Friday, 27 July 2012

Documentary on the Philippines Peoples War


The Philippines has a history few would envy. Colonised by the Spanish, then the Americans whom fought an extremely brutal counter insurgency campaign to keep the native population from establishing independent states on the Islands rather then become incorporated into the USA. Estimates of Filipino civilian dead run as high as 1.5 Million and one General Jacob H. Smith issued the order to "Kill everyone over ten". The destruction of homes and settlements suspected of harbouring insurgents was also a common tactic. 

After that bloody episode the Americans left to be replaced by the Japanese, whom somehow despite publicly professing to be building an Asian "CO-Prosperity" alliance managed to treat non Japanese Asians so bad that most Nationalist Guerilla's (Like Ho Chi Minh in Indo-China) ended up allying with the remnants of there American and European oppressors. Then the Americans come back, but after 1945 formal Empires were no longer in style, and its hard to claim with a straight face to be defending the freedom of the globe from Red Tyranny whilst still directly subjugating land masses (apparently Puerto Rico doesn't count). 

Yes the treaty of Manila (1946) gave the Pinoy's and Moro's what they wanted (officially) formal independence. Of course like most Third World former colonies that had there freedom "generously" given to them from there oppressors it wasn't long before they were ensnared in a web of subservience via one sided trade agreements, close relationships between governments, military aide and good old fashioned corruption at the top of the Public and Private sector. The government of Philippines has been consistently two things, Pro-Washington, and corrupt. The last President Arroyo along with many high ranking staff she appointed has been found guilty of corruption. Understandably the ordinary citizens aren't to happy with these events and with the "Democratic" process shut down thanks to big brown envelopes and briefcases changing hands more then a few reached for there pitch forks. Then sold them for money to buy Ak-47's, a Peoples War had begun.

 This People's War has been going on since 1969, like many Communist Guerilla movements it declined as the Cold War ended in the 1990's but seems to have picked up again as the New Peoples Army (NPA) seems to be getting more active in recent years. Of course being an illegal band of rebels its difficult to get any exact information. The NPA have a vested interest in making themselves look stronger then they may be and the Army and Intelligence Agency manhunts for members make it unlikely many members will come out of the jungles and valleys to have a nice face to face interveiw backed up with a snazzy powerpoint demonstration. 

But Ulat ng Digmang Bayan (Report of a People's War)- NPA in Southern Mindanao a very well made short documentary on the NPA does a very good job of presenting some interesting facts. Many of the speakers claims are difficult to verify of course but the actual imagery of Guerilla camps and the level of equipment they can get there hands on does seem to confirm there claims to have liberated small numbers of high end military equipment. And there ability to organise training courses even if on abstract political theory shows they've maintained an impressive level of organisation given the pressure they must be under to maintain secrecy and mobility should government forces discover them and mobilise for an offensive. And it also shows that morale must be pretty high to maintain those levels of sophistication and keep up those "advances" and operations, especially given that the opening skirmishes where all the way back in 69.

And to make matters worse for the Presidential Palace in Manila, the NPA and the Communist Party seem to have been busy making new friends. Both are partners in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a very broad and large coalition that includes opposition parties, Unions civil societies and even a church.  And to make matters worse the NPA isn't the only armed group ambushing army trucks and nicking lost rifles. Islamist groups are also in operation mainly in Moro as part of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and with a presence in the Moro National Liberation Front. Sadly I don't have any documentaries detailing those groups but for those who'd like to know more about them I can recommend the Accidental Guerilla.

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