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The Hukbalahap Movement
CSC 1984
Subject Area Strategic Issues
                           THE HUKBALAHAP MOVEMENT
                              The Writing Program
                           Command and Staff College
                          LtCol. Romelino R. Gojo
                               April 6, 1984
Thesis Sentences  The Philippine Government will not succeed
                  in its counterinsurgency operation unless
                  an integrated effort of military action
                  against the Huk guerrillas and a civic-action
                  program for the mass base is undertaken.
   I. Introduction
      A. Initial Huk Struggle
      B. Initial Government Action
  II. Hukbalahap
      A. Organization
      B. Preparation
      C. Strategy
III.  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
      A.  Shortcomings
      B.  Revitalization
      C.  Strategy and Tactics
 IV.  Conclusions.
      A. Assessments
                      I. Introduction
   In World War II, after the Japanese defeated the Philippine-
American defenses in the country, pockets of resistance against
the invaders continued throughout the islands. The people who
composed these resistance groups were either military personnel
who refused to surrender or civilians who had formed a people's
army to fight the Japanese. One of these guerrilla groups was
the " Hukbalahap " (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), a contrac-
tion of the phrase meaning People's Army Against the Japanese.
The Huks as they were commonly known, became a serious threat
to the new Philippine Republic after the war. The Huks control-
led large portions of the sugarcane and rice growing areas in
Central Luzon and they had extended their military and politi-
cal operations to the other parts of the archipelago. The Huks,
being the armed faction of the Communist Party of the Philippines
(CPP), shifted from the techniques of pre-war struggle or poli-
tical action, strikes and demonstrations to an armed confron-
tation with the government.1
   When the reality of war came, the CPP leadership quickly
seized the opportunity to identify itself with patriotism to
increase their power and prestige among the people. On December
10, 1941, two days prior to the outbreak of hostilities in the
Pacific area, the CPP issued an anti-Japanese manifesto pled-
ging support to the Allied war effort and simultaneously pre-
pared for guerrilla warfare on a united front. Through this
display of nationalistic ideals, many people who would have not
ordinarily joined them were attracted to the Huk resistance
   It was during this time that the Hukbalahap was really orga-
organized under the able leadership of Luis Taruc, chairman of
the military committee of the united front and concurrently
the field commander of the HMB. Throughout the armed conflict
of the Huks against the Japanese and thereafter against the
government, Luis Taruc was the dominating personality of the
Huk insurgency. Between March 1942 and August 1948, the Huks
became a trained and experienced force, well-equipped with US
Army weapons and well-prepared for its guerrilla warfare. The
initial force of 500 armed Huks which was organized into five
squadrons had increased to a fully-armed guerrilla force of
20,000 men.2
   In March 1943, the Huks, formidable and successful in their
overt operations, forced the Japanese to conduct a major opera-
tion in Northeastern Pampanga. The simultaneous operations of
the Japanese decimated the Huk squadrons and drove several of
the units into the Zambales mountains. This forced the Huks to
conduct low-intensity operation and instead concentrated their
efforts to their political objectives. The Huk organization
began to extend their TAOR in Luzon by organizing new squadrons
in areas where their influence had been weakened or had never
existed. The CPP leadership redirected its activities away from
anti-Japanese strategy and attended to their long-range postwar
goals of Communism.3
   In late 1943, during its political expansion, the Huks
launched anew its overt operations against the Japanese which
brought them into conflict with the USAFFE-sponsored guerrilla
units. The result was more clashes with these guerrilla units
and less with the Japanese---the situation which existed until
the landing of the US liberation forces in October of 1944.
At this time the Huks had increased their efforts to recruit
more people and to secure additional arms and ammunitions,
which strengthened their organization both politically and
militarily. Immediately after the Japanese retreated from the
barrios, villages, towns and even cities, the Huks quickly
moved in to occupy these areas. The Huks set up local govern-
ments and even appointed their own governors in the provinces
of Pampanga and Laguna. By the time the American forces libe-
rated the Philippines, the Huks had established control at
every level or government in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac,
Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. (Huklandia)4
   However, the government ignored these Huk-sponsored provin-
coal administrations and instead appointed its own provincial
officials pending the election scheduled for April 1946. The
US Army disarmed several Huk guerrilla units and arrested Luis
Taruc and Castro Alejandrino, the second in command. The leader-
ship of the remaining Huks was left to Mariano Balgos, a Huk
political commissar.
   As the election grew near, the CPP leadership quickly exploited
the political chaotic situation of the country. The Huk squadrons
were disbanded and the commanders reorganized their prewar pea-
sant and labor organizations. Their political activities were
integrated with the non-communist liberals to form the political
party called, "Democratic Alliance." This party became the base
of action for the various elements dissatisfied with the prevai-
ling situation in the country. Further political trouble divided
the leading Nationalista Party which resulted in the formation
of the Liberal Party with Commonwealth president Manuel Roxas
as its candidate. The Liberal Party consisted of conservatives
and many of the prominent members were suspected of collabo-
ration during the war.5
   The April elections resulted in the victory of Manuel Roxas
and the Nationalista Party on the national level; and six
Democratic Alliance congressional candidates won in Huklandia,
which included Luis Taruc and Castro Alejandrino. President
Roxas rejected the election of these congressmen and his action
brought disaffection in Central Luzon. President Roxas promised
in his election campaign to restore peace and order in the coun-
try and to eliminate the Huks within sixty days after the elec-
tion. He therefore ordered the military to begin operations in
the provinces of Huklandia.
