Communist rebellion in the Philippines

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CPP–NPA–NDF rebellion
Part of the Cold War (1969-1991) and Insurgency in the Philippines
Communist hotspots in the Philippines.png
Main areas of communist activity in the Philippine archipelago in the 1970s and 1980s
Date29 March 1969 (1969-03-29) – present
(51 years and 4 days)
Status Ongoing
Government of the Philippines
Supported by:
 United States (advisors)[1]
Communist Party of the Philippines
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
New People's Army
Supported by:
 People's Republic of China (alleged)[2]
 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1980s–1990s)[3][4]
 North Korea (alleged)[5]
 Vietnam (1980s)[6]
Commanders and leaders

Rodrigo Duterte
Delfin Lorenzana
Eduardo Año

Felimon Santos, Jr.
Gilbert Gapay
Archie Gamboa
Noli Taliño

...full list

Jose Maria Sison[7]
Fidel Agcaoili
Luis Jalandoni

Benito Tiamzon
Wilma Austria
Jorge Madlos
Jaime Padilla

...full list
Units involved

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

Philippine National Police (PNP)

New People's Army (NPA)
Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO)

APP [8]
RPA [8]
ABB [8]
CPLA [8]
220,000[9] 25,000 (during peak)
<4,000 (NPA)[10][11]
<50 (RPA) [12]
500 (ABB) (1999)[13]
Casualties and losses
9,867 killed (1969–2002) (according to the Philippine army) 22,799 killed (1969–2002) (according to the Philippine army)
10,672 civilians killed (1969–2002)

The Communist rebellion in the Philippines is an ongoing conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist[14] coalition of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People's Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF). It is the largest, longest-running, most prominent communist conflict in the Philippines,[14] in contrast to the Marxist–Leninist[15] RPMP-RPA-ABB rebellion, and the now-defunct Hukbalahap and Cordillera People’s Liberation Army Rebellions.[16]

The history of the CPP–NPA–NDF rebellion can be traced back to what 1965, young proletarian revolutionaries led by Jose Maria Sison called the "First Great Rectification Movement," an ideological movement within the Marxist–Leninist 1930s-era Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP-1930) begun by Sison in the mid-1960s. It led Sison's group to break away from the party and establish the Marxist–Leninist–Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26, 1968.[17]

On 29 March 1969 the CPP formed an alliance with Bernabe Buscayno, who led a small armed PKP group in Central Luzon. This became known as the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the CPP.[17]

The group's first violent incident took place in 1971.[citation needed]

A year later, President Ferdinand Marcos introduced martial law,[18][19] leading to the radicalization of many young people[20] and a rapid growth of the CPP-NPA.[21]

In 1992, the NPA split into two factions: the reaffirmist faction led by Sison and the rejectionist faction which advocated the formation of larger military units and urban insurgencies. 13 smaller factions eventually emerged from the group.[citation needed]

Until 2002, the NPA received a considerable amount of aid from outside the Philippines, although later developments forced it to rely more on support from local sources. Between 1969 and 2008, more than 43,000 insurgency-related fatalities were recorded.[22]


Formation of the Communist Party of the Philippines

The original Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-1930 (Communist Party of the Philippines) was established in 1930 by members of the Partido Obrero de Filipinas and the Socialist Party of the Philippines with the help of the COMINTERN. It would later lead an anti-Japanese Hukbalahap Rebellion in 1942 with the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon. During World War II, these communist guerrillas fought against both the Japanese and other guerrilla bands.[23] In the years following, Maoist factions began organizing mass organizations such as Kabataang Makabayan, Malayang Kilusan ng Kababaihan and hosting theoretical studies on Marxism–Leninism–Maoism. They would eventually break off from the old party and form the Communist Party of the Philippines/Marxist–Leninist–Maoist in 1968.[24]

Founding of the New People's Army

The New People's Army would be established by Jose Maria Sison and Bernabe Buscayno as the armed wing of the CPP-MLM. The new Maoist leadership would drop the reformist ideas that led the CPP-1930 to collaborate with the government of Ferdinand Marcos, and enforce Maoist principles, aimed at creating a socialist state through New Democracy by launching a people's war. Its initial strength was estimated to compromise approximately 60 guerrillas and 35 weapons.

