the winning of a protracted people’s war wherein the revolutionaries gradually build their armed strength in rural areas, organize their own governments that provide for the needs of the masses, and eventually encircle the cities from the countryside and seize power. Part of this process is what one commenter saw:

In fairness to the NPA most of them are upright. There was a situation wherein I saw how the people and NPA lived together. How orderly their place is. Actually there's a police post in their place but no chaos erupted between them. If there are stealing they have a meeting between the barangay officials and NPA and they resolve it. When someone went missing because of the typhoon they again talked and NPA even helped in looking for the missing man.

While respecting the decision of progressive parties to participate in electoral politics, the CPP-NPA rejects reactionary elections as a charade that only legitimizes the rule of moneyed and powerful elites rather than provides the basis for genuine democracy. For them, only revolutionary change can cure the ills of contemporary Philippine society and nothing less.

As more and more Filipinos lose hope with the current order, it interesting to note that more and more are seeing the prospect of revolutionary change as a rational alternative to the current system.

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