By Malou Villanueva-Borjal
First Quarter Storm activist
I was asked to say something on the book we are launching today. It contains Joma’s writings for the Party Central Committee from the time of the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972 until his arrest in November 1977.
I was 17 years old when Marcos declared Martial Law, a student at the University of Santo Tomas in the capital city of Manila. I would later transfer to the University of the Philippines, the center of radical youth activism in the country at that time, as a student of journalism.
I can still remember the day Martial Law was imposed. We woke up that morning to an eerie atmosphere. No newspapers came out that day, no radio and TV broadcasts. There were rumors spreading around that created an ominously strange atmosphere. Two days later, Marcos went on television surrounded by some of his generals. He read Proclamation 1081 declaring the whole country under Martial Law. He spoke about the growing communist threat. He spoke about the discovery of documents that he claimed to prove that there was a conspiracy hatched by communists and his political opponents in the bourgeois parties to sow chaos in the country.
That is more or less how Marcos justified clamping down on all the mass organizations led by the Party which he called “communist fronts” and the other bourgeois parties particularly the Liberal Party, the main bourgeois opposition party at that time whose most popular leader was Benigno Aquino, the husband of the future president Corazon Aquino.
The Martial Law declaration was signed and began to be implemented on September 21, 1972 but it was only on September 23 that the country knew about it when Marcos appeared on television. Party members and mass activists known to the enemy were rounded up starting September 22. Prominent members of the main bourgeois opposition party were also put in jail.
Marcos was a clever dictator. He did not only use terror. He tried to be an expert in the art of deception as well. He promised not only to wipe out his political opponents, he also promised to implement reforms and build a “New Society.” He tried to put a semblance of legality to his imposition of open terrorist rule by appealing to provisions in the Philippine constitution. He would later organize a sham constitutional convention to ram through a “Marcos” constitution that was intended to legitimize his fascist regime and extend his term.
The reestablished Party was barely four years old when Marcos imposed a fascist dictatorship. It was the first time our generation of revolutionaries experienced an open terrorist rule. Joma’s writings guided the Party and the revolutionary movement during this most critical period.
In Overthrow the US-Marcos Dictatorship to Achieve National Freedom and Democracy that appeared in the October 1, 1972 issue of Ang Bayan, the official organ of the Party, he explained to the whole Party and the masses the meaning of Martial Law. That it was a declaration of civil war against the people and it would rouse the people to wage revolutionary struggle. He explained that the so-called “New Society” meant nothing but “but the worsening of the old society. The old basic evils that are US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism shall continue to afflict semicolonial and semifeudal Philippines and shall aggravate the political and economic crisis of the ruling system and likewise the suffering of the broad masses of the people through the unmitigated puppetry, bankruptcy, brutality, corruption and mendacity of the Marcos fascist puppet dictatorship.”
In Marcos’ Land Reform – A Big Hoax (Ang Bayan, November 1, 1972), he exposed the bogus character of Presidential Decree 27 by pointing to its anti-peasant and pro-landlord provisions.
When Martial Law was declared, the open mass organizations of the Party were forced to go underground. Those who could no longer work safely in the cities were deployed to the countryside.
I became an activist of the underground women’s organization MAKIBAKA. While we were members of a proscribed organization who could be arrested if exposed to the enemy, we had to do revolutionary work in open organizations so as to be able to reach out to the masses. At the university, we formed a sorority organization with a harmless-sounding Greek-lettered name. My underground work was as a staff member of Malayang Pilipina (Liberated Filipina), the underground newspaper of MAKIBAKA; while my open work was with the sorority. The all-female staff of Malayang Pilipina was a very idealistic group. We pledged ourselves to “Single-Blessedness”, meaning we would never marry like Ho Chi Minh who devoted his entire being to the revolution. We would later hear of rumors that Joma liked to officiate in Party weddings because it was the only time that he could have ice cream.
At about this time, my future husband was doing mass work in an urban poor community and he and his comrades in the clandestine Party branch had formed an open youth mass organization that carried an innocent-sounding name that even echoed Marcos’ “New Society” slogan. Before Martial Law, there were pitch battles between the organized residents of the community and police and demolition teams that were sent to clear the shanties of the urban poor to give way to commercial establishments. The Party-led Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) was very strong in the community. When Martial Law was declared the Party members and mass activists simply formed their secret organization for their underground work and the open organizations with innocent-sounding names for their open work among the masses.
Tactics such as this were handed down to us through Party organs that were leading and guiding the work. And of course, the main author of such tactics was Joma aka Amado Guerrero, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Party.
I would later meet him in person, the most wanted man by the fascist regime in 1976 in the countryside of Central Luzon. There in the countryside, I met the “big guns” of the movement: Joma, head of the Party, and Commander Dante, head of the New People’s Army. I also met there Julie and Rodolfo Salas alias “Commander Bilog”.
Specific Characteristics of Our People’s War which came out in 1974 is a very original piece from Joma. The dialectical method which pervades much of his writings is most evident here. The seemingly disadvantageous aspects of the Philippines such as its archipelagic character according to him could actually be turned into the revolution’s advantage. Suffice it to say here that in much of the writings that he drafted for the Central Committee the whole Party was not only inspired to carry on in the most difficult periods but was enlightened on the problems that it faced at every crucial turn and shown the way on how to move forward.
Our Urgent Tasks was another landmark document. It outlined the Party’s tactics against the fascist regime. It called for broadening the revolutionary struggle by taking up the anti-fascist struggle, deepening it through the anti-feudal struggle and raising its level through the anti-imperialist struggle. Its other most important point was clarifying how to do solid organizing work among the masses to build the strong foundation for advancing the revolution. This latter point would be crucial not only in defeating the fascist dictatorship but in the steady advance of the revolution. The cadres in Mindanao that rejected this latter point fell into a purely militaristic line that caused great damage. This is among the serious errors in the mid-80s that had to be corrected during the Second Great Rectification movement.
At that time, we reproduced copies of Our Urgent Tasks with the primitive method of using stencils on a silk screen and a squeegee to press down on the stencil. This document was required reading and subject for collective study for all comrades.
In 1977, Joma was arrested together with Julie and three other comrades. But Joma’s arrest and long-incarceration did not stop the revolutionary movement that he founded and guided through his writings from being responsible in great part in the overthrow eight years later of one of the most notorious dictators the world has ever known. #