Sunday, October 18, 2015


By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Oct. 15, 2015

I am delighted and grateful to be invited by editor-in-chief Mary Joy Capistrano and the Philippine Collegian to the Alternative Classroom Learning Experience program in order to share my experiences regarding revolutionary art, my views on the current state of the art and how artists and creative writers can serve the people and the country through their works.

I. My experiences regarding revolutionary art

As a grade school boy in my hometown of Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, I first became aware of revolutionary art in the form of statues of leaders of the Philippine revolution. At the southern end of the poblacion stood the figure of Andres Bonifacio with an upraised bolo and at the northern end the figure of General Antonio Luna on horseback. In the most central part of the town, was the figure of Dr. Jose Rizal, the martyred reformer.

The short stories that I read in the Ilocano vernacular magazine Bannawag and that were most interesting to me were patriotic ones about the Filipino resistance against the Japanese fascist invaders in World War II and romantic and populist ones about pairs of lovers coming from the rich and the poor and overcoming objections arising from the social divide. But the first story I wrote in Ilocano at the age of nine was about the romance of a poor boy and rich girl, which led to tragedy because of the social divide.

As a third and fourth year high school student at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, I wrote short stories and poems critical of social injustice. My knowledge of the Marxist-Leninist analysis of classes and struggle was close to nil. I had a smattering of it only as a result of reading an anti-communist book which made the mistake of quoting extensively from the texts of Marx and Engels. The quotations were more impressive to me than the anti-communist thesis of the book.

While I was an undergraduate student in the University of the Philippines in 1958, I matured as a progressive liberal, fully appreciating the old democratic revolution that began in 1896 and won victory in 1898 under bourgeois liberal leadership against Spanish colonialism. I had gobbled up the anti-colonial and liberal works of Profs. Teodoro Agoncillo and Cesar Adib Majul and about the Philippine revolution and the two novels and essays of Dr. Jose Rizal and the essays of Marcelo H. del Pilar and Isabelo de los Reyes.

Within the same year of 1958, I made a great leap to understanding the need to continue the unfinished tasks of the Philippine revolution and to carry out the new democratic revolution under proletarian leadership against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes. I started to read Marxist works in earnest and to adhere to Marxism-Leninism. I gained access to Marxist works hidden in the basement of the UP Main Library and to the private collections of professor friends. I gorged on the available works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, the novels written by Soviet writers like Maxim Gorky and Mikhail Sholokhov and American Left writers, like John Steinbeck and Howard Fast in the 1930s and the writings of Manuel Arguilla and Carlos Bulosan.

I tried to learn the basic principles of the great communist thinkers and leaders in philosophy, political economy and social science and what constituted social realism and proletarian art in the novels and other literary works that I read. I associated with fellow campus writers like Petronilo Bn Daroy, Luis V. Teodoro and others who were somehow influenced by various aesthetic theories and literary works opposed to such currents as art for art's sake, petty bourgeois self-titillation, mystical flights or art supposedly transcending classes but truly within the bounds of the exploiting classes.

We took the stand that literature and art must serve the exploited and oppressed people and necessarily the new democratic revolution as the way to their national and social liberation. We appreciated Salvador P. Lopez' 1940 essay, Literature and Society, his advocacy of proletarian literature and his demand for socially significant content in creative writing against the sect of art for art's represented by Jose Garcia Villa.

We formed the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) in 1959. We were determined to propagate the national democratic line and the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism. We were challenged to renew the revolutionary movement that had been crushed in the early 1950s. It was clear to us that it was necessary not only to propagate revolutionary ideas in discourses but also to express them in various literary and artistic forms.

We were among the most prolific writers of political and literary pieces for the Philippine Collegian and the Collegian Folio against foreign and feudal domination in socio-economic relations, politics, culture, and literature and art. We also published a series of daring but financially unstable little magazines like the Fugitive Review, Cogent and Diliman Observer from 1959 to 1962 until we could put up the relatively more stable Progressive Review.

Among the earliest Marxist works that I read were the Communist Manifesto, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Dialectics of Nature and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. The latter book equipped me well in my debates on logical positivism with Prof. Ricardo Pascual. But the Marxist works that I found most engaging in connection with Philippine society and literature were those of Mao which analyzed the classes and class struggle in semicolonial and semifeudal society and which presented literature and art as weapons of the revolution.

I benefited from conversations with patriotic and progressive colleagues and professors on a wide range of political, social and cultural issues. The SCAUP, together with the UP Journalism Club, the Philippine Collegian, most fraternities and sororities, stood with them in fighting against the anticommunist witchhunt undertaken by the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities. I learned much from the Peasant War in the Philippines published by my professor friends in the Philippine Social Science and Humanities Review. I studied aesthetics and poetics in graduate school and Prof. Leopoldo Yabes who seemed to enjoy letting me explain at length the Marxist theory of literature and art after he noticed my interest in it.

In the early 1960s, I had the good fortune of becoming friends and conversing frequently with Amado V. Hernandez on revolutionary politics and art and reading his works Isang Dipang Langit, Mga Ibong Mandaragit and Luha ng Buwaya. He was pleased with my first collection of poetry, Brothers, published by Filipino Signatures of our mutual friend Andres Cristobal Cruz. He enjoyed most satirizing the exploiters and oppressors and narrating his experiences as a guerrilla intelligence officer and as a labor leader.

We established Kabataang Makabayan as the assistant of the revolutionary proletariat. In seeking to develop the revolutionary mass movement along the national democratic line, my comrades and I responded to the call of Claro Mayo Recto for a Second Propaganda Movement. Under the banner of Kabataang Makabayan, we also called for a cultural revolution of the new democratic type. We underscored the role of creative writers and artists in the various art forms. We advocated a national, scientific and mass culture.

We favored the national language as the principal medium of education and literary development even as we respected the various languages and cultural heritage of the people in the provinces. We encouraged university teachers to use and conduct discussions in Pilipino; and writers in English to learn how to speak and write in Pilipino. Propaganda and agitation were done unavoidably among the toiling masses in Tagalog and other local languages.

Kabataang Makabayan, particularly its Cultural Bureau, was most active in engaging creative writers and artists in various art forms like graphics, music, dance and stage play. The signal act to avail of music was the request to Felipe de Leon to compose the anthem of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1964. The poem of Amado V. Hernandez, ¨Kung Tuyo na ang Luha mo, aking Bayan¨ was set to music and often featured in cultural presentations during protest rallies. We also revived the singing of the Internationale and other revolutionary songs of previous revolutionary movements in the Philippines and abroad. Cartoonists were in demand for publications and posters as well as effigy makers for mass actions.

Social investigation and mass integration teams of Kabataang Makabayan doubled as cultural performance teams when they went to factories, urban communities and farms. Revolutionary literature and art flourished with the upsurge of the mass movement of the workers, peasants and youth. Cultural performance groups arose in the latter years of the 1960s to present solo and choral singing, instrumental music, poetry recitation, dances and skits and to create illustrations on publications, posters and walls in order to enliven and invigorate the meetings, mass protests and workers' strikes.

Towards the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, we did ideological, political and organizational work and we created revolutionary literary and artistic works to inspire ourselves and the masses that we sought to arouse, organize and mobliize. As soon as we started the people's war in the countryside, we deployed and coordinated armed propaganda teams, cultural teams and medical teams.

When the First Quarter Storm of 1970 broke out, such organizations for cultural performances as Panday Sining of Kabataang Makabayan, Gintong Silahis of Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan and Kamanyang of the Philippine College of Commerce (now named the Polytechnic University of the Philippines) became outstanding among youth organizations in Manila and became models in the provinces.

I had the honor of sending messages in 1971 to the formation of two major cultural organizations of far-reaching significance. The first organization was Nagkakaisang Progresibong Mga Artista at Arkitekto (NPAA). It was composed of artists from the College of Fine Arts and Architecture of the University of the Philippines and from other schoolsl. The artists had previously given comprehensive artistic support to the legal mass movement. I discussed the arts as a weapon of the revolution. The second organization was the Panulat Para Sa Kaunlaran Ng Sambayanan (PAKSA). It brought together creative writers in both Pilipino and English, who were determined to serve the Filipino people with revolutionary literary works. I discussed the tasks of cadres in the cultural field, especially in literature.

When martial law was proclaimed and fascist dictatorship was imposed on the people, many creative writers and artists joined the underground and armed revolutionary movement and created more works about the dire social conditions, the sacrifices and struggles of the Filipino people. Literature and art flourished most among the propaganda and cultural teams of the New People's Army and the masses in the countryside. The central and regional publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines published songs, poems, short stories and illustrations Cultural organizations published, performed or exhibited the literary and artistic works of their members.

It was futile for the fascist regime to detain creative writers and artists in order to silence them because they continued to produce creative works even in prison. Prisons became revolutionary schools and centers for creating songs, poems paintings, drawings, carvings, handicrafts and other art works. These were circulated and sold outside prison in the spirit of antifascist solidarity, These were also distributed and sold to support groups in Europe and North America and to a lesser extent domestically among allies and friends.

To mention a few outstanding songs created in prison, Aloysius ¨Ochie¨ Baez composed the lyrics Kay Taas ng Pader, Jose Luneta Awit sa Kasal and Luis Jorque the music of Andres Bonifacio's Pag-ibig saTinubuang Lupa in Bicutan. The Bicutan political detainees also wrote and performed plays on the struggles of the workers, peasants and the urban poor. They staged under direction of Behn Cervantes Bonifacio Ilagan's Pagsambang Bayan, the Sinakulong Bayan or street version of the Passion of Christ and Aurelio Tolentino's Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas.

Anthologies of literary works and songs were published in the Philippines and abroad, under the direction National Commission on Culture of the CPP. The Instityut sa Panitikan at Sining ng Sambayanan (IPASA) published: Akdang Pandigmang Bayan, Ulos; and Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, 1973; Hulagpos, 1981 by Mano de Verdades Posadas; Mga Tula Rebolusyong Pilipino 1972-80; and Mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, 1984, issued by the Special Committee on Culture of the CPP Central Publishing House (reissued by IPASA with the title Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa, mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino in 1995).

There was no way the fascist regime could stop the creation of literary and artistic works.

Literary works circulated among the people. Lightning cultural performances were held even in city centers. Protest graffiti, periodikits and sticker-posters of various sizes were posted on walls, waiting sheds, and inside buses and jeepneys. A collective of creative writers and illustrators was able to produce the illustrated version of Philippine Society and Revolution.

When I was under maximum security detention and under constant electronic surveillance from 1977 onwards, I composed poetry like other political prisoners in bigger political prisons. I recited the poems even as the guards were taperecording the recitation. I was able to smuggle out my poems and have them published by Prof. Epifanio San Juan and included in the Pintig anthology. A committee openly dedicated to seek my freedom was able to publish in Manila my collection of poems, Prison and Beyond in 1985, before the overthrow of Marcos.

When the mass protest movement resurged in the urban areas from 1981 onwards and even more so, from 1983 after the Aquino assassination, protest and revolutionary art also resurged in the schools and communities, in workers picket lines, in the meetings of mass organizations and in the street mass protests.

Many more literary works were published in the alternative legal press, among them Midweek and New Progressive Review; as well as campus publications that proliferated, including Philippine Collegian and Diliman Review.

Many types of protest visuals mushroomed, from T-shirts with slogans and creatively designed placards and streamers, to huge murals at the head of big marches and rallies. Protest music and street theater became widespread and popular through many small musical and theater groups based in unions, urban poor communities and schools, and through the more regularized or professionalized ones such as PETA. The resurgence of revolutionary art in the urban areas ran parallel to the constantly rising of artistic and other cultural activities in the countryside.

2. On the current state of revolutionary art

Prof. Alice Guerrero Guillermo has written the most comprehensive survey and analysis of protest/ revolutionary art in the Philippines, from 1970 to 1990, and has continued to observe its further development to the present. She attests to the vibrant continuity and growth of revolutionary art. But there is yet no survey of literary and artistic works extending to the current decade of the 21st century. That is a project still to be fully undertaken even as I now try to scan and assess the current state of revolutionary art, with much info feed from cultural activists, creative writers and artists. After the delivery of this speech I intend to gather more information to fill in gaps in the current presentation.

Prof. Gelacio Guillermo has been able to collect in Muog (Ang Naratibo ng Kanayunan sa Matagalang Digmang Bayan sa Pilipinas) the most outstanding literary narratives and poems in the countryside that he could collect from various regions from the period of martial law to the 1990s. With the Muog anthology and his other notable works “The New Mass Art and Literature” and “Ang Panitikan ng Pambandsang Demokrasya”, he shows how the revolutionary creative writers and cultural activists make use of literary forms, including poems, narratives, songs, instrumental music and dances, that we learn from the masses, including the indigenous people.

Rogelio L. Ordonez presents comprehensively the development of revolutionary literature in the national language from the 1960s to the 1990s in his essay, “Literatura ng Uring Anakpawis”. Lilia Quindoza-Santiago has chronicled and analyzed much of the protest and revolutionary poetry in the 1970s. I recommend for your reading and study Nationalist Literature: A Centennnial Forum, edited by Prof. Elmer A.Ordoñez and published in celebration of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. The collection of essays here shows you the continuity and advance of revolutionary literature.

The richest source of literary and artistic works done by revolutionary writers and artists are the central and regional publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army and the National Democratic Front. They publish songs, poems, short stories, illustrations and comic strips, aside from disseminating news and information about the revolutionary forces and the people in their respective areas. They have literary journals that are focused on literature and art.

The best known central publications are: Ulos (literary journal of ARMAS-NDF), Sine Proletaryo (video production-CPP Information Bureau), Kalayaan (Kabataang Makabayan), Liyab (KAGUMA) and Malayang Pilipina (MAKIBAKA), ).

