Aquino and beyond: Philippine Communist Strategies

  • Justus M. van der Kroef (Autor/in)

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The decision of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to boycott the Presidential election of February 7, 1986 produced a major leadership crisis and tactical change in the Party. The accession to power of Mrs. Corazon Aquino on a wave of popular support and enthusiasm was perceived as a major leadership miscalculation by the CPP Central Committee and Politburo during their meetings in April and May, 1986. The original decision to boycott the election had been based on the view that Mrs. Aquino and the forces behind her did not represent any major difference or potential for fundamental change from the policies of President Ferdinand Marcos. It was apparent, however, from the role of the Philippine Armed Forces, the influential Catholic Church, the business community and other social strata that Mrs. Aquino had managed to become a symbol of much desired reforms in the political and economic system. By ignoring Aquino and her election, the sweep of "people’s power" that had brought Marcos down seemed to be bypassing the CPP. As a result, Rodolfo Salas and Rafael Baylosis, principal CPP leaders since the late 1970s, and architects of an uncompromising "hardline" policy of confrontation - including terrorism - against the government, lost much influence. Salas was replaced as CPP chairman by Benito Tiamzon, the Eastem Visayas regional party leader and trade union activist. At the same time, the CPP appointed Saturnino Ocampo and Antonio Zumel as party representatives in forthcoming peace talks and amnesty discussions with the Aquino government. Clearly, the leadership crisis remains unresolved (both Salas and Baylosis remain Central Committee members), but the CPP appears committed indefinitely to a policy of "negotiating while fighting", a not unfamiliar Communist tactic. Clashes between Communist guerillas and Philippine military, meanwhile, appear to be slackening somewhat.