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Health Services Benefit Peasants, Indigenous Peoples in Guerrilla Fronts

in Mainstream
by Pat Gambao and Iliya Makalipay

It is not uncommon for people in the remote areas in the Philippines to die without seeing a doctor in their lifetime. A child who is seriously ill, for example, had to be brought on foot to the nearest hospital, usually more than 20 kilometers away from the community. There are no clinics in the villages, and if there are, they remain as structures because there are no medical personnel from the reactionary government, not even a paramedic.

But the scenario has slowly changed when members of the New People’s Army (NPA) double as people’s medics—holding medical missions and treating the sick as they move from one barrio to the next.

The NPA medics are trained mostly by members of MASAPA (Makabayang Samahang Pangkalusugan) or the Patriotic Association of Health practitioners, an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The NPA, in turn, sets-up barrio health committees as part of their organizing work and in establishing and consolidating revolutionary mass organizations. Together, the NPA and MASAPA members fill in the vacuum left by the reactionary Philippine government, which has historically neglected the delivery of social services to the marginalized segments of the society.


Revolutionary medical practitioners

Founded in 1980’s, MASAPA is one of the pillars of the NDFP. From its inception, it has organized doctors, nurses, medical students, and others in the health sector who are based in urban centers. In an interview, MASAPA Spokesperson Blanca Luna explained that MASAPA members train the NPA on health and medical work and provide direct health services to Party members, the red fighters, and masses in the guerrilla fronts. It also maintains a network of allies in the medical field who are likewise tapped for the same activities. Traditional healers such as hilot and komadrona are also organized as they are in the frontline of health services in the communities.

In the urban centers, “MASAPA members organize and mobilize the health sector to fight for their rights to better wages, form unions in their work place and push for the people’s right to health as an integral part of the struggle for national democracy. MASAPA takes an active part in the urban mass movement and draws in the middle forces to support, directly or indirectly, the armed struggle,” Luna elaborated.


Three-tiered health training

The overall development of the revolutionary health work parallels that of the development and the requirements of the people’s war. To this, Luna explained, “the members of MASAPA should synchronize its efforts with the developments in the guerrilla fronts by reaching out to more health workers and practitioners.”

Tapping the expertise of its members and allies in the medical field and in consultation with the cadres involved in the military and mass work in the countryside, MASAPA has designed a three-tiered health training program for the NPA—which the NPA also uses to train the revolutionary masses: Basic Orientation Course, Intermediate, and Advance. The courses are all premised on preventive health care but, the advance course is geared towards developing the capabilities of the medics in the people’s army in lifesaving support system. “As the people’s war advances, so does the need to advance the capacity of the medics of the people’s army,” Luna pointed out.

The Basic Orientation Course includes first aid, sanitation, family planning, and the use of alternative medicine such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. On the ground, these translates to people’s health campaigns that include backyard gardening, herbal garden, anti-dengue drive, and construction of safe water and drainage systems. For some medics, their interaction with the indigenous peoples has introduced them to more plant-based cures for common ailments.

The Intermediate Course is geared towards the study of anatomy, child birthing, herbal medicine production, and special procedures that include tooth extraction, simple surgery, trauma and mental health care. A number of communities now produce their own capsules and ointments from plants and herbs.

Medics in the NPA take up the Advance Course where they are taught more elaborately about anatomy and anesthesia and to perform more complicated surgical procedures. In some regions, select health units in the NPA are now able to perform abdominal surgery, the most complicated even among those who went through medical school.

These training take about two weeks to one month, depending on the level. Trainees have at least reached the elementary level and are around 20 to 30 years old.


Urban doctors meet their counterparts

The interest and enthusiasm of the masses and the NPA in the guerrilla fronts to learn are inspiring enough for the allies and members of MASAPA who come to the front to give their best to impart lessons not only on health care, preventive medicine and first aid but also on other nuances of medical practice.

Said interest and enthusiasm enable even the non-erudite peasants to acquire the skills of simple applications of medical care and practice. Some who had reached a relatively higher educational level than most of the masses were able to finish the three levels of medical training given by the doctors.

Ka Alex, an urban-based doctor who is among the regular instructors in these training is amazed with how they are able to pack their years of medical school into a one to two-month training modules and teach them to those who barely finished elementary school.

He is equally impressed with how the mostly peasant members of the NPA learn these medical procedures; they, who at the start of the training, only brought with them their willingness to listen and learn and their compassion to care for the sick or wounded comrades, red fighters, and masses.

When the training is over, both urban doctors and NPA medics end up fulfilled.

A medic of the NPA in Mindanao, Ka Tonyo, recalled they once performed abdominal surgery on a monkey they found in the forest. But when the monkey regained consciousness after the operation, it panicked and quickly removed the stitches on its belly, causing its death. Since then, they stopped using monkeys and opted for animals who are more placid.