In Northern Luzon: Baringkuas (Cagayan Valley), Dangadang (Northwest Luzon), Ramut (revolutionary edication and culture -Norhwestern Luzon) and Rissik (revolutionary cultural journal-Cagayan Valley). In Central Luzon:Himagsik (Central Luzon), Inang Larangan (cultural anthology, Central Luzon), Lakas ng Masa (Central Luzon), Dyaryo Pasulong (Revolutionary People of Mount Sierra Madre),

In Southern Tagalog region: Dagitab (ARMAS-TK), Diklap (South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula) and Alab (a revolutionary publication for the masses in Mindoro), In Bikol region: Gerilya (NPA Bicol Regional Command) Punla (literary publication-Bicol Region), Silyab (CPP-NPA in Bicol), and Ang Kusog (Masbate)
In the Visayas,Ang Panghimakas (Negros Island), Ang Budyong (Leonardo Panaligan Command-Central Negros), Daba-daba (Panay), Pakigbisog (Central Visayas), Sublak (revolutionary cultural magazine-Panay) Pakigbisog (Central Visayas),

In Mindanao: Pasa-bilis (NDF-Southern Mindanao). In Mindanao, Ang Kahilukan (NDF in Northern Mindanao), Asdang (NDF-Far South Mindanao), Lingkawas (CPP-Northwestern Mindanao), Pasa-bilis (NDF-Southern Mindanao), Sulong! (NDFP-Mindanao).

To this day, popular works in literature and art have flourished. They are in the form of songs, poems, short stories, cartoons, poster and shirt graphics, graffiti, playlets and skits, short monologues, dances, effigies and short films. They are displayed or performed during meetings, marches and rallies. They are created and performed by organizations which are devoted to cultural work or focused on literature or any of the arts. These are affiliated with any of the major mass organizations or independent of them. There is a wide variety of cultural groups identifiable by their cause orientation and territorial scopes.

There are various cultural groups of creative writers and artists. They belong to Artista at Manunulat ng Sambayanan (ARMAS) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, to commands or units of the New People's Army and to mass organizations of workers, peasants, fisher folk, women, youth, teachers and others. There are also cultural groups which are independent of single mass organizations but which serve all or any mass organizations that invite them to mass actions, celebrations and other events.

Since 1983 the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (then a mass campaign base) and MASKARA and since 1985 Artista ng Bayan (ABAY) and Luna have fulfilled the visual art requirements of mass actions by making murals, streamers and effigies in Metro Manila. Theatre groups under Bugkos (the national center for arts and literature) have also organized and staged street plays and flag dances. Yearly during Holy Week, Sining Bugkos together with Bayan Metro Manila and Kalipunan ng Damaang Mahihirap (Kadamay) hold the Kalbaryo ng Maralita to depict the suffering of poor Filipinos. Since the late 1992 BAYAN has undertaken more elaborate effigy projects in collaboration with UGAT Lahi Artists Collective (Ugnayan at Galian ng mga Tanod ng Lahi), which is a collective of artists and activists in the national capital region.

Worthy of mention are the role and contributions of political street theater in the struggle against Marcos during the 1980s. UP Tropang Bodabil and UP Peryante - using vaudevilletheater as a form of protest theater took to the streets and performed in the major mobilizations and transport strikes during martial law. The performers did "kilos-awit and interpretative movement of protest songs like Awit ng Tagumpay, Mendiola, etc. For example, i my poem Fragments of a Nightmare rendered in Pilipino as Pira-pirasong Bangungot was perfomed as dance, using the Japanese "Noh" theatrical form.

A big street theater production called "Oratoryo ng Bayan" based on the UN International Declaration of Human Rights was performed for several weeks. It was an unconventional production using the UP Palma Hall lobby as the stage with big sculpture installations as the only pieces (these are still there now) and the audience all sat around arena-style on the floor. Oratoryo was also toured in the other universities like Ateneo and UP Manila.

An arts alliance called Alamat - Alyansa ng Makabayang Teatro – was formed in Manila bringing together progressive theater and their performing arts groups.

Since 1995, Ugat-Lahi has joined with Sining Bugkos as a Manila-based alliance of cultural workers and formations for promoting national democratic culture and human rights. This group initiates art workshops for artists' immersion programs in urban poor communities and workers' organizations and organizing work among students, workers, urban poor and professional artists, exhibitions, mural projects, puppet theatre performances and effigy projects. In the provincial cities and in the rural areas, there are cultural formations similar to Sining Bugkos such as Tambisan sa Sining, Sinagbayan, Karatula, Sining Kadamay, Sining Bulosan, the Kaboronyogan cultural network and Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera.

Popular works in literature and art (like songs, poems, short stories flag dances and skits) are generally considered shorter, easier to create and to disseminate and are less polished and of a lower standard than those works that are longer, more difficult to make and to produce or distribute and are more polished and of a higher aesthetic standard. But there are songs and poems which are more popular and yet more polished than a badly conceived and badly written novel or epic. There are such works which are short but are aesthetically excellent and have far reaching influence on the masses in a profound and lofty way.

While the presumption is that an excellent long piece is better or more laudable than an excellent short piece, there is also a presumption that favors the short piece. If a piece is popular, it has something in it to which the people are receptive. It touches and moves the hearts and minds of the people because it concerns their needs and demands and in addition it spreads so fast because it is short. Posters at public places can be seen by so many people and songs can spread so widely. They carry messages that are clear and inspire the people to act. A long or a more complex piece can be excellent as revolutionary work only as its higher aesthetic standard is grounded on popularization, responding to the people's needs and demands.

Works that are more sustained and are expected to be of higher standard than short pieces include the following: novels, epics, anthologies of poems and short stories, collected essays, drama, opera or full-length musicales, paintings, sculpture, ballet, full-length feature films and massive effigies. Time constraint does not allow me to describe and evaluate those works that I shall mention. But identifying either the works or the names of authors in literary and art forms, which may be considered revolutionary, can indicate the level of artistic achievement and provide clues for further research.

In the course of the ongoing new democratic revolution, a significant number of novels have been written in the national language. These include: Dekada 70 and Gapo by Lualhati Bautista, Dilim sa Umaga at mga Kaluluwa sa Kumunoy by Efren R. Abueg, Dugo sa Bukang Liwayway by Rogelio R. Sikat, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag at Sa Kagubatan ng Lunsod by Edgardo M. Reyes, Mga Halik sa Alikabok and Ginto ang Kayumangging Lupa by Dominador B. Mirasol, Apoy sa Madaling Araw by Dominador Mirasol and Rogelio L. Ordoñez, Hulagpos by Mano de Verdades Posadas and Gera by Ruth Firmeza.

Ninotchka Rosca has two novels in English, with The State of War (1988) an allegorical novel alluding to the explosive revolutionary situation in the Philippines and Twice Blessed (1992) a comic satire of the conjugal dictatorship and the competition of the oligarchs to serve foreign masters. More recent novels have been published depicting Philippine history and the new democratic revolution such as Lualhati Bautista’s Desaparecidos (2012), Ramon Guillermo’s Ang Makina ni Mang Turing (2013), Norman Wilwayco’s Gerilya (2009), Edberto M.Villegas' Barikada (2013) and Elmer Ordonez autobiographical Snows of Yesteryears (2015).

There are so many writers of anthologized protest/revolutionary short stories. They include Ave Perez Jacob, Domingo Landicho, Edgar Maranan, Dominador Mirasol, Jose Rey Munsayac, Epifanio San Juan,Jr., Wilfredo Virtusio, Levy Balgos de la Cruz, Jun Cruz Reyes, Ricardo Lee and many others. The new generation of fiction writers who have consistently published social realist prose since the 1990s includes Rolando Tolentino, Luna Sicat, Ramon Guillermo, and Rommel Rodriguez.

The most notable revolutionary poets include martyrs Emmanuel Lacaba, Lorena Barros, and Wilfredo Gacosta; and their contemporaries Gelacio Guillermo (Kris Montanez), Alan Jazmines and Jason Montana who either published individual poetry collections or were anthologized in “STR” and other revolutionary publications. Other revolutionary poets during Martial Law and thereafter include Bayani S. Abadilla, Ericson Acosta, Reuel Aguila, Mila Aguilar, Tomas F. Agulto, Mark Angeles, Lamberto Antonio, Teo T. Antonio, Joi Barrios, Levy de la Cruz, Jose F. Lacaba, Domingo Landicho, Bienvenido Lumbera, Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, Joel Costa Malabanan, Rogelio Mangahas, Edgar Maranan, Luchie Maranan, Alex Pinpin, Alexander Remollino, Fidel Rillo, Romulo Sandoval, Epifanio San Juan Jr. Jesus Manuel Santiago, Lilia Quindoza-Santiago, Roberto Ofanda Umil and many others.

The anthologies of poetry are: Mga Tula ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, 1972-80, Prison and Beyond (1984), Moon's Face by Allan Jazmines (1991), Likhang Dila, Likhang Diwa by Bienvenido Lumbera (1993), Pakikiramay: Alay ng mga makata sa mga magsasaka ng Hacienda Luisita, edited by Joi Barrios (2004), Sa Loob at Labas ng Piitan (2004) (poems of Jose Maria Sison) translated by Gelacio Guillermo, Passage / poems 1983-2006 by Edgar Maranan, Tugmang Matatabil by Axel Pinpin (2008), Poetika/Pulitika and Ka Bel by Bienvenido Lumbera (2008), Bulaklak at Pag-ibig: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig at Himagsik by Joi Barrios (2010), Mga Tula by Gelacio Guillermo (2013), Ang Gerilya Ay Tulad ng Makata (including poems up to 2013) by Jose Maria Sison and Mula Tarima Hanggang at iba pang tula at Awit by Ericson Acosta (2015).

Contemporary poets in the legal democratic mass movement make their works accessible through various popular and mass medium including the internet. They also perform their pieces during mass mobilizations and protest actions. Among these are Axel Pinpin, Ericson Acosta, Richard Gappi, Kerima Lorena Tariman, Rustum Casia, Mark Angeles, Rogene Gonzales, Raymund Villanueva, and others belonging to cultural and writers’ groups such as UP Alay Sining, Karatula, Kataga, and Kilometer 64 Poetry Collective founded by the late Alexander Martin Remollino.

Since the 1990s, ARMAS-NDF published revolutionary poetry and prose from Red fighters and cultural cadres in Ulos, while regions also came up with their local version of this revolutionary cultural journal, most of which are available online, such as Dagitab (Southern Tagalog), Inang Larangan (Central Luzon, Punla (Bikol), Ramut (Ilocos), Rissik (Cagayan Valley), Sublak (Panay), and Bangkaw (Mindanao). After the second great rectification movement, revolutionary poets and writers whose best works appear in these journals and at times, even in aboveground publications and anthologies include Joven Obrero, Ditan Dimase (Salinlahi at iba pang Kwento, 2006), Sonia Gerilya and Ting Remontado (Anahaw: Mga Tula at Awit, 2004); and Maya Mor (Maya Daniel), author of poems in English and Hiligaynon and also a visual artist.

Song pamphlets containing the lyrics of revolutionary songs have been issued from time to time since the late 1960s. Albums of recorded revolutionary songs have been released since the 1976 Philippines: Bangon! (Arise!): Songs of the Philippine National Democratic Struggle, protesting the Marcos dictatorship, the ruling system of big compradors and landlords and the role of American imperialism in backing the ruling system and the fascist regime.

Albums of revolutionary songs have been released under the following titles: Mga Kanta ng Rebolusyong Pilipino, Agaw Armas, Alab ng Digmang Bayan Volumes 1 and 2, Armas Timog Katagalugan Album, Dakilang Hamon Album, Kumasa Album, Kanta ti Dangadang Album, Baligi Album, Martsa Ka Bicolandia Album, Salamin ng Northern Mindanao, Salidumay Diway Album.

Progressive musicians and groups such as Asin, Tambisan sa Sining, Kalantog, Inang Laya, Patatag, The Jerks, Yano, Gary Granada, Joey Ayala, Datu’s Tribe, Grupong Pendong, Buklod, Musikang Bayan, Sining Lila, Lei Garcia, Mga Anak ni Aling Juana, Bersus, and others have released albums depicting sectoral issues and struggles. More recent groups and albums on particular campaigns such as Rapu-Rapu atbp, Taghoy ng KalikasanTayo ang Bosses: Mga Awit ng Paglaban sa Rehimeng Gahaman, Salugpungan: Tunog Bobongan, Songs of Love and Struggle by Rica Nepomuceno, Poetry in Songs by Jose Maria Sison, Of Bladed Poems, and the People's Chorale Album.

Popular rap artist and activist BLKD recently released the album Gatilyo, a tribute to Gat Andres Bonifacio. Marlon Caacbay performed as a rock band musician; a cultural activist and organizer, he died as a Red fighter in Southern Tagalog in May 2015. BLKD together with other young artists and bands such as Karl Ramirez, Plagpul, Gazera, Pink Cow, The General Strike, Tanghalang Bayan ng Kulturang Kalye (Tabakk), and Musicians for Peace, comprise the progressive urban music scene and perform in bars, communities and the streets. They produce songs that are closely linked to the various sectoral struggles and campaigns of the national democratic mass movement.

