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Was the Left Left Behind at EDSA I ?

Question from Juan Sarmiento Jr.,
Editor, Talk of the Town,
Philippine Daily Inquirer
17 February 2006

We have already interviewed some people for an article, but we feel that we should get your views on "whether the Left was left behind at Edsa." There's the view that the national democratic movement and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were not a decisive force at Edsa. Do you think that the CPP leadership then was caught flatfooted by Edsa and the ouster of Marcos? Why or why not?

ANSWER of JOSE MARIA SISON, Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines & NDFP Chief Political Consultant

It is factually wrong and unhistorical to air brush from the so-called Edsa I the two reality levels of what is loosely called Left: the protracted people's war led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (you may call it the underground Left) and the legal patriotic and progressive forces (the legal Left) of the national democratic movement best represented by BAYAN.

You cannot deny that the Left, especially the armed revolutionary movement, had consistently fought the Marcos fascist dictatorship since long before the US, the Catholic hierarchy and the Enrile-Ramos-RAM tandem decided to junk Marcos in the wake of the Aquino assassination that paved the way for the Aquino presidential candidacy. The US and most of the local reactionary forces supported Marcos for a long time and decided to get rid of him only when they feared that the people, the Left and even a substantial part of the Aquino electoral following would move together in a direction threatening to the life of the entire ruling system.

You must take into account the long-term importance of the Left in the struggle against the Marcos autocracy. The boycott policy of the CPP was a tactical error for the duration of the presidential electoral campaign in 1986 because it separated the CPP-led masses from the bigger masses that attended the pro-Aquino electoral rallies. An informal alliance with Aquino could still be maintained even as she had come under the advice of the US (specifically Richard Holbrooke, Ambassador Bosworth and the Manila CIA station chief) in November 1985 to keep the Left out of her campaign organization and even as she had snubbed all approaches of BAYAN for a formal alliance after her meeting with Holbrooke..

You must distinguish the boycott policy from the decision of the CPP to call for the immediate overthrow of the Marcos fascist regime after the snap election in which Marcos won by Comelec count and by Batasang Pambansa proclamation, as the CPP had predicted. The CPP decision to call for the overthrow of Marcos because of electoral fraud came ahead of Aquino's call for civil disobedience and the CBCP pastoral letter denouncing the Marcos regime as illegitimate and immoral.

The CPP contributed immensely to the success of the mass uprisings at Edsa and elsewhere by calling on the masses in the rural and urban masses to participate and by asking allied forces to do their best. The CPP was not at all permanently disabled by its previous boycott policy and by the failure of the leadership to see clearly before and during the electoral campaign that the US had pushed Marcos to call for snap election so that he would subsequently be overthrown for electoral cheating, as in the earlier case of Duvalier in Haiti.

Now, we focus on the days of February 22 to 25, from the day that the RAM coup attempt failed until the people's mass uprising cum military withdrawal of support succeeded in overthrowing Marcos. Cardinal Sin and CBCP were decisive in using Radio Veritas and the broadcast facilities of the Communications Foundation of Asia to call on the people to give succour to Enrile, Ramos and the RAM after their failed coup attempt. BAYAN was decisive in rallying its organized masses immediately to the front of Isetann Cubao upon the call of Butz Aquino for help. It constituted the hard core of the masses (at least 20 per cent of the entire masses) at Edsa at the peak. Five hundred members of BAYAN Quezon City accompanied Colonel Santiago to capture the TV Channel 4 compound. After the transfer of Enrile, Ramos and RAM from Camp Aguinaldo to Camp Crame, Bayan chairman former Senator Tanada and other BAYAN leaders were at the planning room in Camp Crame until the US helicopter rescued Marcos and his family and staff from the irate masses at the gates of the palace..

Edsa I uprising was not limited to Edsa. You should not airbrush the masses led by the progressive religious of CNL, the KMU and LFS who concentrated on Mendiola and then on the gates of the presidential palace after they valiantly did away with the barricades. If those that assembled at Edsa were decisive in protecting the failed coup leaders, rallying the biggest mass of demonstrators and encouraging the military to withdraw support from Marcos, those that assembled in front of the palace were decisive in compelling Marcos to flee after a RAM-piloted helicopter dropped grenades on the palace roof and the US announced that it would withdraw military support from Marcos should he use force to stay in power. At any rate, Ambassador Boswell, the CIA station chief and General Ileto were busy from day 1 of the Edsa I days, tying the hands of Marcos according to instructions from Philip Habib who was the crisis manager at the level of the US National Security Council.

Also, the people's uprising was not limited to the national capital region. BAYAN had the most organized masses rising up against the Marcos fascist dictatorship and neutralizing the pro-Marcos local officials in so many provincial capitals, cities and key municipalities. BAYAN Angeles City stopped on its tracks the tank convoy of General Palafox. General Renato de Villa put his command and personnel in alliance with BAYAN Bicol in order to serve notice to Marcos that Edsa had a deep reserve in the provinces.

Let us recap and go comprehensive. What was the most decisive force or what were the most decisive forces in the overthrow of Marcos? I would point to the broad masses of the people that showed up at Edsa and before presidential palace. But I dare not single out any of the organized forces as the most decisive, without clear qualification. It was a convergence of various forces that overthrew the Marcos regime. Various forces were decisive in their respective ways.

The legal and illegal Left were most important and decisive in contributing the most tested and most organized masses that served as hard core of the broad masses at Edsa and elsewhere. But certainly the most decisive in emasculating Marcos within the ruling system and at the same time keeping the ruling system intact were the US, the Catholic hierarchy, the business groups, Aquino and her followers and those high Marcos bureaucrats and military officers who turned against Marcos.

Among those who have been most active in denying the important role of the CPP and the national democratic movement in seeking to overthrow Marcos before and during Edsa I are some elements who betrayed the CPP by undertaking the bloody witchhunts in Mindanao and elsewhere, tried to cover these up with the myth that the boycott policy was a timeless strategic error and exaggerated the capacity of the Left to take power or share power with Aquino at the time of Edsa I. There are also elements who consider themselves as Left and yet exaggerate their self-importance by attacking the CPP and boasting of their success as job seekers within the ruling system of big compradors and landlords or as imperialist-funded NGO racketeers. Still other anti-CPP elements see no merit in the CPP at all because they are in fact die-hards of the ruling system. ###

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