by: Quennie Ann J. Palafox

       The dissident movement which came to be called the Huk Movement was originally consisted of peasants who raised arms against their landlords, of outlaws who found haven in the organization, and the Filipino communists who provided the leadership and who joint forces together with them under the nationalistic banner of fighting the Japanese fascism. This movement which was communist-sponsored was borne of economic, social, and political inequalities subsisted even before the coming of the Spanish, who commenced their version of mercantilism to the Filipinos, and were kept alive down to the twentieth century by unscrupulous American economic policy. Social cleavage has perpetuated in history when Filipinos are split into those who “haves” who enjoyed economic wellness and those who “have-nots” who were left with little opportunities to achieved their desires in life.

Establishment of Hukbalahap

Threat of Japanese invasion alarmed the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and so, in December 1941, Pedro Abad Santos alerted Luis Taruc to rally all manpower resources in Pampanga for the emergency. Juan Feleo in the same way organized the peasantry of Nueva Ecija for the resistance movement. To prepare the citizen against Japanese invasion, a National Provisional Council of the United Front was formed to coordinate labor and peasant activities in Central. It was decided that a guerilla army be organized to combat the Japanese being inspired by the victory of the first encounter between a guerilla unit headed by an Amazon, Felipa Culala, alias Dayang-Dayang in May 13, 1942. In March 29, 1942 the HUKBALABAP (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon) or People’s Anti-Japanese Army, was born in Sitio Bawit, San Lorenzo, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. Luis Taruc, who was tasked to be the commander-in-chief, headed the military committee. The other committee members were Casto Alejandrino, vice commander, Felipa Culala, and Bernardo Poblete, alias Tandang Banal. Since The Huk was the military arm of the CPP and a military commissariat was immediately formed with the following as members: Taruc, Alejandrino, Mariano P. Balgos, chief of staff; Juan Feleo, Mateo del Castillo, and Ong Kiet, commander of the Wha Chi Chinese guerillas. Central Luzon was partitioned into five military districts by the Huk Military Committee to ensure an efficient offensive-defensive action against the enemy.

Japanese Attacks led by Hukbalahap

The guerillas launched attack on enemy positions, harassing the Japanese and giving them no lull. The Huks according to Alfredo Saulo, “followed a policy of continuous attacks. The policy of continuous attacks had a twofold purpose: to kill as many enemies as possible, thus increasing the people morale and confidence in the Hukbalahap, and to get arms for the still unarmed guerillas known as the “squad balutans”. In the two months that followed, Huk strength grew to approximately 5,000 active supporters, organized in thirty-five squadrons and support troops.” In January 1943, the Huk resumed its operation on carrying assaults against Police Constabulary garrisons and Japanese supply depots. As their tactical successes grew and the people saw them as more effective fighters, Huk strength grew again doubling to 10,000 by March 1943. The popularity and strength of the Huks increased; the Huks helped establishing additional squadrons and contributed to the formation of an all-Chinese force, the Overseas Chinese 48th Detachment of the People’s anti-Japanese Forces, or Wachi.

Towards the liberation

In January 1945, before the American landing on Luzon most of Tarlac, Pampanga, and Nueva Ecija, fell into the hands of the Huk where they established provisional governments in the last two provinces. The Huks also contributed in liberating the outskirts of Southern Luzon, two Huk squadrons joined with the U.S. 11th Airborne Division and helped rescue American and allied prisoners from Japanese prison-camps at Cabantuan and Los Baños.

Bernard Seeman and Laurence Salisbury who wrote for Institute of Pacific Relations, New York published an unbiased assessment of the Huks’ war record in a pamphlet entitled Cross-Currents in the Philippines. According to their findings, the Huks had 1, 200 engagements with the Japanese and puppet forces during the war and inflicted some 25, 000 enemy casualties, mostly local puppets. By war’s end, the Huks’ strength consisted of 20, 000 fully armed regulars and 50, 000 reservists.

Shortly after the war, the CPP dissolved the Hukbalahap and changed it into the Hukbalahap Veterans’ League with Alejandrino as national chairman. They lobbied for the elevation of the social and economic conditions brought about by the social injustice, that there is a need for amelioration by the government for the conditions of former Huk guerillas who were most landless farmers. However, of all the Huk squadrons that participated in the war, only two from southern Luzon were offered official recognition and promised veteran benefits, back pay, and the opportunity to integrate into the Philippine armed forces.

The Post-War Dissident Campaign of the Huks and its Eventual Fall

After the war, the country was in chaos and its economy in debacle- unemployment was rampant and the nation’s export industry had collapsed during the war.  The Philippine Trade Act (or Bell Act) of 1946 Provisions of the 1946 was seen by the Huks as another example of the United States manifestation of its imperialistic policy to the Philippines benefiting the rich landlords, businessmen and corrupt officials. But the one overruling factor that seemed to be central for Huk supporters and converts was the issue of land tenure.

When President Roxas’ successor, Elpidio Quirino took over, he granted amnesty to them instead of sending military forces against the Huks. Taruc personally went to Malacañang on June 21, 1948 to accept the amnesty from Quirino. However, the amnesty was a setback when constabulary authorities pressed to the surrender of the arms held by the Huks, who were pronounced as rebels, refused to do. The failure of the amnesty given by President Quirino in 1948 turned out to be the crucial factor that led to the CPP decision to instigate an armed struggle against the government which was under the shadow of American imperialism. In 1949, HUKBALAHAP was renamed Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan or HMB for short.

In the mid-1950s, events such as the October Manila raid injured the Huks seriously and interrupt their joint political-military strategy. Coupled with public outrage over the murder of Senora Quezon and other atrocities against civilians, the Huks’ mass support base developed cracks.

On February 17, 1954, Taruc met Manahan, accompanied by Benigno Aguino, Jr., a young reporter. Manahan urged Taruc to surrender, assuring him that Pres. Magsaysay will seriously consider his petition for a general amnesty to the Huks. On May 16, 1954, Taruc capitulated to the government and the news of his surrender spread to Southern Luzon. The failure of Huks in their fight against the constituted government could be attributed to the following: shortage of weapons and ammunitions, treatment given to surrendered, establishment of EDCOR, and failure to win the loyalty of the civilian population.