Biographies of revolutionary cadres have been created in various ways. They include the following: The Philippine Revolution: The Leader's View co-authored by Rainer Werning and Jose Maria Sison (1988), At Home in the World: Portrait of a Filipino Revolutionary by Ninotchka Rosca and Jose Maria Sison (2004), He never wrote "30":a glimpse into the life of Antonio Zumel, film production by Kodao Productions (2004), Armando (on the life of Comrade Armando Teng) by Jun Cruz Reyes (2006), Abogado ng Sambayanan: A documentary on the life of Atty. Romeo Capulong, film by Kodao Productions (2008), Apostasy: Paglalayag ni Dan Vizmanos (2008) Ka Bel by Ina Alleco Silverio (2010), Sa Tungki ng Ilong ng Kaaway (Talambuhay ni Tatang) published by Kilusan sa Paglilinang ng Rebolusyonaryong Panitikan at Sining sa Kanayunan (2012), Nanay Mameng, Kodao Productions (2012) Maita: Remembering Ka Dolor, edited by: Judy M.Taguiwalo and Elisa Tita P. Lubi (2013), Recca: from Diliman to the Cordillera by Judy M. Taguiwalo (2015), Louie Jalandoni, Revolutionary, an Illustrated Biography (2015) by Ina Alleco Silverio (2015) and More than a Red Warrior: Arnold Borja Jaramillo Beloved Son of Abra (2015).

Consequent to the NPAA going underground and many of its leading members joining the armed revolution in various parts of the Philippines, Kaisahan (Solidarity) was formed in 1976 to advocate and practice social realism in their paintings, prints, sculpture, and other visual arts. It included Antipas Delotavo, Papo de Asis, Pablo Baens Santos, Orlando Castillo, Jose Cuaresma, Neil Doloricon, Edgar Talusan Fernandez, Charles Funk, Renato Habulan, Albert Jimenez, Al Manrique, Jose Tence Ruiz and Vin Toledo. Since then, social realism as a commitment and as a common ground allowing different styles, has become the most important trend in the visual arts, especially in oil painting.

The Kaisahan commits itself to seeking national identity not in a nostalgic love of the past but by developing art that reflects social conditions and is for the masses, breaking away from a Western-oriented pop or elitist culture and contributing to the creation of a collective subject that heeds the obligations of the historical imperative of revolution. The only limitation that they set to experimentation, the play of creative impulses, is the need to effectively communicate social realities to their audiences. Among current and active social realist painters, progressive visual artists, muralists, sculptors, and street artists are Boy Dominguez, Iggy Rodriguez, Manolo Sicat, Mideo Cruz, Renan Ortiz, Melvin Pollero, Rowena Bayon, Paolo Lorenzo, Frances Abrigo, Buen Abrigo, Buen Calubayan, and the group Ang Gerilya.

Political prisoners Alan Jazmines, Eduardo Sarmiento, Voltaire Guray and Juan Paolo Versoza create outstanding art works despite dismal prison conditions. Rights group Karapatan has organized several gallery exhibitions of their paintings and sculptures. Sarmiento, who used to contribute illustrations for Larab, the newspaper of the revolutionary movement in Eastern Visayas, will soon publish a series of illustrated children’s books.

There are many painters in the various regions of the revolutionary movement. The painter that has stood out among them in recent years is Parts Bagani of Mindanao. The name is a nom de guerre derived from the name of his collective, the People's Artists. His paintings depict the mountainous and forested terrain of the New People's Army and the Red fighters and the masses at work. They have been exhibited in the gallery of the UP Faculty Center and has been sold publicly. He has done illustration work for the publications of the Communist Party of the Philippines, especially Ulos which is the underground publication for the arts.

Leyla Batang, another Ulos artist, is also among the most prolific revolutionary visual artists and illustrators whose works appear in various publications and educational materials of the CPP and NDF such as textbooks, primers and visual aid sets for PADEPA (National Democratic School) and the basic party courses. Batang is also credited for the Modyul sa Pagdrowing para sa mga Instruktor. Another exemplary revolutionary artist is Artus Talastas (aka Ka Libre, Forawet) of the Mountain Province who joined the NPA and died a martyr in Ifugao in 2013.

The most popular and most visible kind of sculptural work in the new democratic cultural revolution is the effigy. This is usually a crude representation of someone who is ridiculed for certain crimes against the people. It is made of nondurable materials because it is meant to be destroyed in a culminating public event. However, it can be perpetuated in a certain way through videography. Effigies can be videorecorded while being made, displayed and burnt and can be studied as a definite and continuous form of art. In fact, Prof. Lisa Ito has seriously studied effigies as objets d'art. They tend to overshadow the other sculptural works made by sculptors in studios and those wood carvers in prison and in the villages.

The most outstanding sculptor today in the national democratic movement is Rey Paz Contreras, He espouses and practises people's art and social realism. He has created cultural works that signify the people's struggle and has gifted the major mass organizations with these. He is also a favorite sculptor of special tokens of award for outstanding cadres. He draws inspiration from the artistic works of the indigenous people. He has experimented with the use of durable materials from discarded materials and from the environment. He has also pioneered in the development of community-based people's art, conducted workshops in the provinces and inspired the formation of many local art groups.

All sculptors in the Philippines, including the major ones like Contreras, need to earn a living and are thus open to commissions by government institutions, private corporations and churches. But the various national democratic mass organizations can also raise the resources through cultural fundraising events to commission the people's sculptors to create monuments, statues and other sculptures to celebrate the victories of the Philippine revolution and honor the revolutionary martyrs and heroes in various places in the Philippines. In this way, the people's sculptors have greater opportunities for creating people's social realist art.

Dramatic works, plays, operas and ballets have been written for the theatre of the people. Anti-colonial and anti-imperialist national heroes like Andres Bonifacio. Macario Sakay and General Antonio Luna have been depicted in plays and dramatic films to expose the villainy of cunning and capitulationist figures, such as Emilio Aquinaldo, the chief representative of the combination of conservative bourgeois liberal ilustrados and native landlords . The playwrights and critics Amelia Lapeña and Nick Tiongson aroused interest in the seditious plays against US colonial rule and inspired play writing in the revolutionary spirit. Religious rituals have also been transformed into protest plays like the Sinakulo, the Panunuluyan and the Pagsambang Bayan.

There are many writers of plays for the stage, movies and TV who have been influenced by the national democratic movement and who take a patriotic and progressive stand on historical and social issues related to the need for revolution. There is an anthology of plays that you can read and study, such as Antolohiya ng mga Dulang Mapaghimagsik , compiled by Glecy Atienza, Bienvenido Lumbrera and Galileo Zafra. In the files of the Philippine Educational Theatre Association (PETA), there are plays of national and social protest like Macliing Dulag in the 1970s, the updated play of Aurelio Tolentino, Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas (restaged in 1992) , Minsa'y isang Gamu-gamu (1991), Domestic Helper (1992) and Walang Himala (2003). Prof. Eugene van Erven of the Utrecht University has written extensively on the progressive plays staged by the PETA in the 1990s.

Bonifacio Ilagan is one of the mostprolific playwrights. Despite having been imprisoned for his activism as a cadre of Kabataang Makabayan, he wrote in 1976 the play “Pagsambang Bayan” (People's Worship”) to expose the corruption and cruelties of the Marcos fascist dictatorship and express the people's outrage and cry for justice. The play was staged in 1977 in the University of the Philippines and many other venues. Since then, Boni Ilagan has written stage plays and screen plays as a matter of revolutionary service to the oppressed and exploited people. His stage plays include: Sigaw ng Bayan (1978), Langit Ma'y Madilim (1979), Anay sa Kahoy (1985) and Pulanlupa (1985). His screenplays include: The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), Dukot (2008), Sigwa (2010), Deadline (2011) and Migrante (2012).

Operas, ballets, full-length musicales and multi-media productions that have been staged are: Andres Bonifacio, Ang Dakilang Anakpawis (1979), Ang Lampara (1980) involving the last moments Jose Rizal's life, Noli me Tangere (restaged in 1987), Ang Babaylan (1988) culminating in uprisings led by a succession of babaylans, Sa Sariling Bayan (1989), Asdang (1995), Monumento (1996), Samar (1998), Piketlayn ng Bayan (2000), Nasa Puso ang Amerika (2003), Kabataang Makabayan @ 40 (2004), Pira-pirasong Bangungot (Fragments of a Nightmare) (2007), EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson (2008), Ang Mga Lorena (2008), Makata'y Mandirigma (2009), U Ave (2009), Kalibre 45 (2003), Pitong Sundang (2010), Banaag at Sikat (2010) Hibik at Himagsik Nina Victoria Laktaw (2012), Maghimagsik! Andres Bonifacio: Rebolusyonaryo, Anakpawis (2013), Lean the Musicale (2013), Bayani (2014), Kabataang Makabayan: Paglingkuran ang Sambayanan (2015), Daluyong isang pahinumdom (2015) at Nanay Mameng: Isang Dula (2014 and 2015). National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera is the author of many of the aforementioned librettos. There have been other similar productions staged in regional urban centers by local cultural groups, typically in the local language of the region.

Inspired by the national democratic movement, movie directors like Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Behn Cervantes, Mike de Leon and script witers like Ricky Lee, Jose F. Lacaba, Lualhati Bautista, Jorge Arago, Soxy Topacio and Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr. played a crucial role in bringing up major social issues in Philippine cinema anddoing so with artistic excellence. They made master films during the martial law years despite repression. Brocka directed Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974), Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975), Insiang (1976) and Orapronobis (1989); Behn Cervantes, Sakada (1976); Bernal directed Manila by Night/City After Dark (1980) and Himala (1982); Peque Gallaga, Oro, Plata, Mata (1982) and Mike de Leon, Sister Stella L (1984)

Within the last two years of the Marcos fascist regime, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L., strongly denounced oppression and tyranny. In 1985, Lino Brocka’s Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (My Country: Grip the Knife’s Edge) depicted images of arbitrary detention, torture and struggles against oppression. In the aftermath, no serious films were made to depict the revolutionary movement which had struggled hard against the dictatorship, with exceptions such as Brocka's Orapronobis. Instead, shallow action thrillers were made out of the guerrilla stories of Bernabe Buscayno, Conrado Balweg, Victor Corpus and the Alex Boncayao Brigade.

In a bid to raise his political stature, which had gone with the fall of Marcos, Joseph Estrada produced in 1989 Sa Kuko ng Agila, a dramatic film against the US military bases, directed by Augusto Buenaventura and scripted by Ricky Lee. The next big film with high national and social significance was The Flor Contemplacion Story in 1995. It was directed by Joel Lamangan and scripted by Boni Ilagan and Ricky Lee. It was artistically and commercially successful and won the FAMAS Award and the Golden Pyramid Award, a major international film award.

In the aftermath of the general decline of the Philippine movie industry from the late years of the 1990s to the first decade of the 21st century, independent film productions have sprung up using digital technology. Patriotic and progressive film makers have a large part in the resurgence of indie film productions. In the 1990s, Raymond Red directed full-length films on revolutionary heroes Andres Bonifacio (Bayani) and Macario Sakay (Sakay).

Since 1909, Joel Lamangan as movie director and Boni Ilagan as scriptwriter have created a series of films that take up major social issues and challenge the ruling system. Sari and Kiri Dalena and Keith Sicat are also on the crest of a new wave by creating The Guerrilla Is a Poet in 2013. The very latest of patriotic and revolutional films are: Bonifacio: Unang Pangulo by Enzo Williams ( 2014) and Heneral Luna by Jerrold Tarog (2015). Please anticipate the forthcoming film of Arlyn de Cruz Tibak: Story of Kabataang Makabayan. We can expect more films of high artistic merit to express the people's cry for justice and fundamental change.

Today we have an abundance of directors, writers, actors, musicians, videographers, photographers and other visual artists and editors for producing plays on stage and on the screen. They are motivated by the people's aspirations for national and social liberation and have experience in mass activism and learning from the masses. They are beyond the clutches of what used to be the big studios and are thriving and multiplying on low budget indie films. They know how to use the stage without expensive props and new technical equipment that facilitate indie film production.

At the national, regional and local levels, there are many groups and audiovisual collectives that are making use of the latest portable audio-visual equipment and are increasing their capacity to produce films and other popular forms, such as short documentaries, music videos, and animated videos that easily find their way to online outlets such as Youtube. They organise events such as festivals and exhibitions of songs, poetry recitations, plays, paintings and progressive films. Examples of audio-visual groups and alternative media organizations which have emerged during the past fifteen years are Sipat, Kodao,Southern Tagalog Exposure, and Tudla Productions.

The lifelong works of artists for the people such as Bienvenido Lumbera, Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka have likewise been recognized by the National Artist Award (Gawad Artista ng Bayan), the highest national recognition given by the Philippine government to Filipinos who have made a significant contribution to the development of Philippine art and to promoting the country’s cultural heritage.

3. How artists and creative writers serve the people through art works.
I am deeply pleased that for several decades already patriotic and progressive creative writers and artists have come forward to create works that are in the service of the people and carry a revolutionary character by exposing the basic ills of the semicolonial and semifeudal society in the Philippines and seeking the realization of a new democratic revolution for the national and social liberation of the people.

I am proud to have participated since the 1960s in clarifying and firming up the general line of people's democratic revolution and in striving in particular for a national, scientific and mass culture. So many creative writers and artists and the people have heeded the call for a Second Propaganda Movement and a cultural revolution of the new democratic type led by the working class.

It is a great honor for me that soon after the First Quarter Storm of 1970, I delivered key messages to the Nagkakaisang Progresibong mga Artista at Arkitekto (NPAA) and the Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA), which had their respective founding congresses in August and December 1971. The significance of the messages in the continuing advance of revolutionary literature and art is indicated by their republication in Rebolusyonaryong panunuring masa sa sining at panitikan in 1992.

These messages discussed how the artists and creative writers could best serve the people, especially the oppressed and exploited, by taking the road of the new democratic revolution. For this purpose, the creative writers and artists who in most cases come from the petty bourgeois intelligentsia must remould their class outlook, learn from the toiling masses of workers and peasants, avail of every possible literary and form in order to infuse it with revolutionary content and promote the exemplary works through publications and performances

To serve the people through art works,artists and creative writers can begin to learn from their own observations and reading about the social conditions of the people but must soonest connect with the masses and learn from them their hardships and suffering, their needs and demands and their struggles and aspirations. They must know the social reality from the masses themselves and seek to inspire them to fight and liberate themselves from exploitation and oppression.

