Poverty, despair breed new generation of Philippine rebels
The rebellion “will not disappear because of the fundamental needs of the people. The problems have persisted, and that’s the platform of the rebellion.”
SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAINS, Philippines — In the late-night hours and amid the chirp of crickets, Katryn welcomed a huddle of exhausted Filipino journalists in cheerful spirits like she was home. “Coffee?” she asked with a comforting smile.
Comrade Katryn is her nom de guerre, however, and for her, home is a rebel encampment concealed in the rain-soaked wilderness of the Philippines’ Sierra Madre Mountains. The 24-year-old walked away from her family two years ago to join one of the world’s longest-raging Marxist rebellions.
Mostly in their 20s and 30s, a few dozen New People’s Army guerrillas lugged M16 rifles and grenade launchers on a plateau where red hammer-and-sickle flags adorned a makeshift hall. Most wore mud-stained boots while cooking over wood fires or guarding the peripheries of the encampment, just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the nearest army camp.
They’re part of a new generation of Maoist fighters who reflect the resiliency and constraints of an insurgency that has dragged on for nearly half a century through six Philippine presidencies while Cold War-era communist insurgencies across much of the world have faded into memory. They are driven by some of the same things as their predecessors, including crushing poverty, despair, government misrule and the abysmal inequality that has long plagued Philippine society.
“The New People’s Army has no other recruiter but the state itself,” a young rebel, Comrade May, told The Associated Press.