Tracing their roots back to the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Hukbalahap, the New People’s Army was founded on March 29, 1969 after the party’s reestablishment on December 26, 1968. Established by Jose Mara Sison, the CPP’s Central Committee chairman, and a number of other members, the NPA and the new CPP was established as a Maoist organization after a split within the party against pro-Soviet members. The NPA’s objective is the overthrow of the Philippine government through armed struggle and the establishment of a new democratic government with socialist goals. In addition, the NPA was opposed to the Marcos dictatorship’s endemic corruption and abuse of the working class and peasantry. The NPA’s support base was primarily from the working class and agrarian peasantry of the provinces. However, as the group grew in number and influence, the NPA’s membership came to include thousands of university students and professors especially after the implementation of martial law under President Marcos. Also, at one point, the NPA could boast its presence and activity in every province of the islands despite its humble beginnings in Tarlac.
The NPA ranks of armed fighters numbered in the thousands, with its peak of 25,000-34,000 well-armed fighters in the 1980s. The NPA engaged in extensive and intensive guerilla warfare against the Philippine military throughout the islands, targeting military personnel, police, judges, and even U.S. military members in NPA areas. In the 1970s, as the revolutionary movement in the country began to grow, Marcos declared the poissibility of martial law to curb opposition to his regime. After a series of bombings and attacks on government officials and sites, much of it suspect to the Marcos regime itself, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 for the first time in the nation’s history in order to clamp down on political opponents as well as armed movements such as the NPA and Muslim rebels in the south. Despite a heavy crackdown on NPA guerillas by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the NPA’s guerilla activities evolved from a localized rebellion composed of a few thousand fighters to a widespread and intensified military conflict with up to 34,000 guerillas with an estimated 400,000 identifying with the CCP.
The New People’s Army is significant in the chapters of Philippine history due to the impact it had in shaping Filipino history and politics. As an extension of the legacy of combating foreign presences in the islands such as the Japanese and the U.S. by the Hukbalahap, the NPA was established as an armed movement with the objectives of abolishing the feudal land system of the country, eliminate government corruption and poverty, as well as overthrow the government to establish a new democratic and socialist government. During martial law, President Marcos used the NPA as a front for declaring martial law in order to crush political opponents, as well as armed movements such as the NPA due to the threat they posed towards his dictatorship. In spite of a decrease in the numbers of the NPA and its presence throughout the Philippines, the NPA still exists to this day in fighting the Philippine government in order to eliminate poverty. Jose Maria Sison still heads the NPA from self-imposed exile in the Netherlands to this day.
- Lex Duey