They must grasp the point that their art works can have as much significance as they can serve the people in their most important struggles for national and social liberation. They must go to the workers and peasants to learn the concrete facts of life and draw the essential and typical for embodiment in their works. Whenever possible, they must go to the Red fighters to learn from them how they wage the most intense forms of struggle against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. They must depict the dignity and heroism of the workers, peasants and Red fighters.

Enlightenment or education is the most important aim of a serious and significant work. The aim of entertainment can be achieved by the life-like rendering of social reality in literature and art, by the satirical representation of adversaries and by a certain measure of comic self acknowledgment or self-criticism of errors and shortcomings. But entertainment to trivialize the basic problems and struggles of the people or deflect attention from these is a reactionary act of deception.

Revolutionary literature and art are for raising and sharpening the fighting will and unity of the people. They are weapons for defeating the enemy and paving the way for national and social liberation. Creative writers and artists must be fully conscious of being cadres and commanders of cultural battalions for defeating the pro-imperialist and reactionary propaganda and culture. They are an integral part of the revolutionary mass movement for overthrowing the ruling system and installing the people's democratic state.

They must continue to use the tools and methods of cultural work and literary and artistic production that are most available to most people. But they must also use the new technology for instant communications, efficient production and audio-visual presentations. The point is to spread the revolutionary message the quickest way on the widest scale and facilitate and accelerate the awakening, organization and mobilization of the broad masses of the people for the revolutionary cause.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Philippines Graphic exclusive interview with Duterte

"They asked me once if as President I will continue land reform. I said, I will. There are lands that are really productive that are owned and managed by big multinationals. But the problem is, as I have said before, we are left with very few lands. To land beneficiaries, they must get the needed support—tractors or carabaos or seedlings. I say maintain their farm gates by buying their products. Do not import."

The Philippines Graphic exclusive interview with Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte.


PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Peace has always been elusive for Mindanao. Many are rooting for you to run for President in 2016 because what you’ve done for Davao City, they say, can also be implemented on a national scope. As for peace, lasting peace, how would you attain it, that is, if you do become President?

MAYOR RODRIGO DUTERTE: I have one solution: Give them freedom. Mindanao is already an existing empire for many years before it was denied to them. We were not known as Filipinos before the Spaniards came. We belonged to the Malay race. Suddenly in 1521, white people arrived and imposed their government on us and brought with them the Christian religion. I don’t want this to sound like I’m making an issue of religion. Religion is good in the sense that it provides the anchor of our values in life. The problem was the government. When Magellan landed, he proclaimed these islands as the property of Spain. Suddenly the islands were owned by the king of Spain. For the longest time we identified ourselves through religion with Spain and with the rest of the Western world. Except Mindanao. And so they fought and rallied under one banner: Islam. Not only did they fight against the government, they also fought against Spain’s religion. At the Treaty of Paris, we were ceded by Spain to America.

So the long and short of it is: For the longest time we were never given the rights over the islands. But we cannot go back to 1521. During the American occupation, people from different parts of the country were allowed to migrate to Mindanao. American sloganeering said: “Go to Mindanao because it is a land of promise.” So because of the proximity of the islands, Visayans went to Mindanao, most were Christians. This is the reason why Mindanao has a huge Visayan-speaking population.

But see, this is where the problem lies. But we cannot return all the lands or all the things that were absorbed by the migrants. We cannot go back in time. We cannot return to Mindanaoans what was taken from them. All we can now offer is a new set-up: Federalism. I’ve had many a conversation with Nur Misuari. He accepts federalism.

GRAPHIC: Do you believe in incorporating the idea of a federal state in the Bangsamoro Basic Law?

DUTERTE: I’ve read the Bangsamoro Basic Law. I’m a lawyer and as a lawyer I have my misgivings about the BBL. Even at this stage, many have been pointing to legal infirmities. But I still hope that for the sake of peace in Mindanao, they could pull it off.

As we all know, Misuari has been agitating for a separate republic. I told him that could lead to chaos. And when I asked him for the best option, he said federalism. If nothing else, and if the BBL succeeds, that could be the template. But we have to be very definite about the boundaries because we have to go federal. There has to be a sense of security within our boundaries. With federalism, we retain most of our earnings and whatever is of value to us here. We can send part of our earnings to the central Federal government as our contribution for the upkeep. In this present setup, our contribution is sent as unitary type and all the extras are at the mercy of this administration. I’m not referring to just Aquino but all other administrations in the history of this country.

GRAPHIC: Is this part of the reason why you were quoted as saying that you want to abolish Congress if you ever become President?

DUTERTE: I am not interested in being the President. I do not like to be President. Besides, I do not have the money. There should always be a prefix here. A prefix that’s something like, if I were Roxas, Binay, Escudero and Poe, then I would use the “I” because it’s more convenient to express it. So, if “I” become the President, I’ll give everybody a chance and tell them let us, at least for once in our generation, vote for candidates that could make a difference. For own good, this time. Okay, maybe this time, we work on it. Let us give ourselves about one year. Then, we try to reform. Everybody—the Judiciary, Congress, the Military. Let us do it for ourselves. Give it six months to a year. How am I going to do it? How can I fast-track reforms?

You see, if you leave it to the existing structures, even to natural evolution, nothing’s going to work. Ignorance is still a real problem among Filipinos. Hopefully, by the grace of God, we can educate many of them. But what’s happening is the opposite. The country has breached the one hundred million mark in population. I am not blaming the Church, but they should understand the problem. Many people bear children because they have nothing better to do. The gap between the rich and the poor—this will catch up with us, the earliest being 2050.

So, if you elect me as President, I will have a problem. Now, this I can guarantee you with my life: If I become the President, I would not sit there for a full term, after six uneventful years and say, “I tried my best, but you know, my best was not good enough. There’s this Congress, there’s the investigation, there’s…”You can forget it. If that would be the case, then I suggest you look for somebody else.

I’ve been elected mayor seven times or eight times already, so what am I after in this life? I cannot be President and squander the remaining years of my life doing nothing. You know, a little reform here, a little change there. That’s absurd. I cannot accept that.

If after one year, no reform has taken place or if I cannot penetrate the political structures including what is right and what is wrong, I will declare a revolutionary government. My template? Cory’s revolutionary government. She was elected President and she declared a revolutionary government. Since she received the mandate, it wasn’t hard to accept it. It will be the same under my watch.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Define your style of “revolutionary government”?

DUTERTE: I will close Congress, everything. I will forbid government to go into business, the private corporations. I will privatize the GSIS by giving it to a consortium. That way, the people will not have difficulty getting what is theirs in the first place. I will close all government corporations. Government has no business getting into business.

Then the eternal conflict: The Bureau of Internal Revenue. Our taxes. How much do you earn, your gross salary? Let’s make it simple then. Fill in the blanks and pay the bank. Why even go through all the hassle that we are having now? The BIR, the Bureau of Customs, I’ll have them all semi-privatized, just to keep the integrity of the money of government.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Just to clarify: You would choose to simplify the tax code.

DUTERTE: Yes. Taxes, gross. Keep it all simple. You get a gross salary of P15,000. You pay taxes for what you get. That simple.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: What about not going into business? Can you explain that? No more dealings and projects?

DUTERTE: I will not embark on new projects. I will simply choose to rehabilitate existing ones. Then I will spend the money on the education of our children. I will not go into ambitious projects anymore, those that run in the billions. For example: Our mass transport system must be improved.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Metro Manila does not know you as well your constituents in Davao. So when you say “revolutionary government,” it might come off as another form of strong-arm tactics. At one point you’ve been rumored as the head of the Davao death squad. So, how will you explain your idea of a revolutionary government to people in Metro Manila?

DUTERTE: “If you’re into drug pushing, extortion, kidnapping, whether you’re part of the police or military, I don’t care. These are serious crimes and you might want to think it over. But as for law-abiding citizens, you have nothing to fear. They once said I was a candidate for the communists. Do you see any communist running loose around Davao?”

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: So you really believe what you have accomplished in Davao can be done on a national scale?

DUTERTE: Look, I can talk to communists. As for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I will let it remain with the head of government. The police, however, I will take away from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). I will recreate the Philippine Constabulary and give the police back to the mayors. But if officials start f*cking with their powers, then I will take that power away and put in your stead the Philippines Constabulary—elections or no elections. That simple.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: What are your thoughts on the laying down of arms of rebel forces?

DUTERTE: Alam mo, if we go into equalization, there is only one government. They have to be decommissioned.

But let me make something clear: You don’t have to fear communists. Why do you fear communists and communism? The Communist Party is only a name, but what is being stressed there is socialism. Socialists, where do you find them? In Greece, Spain, France, Germany. Some people have an idea of communism as living in a collective commune—in a farm. You’re afraid of communism? Look at China. America owes China $3 trillion. I was once invited to visit China. Their airport taxi service are all Mercedes Benzes. It was only in China that I was able to ride a Rolls Royce.

So, you’re afraid of communists? Now tell me, who will be stupid enough to go and live in a collective commune? Even the Chinese don’t buy the idea! If I find a communist who agrees with that, I will tell him to his face that he is stupid. Let’s follow the example of China. China, today, is a market-driven economy. It boasts of some of the world’s billionaires. There’s no reason to fear communists.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: It has been said that the trickle-down effect of the economy is a false concept, that it is not true. If that is the case, then there’s no reason for an economy that is good only on paper to help improve the lives of people. What are your thoughts on the matter?

DUTERTE: That is correct. The secret is to close the gap. How do you do that? You have to give full support to the micro-economy, the small- and medium-scale entrepreneur. Since we’re on the subject of China, let’s have China as an example. China’s economy started out small. After small profits, you drum up the sales and continue until you reach some success. I agree with Manny Villar’s principle of making the money available to small enterprises. The same is true with land reform. They asked me once if as President I will continue land reform. I said, I will. There are lands that are really productive that are owned and managed by big multinationals. But the problem is, as I have said before, we are left with very few lands. To land beneficiaries, they must get the needed support—tractors or carabaos or seedlings. I say maintain their farm gates by buying their products. Do not import.

As it is, land beneficiaries do not get fertilizers and seedlings. No support at all. As President, I will subsidize the farmers and make them my priority all because our country is mainly agricultural. Land and human resource productivity is where we must focus our resources. Let’s put rural communities first. After which we go urban.

That’s also your blueprint for land reform?

DUTERTE: Yes. Tignan mo ang land reform.Papaano ang land reform? Wala namang… walang fertilizer, walang seedlings. You have to… I-subsidize ko because our country actually is agricultural-based. So yan, diyan mo ibuhos ang productivity ng tao.Doon unahin mo yung mga rural. Then you go up sa urban. The present setup cannot go on. Also a salary of P25,000 should not be taxed. This will help the individual a lot. Government will still have the needed funds. As I have said earlier, we will not involve ourselves in major projects, just the rehabilitation of existing ones. The next President after me can do it, if he chooses. The rural communities must come first: that’s my blueprint.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC:But how will you ensure continuity of existing projects?

DUTERTE: You have to see to it that money is available for existing ones. Take for example mass transport. It has to be subsidized. Let’s not fool ourselves. If you’re going to let the people shoulder the cost of rehabilitation of the mass transport system, they will not afford it. One reason: the prices of oil. Something has to give here. If I will ever get into new projects, it’s going to be mass transport.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC:What about social justice: Courts, judges…

DUTERTE: You know, Marcos, for the first seven years of his time was really very good. I will just copy the template of Marcos. I will follow what is right.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: A lot of people in Manila, and in other places, had been subjected to the abuses and cruelty of the Marcos regime. Won’t that scare people?

DUTERTE: That will not happen if I’m the president.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: How can you assure that?

DUTERTE: I’ll shoot you, if you’re a criminal. This is how it works. The backbone of any society is peace. A leader can only accomplish things if on one level, he thinks and acts like a dictator. If you don’t trust me, then don’t vote for me. I have no ambitions.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: And what of the military and the police?

DUTERTE: I will limit the number of years of service of generals. I want the leadership of the military and police to belong to the best and the brightest Filipinos. As it is, being a general is like a merchandize. They ask for the position, they get a desk. It’s crazy. And not all who graduate become generals. Give the position to the best and the brightest. It is only then that it will have integrity.

Most of our military officers get a salary that is not in keeping with dignity. Your term as general is six years, then go for three. I will pay you. You’re a general? Then you’ll get paid P500,000. Remember, if I become President, I will close Congress. As such I have the money. I will even give you extra, just to make you happy. But make no mistake. If you make a fool out of me, I will summon you and I will hurl you into the Pasig River. Now why will I do something like this? Look at our policemen. Their salary is about P18,000. Enrollment of children comes and they immediately borrow money. At the end of the day, his take home pay amounts to a thousand, two thousand pesos. Not enough.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: I’m sure you also mean to help teachers.

DUTERTE: In one of the elementary schools here, there are teachers, two or three, who owe money—five-six. This is the group I am telling you about, the group who needs support: Teachers, police, soldiers, officials.

Look at what happened to the Special Action Force (SAF). How can a SAF officer have the talent for fighting when, while advancing into the enemy’s lair, they are thinking of death at the back of their minds, and what they will leave for their families if they do die? What would come of my wife and children? How can one even concentrate?

This is the group I am referring to. Patrolman, I will give you P100,000 plus P20,000 extra for your extra-curricular activities. Spend the money for your mistress for all I care. Your children’s education will be free from kindergarten to high school. I’ll give you an example. If fighting breaks out anywhere—Samar, Mindoro, Cotabato, Davao del Norte—who do we send to stop the chaos? The police and military. They get the same pension and salary for about seven years even after they die. If that will be the case, then I’m not surprised if some will just commit suicide. They don’t only have to be protected—military gear, etc.—you also have to put some sense in their work, in the job of protecting the country.

