THE SEPARATIST: An Interesting Letter

I was one of those who immediately started reading some of the microfilm reels for a paper I am writing on the (in)famous Mindanao Commission of the CPP – then the largest and most dynamic of the communist movement’s regional organizations. I continue to marvel at some of the primary materials I found (including hand-written notes!), but one document drew my interest the most.

It is the letter by one Lucas Fernandez explaining to comrades why the order to expel him from the CPP was unfair and Stalinist. Those of you who experienced the Mindanao insurgency in the early 1980s will remember Lucas Fernandez as the spokesman of the Mindanao Commission. I even recall having read his interview and seen his face (it was masked, of course) in one issue of Newsweek, which featured the rise of the CPP as a major threat to the Marcos dictatorship. Lucas was the face of Mindacom and I guess it came as no surprise that when the Red Pope and eternal Chairman of the CPP, Jose Ma. Sison, ordered the purging and assassination of many Mindacom leaders for defying his Maoist dream, Lucas would be one of the first to be kicked out.

Well, enough of the intro. I am reproducing Lucas’ letter here for posterity purposes and also to whet the appetite of the historically curious. To wit:

8 October 1992

Dear friends,

“Yesterday, 7 October 1992, I received my walking papers. After having devoted over twenty years of my life to the revolutionary struggle as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, I have just been expelled from the organization.

“Even though I had expected this extreme measure, I am still very much saddened and angered by it. And I feel a sense of great foreboding for the Party and the revolutionary movement of the Philippines.

“My expulsion appears to be part of a wide-scale Stalinist purge that the Party leadership has decided to launch under its so-called ‘rectification campaign.’ While only a few Party members may actually be formally expelled in this ‘cleansing’ of the ranks, hundreds may be cast adrift, unless enough pressure builds up to prevent Party leaders from continuing with the purge. Already, whole units and even entire territorial organizations critical of the Party leadership’s positions on certain major questions are on the verge of being disenfranchised or dissolved outright. This appears to be in line with the chilling words of CPP Chairperson Armando Liwanag himself: ‘[With] a unit in which errant elements prevail, you just cut off the lifeline and its members will be looking for jobs elsewhere.’ Not even the Philippine solidarity movement abroad has been spared from invective, as support groups critical of the Party’s leadership’s hardline positions on international issues and with the different approach to the peace talks have been labeled as ‘solidarity groups with rightist tendencies.’

“It is widely known that over the past few years there have been very intense debates within the Party and the National Democratic Front on a number of fundamental issues, such as revolutionary strategy, the vision of an alternative society, international line, CPP-NDF relations and inner-party democracy. A growing number of Party members have clamored for thorough democratic discussion and debate involving all Party members and the convening of a Party Congress for the resolution of these questions.

“Without much prior consultation and discussion, however, the Party Central Committee recently approved two documents drafted by Liwanag, ‘Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify the Errors,’ and ‘Stand for Socialism against Modern Revisionism,’ which dismissed as erroneous thinking all dissenting views on the fundamental questions earlier mentioned. Setbacks suffered by the revolutionary movement in the past decade were summarily attributed to the line of ‘urban insurrectionism,’ ‘military adventurism, ‘bourgeois liberalism,’ and ‘Gorbachovism’ supposedly held by those with contrary views. The CC called for a ‘return to the basics,’ a reaffirmation of positions originally taken by the Party during its founding congress in 1968, which it held up as ‘basic principles’ – unchangeable and inviolable. The CC further called for a ‘rectification campaign’ and the removal of Party members who persisted in their ‘deviations’ from the ‘basic principles.’ It said nothing about full-scale inner-party debates or about a Congress.

“Over the last seven years, I have written a number of articles and discussion papers, on various pen names, to help initiate or stimulate deeper theoretical discussion within the CPP-NDF and in the Philippine left in general. Most of my articles dealt with analyses and proposals for changes in revolutionary strategy and tactics, such as those on the 1986 boycott error, insurrection, the ‘pol-mil’ (politico-military) framework, peace negotiations, electoral struggle, urban partisan warfare, and finally an omnibus critique of the CPP’s long-standing ‘protracted people’s war’ strategy. More recently, however, I also came up with articles protesting the Party leadership’s ‘back to the basics’ inflexibility and dogmatism; denouncing Stalinism; and advocating for open and free discussion of fundamental questions within the Party. I called on Party members to resist the rectification campaign-cum-purge and warned against the danger of authoritarianism and one-man rule within the Party.

“Last 14 September, I was placed, upon instructions of the Party’s Politburo, under ‘investigation for possible disciplinary action’ in relation to ‘[my] role in “Kampanyang Ahos” (the anti-infiltration campaign in Mindanao in 1985-86); to (sic) my article ‘Resist Authoritarian Tendencies within the Party’; and to ‘anti-Party’ articles in the journal Debate. The Politburo also put me under ‘preventive suspension’ from all my positions in the Party and the NDF (including membership in the NDF National Council) in order to prevent me from inflicting ‘further damage on the interest and prestige of the Party’ and ‘unduly influenc[ing] witnesses and/or the outcome of the investigation.’

