Oct 242014


Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MANILA2154 2006-05-23 03:54 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
DE RUEHML #2154/01 1430354
O 230354Z MAY 06
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 002154



E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/23/2016

¶B. MANILA 2060
¶C. MANILA 1965
¶D. MANILA 1179
¶E. MANILA 0695
¶F. 05 MANILA 5506
¶G. 05 MANILA 3788
¶H. 05 MANILA 0410

Classified By: Acting Pol/C Joseph L. Novak for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: The so-called “legal” left parties, which
include Bayan Muna, Gabriela, the KMU, and Migrante, are an
important aspect of the Philippine political scene. Most are
linked with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New
People’s Army (CPP/NPA) and, along with the mainstream
Opposition, bitterly oppose President Arroyo. These leftist
groups are on the defensive, with its representatives in
Congress threatened with arrest or already incarcerated for
“sedition,” while a mounting number of its field cadre have
been slain. Considered focused and dedicated, the legal left
is dynamic, but its active hard-core membership is small and
its overall impact on the body politic is relatively limited.
That said, some in the GRP and military have wondered aloud
whether the leftist parties should be banned outright. End

Key Leftist Groups

¶2. (C) The legal left is an important aspect of the Filipino
political scene. The dozen or so groups in this political
basket are all closely linked to the underground CPP/NPA,
which observers believe oversees their activities through a
CPP unit called the National United Front Committee. They
are also linked to the National Democratic Front (NDF), the
negotiating arm of the CPP/NPA. In a classic Communist
tactic, the CPP seeks to create or influence pre-existing
groups to further its own ends (see ref F) and all of the
groups mentioned below follow a “party line” congruent with
that of the CPP. The groups include:

— BAYAN (for “Bagong Alyansang Makabayan” meaning “New
Alliance for the People”): BAYAN is an umbrella organization
that links all of the leftist groups.

— Bayan Muna (“People First”): This is the most well-known
militant organization. In its mission statement, Bayan Muna
says: “We stand on a platform of change that addresses the
basic problems that have plagued our country — foreign
domination, feudal bondage, and a corrupt government.” Bayan
Muna was the first leftist group to field candidates under
the party-list system. (Note: Party-list candidates, who
are supposed to represent “marginalized constituencies,” do
not compete head-to-head for congressional seats, but only
need to garner two percent of the separate party-list vote
nation-wide for a maximum allocation of three seats for any
single party. End Note.) The party is led by Congressman
Satur Ocampo and holds two other party-list seats in the
House. Poe Gratela, a former leftist who now works at
Malacanang, estimated that Bayan Muna has close to a thousand
professional operatives directing the group’s activities.

— Gabriela: Gabriela is a radical women’s organization.
Liza Maza is its lone party-list representative. The group
has led small rallies against the Visiting Forces Agreement,
and the GRP’s and USG’s handling of the case of the four U.S.
Marines accused of rape.

— Anakpawis (“Toiling Masses”): This organization is linked
to the KMU (see below) and another small organization,
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (“Peasant Movement of the
Philippines”). Anakpawis has two representatives in
Congress, including party leader Rep. Crispin Beltran, who
remains in police custody on sedition charges.

— KMU (“Kilusang Mayo Uno” or “May First Movement”): The
KMU is a militant labor organization. Its operatives are
active in sponsoring strikes and work stoppages. KMU
operatives, for example, helped spark violence at Hacienda
Luisita, a large estate with a sugar mill, located north of
Manila in November 2004. Observers claim that KMU’s main
focus is not to assist workers obtain higher wages or
improved conditions, but to extort money from employers,
which it then gives to the CPP/NPA (see ref H).

— Migrante: This group organizes among the millions of
Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs). It is also small,

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but it has activists spread out in key locations where OFW’s
work, including in the Middle East and Hong Kong (ref E).

— Suara Bangsamoro (“Voice of the Moro Nation”): This is a
small group made up of leftist Muslims. It has run on the
party list, but not won any seats.

