The Philippines was gripped by conflict as the 1950’s approached. The disenfranchised members of the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP) launched a rebellion that would last for eight years. Unfortunately for the Huks, the Republic was supported by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Led by Lt. Gen Edward Lansdale, the CIA did not only rebuild the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) but also studied and used Filipino folk taboos and beliefs for their psychological advantage.
One of Lansdale’s masterstrokes was a play on the Filipino belief in the aswang. First, his team would enter a community and spread rumors that an aswang was in the area. Then, they would kidnap Huk operatives, punch holes in their throats, and leave the pile of those bodies along a busy road. The peasants were so terrified that support for the Huks was drained, and the rebellion was soon crushed by the AFP.
The communist insurrection was revived in the 1960’s and continues to this very day. Likewise, the State and its coercive forces would revive their old tactics, albeit in a different form. Now, instead of finding supernatural demons, the State warns us of the “communists” among our ranks.
The recent commotion surrounding Liza Soberano’s participation in a Gabriela-sponsored webinar is but the latest episode.
Within hours from her remarks, the anti-communist movement had caused #BoycottLizaSoberano to trend on Twitter. Later on, a vlogger would accuse Ms. Soberano of joining the New People’s Army (NPA). Finally, no less than Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade- the head of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)- would warn Ms. Soberano and Catriona Gray not to follow the paths of “activists” who “joined” the insurgency.
Parlade’s vitriol has extended to other targets. He has condemned the CHR Chairperson Gascon for his supposed failure to denounce the communist insurgency. He has accused the human rights group Karapatan as well as slain Negros activist Zara Alvarez of being supporters of the CPP. Elsewhere, the Presidential Communications Operations Office has published the Philippine Human Rights Situationer has published a list of groups which are deemed to be “above ground” communist organizations which “blur the boundaries between social activism and terrorism”.
But herein lies the problem. By accusing the supposed front organizations of “blurring the lines between social activism and terrorism”, the State has arrogated unto itself the power to decide which groups are legitimate without clarifying where the line actually lies. It creates an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, wherein social activism and humanitarian work is discouraged for fear of being misidentified an “aswang” who can be hunted down with impunity. The fear is not unfounded- of the 801 victims of extrajudicial executions in 2006, 320 were alleged to be communists without due process. 206 were abducted and never seen again.
A finger which points indiscriminately can pass blame where there is none.
Words by: Melchor Alejandro
Edited by: Maria Christina Palomo