PEOPLE‘S WAR REPORT: New Actions + Queer Oppression and Emancipation in the Philippines

Report every two weeks on the newest actions from the people's wars of the world + a revolutionary short article.

People‘s War Report, 25.02.2022

Produced by The Red Flag

India

Guerrilla combat

08.02.2022: Explosives attack against soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Modakpal area (Chhattisgarh, south of Raipur) wounding four.

12.02.2022: Encounter with the 168th battalion of the CRPF in Putkel jungle (Chhattisgarh, Bijapur district), killing the battalion’s assistant commander.

Election boycott

The CPI (Maoist)’s central committee has issued a call for elections boycott from the 10th of February to the 7th of March, which we reproduce on our website.

The Philippines

Guerrilla combat

23.01.2022: Assault by a NPA-East Camarines Sur — Tomas Pilapil Command unit of a team of the 83rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) — Charlie Coy in Brgy. Pinamihagan, Lagonoy. They were able to seize a military pack containing 10 powerbanks and other military items. Two enemies were also wounded during the offensive.

28.01.2022: Ambush by the NPA Masbate — Jose Rapsing Command of 12 reactionary troops in Barangay Recondo (Masbate, Cawayan municipality). Three reactionaries were killed and five were wounded.

01.02.2022: Ambush by the NPA-Catanduanes — Nerissa San Juan Command of a team of San Miguel MPS and Catanduanes 1st PMFC intelligence operatives in So. Tucao, Barangay GMA (Catanduandes, San Miguel). The NPA seized two cal. 38 and one Beretta 9mm firearms and other military equipment. The team leader of the said unit, Police Sr. Sgt. Johnny Tiston was also killed.

10.02.2022: Sniping operation by the NPA — Leonardo Panalingan Command of the Central Negros Guerilla Front against the «Citizen Active Auxiliary» detachment of the 62nd IPBA in Barangay Guba (Negros Oriental, Vallehermoso), killing at least one soldier of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The AFP in the whole Philippines and especially in Negros Oriental is growing increasingly desperate to accomplish President Duterte’s unfulfillable task to eliminate the Filipino revolutionary movement by the end of his term this year.

Selective Annihilation

05.02.2022: Annihilation of Rene Villasenior by the NPA-LPC in Barangay Budlasan (Negros Oriental, Canlaon City). Villasenior was a reactionary army asset of the CAA and a notorious red-tagger in the area, guilty of assisting countless murders of Filipino masses [red-tagging is when someone is labeled a member of the NPA in order to justify repression against them, no matter if it’s true or not].

10.02.2022: Raid by the New People’s Army — Surigao del Sur (NPA-SDS) of the house of the resigned Capt. Joven Rivera of the AFP and two others, Ronie Sitoy and Jade Rivera in Sitio Lubcon, Mabahin, Cortes, Surigao del Sur; all of them linked to the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The NPA-SDS confiscated the following: three .45 caliber pistols, an ingram, a .357, lots of ammunition for different caliber weapons, magazines and other military equipment. The red soldiers also erected a checkpoint on the national highway in advance for two hours to ensure the safety of the masses (the houses of the targets were close to the road). They explained to the masses what the reason for the launched raid was, why there was a revolutionary movement, and whom the revolution served.


Queer oppression in the old Philippines and queer emancipation under the Communist Party of the Philippines

On February 4th 2005, the first recorded gay marriage in recent Filipino history between Ka Jose and Ka Andres took place inside a guerrilla zone established by the NPA under the CPPh’s directorship. Since then, the guerrilla zones are thereby the only place in the whole country where the notion that «marriage is between a man and a woman», as the constitution of the old Philippine State says, is being broken with. To understand the full significance of queer emancipation being part of the people’s war in the Philippines, we provide an outline of the history of queer oppression there.

Before Class Society

LGBT+ people have existed in all human societies. There is a biological basis for this (it’s been proven that the human species in general is bisexual, due to the necessities of collective survival — the social need for adoption of orphans — whereas individual sexuality depends upon many different factors) and LGBT+ sexualities and genders mainly develop according to what society we live in. This truth stands in contradiction to various reactionary positions about being queer (= oppressed LGBT+ people), such as it being «a sin» (a reactionary religious position) or «imperialist degeneracy» (a revisionist position, put forward by opportunists pretending to be marxists), to name only two.

