Jose Maria Sison (JMS), Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front, answers the questions of  Filipino journalist Inday Espina Varona (IEV).
October 4, 2015

IEV: I’d like to get your reactions, insights of several issues related to the ongoing lumad crisis in Mindanao. Thank you.

What is the “Lumpong” or “Magdeal-lay Agreement”? (Datus friendly to the government armed forces are claiming this was an agreement forged in 1994 at Lianga Bay, between the CPP/NPA and tribal leaders, on guidelines re negotiation with investors and contractors in lumad territory. (Mining, forestry, plantations, etc. One of the datus allegedly present in these talks, Datu Sibugan, or Marcial Belandres, is very bitter towards the underground left.)

JMS: In the first place,who is Marcial Belandres?  Surigao del Sur Governor  Johnny Pimentel has exposed and denounced Belandres and his likes as  belonging to the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary, a monster created and commanded  by the military and serving the interests of the mining, logging and plantation corporations. The Karapatan describes Belandres  in a documentation, which runs as follows:

“Marcial Belandres was identified by witnesses as one of the killers of  Lumad leader Henry Alameda on October 24, 2014.  Alameda was dragged from his house towards the forest in Sitio Cabalawan, San Isidro, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. He was shot in the chest when held on to a post and resisted the attempt to bring him out of the community. The killing happened when units under the 24th Infantry Division were conducting combat operations in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and in San Lorenzo, Agusan del Sur. Specific units involved in the combat operations were the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion based in St. Christine, Lianga under Col. Jesus Durante, 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, and the 3rd Special Forces under the 401st Brigade PA, members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and members of  Calpit Egua paramilitary group were also seen with the AFP units.”

Karapatan also describes the aforesaid Belandres as one of the fake datus being used by the military to misrepresent the Lumads and the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as competing beggars for crumbs from mining, logging and plantation enterprises, while in fact he represents the  paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani which is in the pay of the aforesaid enterprises and is an adjunct of the anti-Lumad military.

These obscure references to “Lumpong” or Magdeal-lay Agreement” and the psywar use of Belandres and the like by the military are all calculated to draw attention away from the real current issue, which  is the militarization of Lumad areas and the human rights violations being perpetrated by the military and paramilitary forces.  The torture and murder of  Emerito Samarca,  executive director Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development (ALCADEV) and the two tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo have called national and international attention to the brutal oppression of Lumads by the US-Aquino regime and its military and paramilitary forces.

IEV: What is the “Malanday Agreement”? (The same datus claim that 10 years after the first agreement was forged, the CPP-NPA retracted rights given to tribal leaders. Their claim: “The CPP/NPA leaders realized that if the Lumads will continue to enjoy being negotiating panel to the investors, they would not be able to stay in the CPP/NPA group. The Lumads gradually learned to make a living. This was the reason why CPP/NPA broke the first made “Magdea-lay” agreement and changed it into a new “Malanday Agreement” which was unfavorable to the Lumads. In Malanday Agreement, Lumads could no longer participate in business transactions.”)

JMS: The so-called Malanday Agreement claimed by the paramilitary datu-datuans is another obscure  term, which is not supported by factual basis  and which is calculated to attack the Lumads and the CPP-NPA as being  competitors in selling away the natural wealth of the Lumad areas to foreign and big comprador enterprises in mining,logging and plantantions.  The phoney datus and their government and military superiors are in fact  the paid agents of such enterprises and are desperately trying to deflect attention from the militarization and human rights violations in the Lumad areas.

IEV: What were the provisions in the first and second agreements.? What prompted the changes?

JMS: Why dignify the patently false claims of the military and phoney datus who are paramilitary agents by asking  the NDFP negotiating panel  chairperson and the chief political consultant to supply the provisions of presumed  agreements obviously concocted by AFP psywar operatives?  Neither we in Utrecht nor the CPP and NPA in Eastern Mindanao can supply provisions to imaginary agreements conjured by the military and the fake datus.

IEV: Those two so-called agreements are imaginary? There is no agreement even under a different name?

JMS: Those two-called agreements are imaginary, made up by the military.  According to the NDFP office, there is no agreement  even under a different name. On the face of the claims, it  is obvious that there is no such agreement. The  people’s government or the NPA as the tax collecting agency will not pose itself  as the competitor of the indigenous peoples in the matter of  taxation of any business corporation at the national or regional level.

IPs  or workers or trade unions  are  independent of any tax agreement and are at the same time beneficiaries of regulations and requirements imposed by the revolutionary government on a corporation regarding community relations, workers’ rights and environment issues. The reactionary military and their agents are misrepresenting the revolutionary movement as competitors to the IPs in getting so-called  benefits from the mining corporations.

There is the revolutionary government’s policy of total ban and dismantling the  mining operations,similar to the ban on logging for export. But the military, paramilitary and private security agencies protect the  mining corporations. According to  Manny Zamora  of Nickel Asia that after after the NPA raid on Asia Nickel and Sumitomo in Mindanao, costing them 11 M USD or half a billion pesos, they armed themselves to continue operating.

IEV: How many lumads have been killed by NPA forces? How many of these were unarmed but deemed ‘unfriendly’ to rebel forces? The datus have given a figure of more than 300. Even groups helping the Lumads acknowledge that, for a time, the Lumads spurned the CPP-NPA and it was only after a period that trust returned. What weaknesses/errors can you point out? What changes were made?

The AFP says 75% of the NPA in Mindanao come from lumad communities. How true?