If I become President, I will prioritize also the military and police. But if a general starts f*cking with me, I will shoot him right in his office.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: PDAF and DAP. Savings, money. How can you assure the public that not a single centavo will go into your wallet?

DUTERTE: I will create a high commission. All officials of government, including the President, will not hold money, but with the discretion of when to spend it, where and to whom it should be given. We have to do it in a budget. The high commission, if you want big businessmen to be part of it, or even priests, it’s all up to you. Let’s put 15 people there. The Office of the President will just have money to run the office. Say for example, lunch. The President can order but he doesn’t hold the money. But everything has to be straightforward. If you want a tractor, tell me why you want it. “The terrain is rocky.” That’s what you want? Then you can have it. Every month, a signed report should be submitted: list of completed projects, expenses, etc.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Mayor, what about China? Spratlys?Territorial disputes?

DUTERTE: My grandfather was Chinese. Once I went to China alone. I asked them to stop their expansion and then there will be no problems. But if you keep advancing, people will be fearful. What do you want? Shared exploration? That’s okay with me. But if you keep on threatening the country, this will be my deal with China: You are nearing our shores. That being the case I will slice Palawan in half—lengthwise. I will tell the Americans they can come here, build another Subic or Clark airbase. Pay only the Filipino $1,000. They can create what they want, place all their missiles here, then let’s fight. Whatever else can I do? I can also invite Australia whose been expressing some interest in Palawan. They can all have the coastal areas, they can build anything they like. What assures my country’s safety is my only interest here.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: As for the Freedom of Information Bill…

DUTERTE: It has to pass. We need that bill. And if I become President, I will just sign an Executive Order. I will sign the draft itself.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: Aren’t you afraid of this bill?

DUTERTE: Why should we fear the bill? I’m not holding the money. I have nothing to hide. I mean, the Customs, I don’t care what you bring in, as long as you don’t bring in illegal drugs. Son of a bitch, if you do, I will set your containers on fire.

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: So, if the people want you to run for president…

DUTERTE: I do not want to. Is this the end of the interview? Okay, let me be very clear: What I am presenting to you now is to give the idea of federalism a face. Wala kasi itong mukha.Problem was, when this was first broached back then by Pimentel and Lito Osmeña, no one listened. Worse, no one listens even to me. If I did not say I will run for President and I’ll punch your faces, no one would listen. Now I have your ears, don’t I?

PHILIPPINES GRAPHIC: You were just getting the people’s attention?

DUTERTE: Yes, I have to give the idea a face. To be clear: Just because I am presenting the alternative does not mean I am interested to run. One is that I do not have any money. That’s why I said in Facebook, as early as two years ago, I am not interested because I do not have money. And because I do not have any money, I am not interested. I have no ambition to become President. If by some unfortunate chance I become President, then what I narrated to you, all of it, will happen. I don’t want to sit as President only to tell you in the end, “My beloved countrymen, I will now turn over the reins of power to my successor. I have achieved very little in the fight against corruption, I have not done enough because of the courts, also Congress.” No. That will not happen. If you elect me as President, then you have to follow me. Simple as that. If you don’t, we will have a fight.

(*The interview with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was conducted by Graphic editor-in-chief Joel Pablo Salud and Graphic associate editor Alma Anonas-Carpio at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Philippines' most wanted man still believes in the revolutionary struggle

Exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison has been a political refugee in the Netherlands for nearly 28 years

Raissa Robles in Utrecht, The Netherlands

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2015, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2015, 4:35pm

In a working-class Dutch neighbourhood in Utrecht a few minutes walk from the central train station stands a small shop that looks abandoned from the outside. There's nothing to indicate that behind the nondescript door and smudged glass window is the headquarters of the Philippines' most wanted man, exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.

Its shabbiness, beside a costume rental shop and a store selling party favours, masks bold ambition: to take over the reins of government and install a socialist society in the Philippines.

"In a socialist society," Sison says, "there are still certain classes such as those of the workers and peasants but these are no longer subject to the ruling exploiting classes. Incomes are still earned according to the quantity and quality of work done. The reduction of working hours is accomplished from stage to stage. Social services and cultural facilities keep on expanding. There is still a state that defends society from counter-revolutionaries and imperialist aggressors."

With nearly one of every four Filipinos still living below the poverty line and a mere 3 per cent of the 100 million population owning a majority of the nation's wealth, Sison's message still finds fertile ground among the working class, university students and in remote villages populated by indigenous ethnic groups.

Take the Manobo tribe on the southern island of Mindanao, which is currently fighting to keep its school open despite pressure from the Philippine Armed Forces. The military insists that the CPP's armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), now secretly runs the school and uses it to teach subversive ideas and recruit Manobos.

Lila Shahani, an assistant secretary of the National Anti-Poverty Commission under the Office of the President, says there is some truth to the soldiers' claim: "Current military figures estimate that out of a total 1,866 NPAs active in the Northern Mindanao region, 74 per cent are IPs (indigenous persons)."

However, the Oxford-educated official - who happens to be a niece of former President Fidel Ramos - said the government is failing to address the root cause of the Manobos' discontent, namely, the exploitation of their land by one of the country's billionaires.

"So long as these deep structural issues persist, Manobos and others like them will turn to groups like the NPA, or other home-grown insurgencies, for relief and defence," Shahani warns.

Ironically, Sison comes from the very class which he seeks to overthrow. His family owned vast tracts of land and traces its ancestry to a Chinese trader who sailed from Fujian.

Sison says he would not have escaped the narrow ambition of his class if not for his village barber. As his barber cut his hair, he regaled the young Sison with stories about the Huks or armed guerrillas who fought for their land in Central Luzon, north of Manila.

"My barber talked about the need for the workers and peasants to overthrow the big capitalists and landlord class by armed force because, in the first place, these exploiting classes use violence to perpetuate their system against the working people," said Sison in an interview last week.

"What the barber said complemented what I heard from farm workers who had returned to my hometown after a stint of being tabaseros (sugar cane cutters) in Central Luzon. They said that the Huks were good, for advocating the free distribution of land to the tillers," Sison recalled.

At 20, while studying for a degree in English and literature at the University of the Philippines, Sison organised his first group, the Student Cultural Association of the Philippines.

According to Ninotchka Rosca - co-author with Sison of his semi-autobiographical book Jose Maria Sison: At Home in the World, Portrait of a Revolutionary - it was Sison who "made acceptable the concepts of mass organisations and mass mobilisations".

The works of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong would inspire Sison to come up with a Filipino version of protracted armed struggle. However, Sison's revolution would be exploited by President Ferdinand Marcos, whose family comes from the same region as Sison. In 1972, Marcos imposed military rule, claiming he was saving the Philippines from a Sison-led revolution. Five years later in 1977, Sison would fall into Marcos's hands.

Sison recalled that Marcos spoke to him in Ilocano, "perhaps to show that we belonged to the same tribe". But Sison responded in English and Filipino.

Marcos tried to flatter his prisoner saying, "I've been reading your works, your writings" and hinted that the two were not so far apart in thought and could cooperate together.

He said he replied to Marcos: "Yes, if it's for the people we can cooperate. If you keep on borrowing lots of money from abroad, some day the US will dump you when you become more of a liability than an asset."

Marcos told him, "You talk like an Aquino", referring to the late Senator Benigno Aquino, father of the incumbent President Aquino. Marcos would have his revenge on Sison. He was beaten, given water torture, electric shock treatment and shackled to a cot for 18 months in solitary confinement.

Sison was also tried, along with the elder Aquino, before a military court. Then, in 1983, the unexpected: Aquino was shot as he disembarked a plane surrounded by soldiers at Manila's airport, setting in motion the chain of events that would lead to Marcos's ouster. Three years later, Sison was conditionally released from jail by Aquino's widow, President Corazon Aquino, pending peace talks with the communist rebels.

But while on a world tour, Sison's Filipino passport was revoked. He and his wife Julieta de Lima have been political refugees in the Netherlands for nearly 28 years since.

Does he dream of going back? "I do not just dream, even in the sense of imagining a better world that can arise from the people's struggle," Sison, now 76, replied.

"I deal with realities and do whatever I can in the revolutionary struggle of the people."

"Like Lenin before the outbreak of the first world war, I am not sure whether the revolution would win in my lifetime," he said. "But I am sure that the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalisation, the wars of aggression and the intensified inter-imperialist contradictions are already generating the conditions for an unprecedented upsurge of the revolutionary movements for national liberation, people's democracy and socialism."

To Sison, no country has established a truly communist state. "It is simply journalistic parlance in the Western media to call communist a state or society governed by a communist party," he said.

Should his group ever come to power, Sison describes his vision: "There can be a model for a people's democratic system gliding into socialist revolution and construction. This model can be a composite of the best features of the people's democracies and socialist societies that have arisen in history before the successful betrayal of socialism by modern revisionists. More importantly, the model takes into account the history, circumstances and aspirations of the Filipino people."

Having bedevilled six Philippine presidents, Sison's party may yet continue to hound the next.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sketching is not a crime!

*Mula ito sa facebook post ni Randy Valiente


Kung mapapansin ninyo ay blangko ang mga sketchbooks na hawak namin. Ginanap ang USk sketchwalk sa Farmers Cubao noong sabado, napagkasunduang i-capture namin sa pamamagitan ng drawing ang usual market scenes. Karamihan ay nakaupo sa Dampa (para itong foodcourt ng lugar) at doon mag-sketch para mas komportable. Maya-maya ay pinahinto kami ng guard at ng admin ng Farmers, bawal daw mag-sketch. Kaya nagpunta ang coordinator namin sa opisina nila upang ipakilala ang grupo. Pero para hindi na humaba ay lumipat kami sa Cubao Expo sa pag-aakalang mas okay dun dahil artist hub naman 'yun, pero sa kamalasan ay pinatigil din kami ng guard at hinihingian pa kami ng permit ng admin.

Cubao is not a sketching-friendly place! Am I wrong?

Naging hot topic ito sa fb group ng USk at nalaman ko na hindi lang pala ang USk-Ph ang nakaranas nito kundi ibang sketchers group at plein air painters din. Hindi lang sa Cubao kundi sa ibang lugar na rin sa Kamaynilaan. Kailan pa naging krimen ang pagbitbit ng sketchpad at paggawa ng sining sa public place?

Napaparanoid ang karamihan at baka front lang ng mga terorista at masasamang loob ang sketching? Kailangan ng tamang edukasyon ang mga kinauukulan sa ganitong activities. We are so IGNORANT with this kind of event at yung hindi pamilyar sa ating paningin ay nagmimistulang threat sa security. There is a big problem of what's this and what's that with this society, matagal na. Abala kasi tayo sa mga nonsensical activities at entertainments kaya hindi na natin ma-distinguish kung ano ang may value at wala.

Since time immemorial ay ginagawa na ito ng mga artists para ma-capture ang ganda ng paligid at para maging reference na rin.

Magbi-benefit dito ang lugar para ma-promote ang kanilang area, lalo pa't commercial establishments, at ang Urban Sketchers ay isang worldwide artist organization at ang gawa namin ay idini-displey sa USk international website kaya nakikita ng buong mundo at nagiging bahagi ng turismo (at hindi kami binabayaran ng gobyerno sa promotion na ito).

(photo by Ige Ochoa Trinidad)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Philippine NGOs: Defusing Dissent, Spurring Change

Philippine NGOs: Defusing Dissent, Spurring Change

By Sonny Africa

The Philippines has one of the longest-running and reputedly among the largest and most active civil society movements in the developing world 1. Millions of Filipinos now participate in or are influenced by citizen-based organizations amid the right to assembly, free speech, a lively press, open elections and a market economy. Mirroring global trends over the last three decades, Philippine non-government organizations (NGOs) in particular have multiplied and expanded the range of their development activities.

The supposedly transformative potential of NGOs and of civil society in general should presumably be evident in the Philippines, if anywhere, but there is instead a disturbing lack of progress: still widespread poverty and severe inequality, entrenched vested interests in the economy, oligarchic and patronage politics, and tens of millions of Filipinos remaining disempowered with little real control over their economic and political lives. Underlying patterns of socioeconomic backwardness and elite rule persist even if increasingly overlaid with pro-people NGO and pro-democracy “civil society” features.

The Philippine experience highlights the possibilities but also the practical limits of NGOs as opposition to prevailing hegemonies. In the country's specific conditions and historical context the general tendency has been for NGOs to operate in accordance with prevailing political and economic arrangements rather than in sustained opposition to these. Whether consciously or inadvertently, they have aligned with the conservative political program of the established State rather than of progressive social movements challenging inequitable structures. This is notwithstanding a brief activist counter-current among NGOs mainly during the Martial Law interregnum.

The chapter begins by clarifying its notion of “NGOs” and tracking Philippine NGO trends over the last decades against the overall backdrop of so-called civil society and the country's major social forces. Particularly relevant is how NGOs increased in number, scope and participation in governance since the second half of the 1980s largely in line with the global neoliberal offensive instead of in resistance to this; this trend continues under the current Aquino government. This is followed by an overview of economic policies and poor development outcomes in the country to emphasize the persistent underdevelopment amid decades of NGOization. This discussion points to how NGOs helped create the political conditions for implementing neoliberal policies. Taking all these into consideration the chapter concludes with how NGOs as a whole can at most have only a subsidiary role in the struggle for fundamental social change.

NGOs and civil society in the Philippines

NGOs are part of a broader “civil society” in the Philippines that also includes people's organizations (POs), cooperatives, church groups, professional or business-related associations, academe and assorted other non-state and non-business organizations. From a social change perspective, NGOs and POs are particularly significant not just because development-oriented NGOs generally express links with POs in pursuit of their goals but because together they comprise the largest portion of politically active groups amongst this so-called civil society.