In human societies that preceded class societies («primitive-communist», as Marx and Engels called them), «third-gender» institutions were common and LGBT+ people were respected and sometimes even worshipped as part of the social structure. In the Philippines, this was expressed through the babaylan. These were priestesses that acted as religious leaders and healers and could also act as leaders of the whole community in the sudden absence of conventional leaders of the community, the batu. While babaylan were mostly biologically female, it was normal for transgender women, expressing their transition through clothing and demeanor, to be babaylan too, and they could freely have romantic and sexual relations with men without receiving judgement for it.

In pre-class Philippine societies, your gender was determined mainly by your occupation, appearance, actions and sexuality, not your anatomy. Rituals and trances performed by babaylan often mirrored the reunification of the opposites, the male and female, which was believed to bring spiritual potency and serve to heal the spiritually broken. Indigenous stories passed on orally also tell of LGBT+ deities.

Class Society and Spanish Conquest

The first contact of the Philippines with class society came with the Islamization of the island of Mindanao. Here, the concept of being «queer» — being «different» if you diverged from heterosexuality and biological sex — was introduced, along with the queer-antagonism (complete anti-queerness) prevalent in Abrahamic religions. In parts of the Philippines that weren’t effected by Islamization however, societies continued to include LGBT+ people as a part of them.

The real first big leap away in queer oppression happened with the Spanish conquest of the Philippines. The colonizers brought with them rigid Catholic machismo patriarchy and institutionalized progromist queer-antagonism. Communities’ datu were appointed as district officers for the invaders while babaylan were relegated to being spiritual counsellors. Confession manuals made by Spanish friars early on expressed «suspicion of the natives being guilty of sodomy and homosexual acts». Sexual orientation and gender identity gradually vanished as a discussed topic in society with colonization. This was mainly enforced in the Spanish Inquisition period of the 17th and 18th century through vicious pogroms of people accused of homosexuality; they were burned alive at the behest of the Spanish president of Audiencia.

Colonization didn’t happen without resistance however. Multiple times, Filipino resistance movements were led by babaylan. Among them were multiple prominent queer resistance leaders, such as Tapara in the 17th century as well as Ponciano Elofre and Gregorio Lampino in the late 19th century.

Ponciano Elofre

The Yankees Arrive

With U.S. imperialism conquering the Philippines as a colony from the Spanish in 1899, a new variation of patriarchal queer oppression was introduced. Back on U.S. mainland, the developing sciences were being abused to give falsified «proof» to queer-antagonistic positions. Homosexuality was introduced as a term and declared a sickness to be cured, which lays the basis for all the forms of ultra-reactionary «conversion therapy». All this was exported to the Philippines and started to ingrain itself in oppressed Philippine society, including queer people internalizing it themselves. «Homo» and «hetero» became seen as polar opposites and «gay» as a slur became part of patriarchal culture in the Philippines to this day.
During the 2nd World War, the Japanese imperialists occupied the Philippines. Among other things, they forced many Filipinas into sexual slavery as «comfort women». Among them were also queer men, lining up with the millenia-old patriarchal notion that «it’s not gay if a guy rapes a guy». On the other side, a key actor in the anti-Japanese resistance movement was the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPPh) that had been founded in 1930 and organized tens of thousands of guerrilla fighters in the Hukbalahap organization. Had it not been for the revisionist Lava family leading the Party at the time, it would no doubt have been more.
After the 2nd World War, the Philippines became a semi-colony, meaning the U.S. imperialists gave up their direct military occupations of the country and granted formal political independencce, but kept the economy in a firm grip (and through it indirect political and military control as well). In this period, the seeds of the modern Philippine queer movement began to sprout. Queer people increasingly built up networks among one another and in the cities, «swardspeak» began to form, a slang language used by gay men using elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese as well as celebrities’ names and trademark brands.

