On Joma Partying

I think the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ propaganda machine scored a bit on its use of the photos posted at the website of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison showing him partying with Filipinos in The Netherlands and having himself photographed with actress Ara Mina. That one targeted a sensitive part of the CPP organization.

I read the reaction of CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal to the military’s propaganda stunt dismissing it as a minor issue. I partly agree because rebels are not stiffs, they also party and as Rosal said, “dance and sing and mingle with fellow Filipinos.” JMS was obviously following the mass line and, besides, one instance of partying does not make one errant revolutionary.

But Rosal will also admit that the AFP propaganda stunt can hit a sensitive chord in areas where there is an apparent disparity in the sacrifices of comrades in the revolution, especially between those deployed in the urban areas and in the countryside. The CPP is not homogenous and there are always party members who feel (silently maybe) the inequality in the setup.

I know this because I organized the peasants for seven years, preferring to be deployed to the countryside instead of to urban areas. I handled district and section committees in that span and was with provincial committees. The disparity was not apparent, visible only to the very analytical, but it was there. Those were the times when the higher organs–specifically the top cadres of the provincial or regional committees—were urban based.

Cadres in the guerilla zones were exposed to greater danger and endured the same economic and military hardships that organized countryside folks endured. In contrast, the urban based top cadres who allocated the meager resources of the revolutionary organization in the various areas were exposed to lesser danger and enjoyed the economic advantage of the cities and suburbs.

I still remember that when I was released after my first arrest in 1987, I was placed in an underground post in Mandaue City while waiting for my deployment to Bohol. The house was in a subdivision, attended to by some cadres. While the furnishings were meager and the food was not of subdivision standards, there were amenities that we in the countryside did not enjoy.

When I was finally brought to Bohol, I was quarantined for a few days in a camp in a forested area in the province. There, I wrote a letter to a former collective in Cebu, joking that after staying only a few days in a subdivision, I already found it hard adjusting to life in the forest. I missed the television shows, the food, the overall comfort. That was a joke but it had some implications to it.

When you are in an organization, you tend to rationalize the failings of the setup or your comrades. It was only years later, when I was out of the movement, that I saw things differently. I am even amused now recalling the comment of a peasant’s son about how comrades from the urban areas who attended plenums looked like they had better clothes. And they seemed to be always on the rush to go back to the comfort of the city.

Because of this, I was glad to read in the “Reaffirm” document released in the 1990s a call for higher organs of the major party committees to transfer their bases from the urban areas to the countrysides. I don’t know whether that was followed to the letter because I am no longer with the revolution, but it was a good start in ironing out the kinks in the organization and to counter the military propaganda about the inequality in the sacrifice output of cadres.

Joma should have considered, therefore, the implications of those photographs and should not have published it in his website or should not have posed for pictures at all. If he could not stop himself from posing with Ara Mina, at least he should not have flaunted it.

–Bong Wenceslao, March 5, 2007

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