The term “NGO” is interpreted in many ways from the sweeping “non-government” understood literally to include everything outside of the official government machinery, to the more restricted and legalistic “non-stock, non-profit corporations,” to the most limited notion of only referring to expressly social development-oriented NGOs. For consistency this chapter uses “NGOs” to refer to non-government and non-profit organizations – regardless of funding source, ideology (or lack thereof), values and orientation – that provide development-related services to other groups, communities or individuals. This definition covers the likes of charity or welfare groups, social foundations set up by private business groups, as well as more ideologically-grounded activist NGOs. All these NGOs are generally staffed by more or less full-time “professional” NGO workers (as opposed to unpaid volunteer or part-time workers).

NGOs combine into different kinds of alliances, coalitions and networks. The Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE-NGO) is the Philippines' largest network of NGOs with a membership of some 2,000 and illustrates these diverse combinations. Among others CODE-NGO includes six national networks and six regional networks. The six national networks each have distinct identities: rural development (PHILDHRRA), urban development (PHILSSA), corporate members (PBSP), services for children and youth (NCSD), cooperatives (NATCCO) and an association of foundations (AF).2 The regional networks in turn respectively cover the country's Bicol, Cordillera, Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Mindanao regions which are among the poorest areas in the country. There are also other permutations in NGO groupings such as the Council for People's Development and Governance (CPDG) which is a national network of NGOs and POs with programs on poverty alleviation, environmental protection, women, children, disaster risk reduction and aid effectiveness and democratic governance.

POs on the other hand are membership-based organizations of citizens coming together to advance their common/collective interests and welfare and are sometimes referred to as grassroots organizations or community-based organizations. Politically active POs are generally organized along class/sectoral lines (e.g. peasant organizations, trade unions, indigenous peoples, youth, overseas Filipino workers), gender (e.g. women), geographical proximity (e.g.. village, province) or some permutation or combination of these. Among the largest and most active Filipino POs are the peasant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), fisherfolk Pamalakaya, worker Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and women's group GABRIELA which are all national formations with local chapters. But there is also Migrante International which has country chapters of overseas Filipino workers around the world. POs can also come together under a multi-PO multi-sectoral umbrella such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

The Philippines has a reputation for having a “vibrant civil society”.3 Estimates of the number of civil society groups and of NGOs varies widely due to the lack of generally accepted definitions, inadequate monitoring and the fluidity of their operations. An NGO literature review gives an estimate of “between 249,000-497,000 [non-profit] organizations.4 The Asian Development Bank (ADB) similarly acknowledges “up to 500,000” civil society groups but specifies between 3,000-5,000 “development-oriented” NGOs among these.5 The World Bank (WB) on the other hand cites “an estimated 18,000 registered NGOs” in the country.6 The Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) mentions “as many as 60,000 non-profit, non-governmental organizations”. The most recent comprehensive study on the matter compiles figures from various sources and reports that the number of NGOs in the country is estimated to range from “between 15,000 and 30,000” to “around 34,000 to 68,000”.8

Regardless of the exact numbers the Philippine NGO sector is not insignificant – and apparently even relatively large compared to other countries – even as the biggest number of NGOs are apparently small with less than 25 staff and often struggle financially.9 Rough estimates of the number of NGO staff in the Philippines place these at around one percent (1%) of the total 37.2 million employed in 2011 (for comparison the public sector accounts for some 5% of total employment).10

There is no direct survey of the ideological tendencies underpinning the country's numerous NGOs but various indirect evidence supports the notion that only a minority are actively engaged in mass struggles with POs, national policy reforms, local government and related political activities. Indeed there is reason to suspect that their political views and levels of political engagement are so disparate that they have no qualitative impact as a whole beyond the mere sum of their incongruent parts.

Philippine NGOs chiefly implement projects and provide social development-related services to their chosen constituencies covering education, training and human resource development and community development.11 Taking the CODE-NGO network as an example, a survey of its members found these concentrated in education/training/human resource development (77% of NGOs surveyed), health/nutrition (44%) and enterprise/livelihood development (43%) versus, at the other end of the scale, agrarian reform (18%), urban poor (12%) and labor organizing (3%).12 While such a profile of activities does not necessarily mean political passiveness the bias towards welfare projects and income-generation is clear.

That result can also be read with how one of the few NGO surveys in the country found that “few NGO respondents implement asset reform programs” because they are “prone to conflict and therefore more difficult to implement” which indicates a tendency to avoid addressing important structural inequities that requires political activism.13 NGOs' choice of sectoral partners certainly leans towards non-controversial ones: children and youth (57% of respondents) and women (53%) versus peasants (35%), urban poor (33%) and labor (13%).14 Taken together these can be interpreted as indicating how Philippine NGOs are mainly about immediate service delivery rather than about long-term struggles mobilizing grassroots sectors against systemic inequities in resources and power.

This characterization is consistent with the results of a recent nationwide survey: while almost half of the population (46%) considered themselves active members of at least one civil society organization, only about a quarter (26%) considered themselves active members of at least one political organization and just 15% participated in political activities (understood merely as attending a demonstration, signing a petition or joining a boycott).15 The same survey also found that just some 5% and 10% of the population considered themselves active members of an NGO and PO, respectively, versus 34% for church or religious organizations, 10% for sports/recreational organizations and 6% for art, music or education organizations.16

It can be roughly estimated that there are perhaps only some hundreds or few thousand NGOs that are more activist in the sense of operating with a more consciously political framework and a self-definition as actively working for more profound social change. Increasing the political power of erstwhile disempowered sectors always figures strongly with such NGOs whether in the sense of being accumulated from the ground up through ever-expanding grassroots organizations or by working within state structures or via some combination of both. An example of this approach is the Council for Health and Development (CHD) which provides health services and sets up community-based health programs under a framework of the social determinants of health – or where ill health is rooted in structural poverty and not just the absence of health services. CHD thus also works closely with the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) which is a PO describing itself as “composed of individuals from the health sector who adhere to the principles of the Filipino people's struggle for sovereignty and democracy”.

The social development and service delivery orientation of NGOs results in a particularly significant characteristic with implications for how they operate as a sector: they are resource-intensive and dependent on external funding. They require continuous and sustained human, technical and financial resources to keep providing services to their chosen beneficiaries while, conversely, are chronically unable to generate substantial incomes in the normal course of their operations because their beneficiaries are poor communities and sectors. This makes them reliant on external subsidies and correspondingly vulnerable to the priorities, values and orientation of these external subsidizers.

As it is, Philippine NGOs' main sources of funding are foreign (on which 48% of NGOs primarily rely), corporate (12%) and government (10%) sources.17 The foreign sources could be Northern NGOs although a recent trend is for these Northern donors to themselves be tapping official funding in their home countries and hence being drawn into the foreign policy frameworks of their own governments. The European Union (EU) and individual European governments for instance have so-called co-financing arrangements where they fund European NGOs who in turn provide grants to NGO partners in the South according to priorities set by the official agencies which are the primary source of funds.18

Business groups have also become increasingly active in the NGO sector which further blurs the supposed civil society-market distinction. The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) was set up in 1970 and describes itself as a corporate-led foundation of more than 240 member-companies pledging one percent (1%) of their companies' net income before taxes for poverty reduction and committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR); it reports having supported 6,200 projects with 3,300 organizations and 4.5 million beneficiaries in 65 provinces.19 Since 2000, PBSP has been the most organized expression of the business sector's support for the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is also the League of Corporate Foundations which has been growing in number from around 60 members in 2005 to over 80 in 2010 which reflects both their access to corporate financial resources as well as the CSR trend.20

The nature of NGO funding sources and the corresponding process of fund-raising is potentially problematic where NGOs will be predisposed, consciously or unconsciously, to functioning within the political and economic spaces acceptable to the State and private enterprises that sponsor them – else these discretionary funds would just go to other NGOs who share the development paradigm espoused by government and big business. The reality is that organizations with the financial resources to spare for NGOs will generally be conservative and will not be inclined to be counter-hegemonic. Diverse funding sources with respective priorities and requirements will also tend to aggravate the fragmentation of NGOs who are already extremely diverse as it is in terms of lines of work and political orientation.

The chronic backwardness and underdevelopment in the country are conditions for the rise of radical alternatives outside the more accustomed forms of civil society and NGO social action. The mainstream Left in the Philippines – referring to the “national democrats” which still compose the largest and most organized Left formation in the country – is meaningful for remaining resilient in the face of “end of history” triumphalism. This bloc continues to work on the basis of an understanding of the structural problems of the country and the crisis of capitalism. It correspondingly still gives primacy to working class politics as the building blocks for wider social change which means a much greater emphasis on ideological work and organizing peasants, workers, national minorities and other oppressed groups into POs towards claiming political power rather than on service NGOs.

It is also important to emphasize that the conventional categorization of social forces being split into State, market and civil society is particularly inappropriate in the Philippine context which has armed revolutionary movements going back for at least four decades. The influence of these movements includes parallel governance structures in large portions of the country's territory.21 The biggest and most important are the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) that operates in 70 of 79 provinces across the country, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (MILF-BIAF) which is active in 14 provinces in the southern Philippines.22 These radical alternatives are objectively the strongest counterpoint to neocolonialism and capitalism in the country.

The CPP decries the “semicolonial and semifeudal” character of present-day Philippine society in which the Filipino people suffer from “foreign and feudal domination”.23 It declares that it is waging a “national democratic revolution” which, upon victory, will proceed to the “socialist revolution”. The integral components of its “protracted people's war” are explicit: “revolutionary armed struggle, land reform and mass-base building”. The CPP categorically opposes neoliberalism as imperialist globalization. The MILF's struggle on the other hand asserts political and military control over territories in Mindanao based on a legacy of protecting the ancestral domains of Moro sultanates there. The Moro struggle espouses the right to self-determination and the creation of an independent Bangsamoro homeland.

Historical sketch of Philippine NGOs

The Philippines has a long history of civil society organizations dating back to at least 19 century Spanish colonial times and early 20th century American colonization covering various church welfare groups, charities, cooperatives, anti-colonial/pro-independence resistance, peasant and labor groups, and other service groups.24 In terms of NGOs, the years immediately after the Second World War saw more welfare and civic organizations formed for post-war relief and rehabilitation for poor communities; many of these focused on children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. In the late 1940s and early 1950s some community development NGOs were set up in perceived Communist-influenced areas in the country's Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions to provide health, education and cooperative services and undercut support for the armed struggle.25 Among the most prominent anti-Communist NGOs set up in this period were the Jesuit-organized Institute for Social Order (ISO) in 1947 and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) in 1952. The early 1960s saw the start of family, corporate, and scientific foundations in the country.26

The contemporary history of civil society and NGOs in the Philippines however can be said to have begun during the Marcos regime from the late 1960s and especially upon Martial Law in the 1970s. While most NGOs remained characteristically welfare-oriented and non-activist social development organizations, a visible sub-section of progressive NGOs emerged in the 1970s and 1980s which did not just implement the usual socioeconomic and welfare projects but also widely propagandized and organized resistance to the regime in close coordination with POs. The external conditions were set by how revolutionary and anti-imperialist social movements were surging abroad and how the Catholic and Protestant churches adopted more socially progressive orientations after, respectively, Vatican II and exhortations by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Under this influence Filipino church-based NGOs became an important beachhead for the expansion of anti-dictatorship NGOs and POs.

Further momentum came from how the Filipino radical Left at the time did not just wage armed revolt but also underpinned legal aboveground opposition through civil society including NGOs. This period saw the mobilization of wide swathes of the population from the lower to the upper classes which combined with the Communist and Moro armed struggles to weaken and eventually overthrow the Marcos regime. Particularly notable and with implications until this day is how these Left-driven NGO and PO efforts were often expressly couched in terms of a larger struggle for systemic change which injected an activist dynamism and degree of counter-hegemonic ideology in generally conservative civil society and the public in general. For instance, the community-based health programs (CBHPs) set up by the religious Sisters of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) were explicit in their orientation: “The underlying causes of health problems in society are deeply embedded in the social, economic and political structures… The CBHP is [not] the answer to all health problems, but serves as a means to initiate social transformation.”27 The important role peasant- and trade union-linked NGOs and POs played in expanding political opposition to the dictatorship and even in supporting the armed struggles exemplifies their mobilizing potential. The late 1970s also saw innovations towards environmental, indigenous peoples, women, and migrant workers' issues and even cultural work.

But this was in the specific historical circumstances of Martial Law, an overt dictatorship and a single dominant channel – the radical Left which gave primacy to mass-based POs organized along class lines – to give vent to the impulse for change. The 1986 “People Power” uprising was quickly hailed as some kind of model for a peaceful transition from authoritarianism to democracy. It was also widely interpreted even in sections of radical Leftist circles as changing the nature of the Philippine state into one more pliable to social and economic reforms such as upon the influence of NGOs, POs and civil society in general. Indeed this was among the major orientational fault lines causing a split within the Communist Left between those who affirmed a “protracted people's war” strategy and those who entertained other paths to social and political change including, among others, more actively engaging the government to implement reforms in a process of gradual transforming the current elite democracy into a more participatory democracy.28

That premise of a more pliable State dovetailed with the emerging neoliberal governance paradigm of civil society as remedying authoritarianism, improving transparency and accountability, and leading to equitable economic development. Together they impelled the emergence of a systematic framework in the Philippines for NGOs to engage and participate in, rather than contest, the state.

This governance concept advanced on two fronts since the mid-1980s. From the foreign side, the United Nations (UN), international financial institutions (IFIs) and virtually every major government with neoliberal foreign policy objectives started promoting this notion. NGOs were portrayed as more deeply embedded in communities, innovative, cost effective and development-oriented than government agencies.