The Marcos Era and the New Communist Party of the Philippines

In 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines was refounded by José Maria Sison, who broke with the old revisionist leadership of the Lava clan that was leading the Party into the enemy’s ranks. The fascist president Ferdinand Marcos had been inaugurated three years before and declared martial law in 1972, enshrining himself in power for 14 years until the communist-directed People’s Power Movement brought him down in 1986. The split proved to be more than correct, as the remaining Lava group would go on to seek amnesty from Marcos and support all his crimes against the people.

The Marcos era saw repression and prosecution of the budding queer movement; many queer activists and queer people in general were tortured and killed. Ferdinand Marcos’s wife and First Lady Imelda ordered the publication of an anti-gay book and many queer people fled or were forcefully exiled to the USA.

Among the organizations forced underground during martial law was the Communist Party of the Philippines’ mass women’s organization Makibaka (1970) which continued working clandestinely and worked closely alongside the equally young NPA (1969) to make people’s war for a new-democratic Philippines. Makibaka can be seen as the kickoff of putting queer emancipation into practice inside the Philippine revolution. The organization in general was the first to focus on organizing women for revolution, led two-line struggle inside the revolutionary movement against patriarchal ideas and positions; specifically, they organized lesbian women and struggled for the recognition of the additional queer oppression homosexual people experience as well as the integration of queer emancipation into the revolutionary program.

Marcos’s Fall until Today

Since the end of the Marcos era, we have seen a growth of the queer movement and an increase in pushes for formal recognition of queer rights under current Philippine law. Among these are pushes by bourgeois and small-bourgeois actors such as the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party whose attempts serve to direct the queer emancipation struggle into parliamentary struggle and pacify it. The first Philippine march on the International Queer Day of Struggle (commonly known as «Pride march») took place in 1994 and was the first such march in any Asian-Pacific country.

Queer oppression however mains as prevalent as ever in old Filipino society. Queer people struggle to find and keep jobs and are economically pushed to the edge of society. Being kicked out or sent to the reactionary military by your parents if you come out to them or they mark you as queer is still common. Gay marriage is illegal and adoption can be denied to queer people if they’re deemed as having «bad morals». In his study «Capably Queer: Exploring the Intersections of Queerness and Poverty in the Urban Philippines» from 2011, researcher Ryan Thoreson interviewed 80 queer Filipinos; over half of them were unemployed, the employed interviewees made 1’514 pesos per week (equalling about 27 francs at the time this article was written!) and 45% said they predominantly did reproductive labor; 55% have been harrassed on the street, 25% had been physically assaulted, 6.25% had been sexually assaulted, 5% had survived a murder attempt, and 5% had been blackmailed by the police.

Over 80% of the Philippines are still predominantly Catholic, corresponding to the prevailing semi-feudal (half-medieval) basis of the society. This is a leftover of Spanish colonialism and provides the main roots for the prevailing queer-antagonism that the exploiting classes enforce and reproduce in the countryside.

In 2004, the city of Marawi banned gay people from dressing as they wish in public, along with forbidding women to «induce impure thoughts or lustful desires». The ruling class in Marawi justified this act of oppression with their notion of Islam and the law is enforced by local religious police publicly hazing people they deem «law-breakers» by dumping paint on their heads. On June 26th, 2020, police attacked and arrested queer demonstrators at the annual International Queer Day of Struggle march and repressed them under bogus pretexts such as not following social distancing protocols.

The current ruling class in general may include some bourgeois queer voices, but this doesn’t negate that it’s as patriarchal as ever. Current president Rodrigo Duterte is blatantly queer-antagonistic although he claimed to be for queer rights at the beginning of his presidency. He has repeatedly cussed out oppositional politicians as gay and claims he was «cured from homosexuality» himself in the past.

That’s not all. Most of us will remember Manny Pacquiao, the world-famous boxer who lost to Floyd Mayweather in one of the most widely broadcast boxing matches ever in 2015. What many do not know is that he’s a fascist Filipino politician who served as senator under Duterte’s government, led Duterte’s party in 2020, has since formed his own political party and is running for president in the upcoming 2022 elections. In 2016, Pacquiao claimed people in same-sex marriages behaved worse than animals; he has since reiterated this claim, though saying he supposedly doesn’t condemn gay people themselves.