Rapid growth under the Marcos martial law era

The Communist Party of the Philippines underwent rapid growth from 1972 during the period of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos.[21]

Establishment of the National Democratic Front

The National Democratic Front was then established in 1973 as the political front of the CPP-MLM, bringing together broad revolutionary organizations which accepted their 12-point program, and building international relations with foreign communist parties such as those in India and Nepal.[25]

1992 reaffirmist/rejectionist split

Between the 1970s and 1980s, thousands of volunteers, including youth and teenagers from both urban and rural areas, joined the organization. In 1992, NPA split into two factions: the reaffirmist faction led by Sison and the rejectionist faction which advocated the formation of larger military units and urban insurgencies. Through NPA's history, 13 smaller factions emerged from the group,[8] the most notable being MLPP-RHB, APP, RPA-M, RPM/P-RPA-ABB and CPLA.


On 21 August 1971, the first act of NPA rebellion took place when NPA militants threw two grenades onto the stage at a Liberal Party rally in Manila, killing nine people and injuring 95 others. Relying on small armed community-based propaganda units, the NPA found itself in an all-out rebellion by 1972.[21] On 21 September 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, which forced the NPA to fight for its freedom. In 1974, the NPA launched its first tactical operation in Calbiga, Samar, when it ambushed an Army scout patrol and seized a number of their weapons.[22]

China provided support to the NPA from 1969–1976. After that period, the Chinese ceased all aid, resulting in a five-year period of reduced activity. Despite the setback, the rebellion rekindled with funds from revolutionary taxes, extortion and large scale foreign support campaigns.[21] Both the CPP and NPA attempted to garner support from the Workers' Party of Korea, the Maoist factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Japanese Red Army, Sandinista National Liberation Front, Communist Party of El Salvador, Communist Party of Peru, and the Algerian military. Financial aid, training and other forms of support were received from a number of the above. NDF-controlled trading companies were allegedly set up in Hong Kong, Belgium, and Yugoslavia. At the same time the Communist Party of the Philippines formed a unit in the Netherlands and sent representatives to Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Ireland, United States, Sweden, and various parts of the Middle East. Despite the massive amount of aid previously received, foreign support eventually dried up following the 1990s collapse of socialist governments worldwide.[7]

A parallel Moro insurgency created favorable conditions for the development of NPA. During the 1970s, 75% of the Philippine military was deployed on the island of Mindanao, a Moro stronghold, despite the 1976 peace deal between the government and MILF. As of 2000, 40% of the AFP troops continued to engage Moro rebels.[22]

In 2001, the AFP launched a campaign of selective extrajudicial killings, in an attempt to suppress NPA activity. By targeting suspected rebel sympathizers, the campaign aimed to destroy the communist political infrastructure. The program was modeled after the Phoenix Program, a U.S. project implemented during the Vietnam War. According to Dr William Norman Holden, University of Calgary, security forces carried out a total of 1,335 extrajudicial killings between January 2001 – October 2012.[22]

On 9 August 2002, NPA was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States Department of State. A parallel increase in counter-insurgency operations negatively affected the course of the rebellion. Netherlands-based Jose Maria Sison is currently leader of CPP's eight member politburo and 26 member central committee—the party's highest ruling bodies. Despite the existence of the politburo, NPA's local units receive a high level of autonomy due to difficulties in communication between each of the fronts across the country.[7]

Rebel recruits receive combat training from veteran fighters and ideological training by Mao Zedong in: the Three Main Rules of Discipline and Eight Points of Attention; the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. NPA units usually consist of 15–30 fighters, with special armed partisan units of 50–60 rebels serving in a special operations capacity.[26] NPA also formed a limited tactical alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao, enabling the mutual transfer of troops through each other's territory.[7] Between 1969–2008, more than 43,000 insurgency related fatalities were recorded.[22]

Plantations run by Japanese companies have been assaulted by the NPA.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34]

In the State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte which happened on July 2016, Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire to the leftist rebels. Due to this declaration, the peace talks between the government and the NDF resumed on August 2016. The peace talks were carried out in Oslo, Norway.