IFIs institutionalized mechanisms to engage civil society organizations (CSO) and NGOs. The case of the World Bank (WB) and ADB which are among the Philippines' biggest sources of official development aid is illustrative. The WB reports that “active CSO involvement” in its global operations has risen steadily “from 21% of the total number of projects in 1990 to 82% in 2009” and that “civil society participation occurs throughout the project cycle from the design and planning stages, to implementation and monitoring.”29 It also reports “civil society engagement in 75% of its loans, 87% of country assistance strategies, and 100% of poverty reduction strategy papers in the period 2007-2009”.30 The ADB in turn reports that 81% of its approved loans, grants and related technical assistance today included some form of CSO participation31; in 1990, only 5% of ADB loan approvals “involved NGOs directly in some manner”.32

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw tens of millions of dollars in overseas funding going to NGOs through various windows. Among others the WB gave a US$20 million “biodiversity conservation grant” for the NGOs for Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS) program and access to its Small Grants Fund. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had a US$25 million debt-for-nature arrangement with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) in 1993 aside from over US$30 million for co-financing NGOs in the period 1989-1996. The Canadian government gave US$15.3 million for the Diwata project and the Philippine Development Assistance Program (PDAP), the Swiss government gave US$25 million for the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) and so on.

On the domestic front, consecutive post-Marcos administrations built up institutional mechanisms for working with NGOs that established a framework for their participation in governance. The Corazon Aquino government (1986-1992) enshrined the role of NGOs and POs in Philippine development in three articles of the 1987 Constitution. Civil society was also formally given a role in local governance through the Local Government Code of 1991 which created local development councils that must include NGOs and POs (composing a quarter of its members) and gave NGOs positions in local school boards, health boards, peace and order councils, law enforcement boards, and procurement committees. NGO/PO liaison desks were also set up in the government's departments of agrarian reform, environment and natural resources and health.

The Ramos government (1992-1998) set up a National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) with formal NGO representation, organized a series of multisectoral summits on NGO issues such as the environment, poverty, food, water and peace, and drew up a Social Reform Agenda (SRA) comprehensively covering NGO concerns. CSOs were given spots in the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) which was actively used to coordinate work between these two branches of government. The Estrada (1998-2001), Arroyo (2001-2010) and Benigno Aquino, III (2010- ) governments did not introduce anything substantially new relative to NGOs but built on those previous efforts and further institutionalized them.

It is also notable that this series of administrations gave rising numbers of government positions to NGO leaders with long histories of political activism.33 These included Cabinet-rank positions in agrarian reform, social welfare, education, health, housing, peace and others aside from various national and regional posts.34 These NGO leaders kept their ties with NGOs and POs which served as important means by which to bring civil society on board in official programs and projects and hence give substance to the NGO/PO-related institutional mechanisms being put in place. NGOs were particularly visible in the implementation of agrarian reform communities, health service devolution, housing projects, environmental projects and indigenous people's programs.

NGOs apparently also financially benefited from such ties. A prominent controversy in this regard was in 2001 when CODE-NGO was accused of using its influence to make a government flotation of Treasury bonds more profitable in favour of a specific purchaser for which it received a large Php1.5 billion (US$29 million at prevailing exchange rates) commission for zero cash outlay. This was around the time that key CODE-NGO leaders held the top positions in the government's social welfare department, anti-poverty commission, urban poor commission, civil service commission and presidential management staff (aside from the CODE-NGO chair being the sister of the finance secretary).

The neoliberal governance paradigm, Philippine government civil society mechanisms, and greater NGO openness to work with government were conditions for the proliferation of NGOs in the post-Marcos dictatorship era and by one estimate the number of NGOs increased from an estimated 5,000 in 1986 to over 15,000 by the end of the decade.35

But it was not only that new NGOs were being formed – even erstwhile protest or activist NGOs were shifting towards socioeconomic programs and participating in government or official aid programs. There was a financial dynamic underpinning this. During the Marcos regime anti-dictatorship NGOs were able to access foreign funding from politically-sympathetic international NGOs, church-based funding agencies, solidarity groups and even political parties. This type of funding dried up upon the “democratic space” of the Corazon Aquino government – often replaced by official government sources – and the demand was increasingly for so-called concrete or tangible gains that were not always compatible with the priorities of NGOs seeking structural change.

Indeed there was also an ideological dynamic. Left-leaning groups that eschewed armed struggle replaced this with, in effect, an approach of seeking an accumulation of social, political and economic changes through alliances with perceived reformist wings of the local bourgeoisie and landlords as well as through electoral victories.36 Mass-based organizations are still invoked as the axis of struggles but these are not developed as units of democratic political power for eventually replacing the State but rather as vital points of leverage with which to modify the functioning of the existing elite-dominated State. This trend arguably also reduced the activism and militancy of the portion of the country's social movement that relied on these NGOs for intellectual direction and that correspondingly also bought into the poverty alleviation, sustainable development, participatory democracy and good governance agenda.

In any case it is clear that NGOization in the Philippines was mainly upon the initiative and according to the terms set by the government and international agencies which goes far in explaining the inherently conservative tendencies of NGOs as a whole. It can also be put forward that the way NGOization has developed has created tendencies toward political demobilization and atomistic communities. First is how accepting domestic or foreign official funding could, even inadvertently, diminish NGO independence and their taking up systemic concerns. Second is how NGOs may find themselves entangled in the intrinsic bureaucracies of government or official agencies which further strains their already scarce resources and attention. Third is how the communities the NGOs service may themselves get caught up in a reactionary fund-driven dynamic where they become preoccupied with short-term material benefits and disinclined towards the painstaking efforts needed for structural change and longer-lasting gains; the bias moreover is for self-help rather than farther-reaching collective efforts. This is reinforced by how the immediate gains from externally-funded NGO projects and mechanisms will often surpass those from merely internally-financed but collective efforts. And fourth is how competition for finite funding even means that NGOs, and communities, are in effect competing with each other for this.

NGOization today

Developments during the current administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III which came to power in mid-2010 affirm the continuation of decades-long trends. Among the high-level positions going to NGO leaders are the social welfare department, national anti-poverty commission, human rights commission and presidential adviser for political affairs. The Akbayan Party which was formed by various NGO leaders – some of whom now hold Cabinet-level positions – is also in coalition with Pres. Aquino's traditional political party the Liberal Party.

The current government also shows how NGOs and community projects are used against challenges to the State. This phenomenon takes sharpest form in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) latest internal security plan for 2011-2016 Bayanihan.37 The plan declares taking a “Whole of Nation Approach [and] People-Centered Security/Human Security Approach” with “community-based peace and development efforts” as one of its four strategic concepts (the others being military operations, peace processes, and internal AFP reforms). “NGOs, POs and CSOs” are explicitly defined as responders astride the government's military and civilian agencies and are declared “indispensable [in filling the gaps] in the dispensation of tasks and functions of national government agencies and local government units.”38

The result is that NGOs are partners in the implementation of the PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan, or Peaceful and Prosperous Community) and KALAHI-CIDSS (Kapitbisig Laban sa Kahirapan [or Linking Arms Against Poverty]-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services) community development components of the AFP's counterinsurgency program. PAMANA is a tentatively Php90 billion (US$2.1 billion at current exchange rates) four-year program of cash transfers, livelihood projects, post-harvest facilities and road works in armed conflict areas; the WB-supported KALAHI-CIDSS is a smaller Php9.3 billion (US$216 million) program of community education, health, water, farming, access, electrification and environmental infrastructure projects.

On the face of it the projects are not undesirable and do meet real local needs. The overall motive becomes suspect though inasmuch as they are implemented selectively in armed conflict areas and in the absence of more far-reaching structural changes with longer-lasting benefits. At the local level, such changes could include speedy and free distribution of land to decisively break rural monopolies; at the national level there could be the reversal of destructive neoliberal policies implemented over decades.

The record of the military itself that NGOs are now working with remains questionable: the human rights group Karapatan reports that violations have continued with 64 extrajudicial killings and nine enforced disappearances so far under the new Aquino administration; the number of political prisoners continues to rise to 356 already. Rural communities continue to suffer forced evacuation due to combat operations with many thousands of families recently displaced from villages in Surigao del Sur, Negros Oriental, Davao Oriental, Agusan del Norte and North Cotabato. These give rise to criticisms that these projects with NGOs merely seek to undermine community support for the rebel groups and cover up for continuing rights abuses by the military.

The Aquino administration's flagship anti-poverty program also shows how NGOs can be used to make neoliberal policies more acceptable. Some 370 accredited NGOs are participating in a multi-year Php307 billion (US$7.1 billion at current exchange rates) WB- and ADB-supported Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program conditional cash transfer (CCT) scheme. Beneficiary families will receive cash grants of up Php15,000 (US$349) per year upon compliance with certain education and health conditions. However this relief for poor families is in the context of unreformed neoliberal economic policies that cause the poverty to begin with so the net effect is a temporary dole-out to mitigate the adverse social consequences of these policies and rationalize their continued implementation.

The affinity of CCTs to neoliberalism is evident. They are justified as 'efficient' in focusing on 'deserving poor', children are 'human capital' to be invested in for their future income-generating capacity, and the role of 'individual responsibility' in social poverty is overstressed – while the government is excused for privatizing essential social services because the welfare intervention has shifted to selective cash transfers.

It is worth mentioning that the protracted global crisis may have implications for civil society in general and NGOs in particular. There are two contradictory tendencies. On one hand, the crisis will strain the government funding and private resources that have so far been directed to NGOs in support of state-civil society interaction and “participatory democracy”.

NGOs as a whole have already been facing an increasingly difficult funding environment since the start of the 2000s. For instance, net official development assistance (ODA) loan commitments to the Philippines which has been a major source of funding for NGOs, directly and indirectly, has fallen by 24% between 2001 (US$13.2 billion) and 2010 (US$10.1 billion).39 There are no similarly precise figures for grant funding from Northern NGO donors to Philippine NGOs although the general consensus is that the global funding slump is well-reflected in the country which has driven many NGOs to seek alternative sources and even compete with other NGOs.40 NGO activities are unfortunately not self-sustaining and dependent on what is essentially discretionary funding and so could be among the first to suffer cutbacks in public and private sector budgets.

On the other hand, civil society and at least some NGOs may yet be encouraged as a countervailing force or social escape valve to undercut the further development of radical alternatives upon worsening social and economic conditions. It is also possible for government-aligned NGOs and POs to be used to justify the imposition of further neoliberal policy measures such as higher taxes ostensibly for state-provided social services and even outright austerity on public education, health and housing services.

Philippine neocolonialism and underdevelopment

NGOs and civil society are frequently construed as institutional mechanisms by which the poor, vulnerable and marginalized can empower themselves, improve their conditions and even challenge structural inequities and exploitation. An accounting of NGO projects, civil society efforts and community beneficiaries would doubtless show quantitative increases over the past decades. But notwithstanding such an aggregation, overall socioeconomic and political outcomes in the Philippines are consistent with just narrow and localized NGO gains amid more generalized social, economic and political disempowerment.

Civil society and NGOs have been absorbed into the margins of policy-making and implementation, especially their social welfare and social mobilization components, but the fundamental policies that truly define the economy and its arc remain in the hands of accustomed domestic and foreign power elites. The direction of development policy has not changed hence the persistence of poverty and backwardness.

NGOs have been increasingly involved in the formulation of the country's periodic medium-term development plans. Former president Ferdinand Marcos' 1978-1982 and 1983-1987 plans at most mentioned “participatory schemes for the broader base of society will be developed, principally through the rural cooperatives, barangay, and youth mobilization programs”.41 While NGOs rapidly grew under Pres. Corazon Aquino her 1987-1992 plan still only had a generic “All sectors of society, public or private, shall be consulted to the fullest extent to obtain their opinions and positions on matters related hereto”.42

By Pres. Fidel Ramos' 1993-1998 plan however the government declared: “The plan shall be formulated in close collaboration with other agencies of the executive branch, the legislative branch and private/non-government sectors.”43 Pres. Joseph Estrada's 1999-2004 plan went even further and said “Civil society will complement and possibly substitute for the efforts of government in areas where it is deemed more effective and efficient.”44 Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's 2004-2010 plan mentioned civil society and NGOs prominently in its chapters on environment and natural resources, housing, labor, anti-poverty, elections, peace process, national reconciliation, rule of law, science and technology, culture, anti-corruption, national security and constitutional reforms.45

Current Pres. Benigno Aquino, III came to power on a platform of “good governance” which is reflected in the overall thrust of its 2011-2016 plan.46 His plan declares: “A big part of the solution to the governance problem however lies outside government itself and involves the active participation of private business, civil society and the media… This gives “voice” to people, enables civil society and the media to become partners of government, and makes the government more responsive to the needs of citizens.” The plan was drawn up in close consultation with civil society and NGOs but remains thoroughgoingly neoliberal and proposes even more free market policies for the country.47

Economic outcomes have remained poor despite greater civil society and NGO participation and engagement in socioeconomic policy-making – in the periodic medium-term plans, in program and project implementation, in assorted consultative summits, in local government bodies, and actually holding high Cabinet positions.

The Philippines is the twelfth largest country in the world with its population of some 94 million. Though classified by the WB as a lower middle-income country it still ranks among the world's poorest by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita at 131st out of 190 countries.48 In 2009, some 65 million or 70% of Filipinos lived off Php104 (US$2.20) or even much less per day.49 Inequality remains as bad as in the mid-1980s notwithstanding two-and-a-half decades of supposedly increasing democratization: the highest income 20% of the population corners over half of total family income (52%) while the remaining poorest 80% divide the leftover 48 percent. Strikingly, the net worth of the twenty-five richest Filipinos continues to rise and at Php1,021 billion in 2009 (US$21.4 billion) is almost equivalent to the combined annual income of the country's poorest fifty-five million Filipinos (Php1,029 billion).

