MAX SOLIVEN: TWO FORMER REBELS FORGE LOVE PACT

MANILA, February 17, 2004 (STAR) By THE WAY By Max V. Soliven - Last Valentine’s Day wasn’t just a "kissing festival" with 5,122 couples smooching on Roxas Boulevard.

In Fort Sto. Domingo’s detention center in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, former Huk rebel Supremo Ka Luis Taruc met with imprisoned Moro National Liberation Front "rebel" and ex-ARMM Governor Nur Misuari to sign a "Valentine Day, Day of Love" covenant pledging "to join our minds, hearts, and soul in the spirit of love, humbly beseeching Allah/God to bless our aspiration for Peace and National Unity for the future of Dear Motherland, and the future of our people".

This writer was given a handwritten copy of this covenant yesterday (in Taruc’s handwriting), signed by both Ka Luis and Misuari. The photograph on this page was supplied by the famous newsreel "documentarist" and photographer Dik Trofeo, head of CineKae, who had accompanied Taruc to the hour-long meeting.

The "entry" into the guarded compound had been arranged by Philippine National Police Gen. Alex Andres of police intelligence, and Major Besalona, the Camp commander.

I interviewed yesterday Ka Luis – now 91 years old – and he confirmed the details of the "covenant", declaring that he was not "concerned with today’s dirty politics" but in promoting "love and compassion for all" for "the sake of our children and future generations".

The revolutionary – who had led the militant armed struggle in the hills and had almost encircled Manila with his "Red" guerrillas until the late Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay turned the tide with a revitalized army and Philippine Constabulary, and his own program of hope for the masa and peasantry – said that his sixteen and a half years in prison had not embittered him. Instead, he reminded me, he had in his heart, despite his hardships, no bitterness, but was dedicating his remaining days to the idea of unity, inspired by the love of the God of humanity and the power of the Holy Spirit.

If one did not recall how fiercely Taruc had fought as a "war leader", of the first Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (The People’s Army against the Japanese) and then the HMB (Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan) or "People’s Liberation Army", one might be tempted to think he had become a wimp. Having known Taruc for years, I can attest this is absolutely untrue. He’s always been a fighter, and will die a fighter.

This time, he’s fighting for peace (corny as it may sound) although he still remains as feisty as ever, in comparative "old age". Imagine, at age 91, he even remembered all the details of our 1967 conversations and other matters as we reminisced about the past.

"Imprisonment," he remarked, "made me, I think, a better man."

What about Nur Misuari? Is it true he’s now sent word to his cohorts in Mindanao to "support GMA"? Does the "backsliding" rebel really now seek reconciliation and harmony? Or is this a ploy to secure release? As Taruc put it yesterday: "We just want peace between Christians and Muslims."

I fervently wish this comes true. Has peace a chance?

* * *

If one did not recall how fiercely Taruc had fought as a "war leader", of first the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (The People’s Army against the Japanese) and then the HMB (Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan) or "People’s Liberation Army", one might be tempted to think he had become a wimp. Having known Taruc for years, I can attest this is absolutely untrue. He’s always been a fighter, and will die a fighter.

This time, he’s fighting for peace (corny as it may sound) although he still remains as feisty as ever, in comparative "old age". Imagine, at age 91, he even remembered all the details of our 1967 conversations and other matters as we reminisced about the past.

"Imprisonment," he remarked, "made me, I think, a better man."

What about Nur Misuari? Is it true he’s now sent word to his cohorts in Mindanao to "support GMA"? Does the "backsliding" rebel really now seek reconciliation and harmony? Or is this a ploy to secure release? As Taruc put it yesterday: "We just want peace between Christians and Muslims."

I fervently wish this comes true. Has peace a chance?

* * *

The rest of the text of the "love covenant" asserted: "On this day, February 14, 1939, in Pampanga, President Manuel Quezon, assisted by then Secretary Jose Abad Santos, proclaimed his Social Justice Program; today in Laguna, birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, our foremost National Hero, we, Nur Misuari and Luis M. Taruc, offer the remaining days of our lives to continue our quest for Social Justice for our people.

"As only God-Allah is perfect, so we poor human beings being imperfect, let us be humble enough to forgive and help each other to be constructive, not destructive, in relation to one another, for the sake of our children and generations to come. So, today (we) on this day of love, Feb. 14, 2004, sign this covenant, this appeal to all our compatriots for Peace and National Unity . . . Equality and Social Justice for all."

