It seems extraordinary that the communist insurgency in the Philippines has survived the test of time. Maybe next to North Korea or Cuba, Philippine communists still believe that their century old system that has long abandoned by hardcore communists like Russia and China, will still work.
Philippine communists -except for their leaders who are exiled comfortably in first world countries – have long suffered living in unthinkable exisitence. They have engaged the Philippine military in a cat and mouse battle for more than 40 decades without any relevant victory. Legendary leaders like Ka Popoy Lagman and Ka Roger shined and disappeared but never able to leave any dent on the stubborn capitalist Philippine society. The basic battle cries that the communist movement howled for decades remain empty and unresolved causes – genuine land reform, higher wages for workers, justice for the masses. Now, Philippine communists are left out in the cold- especially when the separatist muslim rebels in the south are now promised power sharing by the Philippine government.
It is rather boring than sickening. Frustrating than enraging. Pushing the communist cause in the Philippines seemed to have become a lonely cause.
But whether we judge the Philippine communist movement as a spent force, it cannot be denied that they are still a force to recon with. In 2008, the Philippine military estimated the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA) which is the military arm of the Philippine communist movement at around 4,900 members, significantly down from 26,000 at its peak in the 1980s. In addition, they claim that the NPAs are still active in 10 of 81 Philippine provinces.
It is not hard to imagine that the remnants of a once-raging revolution are barely surviving. They are being hunted down by both the military and police forces on a day to day basis. They scour the hills and mountains for safe havens now that masses seem not to care them (they could be busy solving their own poverty and will only support the NPAs for fear of their lives). Survival in this situation entails sabre -rattling- meaning they have to impose “revolution taxes” on legitimate business that are plying the NPA-controlled provinces.
Regardless of their current state, the cause of Philippine communists seems to be an undying one. So if they cannot stop being social outsiders, they might as well learn how to be truly self-sustaining and helpful to the Philippine masses.
What if the Philippine communists try going to business for a change? Why don’t they take advantage of their strong points and go into countryside micro- financing?
Now before you bewail this seemingly outrageous idea, consider these things first:
1. A major ill of the Philippine farming community is the lack of a genuine pro-farmer financing program. Farmers are always placed in the disadvantage as loansharks and big-time traders get the most of the earnings. Loansharks provide the needed to farmers to buy seedlings, fertilisers, etc. On the other hand, big-time traders make a killing by buying the farmer’s produce at the cheapest rate. As a result, farmers are left with a small income after paying the loansharks.
2. Farmer families are not able to acquire farmlands. Even if they have become agrarian reform beneficiaries, the lack of capital have forced them to sell their farmlands or mortgage it to loansharks at exorbitant interests. As such, farmers are neck-deep in loans and have to pay for it for the rest of their lives.
3. The lack of financing constrains farmer families to migrate to the cities where they actually suffer the worst of abuses. Farmer’s children are forced into abusive labor conditions (if not inhumane work conditions). As a result, farm lands are abandoned and the Philippine masses are discouraged to farm and would rather go for the high yielding high risk city jobs.
The Philippine communist can very well help in this aspect, without compromising their ideology. They need to realise that they have these specific advantages:
a.) With the sheer number of potential financing clients estimated at 5 million farmer families in the Philippines, their business will surely prosper. Imagine if they only charge a minuscule interest, they can still earn a windfall of profits. Unlike their competitors, they have grassroots organisation that reaches down to the masses. They can reach farmer families even in the hinterlands. NPA regulars and sympathisers can be good loan coordinators and collectors.
b.) With their existing armed manpower, loan collection is far better than any collecting agency in the country. Even the motorcycling Bombays are no match for the AK-47 carrying NPA collector. What more, if they debtors do not pay, the NPA’s brand of judicial action for collection (“Kangaroo court’) is faster than any summary proceeding in Philippine courts.
c.) And lastly, who do you think will compete with the NPA? Will the major banking corporations like Metrobank and BPI dare to compete with them?
Now, maybe after the NPA becomes very successful in this financial business venture, it can finally change its name to National Puhunan Administration.