Anti subversion law
Outlawing an ideology
The chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has said he favors the restoration of the Anti Subversion Law which makes it a crime to be a member of the Communist Party or any of its front organizations. Before I comment, allow me to put on the record where I am coming from.
While a student of the University of the Philippines, I joined the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) on the day it was founded, November 30, 1963. I was later elected member of its central committee. I pursued a career in radio and television and became a harsh critic of the Marcos regime. In 1971, after the Liberal Party political rally at Plaza Miranda was bombed, I was one of those charged for violation of Republic Act 1700, the Anti Subversion Law. The case was docketed as People of the Philippines versus Luzvimindo David et al, the alleged sixty-three leaders of the communist rebellion.
After Marcos declared martial law, I spent nine and a half months in Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio detention centers. Our case was assigned to Military Commission No. 6, a military court.
By 1977 my broadcast career was firmly re-established. Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko (I love my fellowmen) was the public service TV program where I sublimated my favorite Maoist slogan: serve the people. I applied for amnesty and was dropped from the case.
Later, as a Senator, I would have a final encounter with the Anti Subversion Law. I cast my vote to repeal RA 1700, not because it was used against me, but because I felt it would not stop the insurgency. I still believe this.
I am, however, not surprised that the Philippines’ top soldier still pines for a law that simply makes you an enemy of the state for your beliefs. It is not easy to let go of the baggage of the cold war.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 unraveled all but a few centrally planned economies. Globalization may have underscored the problems of capitalism, but governments have to move away from ideological battles.
We know the drill. While military threats must be met with firm military action, by itself military action will not suffice. The communist insurgency thrives where government presence is not felt. A failure in governance and a lack of discipline of government troops compounded by extra judicial executions actually fertilizes the insurgency. Aside from more mobile and better equipped troops, the government needs a flatter and more nimble bureaucracy at the frontlines. Presence, presence, presence.
The communists have to be engaged. We are better off with them in Congress than in the hills. There is no need to outlaw a dead ideology. Maybe just bad governance.