By Max Lane
On April 3 Leopoldo "Comrade Hector" Mabalingan, a former commander of the Benahaw New People's Army (NPA) command, was shot dead by NPA units under the command of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader Gregorio Rosal. Mabalingan was shot in a church while participating in a wedding ceremony.
Rosal later announced that Mabalingan had been tried before a peoples court and sentenced to death. Mabalingan was charged by the peoples court with kidnapping government officials and a US businessman. Mabalingan, who had left the NPA and participated in a government-financed cooperative movement, was also accused of enticing NPA fighters away from the armed struggle.
The Philippines Daily Inquirer of April 17 stated that Rosal was also reported to have said that four other CPP leaders who have been charged by a peoples court are likely to suffer the same fate as Mabalingan. These four are Ricardo Reyes, an alleged former leader of the CPP; Romulo Kintanar, allegedly a former chief of the NPA; Arturo Tabara, alleged head of the CPP Visayas Regional Commission; and Feliman Lagman alias Carlos Forte, secretary of the Manila Rizal Regional Commission.
All four are central figures in the political opposition to the leadership of Jose Maria Sison. Ricardo Reyes is a central leader in Siglaya, one of the new left formations produced by the break-up of the CPP and the national democratic movement. Other figures associated with Siglaya are former BAYAN leaders Lidy Alejandro and Etta Rosales and popular peasant leader Jaime Tadeo.
Tabara and Forte are the leaders of major regional branches of the party which have declared their autonomy from the CPP central leadership. Tabara was recently arrested by the Ramos regime's military and is imprisoned in Negros. Forte's Manila Regional Committee still has the demonstrated support of tens of thousands of workers who continue to mobilise behind the Manila leadership.
However, the charges brought against these opposition political leaders are not political but so-called criminal charges such as gangsterism and corruption.
Rosal was quoted in the Manila Times of April 19 as stating that the peoples court was about to convene and hand down death sentences on the four opposition leaders. To date there has been no announcement as to the composition of the "peoples court" or how so-called "due process" can be applied with the accused not present.
Visayas regional military commander Bimbo Magtanggol, as well as spokespersons for the autonomous Visayas CPP Commission and the Visayas National Democratic Front, issued a statement accusing Rosal of trying "to lay the grounds for the physical elimination of opposition leaders".
The statement said that "failing through democratic and ideological means to command obedience, the Stalinist Sisonites whip everyone into line through terrorism and violence".
According to Magtanggol, the peoples court lacks credibility because the judge, prosecutor, witnesses and executioner are all rolled into one. "No-one in sound and upright mind would believe the 'justness' and 'impartiality' of the Stalinist peoples court."
Ricardo Reyes told the press, "Let them shoot me. I'm an easy target anyway, going around leading a normal life." Reyes said there had never been a peoples court but only a party-appointed one. He added that he and the three others would be tried in absentia without benefit of counsel. Reyes said that Rosal and his comrades had forgotten that "they can kill people but not ideas".