“I refused to accept or submit to the whole investigation process and the ‘preventive suspension.’ I told my ‘investigators’ (who eventually also made the decision to expel me) that I believed I was not being afforded due process.

“In the first place, it was very clear in the summons and other papers I had received that my case had already been prejudged, that the Politburo had already considered me guilty of committing a whole litany of grave offenses; being one of those who ‘perpetuated the witch hunt campaign called Kampanyang Ahos’; ‘distorting and attacking the basic principles, policies and line of the Party,’ and propagating the line of ‘insurrectionism’ and ‘military adventurism’; having ‘incorrigibly anti-Marxist and anti-Party attitudes and beliefs,’ writing ‘anti-Party articles’; engaging in ‘malicious distortions and lies’ and ‘spreading of intrigue’; ‘vicious attacks on the character and position of Liwanag,’ ‘grave violations of the rules of discipline, internal democracy and proper processes of the Party,’ ‘using the prestige, resources, facilities and connections of the Party to attack the Party and slander the Party leadership’; and so on.

“I questioned other serious flaws in the investigative/disciplinary process, such as the absence of specific charges; the lack of jurisdiction and authority of the unit hearing my case; the treatment of my case as a simple ‘administrative’ procedure; the lack of distinction between the accuser, the investigator and the judge; the haste with which the process was being conducted (only five days within which to prepare my response and defense); my being singled out among those alleged to have been involved in Kampanyang Ahos and Debate.

“From the outset, I already knew what the outcome would be. The investigative/disciplinary process was just going to be a formality. And a very brief one at that. The decision on expulsion was reached on 24 September, just ten days after I had been notified of the ‘investigation.’

“No matter what Liwanag and some Party leaders have been spreading about me for over a year now, I have no doubts about the real reasons for my ouster from the Party. I have been expelled for dating to speak out, for confronting the Party leadership on fundamental questions long unresolved. I have been removed for questioning a rigid and outdated strategy, for struggling against authoritarianism. I have been dismissed for encouraging others to come out and express their views and for helping force the Party center to open debate when it blocked, full-scale democratic discussion within the Party. It comes as no surprise [to] me that I would be one of the targets of the Stalinist purge I had precisely warned against.

“The inclusion of the accusation on Kampanyang Ahos is a devious maneuver to try to divert attention away from the purge and the fundamental questions being debated. Those in the Party’s Mindanao Commission in 1985-86, have, since a few years ago, already admitted that Ahos was a very grave error, accepted full responsibility for it and offered to be subjected to disciplinary action. Having still been in the commission during the early party of Ahos, I too, since 1989, have accepted my share of the responsibility and I have declared several times my willingness to face an investigation/disciplinary process as long as this would be fair process before an impartial body.

“It is one thing to accept responsibility for Ahos; it is a completely different thing to accept the summary conclusion that Liwanag and the Party leadership want to ram down people’s throats: that the cause of the debacle was the line of ‘urban insurrectionism’ and ‘military adventurism.’ None of those in the former Mindanao Commission can accept such a fiction.

“I refused to submit to the ‘investigation’ that I was summoned to recently because it was a complete farce. I believe that a hysteria cannot be rectified through another hysteria, a witch hunt through another witch hunt, and a horrendous ‘anti-infiltration’ purge through a mindless Stalinist purge.

“I shall appeal to the Party Central Committee and the Party Congress for a reversal of the decision on my case even if, for now, I do not see bright prospects that my appeal will really be heard.

“I extend my heartfelt thanks to all comrades and friends who have given me their support in the struggle for reform and greater democracy within the Party and the revolutionary movement. I ask everyone to take heart because although the movement’s current crisis is likely to deepen, the prospects are bright for a higher unity within the Party or the revolutionary movement – a more democratic, non-monolithic type of unity – to eventually emerge.

“Even as I have already been thrown out of the Party – and probably soon will be from the NDF too – I shall continue to work for the Philippine revolutionary movement and for democratic changes within the movement, giving as much commitment and dedication as I have in the past. The memories of comrades and friends who have devoted their lives to the struggle, of the hundreds of valiant revolutionary martyrs I knew, and especially of my two brothers who died for the revolutionary cause are forever etched on my mind. I can never turn my back to them. With continuing revolutionary fervor,


(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews' effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries, the countries they're presently working in, their growing up years or homecomings in Mindanao, their hopes and dreams and suggestions for Our Mindanao. P.N. Abinales of Ozamiz City is Associate Professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto University, Japan.)