In memory of Menandro “Ka Bok” Villanueva

Anti Imperialist Action Ireland extends its sombre condolences to the family, comrades, and friends of Menandro “Ka Bok” Villanueva, the national Commander of the heroic New People’s Army. We understand that his passing must be a devastating and terrible loss for all of our Filipino comrades in the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The New People’s Army (or Bagong Hukbong Bayan), is a revolutionary guerrilla army in the Philippines, an island nation in South East Asia with a large population of 108.1 million people. Although it is materially wealthy in natural resources, from an abundance of rare minerals to rich fishing grounds, the Philippines is devastated by inequality, poverty, and underdevelopment due to horrific plunder by huge imperialist companies from the European Union, United Kingdom, United States of America, Russian Federation, and China. The robbing of the Philippines by these foreign financial giants has been facilitated by a long series of corrupt comprador regimes, such as the US-backed military dictator Ferdinand Marcos, or the current president Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has used his position of power to cover up hundreds of political killings and massacres, publicly call for the mutilation of women, bomb and threaten indigenous communities (Lumads), and urge the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “ignore human rights”, among many other crimes.

The New People’s Army was founded in 1969, during the height of other revolutionary guerrilla struggles in South East Asia such as that of the Liberation Army of South Vietnam. Since the days of Ferdinand Marcos and his reign of terror, to the present Duterte regime, the New People’s Army, as part of the National Democratic Front, has been resisting the government, stopping harmful projects by foreign corporations, providing necessary facilities such as schools and hospitals, and empowering Filipinos by giving them direct governance over their affairs in territory they have liberated. Despite a notoriously brutal counter-insurgency campaign waged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines the New People’s Army has grown to include tens of thousands of dedicated fighters, lead and organise hundreds of thousands of local militia, and thrive within a support base of several million workers, farmers, fishermen, intellectuals, and youth.

Under Menandro Villanueva’s command the New People’s Army continued to follow a strategy of guerrilla warfare as part of a wider campaign they call “protracted people’s war”. Guerrilla warfare is well known in Ireland as a method where a weaker force overpowers a strong enemy though hit-and-run tactics. It was used effectively in struggles against the British Empire, such as the War of Indpendence from 1919 to 1921. Just like famous guerrilla commanders in Irish history such as Tom Barry, Villanueva was able to turn the tables of battle in the face of a superior enemy by crafting new strategies and creatively using the environment. During his leadership New People’s Army used local knowledge of terrain to carry out operations, employed and nurtured the expertises and specialisations of their comrades to fulfill vital logistical and support roles, and turned the enemy into their armory by equipping themselves through daring arms raids.

From fighters and medics, to artists and teachers, to activists and human rights lawyers, the Filipino struggle for freedom involves millions of people from various walks of life. It is considered by many to be one of the most advanced examples of a true revolution against exploitation on earth today. As Commander of the New People’s Army and a founding member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, it is arguable that Menandro Villaneuva fulfilled perhaps one of the single most important and testing roles to exist in the worldwide revolutionary movement. His service to the Philippines and its people places him firmly in the ranks of some of the greatest revolutionaries who gave their lives in the fight against imperialist oppression, such as Wolfe Tone or AndrĂ©s Bonifacio.

However, despite his colossal undertaking, Menandro Villaneuva “chose to be in the background” according to Communist Party of the Philippines spokesman Marco Valbuena. This is a testament to the humble and selfless nature of a true revolutionary and true believer in a just cause. He steered the helm of a huge revolutionary army for years, only seeking reward in working for the people. A quality seen in Ireland only among the bravest and most selfless of republicans.

To provide a recent example of the level of injustice which Villaneuva fought against, there was a shooting today in Patungan Cove. About one thousand and two hundred residents of a Cavite fishing village set to be demolished in the interests of an eco-tourist project by the corporate MSDC and MTV Realty Corporation, confronted a large demolition team backed by the Philippine National Police. The armed demolition team opened fire on the protestor’s barricades at least twelve times according to reports by the Save Patungan Now Movement, causing at least three gunshot wounds reported so far. However, instead of apprehending the shooters and defending the civilians under attack as the New People’s Army or Menandro Villaneuva would have done, the police instead arrested large numbers of protestors whose only crime was trying to defend their home.

The New People’s Army have fought these sorts of greedy corporations for years, targetting harmful mining projects and saving thousands from displacement. From fishing companies robbing the coast to mining companies ravaging entire islands, no plunderer was ever truly safe from the hand of justice brought down by Villaneuva’s army, and thanks to his work in building up a huge and deep-rooted guerrilla movement this will not change any time soon.

However, Villaneuva’s work as a revolutionary leader and people’s fighter drew hatred and fear out of the Filipino government and its foreign-backed forces. After years of unrestrained and overfunded counter-insurgency operations, Ka Bok was eventually murdered in the hinterlands of Davao de Oro at the age of seventy. While his loss will be a great blow to the revolutionary forces in the Philippines, it is known that the fighters trained under him were among the New People’s Army’s finest, and that his lessons and achievements will be passed on through those who trained under and served alongside him. With the passing of one hardworking leader, those who learned from them will take their place and continue to blaze their trail. Although Menandro Villaneuva’s body no longer draws breath, he still swirls through the mountains of Davao, and rolls in the waves of Patungan Cove. He carries on in his work for the struggle he and his comrades waged and will continue to wage, and as an inspiration to those in Ireland who look to the fight for freedom in the Philippines with awe.

We are also relieved to hear that his body is now with his family, remembering the cruel deprivation of this right which fell upon the family of the recently deceased Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos. The memories made between Villaneuva and his close loved ones will survive him, along with the future he and countless others are making the ultimate sacrifice to secure. Surely, Ka Bok’s epitaph will be a free and just Philippines, where the vast wealth of the nation is used to the benefit the masses whose destinies his life was so closely interlinked with. Socialist republicans in Ireland extend a red salute to Ka Bok and to the army he commanded, whose fighters, officers, and cadres we look up to as examples of true warriors of the oppressed, whose blood runs from the same vein as the brave men and women of the Easter Rising.

Long live the memory of Ka Bok!

Mabuhay ang alaala ni Ka Bok!

Long live the New People’s Army!

Mabuhay ang Bagong Hukbong Bayan!

Ireland and the Philippines are united in struggle against imperialism!

Ang Ireland at Pilipinas ay nagkakaisa sa pakikibaka laban sa imperyalismo!

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