Rumours have been circulating for several months of a split in the Manila-Rizal Regional Party Committee (MRRPC) of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The split between the underground and legal leaderships of the party has now been confirmed, with both factions holding media conferences in recent weeks to announce expulsions and make accusations against each other.
At a June 22 media conference in Manila, the underground leadership of the MRRPC announced the expulsion of Filemon "Popoy" Lagman from the regional party organisation.
Lagman, the head of the MRRPC, has been working in the legal mass organisations after being elected chairperson of a radical workers' centre, Solidarity of Filipino Workers, in February 1996. The underground leadership announced that Lagman was to be replaced by Elmer Jimenez, said to be Lagman's former deputy.
According to a report in the June 23 Manila Times, Jimenez said, "The former party secretary of the region had been expelled from the party organisation and is now disenfranchised from all party functions".
Nilo de la Cruz, the alleged head of the armed wing of the CPP, the Alex Boncayao Brigade, has aligned himself with the underground leadership. The ABB also announced a campaign of punitive actions against child rapists occupying high government positions.
The underground leadership also claimed the mantle and support of the Revolutionary Workers Party (RWP), which was set up in an attempt to unite the non-Maoist forces in Manila and the Visayas region. However, in a June 24 statement, the chairperson of the provisional leadership of the RWP attacked the underground leadership's statement as "grossly irresponsible and incorrect".
The political basis of the split is still unclear. The underground leadership has attacked Lagman's style of leadership and blamed him for the "deteriorating state" of the organisation. Lagman has been charged with attempting to "liquidate" the underground party organisation. There has also been talk about Lagman's "mishandling of funds".
Replying to the charges of liquidationism in an interview in the Filipino magazine Isyu, Lagman said the underground leaders are "breaking away because they can no longer go along with the total cleansing of our Sisonite [Maoist] heritage".
Lagman accused the underground of "vanguardism". "Their concept of the role of the vanguard party is to act as the virtual centre of all activities; a party that controls and acts as the secret conspirator and manipulator of mass organisations and the mass movement."
The Lagman faction has attacked the underground for initiating the split, instead of arguing their case before the proper party organs.
It also criticised the ABB's military campaign, pointing to a recent incident in which the vice-president of Philippine Woolen Corporation was kidnapped when the union members were about to conclude an agreement with the company. The incident is said to have "nearly compromised their negotiations".
The underground faction claims to have reconstituted itself at a regional conference held on June 12. The Lagman faction's response was to state that it is the party's "legitimate centre".
Both factions claim that they have the support of the majority of the membership and the allegiance of the mass organisations.
They also claim that the split will strengthen rather than weaken the movement. According to Jimenez, it will "reinvigorate the revolutionary movement". According to Lagman, it will "cleanse" the movement of its Stalinist-Maoist heritage.
Given the lack of political clarification through the debate so far, however, this is more probably a split that has unnecessarily fractured and weakened the revolutionary left in the Philippines.
(Source: Green Left Weekly #281 - July 16, 1997)