As alluded to before, the only place where queer emancipation is being made a social reality is under the Communist Party of the Philippines, inside the New People’s Army and inside the conquered guerrilla bases and areas. Gay marriage is commonly practiced, queer people are accepted and fight side by side with their non-queer comrades in the people’s war and two-line struggle is waged against all anti-queer attitudes, ideas and positions imported from the old society. This has led Duterte to ramble that «40%» of all NPA members are gay. This is obviously bullshit, the extra irony being that in his homophobic lizard brain, it’s 40% gay people that are whooping his armed forces’ asses (poor little macho).

Ka Jose and Ka Andres, 2004.

Some Additional Remarks

Queer-antagonism will is familiar to everyone here in Switzerland too, just like everywhere where imperialism and patriarchy dictate what goes on in societies (almost the whole world outside from the people’s wars in India and the Philippines). All of us will have heard or even used the term «gay» as an insult, noticed the complete lack of LGBT+ topics in sexual education at school, witnessed at least confusion or even disgust when talking about gender and sexuality or been the victim of queer oppression ourselves.

I want to shine light on another problem here too. Aside from wrong and patriarchal ideas about queer people among the masses in Switzerland, there are also wrong and racist ideas about where queer-antagonism is most prevalent. I’m talking here about the notion that while «good Swiss citizens» are sexually repressed and frown upon queer people, it’s the Albanians, Middle-Easterners and Yugoslavs that are mainly queer-antagonistic. Such a position might put forward that the recently-passed referendum for legalizing gay marriage might have lost if migrants were allowed to vote.

I want to start by quoting a polemic written by the Red Flag Editorial Board against some revisionists from the USA on the topic of queer oppression:

«[…] The masses do not disrespect or hate queer people. Progressive masses support them, centrist masses accept them and even backward masses accept them if they know them personally. It is only the most reactionary elements and the lumpen who hate or disrespect queer people. […]»

While migrants come from patriarchal societies too (which is statistically obvious), Switzerland is also a patriarchal society. Patriarchy originates from and props up private property and the exploiting classes (today the capitalist class or bourgeoisie). Women are doubly exploited today because they have to do wage labour and take the main load of household work and child-care at home; additionally, they are doubly oppressed in order to guarantee that a new generation of exploited people (today mainly workers) be put into the world. Queer people historically have been and are today still doubly oppressed because patriarchy punishes people that diverge from its gender norms which serve the exploiting classes. Like the Philippines, Switzerland also has a Christian background for example (though not a colonized one) and conversion therapy is still a thing here to this day.

It’s the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries, not the people, that prop up the class system holding up patriarchy and sustain queer-antagonism, not the people that may take some queer-antagonism up. It is also the ruling class who spreads the chauvinistic positions about migrants being the main queer-antagonists today. They spread the same bullshit with bourgeois feminism and the idea that Swiss women need to be protected against the evil refugees waiting to molest them in the streets. It is however in the home where the most rape and molestation happens and also one of the main locations of queer oppression. But the bourgeoisie doesn’t want the people to understand that the nuclear family structure (mother, father, child) that they introduced is the main modern crime scene of patriarchy: They want to split the masses.

At the end of the day, what matters is not where we’re from but if what our class position is. Backward ideas aren’t integral to one or another nation, they are overcome through social practice everywhere. For this reason, we need to fight for full queer integration into the worker’s movement (This process has been started already by UNIA, the largest trade union in Switzerland) and the revolutionary struggle. To quote the now-defunct revolutionary organization Red Star Switzerland’s document «Marxism and Queer Emancipation»:

«We emphasize: The tendency is integration with the proletarian movement, not isolation from it. […] as an example of the tendency to integrate with the proletarian movement, we highlight the circle ‹Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners›, which in 1984-85 carried out a solidarity campaign for the miners‘ strikes in Great Britain, which led to a greater understanding of both the queer and labor struggles as proletarian mass struggles. Today, proletarian revolutionaries in several countries are either incorporating queers into the People‘s War or the process of struggling for the constitution/reconstitution [AKA founding/refounding — our remark] of the Communist Party, which serves as inspiration and a positive example for all Communists.