Aside from rendering their expertise to develop health cadres among the NPA and among the masses, the experiences of MASAPA members in the various guerrilla fronts temper them and strengthen their commitment to the revolution and the masses. “MASAPA members do not only impart their knowledge to the red fighters but also learn from their experiences and from the lives of the masses,” Ka Alex said.

“The interaction with the NPA and the masses in the course of providing services helps in deepening the members’ grasp of the people’s war—why it is legitimate, necessary and who benefits from it,” Luna concurred.

It is not surprising, thus, that a number of MASAPA members opted to remain in the countryside and practice their knowledge and skills in the guerrilla fronts and among the masses. Experiencing the enthusiasm of the NPA members to learn medical procedures and their efforts to treat and heal their comrades and the masses are compelling reasons for the professional medical practitioners to stay in the fronts.

In the guerilla zones, MASAPA and the NPA works hand in hand in the delivery of the much-needed health services in remote villages.


Defining and developing the alternative health care system

MASAPA and NPA members have successfully provided free health and medical services to the people. The infrastructure for health services is now in place at all levels of the Party and NPA structure and in the organs of political power—from the national to the barrio levels, from squads to battalions of the NPA.

Aside from being part of the revolutionary movement’s machinery for health services, MASAPA is one of the prime movers in the development of the alternative health care program of the national democratic revolutionary movement. With the NPA, they are sowing seeds of the alternative health care system of the nation, starting in the guerrilla fronts in the countryside. ###


Revolutionary Taxation Serves the Masses, Advances the Revolution

in Mainstream
by Pat Gambao

Taxation is an essential function of the State as it correlates with its ability to exercise power and to carry out its programs and policies in a sustained way.

In a State dominated by the reactionary ruling classes, the revenues generated from taxation are intended primarily to boost its power to control and exploit, not to serve the people.  Such a State saps the lifeblood of the working class, the peasantry and the middle bourgeoisie for revenues to maintain the grandiose lifestyle of its rulers and finance its fascist instruments of suppression and oppression—the armed military and police, the courts, the jails.  Its public service is a pittance.  It only aims to make its subjects beholden to it and create a culture of passivity and surreal contentment.

Literacy-Numeracy program by the New People’s Army

Whereas taxation is a legitimate and an inherent right of the State, this is abused by the reactionary governments at the expense of the destitute masses and continuously impoverished masses.

This is what happens in the Philippines. Revenues from taxes are appropriated in favor of the ruling classes who sit at the helm of power, as well as of their oligarch allies, their US imperialist master with its neoliberal impositions and, of course, the State security forces who protect and defend them to ensure their perpetual rule.


Bureaucrat capitalism

A big chunk of revenues coming from the blood and sweat of the people ends up in the pockets of bureaucrat capitalists for personal aggrandizement and for squandering in their luxurious living and debased habits.  Though it has long been an open secret where lawmakers’ pork barrels for public service projects go, it was only after a whistle blower in trouble came out that the scandal exploded into their very faces and shook the foundation of the supposedly august chambers of Congress.

The “pork barrel scam”, involving lawmakers and government officials, confirms how deeply entrenched corruption is in the bureaucracy and the legislature.  No less than the President Noynoy Aquino figured in the controversy because of his administration’s manipulation of savings from budget appropriations—the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—to fuel its political patronage and to pamper the State’s war-making and killing machine. Bureaucrat capitalism is indeed an abominable malady ravaging the Philippine society.

Taxes are also earmarked for the payment of foreign debts from imperialist banks and financial institutions that have never really served the interests and welfare of the people. Such debts only bury the people deep in misery as they are the ones who shoulder the brunt—not only of the repayment but also the pernicious impacts of loan conditionalities.

Worse, most of the revenues from the people’s taxes are gobbled up by the coercive apparatuses of the State that train their fascist attacks on people fighting for social justice and their rights.

The current administration’s proposed bill on taxation, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), will supposedly correct existing inequities in the present tax law.

However, while the range of tax exemptions have been expanded to include the middle income group, many provisions in the bill will eventually take away whatever little relief the tax reform bill offers.  Indirect taxes for instance, the increase in excise tax on petroleum products such as diesel and LPG, and taxes on sugar sweetened products, such as 3-in-1 coffee, soft drinks and juices will surely have adverse repercussion that will hurt the poor most.  Expected as consequences are transport fare increases and the domino-effect of price boosts on commodities and utilities.

The government promises safety nets, in the form of discounts and cash dole-outs, to counter such new burden.  But as has been proven many times before, no safety net can match the knack for profiteering of wily capitalists.


Revenues for the people

Meanwhile, the People’s Democratic Government has imposed its own taxes on big foreign and local comprador business corporations and landlords whose properties and operations are within its territories.  Taxes are levied on the occupancy of the land and the exploitation of the natural resources in these areas which truly belong to the people and which should primarily benefit them.  Businesses are required to secure permits to operate in the guerrilla fronts.