There’s no doubt, on the other hand, that Ka Luis continues to be deadset against American "interference" in the Philippines. When President Macapagal-Arroyo had asserted support for US President George W. Bush’s initiatives and "war against terror", Taruc had publicly berated GMA in explicit language (which I won’t repeat).

The response of Malacañang had been to send word to Taruc that the President "wanted to see him", but had ominously added the injunction: "Send us your curriculum vitae and your NBI clearance."

I didn’t get this piece of information from Taruc himself, but from one of his close confidants (an impeccable source). What got Taruc’s dander up in that instance, not very long ago, was the belligerent tone of the "invitation", and what could be construed as an implied threat. Why a National Bureau of Investigation "clearance"? Why his curriculum vitae?

Taruc’s reaction had been: "Are you going to arrest me for subversion again? I’ve been arrested six times before, and spent 16 years and a half in prison – so don’t try to scare me with such words." The Palace, I’m told, hastily withdrew and "disowned" those harsh utterances.

Methinks the President herself doesn’t know two-thirds of the things said, or done, in her name. Or was this a manifestation, not of Ate Glo, or La Gloria Presidenta, but of Gloria Taray?

* * *

Taruc revealed yesterday that South Africa’s legendary hero of the Freedom Struggle, who had spent 27 years in jail (sentenced to life imprisonment when he was only 46, on charges of sabotage and treason), was coming to Manila on March 23.

Mandela had been incarcerated on dreaded Robben Island (the Alcatraz of South Africa) until international pressure forced the white-dominated Apartheid government to set him free on February 11, 1990. He was subsequently elected President of South Africa.

In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, together with the man who had freed him, the late "white" President F. W. de Klerk who had stood before Parliament on February 2, 1990, and bravely "did something no other South African head of state had ever done: he truly began to dismantle the apartheid system and lay the groundwork for a democratic South Africa". (These words are quoted from page 556 of Mandela’s own bestselling autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published in 1994 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, Toronto, London.)

While in prison, Mandela had put aside his own hatred and tried to "begin building mutually respectful relationships with prison guards (who had tried to break his spirit earlier), wardens, and government officials".

In his book, on page 622, Mandela had summed up what he had learned in prison and during his days of conflict: "It is from comrades in the struggle that I learned the meaning of courage. Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea. I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resiliency that defies the imagination. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Some years ago, when our Philippine Ambassador Leonides Caday (now retired after he himself survived a bomb attack in Jakarta) had gone to Mandela in Praetoria to present his diplomatic credentials, the South African President had told him: "Please don’t praise me too much. I just followed what your own Luis Taruc wrote in his wonderful book, Born of the People."

Caday had been surprised that Mandela could actually quote from Taruc’s autobiography, which had been published in 1953 by the "International Publishers", a New York company, and dedicated by Taruc, still fighting in the hills "To the Common Tao Who Will Come Into His Own".

I had first read this same volume when I was a student in New York, and, although I did not believe in Communism and its fraudulent promises, it had profoundly moved me. The volume had been completed in 1949, and I had admiringly committed to memory – I’ll have to say – Taruc’s poetic words about the Hukbalahap, in Chapter 7, "The Birth of Resistance".

He had written: "The people are like a sea. Beneath their surface run great tides. It is easy to be mistaken about the people, because the currents that move in them are not always visible. Then one day a tyrant awakes upon his island of rule and finds that the dikes of privilege have been destroyed, and that the tidal wave is sweeping over him."

These remain words – and a warning – to ponder, long after Taruc surrendered to Magsaysay, relying on the pledges transmitted to him by Ninoy Aquino and the late Senator Manny Manahan. Instead of the proffered "amnesty", Taruc had been clapped in jail. With 26 charges against him, Taruc had been sentenced on August 30, 1954, by Judge Gregorio Narvasa to a prison term of 12 years and a fine of P20,000. Subsequently, he received another sentence of life imprisonment on a murder charge, which was commuted to a minimum of 17 and a maximum of 20 years, and an indemnity of P24,000. Finally, on June 17, 1969, Ka Luis became due for automatic release – or an earlier Presidential pardon.