JMS:  The military psywar and the paramilitary datu-datuans are caught in a hopeless self-contradiction.  They claim that the NPA has 75 per cent of its membership from the Lumads and is dependent on the Lumads but at at the same time they claim that the NPA kill hundreds of Lumads.  They also say that once upon a time the Lumads spurned the CPP-NPA but after a period the trust returned.  The self-contradictions are glaring.  We in Utrecht do not make any count of Lumads supporting the NPA but we do recognize that the Lumads and other people love the NPA for opposing the mining, logging and plantations which plunder and poison the environment and which the Aquino government and its military and paramilitary forces are desperately trying to protect with brute force.

IEV: I have read Mr. Jalandoni’s statement rebutting the UN Sec-Gen’s statement re children in conflict. But there is a young man, just 18, who says children at the Talaingod alternative school were made to man NPA posts and to run errands. The AFP also says children at the Alcadev schools were made to undertake armed training during weekends – no proof given. The young man from Talaingod, however, insists he personally underwent the experience. Can you react?

JMS:  The military and paramilitary forces are quite capable of inventing or coercing the young man you refer to in order to badmouth the children and their mentors at the Talaingod alternative school and Alcadev schools  as working for the NPA and in order to give the military and paramilitary forces  the pretext to occupy or destroy the schools and to intimidate and even murder teachers and the supporting datus and community leaders.

IEV: In many struggles worldwide, the Left has a bad record with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples. China and Russia, of course, are the foremost examples. But even in the Americas where much of the leftist revolutionary growth was also centered on indigenous peoples, these alliances unraveled, sometimes with much bitterness, due to heavy-handedness of the Left. I’m sure you’ve studied much on the topic. What’s your assessment? What lessons did you take from these and apply to the CPP/NPA/NDF.

JMS:  I disagree with the sweeping statements.  Marx and Engels held in high respect the communal and cooperative character of indigenous communities and practically considered them as models of socialism, with the crucial difference that socialism takes advantage of the available high level of science and technology for the benefit of far larger communities.

Lenin put forward the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, up to secession against the oppressor state.  Stalin’s line on the unity of the majority and minority nationalities kept the Soviet Union united against the foreign interventions, the Nazi invasion and the Cold War until the modern revisionists restored Great Russian chauvinism.

China also followed the aforesaid lines of Lenin and Stalin and succeeded in uniting the Han and other nationalities until the capitalist restoration occurred, imposing  Chinese Han chauvinism on other nationalities and causing resentment.  We should not conflate or confuse Soviet socialism of the past with Russian capitalism and Chinese socialism of the past with Chinese capitalism.

Since its founding day, the Communist Party of the Philippines has enshrined in its Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution respect  for and militant support for the right of the indigenous peoples  and national minorities to national self-determination, including the right to regional autonomy in a non-oppressive state and s the right to secede from an oppressive state.

The CPP, NPA and the NDFP learned the principle and practice of respecting and  supporting the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination from previous revolutions and socialist states in Russia, China and elsewhere. At present, within the fold of the NDFP are such formations as the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front and Revolutionary Organization of Lumads.

The revolutionary forces in the Philipines have also learned negative lessons from the way the white supremacists of the US have brutally oppressed the First Nations, the Mexicans, the African-Americans, the Asians and Hispanics and of course from the colonialists and imperialists that have exploited and oppressed the peoples in colonies and semi-colonies.

IEV: What is the CPP/NPA/NDF’s policy towards the exploitation of natural resources? What is your reaction to the charge of collecting revolutionary tax from mining companies? If it’s true, why? If it’s true, wouldn’t the Left then be complicit in the oppression of the Lumads? Some sectors say it should be all or nothing and the Left’s engagements with big corps in exchange for revolutionary tax is nothing but extortion. Your reaction?

JMS:  The policy of the CPP/NPA/NDF is to uphold national sovereignty, conserve the national patrimony and wisely utilize the natural resources and protect the environment in the course of undertaking the balanced development of the socialist economy, with heavy and basic industry as the lead factor, agriculture as the basis and light industry as the bridge between the aforesaid two in order to produce immediately consumer and producer goods for the people.

The revolutionary forces and the people oppose the foreign and big comprador  mining companies because they export the nonreplaceable mineral ores, sabotage the demands for national industrialization, cause soil erosion and deforestation and poison the land and the streams.  They oppose the companies that engage in logging for export because they are detrimental to agriculture, environment, biodiversity  and climate.  They oppose the plantations for export crops because they lessen the land available for land reform and severely damage the food self-reliance of the country, among  other reasons.

For the reasons already stated, the policy of the revolutionary movement is to attack and destroy the foreign-owned and big comprador mining companies even as these are being protected by the reactionary government, the paramilitary forces and the private security agencies. Has there been any force other than the NPA which have tried to dismantle mining companies. One should not jump from one false assumption to another, like the NPA  (more precisely the people’s revolutionary government) collecting taxes from the mining companies and therefore oppressing the Lumads. One should  also avoid echoing the military propaganda that tax collection by the people’s revolutionary government is extortion.

The people’s revolutionary government, as such, has the right and duty to collect taxes from companies that are granted the privilege to do business, which  is socially beneficial and environment-friendly.  The taxes collected by people’s democratic government are to support its administrative cadres, mass organizers and Red fighters in the people’s army and its programs of education, health, land reform, raising production, self-defense, justice, cultural work and others.###

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