Akbayan was not a CPP breakaway group

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:30:00 02/10/2011

Filed Under: insurgency, Politics

THIS IS a reaction to the articles titled “Satur wary of Aquino’s appointment of rival” (Inquirer, 1/23/11) and “Akbayan head, shooting pal is Aquino’s political adviser.” (Inquirer, 1/21/11) Both stated that Akbayan broke away from the local communist movement and did so because of ideological differences with CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) founder Jose Maria Sison.

It is disconcerting that while one news article mentions Ocampo’s call to be “conscious of the dynamics within the left,” both articles did not display an awareness of the plurality that has characterized the Philippine political Left. There are a number of scholarly writings on post-Edsa politics that tell us of the origins of Akbayan as a coalition-of-sort emerging from the political climate of that period. It was founded by several groups and individuals—independent socialists, social democrats, unaligned grassrootsactivists and ex-communists, including former members of the CPP/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front—who were inspired and challenged by the opening of democratic space. Among the leftistelectoral parties formed during this period, only Akbayan has remained strong to this day, perhaps due to the institutionalized plurality it maintains between and among the stakeholders constituting the party.

To state that Akbayan was entirely founded by former NDF members does not capture the richness of the group’s historical experience, and does injustice to the prospects and promises of post-Edsa politics. It instead paints an all-too-simplistic picture: that the rivalry between Akbayan and Bayan Muna originated from the 1992 split within the CPP, which is really not the case. That Akbayan differs from Bayan Muna is shown by their positions vis-à-vis human rights, but the glaring difference is also revealed by its various political engagements in recent years.

The Akbayan-supported Carper law, for instance, could not have been successfully enacted had there been no grassroots mobilizations from peasant organizations like the Sumilao and Banasi farmers. Such engagements signal ascendancy from the classic role of the Left as perpetual outsiders of state affairs, something that was borne out of the historical contingencies of the post-Edsa era.

It could have helped substantially if these news articles displayed a conscious effort to nuanced reportage, because only through this can we facilitate a departure from the misconception that the Left’s political narrative in the Philippines is entirely determined by the history of the CPP/NPA/NDF (which, despite Ocampo’s call for nuancing, has still insisted on their being “the” Left). History in general and Philippine history in particular—although always a matter of perspective—is best appreciated in its diversity: unities and rivalries are understood not simply in reference to a hegemonic narrative, but through an appreciation of the multitudes that form that experience.


instructor, Department of History,

Ateneo de Manila University,




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