[…]

It is necessary for the Communist Parties and Organizations to take up the proletarian line in the queer movement and struggle to lead the deepest and broadest queer masses in their struggle for daily demands and mainly the conquest of Power, through their mobilization, politicization, organization and arming in the People‘s War [as a class war in Switzerland — our remark]. Not having proletarian leadership of the queer movement leads these masses, some of which are part of the proletariat, into the arms of reactionary bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements, who in the end do nothing except contribute to the genocide of queers and strengthen the counter-revolution.»

What serves to prove this better than the people’s war in the Philippines? To further underline these points, we reproduce the document «To be Gay in the NPA», published in the Communist Party of the Philippines newspaper in July 2021.


To Be Gay in the NPA

«When I was young, my father always wanted me to enlist in the military hoping to get rid of the gay in me. Now that I am grown-up — still gay as ever — his wish was fulfilled. However, I became a soldier in a different army, a better one. I’m a Red fighter of the NPA.»

Ka Oliver is among many gay and lesbian comrades who embraced the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside. He likes to joke when he recalls his childhood and struggles of growing up homosexual in a conservative family. But when he explains what he stands for, he is serious and determined.

«The only way the LGBTQ community can find liberation from gender oppression is by ending class oppression.» For him, the Filipino LGBTQ struggle should encompass the struggle to dismantle the semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions of Philippine society that breeds and perpetuates oppression, discrimination, and fascist persecution not only of the LGBTQ community but all oppressed classes.

Before joining the NPA, Oliver’s notion of «gay pride» was heavily influenced by bourgeois and post-modernist ideas centered on individualism, and detached from social realities of class struggle. Back then, his understanding was limited to pride and self-acceptance devoid of the material conditions and structures that deny people — gay or not — their democratic rights. «How can we have ‹pride‹ when we are deprived of education, when we are exploited, when we cannot feed our families, or when we are being driven away from our land and our only means of living?» he said.

Ka Oliver believes that being a «woke» gay means firmly grasping the universal truths of the national democratic struggle beyond gender identity politics. «We should unite with other classes and sectors against a common enemy. Gay or not, we are all victimized by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism,» he said.

Gay Fighter

Living as a gay revolutionary in the countryside has its extra challenges, but for Ka Oliver, the fact that the CPP and the NPA respect and support the LGBTQ community spells the difference.

Once in a while, he experiences vestiges of discrimination and patriarchal notions, although not as vicious and systemic as those which he experienced before joining the the revolutionary movement. «Years in the NPA have tempered me enough to know that these comments are generally not expressed to hurt or embarrass me. Often, these come from the one-sided and demeaning representation of gay people in the mass media. Some others are also just genuinely concern over the welfare of a soft-mannered petty-bourgeois.»

To counter myopic views, Ka Oliver actively engages in discussions to challenge gender stereotypes.

«As members of the LGBTQ community, we must not remain as passive receivers of acceptance. Instead of waiting for the masses to accept us, we must go to them directly and share our experiences and struggles. We can learn firsthand about their struggles and find commonalities.»

Oliver is confident that prejudices of some comrades and the masses on gays can be corrected through constant education, proletarian remolding, and criticism and self-criticism. He himself still struggles to reject the individualist and liberal bourgeois ideas of so-called «gay pride», which he has come to realize are being exploited by the ruling class to maintain the status quo, and gloss over the true roots of society’s biases against the community.

Revolutionary Relationship

«In terms of relationships, my generation is also being fed the notion that ‹pride› means being able to engage in anarchic sexual encounters with multiple partners, with no compunction about its consequences. Inside the movement, the Party’s policy on courtship and marriage aims to ensure that women and sexual minorities are protected from violence, harassment and sexual opportunism.»

In the 1990s, the Party institutionalized that all LGBTQ relationships must be under collective knowledge and development like heterosexual relationships. All LGBTQ couples have equal rights within the relationship, and they shall enjoy all the support and care of the Party, just like those in heterosexual relationships.

«The Party’s unconditional acceptance and protection of the LGBTQ community is no mere lip-service but a matter of principle.»

«Since I am now part of a larger collective, of a larger struggle, the way I maintain discipline is not simply a form of repressing my sexual urges but an aspect of my proletarian remolding», concluded Ka Oliver.

As we celebrate Pride month this June, gay revolutionaries proudly wave the flag for the national democratic struggle. «There can be no pride if there’s no liberation for all of us.»