Filipino producers have suffered under imperialist globalization policies that gave up trade protection and investment support, opened up the national economy, and integrated key sectors into the global economy. The share of manufacturing in the economy is as low as in the 1950s or half a century ago; the share of agriculture is down to the smallest in the country's history. This deprives millions of Filipinos of the opportunity for decent work, livelihoods and their means of subsistence. The period 2001-2010 was the worst decade of joblessness in the country's history with average annual unemployment of over 11% and underemployment of 19 percent – forcing some 9.5 million Filipinos, or roughly a tenth of the population, overseas for work.

The rural poor meanwhile still suffer backward agricultural systems and feudal relations.50 Despite decades of successive agrarian reform programs overseen by former NGO leaders over half of all farms and total farm area in the country remain under tenancy, lease, and other forms of tenurial arrangement (52%). Less than a third of landowners still own more than 80% of agricultural land. Half of all farms still rely on hand tools, ploughs and water buffalos and only 30% of the total farm area is irrigated.

If anything, the NGO language of alternative development has been used by the government to embellish its socioeconomic policies and bolster the notion that technical solutions to the intrinsic problems and contradictions of the system are possible and, indeed, can be initiated by the oligarchic state. The 2011-2016 Philippine development plan for instance talks about “human rights, cultural sensitivity, gender equality, people empowerment and sustainable development” and decries the “perennial condition of poverty, inequity and lagging human development” but seeks to solve this merely through “massive investment in physical infrastructure [and] transparent and responsive governance”.51

Political outcomes have likewise remained poor despite greater civil society and NGO participation and engagement in various aspects of democratic governance – civil society and the NGO sector has not just been active during national and local elections, including presidential elections, but have also formed new political parties and entered into coalitions with traditional ones. Major NGO networks and prominent leaders actively campaigned for or otherwise supported recent presidents.52

Yet political parties in the country still lack substance, the electoral system remains corrupted and shallow, key government positions remain in the hands of local elites, and the military establishment is still tasked to attack the most active democratic forces in the country (as shown in its record of human rights violations discussed above). This is not to say that traditional elites have not had to adjust to a situation where civil society and NGOs are marginally more prominent and engaged in governance than before – only that despite this situation their hold on power remains consolidated and unthreatened.

The most recent national elections in May 2010 for instance did not see a significant departure from the country's tradition of elected national and local leaders coming from the ranks of established structures of power and patronage. The popularly elected president hails from one of the country's oldest political and landlord families. The country's peasants, workers, urban poor, indigenous peoples and other marginalized sectors meanwhile remain grossly underrepresented in the elected government including the presidency, vice-presidency, Senate, House of Representatives, and local government units.

There is actually even violent resistance to political incursions by the Left at even just the congressional and local levels – it is telling of the rigidity and resistance of oligarchic rule that, as reported by rights group Karapatan, over 200 members of Left-leaning partylist groups have been assassinated in the last decade. The external features of democracy such as regular, high-turnout and citizen action-intensive elections coexist with deep social cleavages, economic backwardness and lack of real sovereignty.

It is also noteworthy that United States (US) “democracy promotion” – a key soft power instrument of the US for stabilizing the global capitalist order – has included support to Philippine NGOs across a wide range of “good governance” areas. These projects have spanned electoral processes, good governance, anti-corruption reforms, building the legal system, assisting law enforcement agencies, promoting a free press, local governance and decentralization.

All this has given domestic elite economics and politics a human face, more democratic flavour and development façade. Yet post-1986/Marcos dictatorship Philippine governments clearly retain their elite character and do not confront the powerful local and imperialist interests that benefit from unimplemented land reform, non-industrialization, wage repression and liberalization of trade, investment and finance. The last three decades of thriving NGOs and increasing state-civil society interaction in the country has seen continued implementation and deepening of neoliberal “free market” policies of imperialist globalization. The Ramos government for instance actively courted civil society, as discussed above, but this administration also saw the most extensive implementation of neoliberal policies of any post-Marcos government with liberalization of trade, investments, infrastructure, oil, telecommunications, airways, shipping, foreign exchange and banking. The current Aquino government in turn, despite the accumulated failures of neoliberal globalization globally and domestically, is set to push free market policies even further.


The Philippine experience over the last decades fits well with a view of neoliberalism as post-Cold War neocolonialism and imperialist domination: opening up markets to foreign plunder, consolidating capitalist market processes and structures, and promoting Western liberal democracy and free elections. The civil society and NGO trend has gained much traction in the course of the neoliberal policy offensive since the 1980s and especially after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Social forces in the country spanning the traditional to ideologically-driven counter-hegemonic movements have all seen opportunities in NGOs. NGOs have accordingly flourished and now provide services and even engage in portions of governance to an unprecedented degree. And yet the country remains deeply underdeveloped.

The Philippine experience with NGOs can be taken as showing their dual character in relation to social transformation. On one hand, they are vehicles for people to mobilize and act on issues and concerns beyond their immediate families and selves. They can potentially support larger struggles for political and economic change as well as deliver concrete benefits at the community level, as they notably did during the Marcos dictatorship. They have a progressive potential to spur change in this regard.

On the other hand, their service character predisposes them to seeking immediate and concrete gains which is not necessarily undesirable in itself but can have unintended adverse consequences. Two possibilities are particularly problematic. First, in terms of orientation, NGOs may give undue emphasis on parochial community concerns rather than real and sustained political engagement whose gains will only be realized over the long-term. Second, in terms of practice, the chronic need for the funding necessary to deliver services could cause undue reliance on conservative funding sources – such as governments and corporations – and result in a correspondingly conservative political stance. These could diffuse dissent to the extent that people are diverted from political struggles to NGOs or are reduced to merely seeking marginal benefits amid an enduring inequitable state of affairs.

The crucial element appears to be the extent to which there are genuinely mass-based initiatives, efforts and struggles outside of the unavoidably conformist framework that NGOs are predisposed to – as ever, mass-based organizations are the fundamental dynamic creating the foundations and setting the pace and direction of the overall struggle for social transformation. The challenge is for such organizations to be stronger, have deeper roots among the people, and be more engaged in ideological, political and economic struggles than NGOs whose gains are inherently limited and which can at most have only a subsidiary role.

The global crisis of capitalism is the most important economic feature affecting the Philippine situation in the coming period and aggravates the chronic domestic crisis of backwardness and underdevelopment. These create the overall conditions for an accelerated resurgence of social and mass movements struggling against entrenched foreign-backed domestic elites. Long-standing poverty and inequality can only worsen which will further underscore the structural nature of the problem.

The country fortunately remains the site of a vigorous Leftist urban and rural mass movement and of armed revolutionary struggles with embryonic political power in areas removed from government control. Those forces are the most effective counters to any reactionary influence by NGOs and civil society and are the most important means for ensuring that impulses for social reform, such as find expression in NGOs, are directed towards struggles for revolutionary change.###


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This article was originally published by Zed Books in NGOization: Complicity, Contradictions and Prospects edited by Aziz Choudry and Dip Kapoor. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.
1 See Asian Development Bank (2007), “Civil Society Brief: Philippines”, ADB NGO and Civil Society Center, December 2007 and World Bank (2005), “Stocktaking of Social Accountability Initiatives in the Asia and Pacific Region”, The World Bank Institute – Community Empowerment and Social Inclusion Learning Program (CESI).
2 These are the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PHILDHRRA), Philippine Support Services Agencies (PHILSSA), Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), National Council for Social Development (NCSD), National Confederation of Cooperatives in the Philippines (NATCCO) and the Association of Foundations (AF).
3 This is how Philippine civil society is characterized in: USAID (2011), USAID in the Philippines: 50 Years of Partnership for Peace and Development, 2011; World Bank (2010), World Bank Country Assistance Strategy for the Philippines (FY 2010-2012); and Freedom House (2007), Countries at the Crossroads 2007: Country Report-Philippines, 2007,
4 Songco, D A (2007), “The Evolution of NGO Accountability Practices and their Implications on Philippine NGOs: A literature review and options paper for the Philippine Council for NGO Certification”.
5 ADB (2007), op cit.
6 World Bank (2012), “The Role of Non-Profit Organizations in Development: the Experience of the World Bank”,,,contentMDK:20507529~isCURL:Y~menuPK:1278313~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:410306,00.html, accessed February 1, 2012.
7 Philippine Council for NGO Certification (2011), “Philippine Council for NGO Certification: Background and Rationale”,, accessed December 29, 2011.
8 Tuaño, P (2011), “Philippine Non-government Organizations (NGOs): Contributions, Capacities, Challenges” in Yu Jose, L N (ed) (2011), Civil Society Organizations in the Philippines, A Mapping and Strategic Assessment, Civil Society Resource Institute (CSRI).
9 Ibid.
10 Estimate of NGO employment from Tuaño (2011), op cit and of public sector employment and total employment from the 2011 Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the National Statistics Office (NSO).
11 Association of Foundations (2001), Philippine NGOs: A Resource Book of Social Development NGOs, 2001 and Tuaño (2011), op cit.
12 Association of Foundations (2001), op cit.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and Caucus of Development NGO Networks (2011), Civil Society Index: Philippines – An Assessment of Philippine Civil Society.
16 Ibid.
17 CIVICUS (2011), op cit.
18 See for instance European Commission (2002), Participation of Non-State Actors in EC Development Policy.
19 CODE-NGO (2012), “Members: Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP)”,, accessed February 1, 2012.
20 Tuaño (2011), op cit.
21 United Nations Children's Fund (2007), Uncounted Lives: Children, Women and Armed Conflict in the Philippines and Human Development Network (2005), Philippine Human Development Report 2005: Peace, Human Security and Human Development in the Philippines.
22 Santos, S M, Santos, P V, Dinampo, O A, Kraft H J S, Paredes, A K R and Quilop, R J G (2010), Primed And Purposeful: Armed Groups And Human Security Efforts in the Philippines.
23 This discussion of strategy draws from Armando Liwanag, Chairman, Central Committee, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), “Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought as Guide to the Philippine Revolution”, Contribution to the International Seminar on Mao Zedong Thought, November 6-7, 1993.
24 ADB (2007), op cit.
25 Management Systems Advancement, Inc. (2000), “The roles of Northern NGO activities directed at poverty reduction through service delivery and income generation”, Paper for the Danida Seminar on ”Civil Society in the South in the 21st Century: Governments and NGOs, Which Roles?”, January 2000.
26 Ibid.
27 Council for Health and Development (1998), “25 Years of Commitment and Service to the People Onward with the Struggle for Social Change!”.
28 See for instance Santos, S M (2005), “Evolution of the Armed Conflict on the Communist Front”, Background Paper for the Philippine Human Development Report 2005.
29 World Bank (2011a), “WB and Civil Society: Frequently Asked Questions”,,,contentMDK:20093224~menuPK:225318~pagePK:220503~piPK:220476~theSitePK:228717,00.html, accessed December 29, 2011.
30 World Bank (2009), World Bank-Civil Society Engagement: A Review of Years 2007-2009, World Bank (WB) Civil Society Team.
31 Asian Development Bank (2011a), “ADB and Civil Society: Overview”,, accessed December 29, 2011.
32 Asian Development Bank (2011b), “The Bank's Experience with NGOs”,, accessed Dec 29, 2011.
33 See for instance ADB (2007), op cit, Racelis, M (2000), “New Visions and Strong Actions: Civil Society in the Philippines”, in Ottaway, M and Carothers, T (eds) (2000), Funding Virtue; Civil Society Aid and Democracy Promotion, 2000, and Wurfel, D (2002), “Civil Society and Democratization in the Philippines”, March 2002.
34 Some examples of prominent NGO personalities in government included Juan Flavier as health secretary during the Corazon Aquino government, PBSP's Ernesto Garilao as agrarian reform secretary during the Ramos government, PRRM's Horacio Morales as agrarian reform secretary during the Estrada government, CODE-NGO's Corazon Soliman as social welfare secretary, and long-time NGO activist Ronald Llamas as presidential adviser on political affairs in the Benigno Aquino, III government.
35 Management Systems Advancement, Inc. (2000), op cit.
36 Exemplified by the Akbayan Citizen's Action Party project of the so-called independent and democratic socialists and ex-popular democrats. Santos (2005), op cit.
37 Armed Forces of the Philippines (2011), Internal Peace and Security Plan.
38 Ibid.
39 National Economic and Development Authority (2011a), CY 2010 ODA Portfolio Review, 2011.
40 CIVICUS (2011), op cit and Tuaño, P (2011), op cit.
41 Sicat, G (1979), “The Five- and Ten-Year Development Plan, 1978-82 and 1978-87”, January 1979.
42 Philippines (1986), Memorandum Circular No. 4 - Directing the Formulation of the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan for 1987-1992, Manila, March 18, 1986.
43 Philippines (1997), Memorandum Circular No. 166 - Directing the Formulation of the Philippine National Development Plan for the 21st Century, Manila, August 21, 1997.
44 National Economic and Development Authority (1999), Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, 1999-2004.
45 National Economic and Development Authority (2004), Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, 2004-2010.
46 National Economic and Development Authority (2004), Philippine Development Plan, 2011-2016.
47 IBON (2011, June), “The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016: Social Contract With Whom?”, June 21, 2011.
48 World Bank (2011b). Data from, accessed December 29, 2011.
49 Country socioeconomic data in this paragraph and the next are from IBON (2011, January), “Yearend 2010: Real Change, or More of the Same?”, January 13, 2011 and IBON (2011, July) “Midyear 2011: Failing Economy, Growing Disenchantment”, July 14, 2011.
50 Agricultural data in this paragraph from IBON (2011, November), “Submission by IBON Foundation, a Philippine NGO, to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines during the 13th UPR Session (21st May 1st June 2012)”, November 28, 2011.
51 National Economic and Development Authority (2011b), Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016.
52 For example PRRM's Horacio Morales campaigned for Pres. Estrada and became agrarian reform secretary, CODE-NGO supported Pres. Arroyo and took a number of Cabinet positions, Akbayan campaigned for Pres. Aquino and its NGO leaders are likewise in the Cabinet.