Although the revolution draws strength primarily from the masses’ support and obtains its weapons, mainly from the enemy through victorious encounters or through raids and tactical offensives, revenues from revolutionary taxation subsidize the operations of the organs of political power of the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). But most importantly, revolutionary taxes are allotted for the development of the communities to uplift the life of the masses, filling up a vacuum created by long government neglect. These revenues are used to put up schools, including those for adult literacy and numeracy program; to provide health and medical services, as well as training of paramedics; to finance the projects of the revolutionary organizations to increase food production, livelihood development, formation of cooperatives and relief and rehabilitation in times of calamities.


Role of NPA

The NPA is primarily responsible for the collection of revolutionary taxes.  The amount of tax to be collected depends on the resources of the corporations.

Revolutionary taxation through the NPA has been going on for a long time. In fact, President Duterte during his 20-plus years as Mayor of Davao City, was long aware of, and not adverse, to it.  Addressing the delegates of the Davao Trade Expo in October 2013, the then mayor of Davao City advised his audience to factor in their investment payments for the revolutionary taxes to the revolutionary movement.  Citing the “historical injustice committed on the people” as rationale for revolutionary tax, he urged the businessmen:  “If you pay to the BIR, you prepare also for the NPA.”  However, on April 2, 2017, the emotionally volatile Duterte retracted this advice after he visited some wounded soldiers from an encounter with the NPA. In fact, he has since demanded from the revolutionary forces to cease collecting revolutionary tax, including such demand among the conditions he peremptorily set for the resumption of peace negotiations with the NDFP that he cancelled on February 4, 2017.

Subsequently, the Cabinet Security cluster wanted to include the stopping of revolutionary taxation, which it called “extortion”, among the provisions of a bilateral or joint interim ceasefire agreement it tried to push during the 4th round of formal GRP-NDFP negotiation in April.

The NDFP negotiating panel effectively dealt with the issue by placing in one part of the “Agreement on An Interim Ceasefire” this paragraph: “Matters regarding a single government authority and taxation shall be discussed and resolved in forging the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms within the framework of the proposed Federal Republic of the Philippines.”


Neither terrorism nor extortion

The ruling classes, who never want a dent on their wealth, attempt to discredit the revolutionary movement by labelling revolutionary taxation as acts of extortion and terrorism.  DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana echoed these sentiments.  He even issued a statement a day before the start of the fourth round of peace talks and upon the declaration of an all-out war, accusing the revolutionary movement of being anti-development, anti-progress and anti-poor, as if the development and progress he crows about ever benefited the poor.

According to the NDFP, the revolutionary movement enforces taxation in a manner understood by the tax payers.  Although revolutionary taxes are obligatory, the NPA is open to negotiation, in particular on the amount to be paid.  But big businesses which refuse to comply face corresponding retribution.  The “element of class coercion” is applied when entities of the exploiting classes refuse to pay their tax obligations, as well as when they disobey or disregard the laws and regulations being enforced in the guerrilla zones.

Chief NDFP peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili explained that since the NDFP, unlike the GRP, can neither expropriate properties, nor confiscate equipment of these corporations because it does not have the means to keep or dispose of these, the NPA resorts to incinerating the equipment.  He has suggested that instead of setting them on fire to just disable the equipment and temporarily halt business operation.

Unfortunately, the reactionary government has connived with these transnational and local comprador corporations. It has sanctioned the formation of an Investment Defense Forces composed of the Philippine Army, the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), the Investment Defense Force (IDF), and the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) to protect the comprador firms and eliminate all hindrances, including the affected residents who put up resistance to their business operations.

There are also some bad elements—syndicates or pawns of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police-Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (AFP-PNP-CAFGU)—who misrepresent the NPA, intimidate big corporations and businesses to extort “protection money”.  These people put to bad light the reputation of the revolutionary movement.  The movement is coming up with measures to counter the practice.


People’s interest

In the implementation of revolutionary taxation, the NDFP upholds foremost the interest of the people and the environment.  According to the NDFP, payment of taxes is not a license to destroy the environment, to deplete the natural resources and national patrimony, to harm the people’s livelihood; nor to compromise the struggles of the peasants for land or lower land rent and the workers for a living wage, better working conditions and right to unionize.

In consonance with the NDFP policy on environmental protection and ecological conservation, the people work towards its attainment while vehemently protesting the activities of these mining and logging corporations.

Living witness is the way they rose up from the devastating super typhoon Pablo/Bopha that hit Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and parts of the Caraga region in December 2012.  Volunteers from all over the place, including students and professors, campaigned to reforest the damaged mountain environs.

The NDFP treats small and medium enterprises differently.  They are encouraged to develop and prosper as this is mutually beneficial to them and the communities.

Some nationalist businessmen, enlightened gentry—friends who believe in the justness and the exigency of the Philippine revolution contribute financially in support of the democratic struggle.

The compliance with revolutionary taxation, as well as with the laws and rules prevailing in the guerrilla zones, is in recognition of the growing strength of the red political power.  The implementation of the revolutionary taxation also ushers in the masses’ capacity for self-reliance as they put to productive use the revenues collected.

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