In July 1967, however, Taruc gave me one of the biggest scoops of my career. He rang me up, out of the blue, from prison, with his jailers’ consent, inviting me to interview him.

"Why me?" I asked him. "Ka Luis, you know from my record that I am a die-hard anti-communist."

He replied that I was someone he could trust to honestly tell his story. I don’t retail this to, in the Pinoy expression, "lift my own bench", but indeed I went to see him, by government arrangement, in the Headquarters PC Stockade in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The three-hour meeting resulted in a banner headline story (Friday, July 28, 1967) entitled: "TARUC TALKS," in the old The Manila Times, in those days the top-circulation daily.

The sub-headline given by my editors had been: "Ex-Huk Supremo backs Amnesty Plan, Will Help Bring Back 2 Top HMBs."

Taruc, at that time 54, "looked fit and healthy, punctuating his remarks with vigorous hand gestures."

He had said that he continued to wield "considerable influence among the Huks in the field". He had noted, "I am confident that at least 60 percent of the mass base of the old HMB are loyal to me and I can win them over."

Taruc insisted he had never been a Communist. He stated "there was a substantial difference between the Old Socialist Party (which merged with the Communist Party on Nov. 7, 1938) and the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas". Taruc recalled that "the Communists had taken advantage of the Socialist mass following during the merger and the late Pedro Abad Santos was so disappointed that before his death on Jan. 15, 1945, he had already prepared a strong memorandum against the ‘Stalinists’ (i.e., the Lava faction), blaming them for the deaths of revolutionary leaders Crisanto Evangelista and Agapito del Rosa rio."

Ka Luis said he had been ousted from the PKP by the hardline group headed by Jesus Lava in 1953 and a paper issued against him called Life Cycle of Careerism, an expulsion document accusing him and his brother Peregrino Taruc, and Ignacio Dabu of "factionalism, careerism, anarchy, and violation of democratic centralism". (Taruc surrendered to Magsaysay on February 15, 1954 – another anniversary which fell due last Sunday.)

Those charges levelled by the Lava group are reminiscent of the wording used in later purges (decried by now Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, ex-NPA commander) by Joma Sison and top leadership of the New People’s Army-National Democratic Front. This sort of puts into perspective the "deal" now being arduously pursued by our GRP peace panel with Joma and ex-priest Luis Jalandoni in Oslo, Norway.

In 1967, the jailed Luis Taruc had told this writer: "There is no question about my reconciling with the Stalinists. If the Stalinists were to come to power here, I would be a goner."

He vowed that he had never been an atheist, or a Communist, but a Christian Socialist. He offered no apologies in 1967 for his past struggle: "People should take me as I am, with my defects. My code in life has always been sincerity and honesty. These are the ideals my father inculcated in me. He had always been my model in modesty, honesty, and integrity. My mother, too, inspired me with her righteousness, courage, and warmth of character."

In 1967, too, Taruc had published a more recent autobiographical opus (Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., New York, London), a recantation entitled He Who Rides the Tiger, which was an "exposé of the fundamental error and evil of Bolshevik Communism based on Stalinist dialectical materialism" and "ideology . . . based on hate and bitterness, which they summarily called the ‘class consciousness’ and ‘class struggle’."

In the light of today’s revolutionary situation, this book’s caveats ought to be reviewed now. Does a revolutionary situation exist in the current electoral struggle?

Taruc yesterday, cryptically remarked: "It could." Mind you, he’s no longer in the "rebellion" business.

You can figure out the rest for yourself. Abangan, the tumultuous weeks to come.

* * *

THE ROVING EYE . . . Former Senator and Education Secretary Raul Roco rang me up yesterday to cordially explain what he had said, and why, about Senator Rodolfo "Pong" Biazon’s amazing leap over to the GMA side. "Why," Raul had revealed, "I had even offered Biazon the opportunity to be my running mate for Vice President!" He said he had not meant to slight our Cebu Bureau Chief, Bobit Avila, but had indeed requested that Bobit interview him on his own television show, "on March 3, or March 11". He promised me he would also be ready to be interviewed by this writer on ANC/ABS-CBN television "anytime" to tell-all, no-holds-barred, on any subject. That’s fair enough, Raul. I apologize for not having space in this column today to say more about what Raul Roco told me – but that will be published tomorrow. Once more, abangan.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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