In February 2017, the CPP-NPA-NDF declared that they will withdraw from the ceasefire, effective on 10 February 2017, due to the unfulfilled promise by the government that it will release all 392 political prisoners. However, the communists attacked and killed 3 soldiers before the withdrawal, which angered the government and made them declare a withdrawal from the ceasefire also. The peace talks was informally terminated and an all-out war was declared by the AFP after the withdrawal.

In March 2017, the government announced a new truce and the resumption of peace talks, to take place in April. The fifth round is planned to follow in June.[citation needed][needs update]

However, on 5 December 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations after several attacks by the NPA against the government. The NDFP, the political wing of the communist rebellion is not included on the proclamation.[35]

In order to centralize all government efforts for the reintegration of former communist rebels, President Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 10 on 3 April 2018, creating the Task Force Balik Loob which was placed in charge in centralizing the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).[36] As of December 30, 2019, the Task Force reported over 10,000 former CPP-NPA rebels and supporters who have returned to the fold of law and availed of E-CLIP benefits, which include a PHP65,000.00 cash assistance, livelihood training, housing benefits, among others. [37]

On 4 December 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70,[38] which institutionalized a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace" to help end the decades-long communist insurgency, while also forming the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) which was directed to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of the approach. [39] This order further intensified the Philippine government's campaign against the insurgency, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines reporting 11,605 rebels and supporters surrendering to the government, with 120 rebels being killed and 196 more arrested in military operations from January 1 - December 26, 2019. [40]


Since the early stages of the rebellion, the island of Samar has been considered to be NPA's main stronghold. While Samar represents 2% and 5% of the Philippine population and territory respectively, 11% of all NPA related incidents have taken place on the island. Samar's terrain consists of densely forested mountainous areas, providing fertile ground for the conduct of guerrilla warfare.[22]

An important factor in the spread of the rebellion was the issue of widespread landlessness. Land reforms provided only a limited solution for the millions of Philippine landless farmers. In the case of Samar, 40 landowning clans controlled approximately half of the island's agricultural land. Instances of landowner harassment and violence towards working class tenants led to escalating tensions between the two social groups.[22]

Another factor into the Samar Island being a stronghold is historically the island has been among the most rebellious against the American Commonwealth rule, Spanish rule, and the Japanese occupation.[22]

In 1976, NPA gained popular support among the inhabitants of Samar following vigilante actions against cattle rustling gangs. The following year, NPA transferred agents from Cebu and Manila where conditions were less favorable. The influx of troops enable NPA to form units fully engaged in guerrilla activities. In 1982, an unofficial communist government was formed, solidifying Samar as a communist stronghold. The 1980s downfall of the coconut industry greatly affected livelihoods of many Samaranos, further fueling the rebellion. Between January 2011 and December 2012, a total of 153 insurgency related incidents took place in Samar, resulting in 21 deaths and 55 injuries.[22]

See also


  1. ^ " News Article: Trainers, Advisors Help Philippines Fight Terrorism". Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Philippines (New Peoples Army) (1972– )" (PDF). Political Economy Research Insititute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Libyan terrorism: the case against Gaddafi". Archived from the original on 25 May 2017. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
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  5. ^ "1990 Global Terrorism: State-Sponsored Terrorism". Archived from the original on 11 October 2017. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  6. ^ Paul J. Smith (21 September 2004). Terrorism and Violence in Southeast Asia: Transnational Challenges to States and Regional Stability. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 194–. ISBN 978-0-7656-3626-3. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
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  13. ^ "Alex Boncayao Brigade". 16 August 2012. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
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  15. ^ "About the RPM-M". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
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  23. ^ Sinclair, II, Major Peter T. (1 December 2011), "Men of Destiny: The American and Filipino Guerillas During the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines" (pdf),, School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College, p. 35, retrieved 2 September 2014
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