¶3. (C) Other important legal left groups include the League
of Filipino Students, which is active at the university level
(see ref G), and COURAGE, a leftist organization active among
government employees. The group “Akbayan” is also a
left-wing group with representatives in Congress. Akbayan,
however, tilts in a social democratic direction and is not
linked to the CPP/NPA. Representative Etta Rosales, the
leader of the party who had formerly been linked to the CPP
but then turned against it, is said to be on a NPA “hit

Link with Mainstream Opposition

¶4. (C) The legal left is fully committed to undermining the
government of President Arroyo to the full extent possible.
The statements of the left’s leaders (and their websites) are
full of invective toward the President. Teodoro “Teddy”
Casino, a Bayan Muna representative, told Acting Pol/C in a
meeting that “Arroyo and her family are corrupt; her
administration has ordered the killings of my party’s workers
and has blood on its hands. She must resign.” The left’s
stance in favor of the ouster of Arroyo has made for strange
bedfellows: in 2001, the left pushed hard for the
resignation of then-President Estrada insisting that he was
corrupt, but it is now aligned with pro-Estrada elements in
the anti-Arroyo effort. As reviewed in ref B, the mainstream
Opposition is badly fractured and ineffective. On the
contrary, the left is disciplined and focused, and is widely
considered to be an effective, if small, element of the
anti-Arroyo effort. It often provides some of the more
rambunctious participants at anti-Arroyo rallies, while its
leaders — who are articulate and press savvy — are
effective at slinging barbs at Malacanang. The fact that the
left has a significant profile in public demonstrations is
not always seen as a blessing, however. House Minority
Leader Francis “Chiz” Escudero told Acting Pol/C on May 8
that some Opposition supporters, especially from the middle
class or higher, were reluctant to attend rallies in which
there was a sizable leftist presence.

¶5. (SBU) Along with most of the mainstream Opposition, the
left supports a second try to impeach President Arroyo on
corruption and abuse of power charges (the left’s
representatives in the House supported last year’s
unsuccessful impeachment effort). It has also come out
against Malacanang’s Charter Change plans. Re the latter
issue, Bayan Muna has attacked the proposals, stating: “The
shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system will not
resolve in any way the current crisis we the people are
facing. Should it happen, we will still be governed by
people who hail from the same ruling, exploiting classes for
whom self-serving interests are paramount.”

On the Defensive

¶6. (C) Though it remains active in politics, the left is on
the defensive. The government has charged that its
representatives in the House are involved in seditious
activities, and the police arrested Anakpawis’ Crispin
Beltran in February during the State of National Emergency.
Beltran remains in custody on sedition charges. The
government has also promised to press the case against five
other leftist representatives in the House of
Representatives. These five remained on the premises of the
House compound from late February until early May, leaving
only when Malacanang — in response to an adverse court
ruling — announced that it would not arrest them at this
point (ref C). The left has repeatedly denounced the
government, charging that the Department of Justice’s
pressure on its House representatives is illegal and based on
unfounded charges. GRP contacts have told us that they
believe that the representatives are working closely with the
CPP/NPA, including by passing their Congressional “pork
barrel” funding to the NPA, and undertaking other activities
that amount to “rebellion.”

¶7. (SBU) There have also been many killings of the left’s
activists. So far this year, at least 29 leftist/labor
activists have been slain in the Philippines (ref A). The

MANILA 00002154 003 OF 003

latest killings add to the total of 40 for the whole of last
year. Many of those killed were members of Bayan Muna. The
left has harshly criticized the GRP, claiming that active or
retired military and police elements are responsible for the
attacks in a deliberate bid to silence the left and hobble
its political efforts. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna told
Acting Pol/C that the killings have forced his party to
restrict its activities out of fear of violence. He added
that the amount of threatening messages that activists are
receiving has gone way up in recent months, perhaps presaging
more attacks. The GRP has denied the charges of involvement,
recently forming a task force to coordinate the criminal
investigations. Some in the government have attributed the
attacks to an ongoing NPA “purge.” Over the course of years,
there have been very few arrests and even fewer convictions
related to the attacks. Mission continues to urge the GRP to
reinforce the rule of law and to end the culture of impunity.


¶8. (C) Considered focused and dedicated, the legal left is
dynamic, but its number of hard-core activists is small
(perhaps only several thousand in total) and its overall
impact on Philippine politics is relatively limited (its
representatives in the House have had virtually no impact on
legislation, for example). Elements of the GRP and military
are clearly worried about its activities, however, with some
publicly and privately wondering whether its activities
should be banned outright and the left kicked out of
Congress. That said, many in the Philippines believe that
the decision taken after the end of the Marcos regime to
allow the left into overt politics was a good one, offering a
way to co-opt its more moderate elements and bring them into
the mainstream. A significant threat to this experiment with
the left, however, is the ongoing extra-judicial killings of
its activists, which serve to polarize further an already
volatile Philippine political situation.

Visit Embassy Manila’s Classified SIPRNET website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/manila/index. cfm

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