   The AFP had only 37,000 men and 24,000 of which belonged to
the Constabulary which was tasked to deal with the Huk problem.
In addition, the provincial governors and the wealthy landowners
formed their own private armies to join the operations. The
terrorism, wanton destruction of property, and the pillage
which resulted from the uncoordinated, uncontrolled and undis-
ciplined operations further alienated the people from the govern-
ment. Many peasants innocent of any Huk connection were either
killed or imprisoned and their properties confiscated. President
Roxas reduced the military operations and negotiated for a
three-month truce. The government hoped to persuade the Huks to
lay down their arms and return to normal life and peaceful far-
   The negotiations with the Huks failed together with the social
reform programs of the government and military operations were
resumed. This prompted the Huks to increase its political and
military expansion and to prepare for the bitter struggle with
the government. The Hukbalahap was renamed HMB (Hukbong Magpa-
palaya ng Bayan), or the Liberation Army of the People. In March
1947, unable to solve the Huk problem, President Roxas declared
the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed faction,
HMB, to be illegal and seditious. The HMB whose sole aim was
the overthrow of the government, sought to establish supremacy
for the movement by destroying the effectiveness of the AFP.
The government realized that the Huks had no intention of any
compromise of surrender until their political and economic
objectives were attained.7
   The roles of the principal adversaries--AFP and the HMB--
will be discussed and analyzed with emphasis on their strategies,
doctrines, tactics, and programs which significantly affected
the final outcome of the conflict.
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                  II. The Hukbalahap
   The ultimate objective of the CPP is the overthrow of the
government by a violent revolution. On August 1948, the HMB
abolished their attempted reforms by parliamentary processes
and began their guerrilla warfare. However the CPP leadership
was apprehensive to engage in direct military confrontation
because they were unsure of the effectiveness of their organi-
zational set up. They also had to convince the peasants and the
workers that an armed revolution was the only remaining solu-
tion and the HMB had to perfect and expand their military units.
   The CPP organization followed the standard international
concept of communism with a National Congress at the top level
wkich was never formed.8 The actual Party activities were direc-
ted by a 31-member Central Committee under which a Politburo of
11 members formed the Executive Committee. A Secretariat of
five men consisting of the General-Secretary and the Chairmen
of the national departments conducted the basic work for the
Party. The four departments are the National Military Depart-
ment, National Organization Department, National Finance De-
partment, and the National Education Department. (Chart 1.)
   The military organization which was organized in 1943 was
significantly expanded and formalized after August 1948. The
field operations came under the control of the ten regional
commands (RECO) and the Manila City Command. (Chart 2.) The
basic tactical guerrilla unit remained the squadron with an
optimum operating strength of 100 men. Aside from operating
the mass base, the Organization department also supervised
the activities of all the communist infiltrated student and
Click here to view image
labor groups and operated as the principal intelligence collec-
tion apparatus.
 The Education department was primarily tasked with the poli-
tical indoctrination of the people. They established schools
to teach the illiterates how to read and write and at the
higher level, the young were taught communist ideology and
tactics. The Education department worked closely with the mili-
tary department for in many areas, the military training was
handled by this department.
   Financial supports for the revolutionary activities came
from several sources and the larger monetary donations came from
the overseas Chinese supporters. The majority of the financial
requirements came from the taxes collected in the areas under
HMB control and augmented by the confiscated food and medical
supplies. Raids, train robberies, kidnap for ransom and protec-
tion racket of the Huks brought in more funds.
   The entire communist apparatus coordinated the works of the
four vertically-organized departments while the departments
maintained horizontal relationships at every level. This system
of the international communist movements guaranteed the top lea-
dership absolute control of the revolution. The CPP organization
controlled the countryside, made and enforced laws, collected
taxes and supervised the activities of the people in support of
the revolution. Even in the areas patrolled by the government
troops during daytime, the Huks quickly moved in after dark
Whichever side controlled the areas after darkness also controlled
the loyalty of the people.
   The CPP strategy for the overthrow of the government was
laid out in a memorandum of the Secretariat to the Central Commi-
Committee. According to Taruc, the CPP strategy was further
articulated in a document, "1950 Politburo Resolutions" which
was decided in a conference held in early January of that year.9
The salient points were:   
1. that there exists in the Philippines a revolutionary era
   which in the face of international and national situations
   would inevitably culminate in a crisis in two years time.
2. that the liberation movement must during 1950 and 1951 com-
   plete an intensive two-year program of preparation for the
   seizure of power by armed struggle and that all efforts must
   be geared toward this one supreme task.
3. that we must announce and define our political objectives and
   programs as similar to that of Mao Tse Tung's model.
4. that the CPP leadership within the liberation movement must
   be publicized and projected at every possible opportunity.
5. that we must undertake the armed uprising on our own...and
   should expose our former political allies as having recoiled
   and turned traitors to the people.
6. that we must reorganize and rename the Hukbalahap to make it
   conform to the demands of the new political situation.
7. that we must impose military discipline on all the mass orga-
   nizations led by the CPP.
   The CPP strategy followed the Mao doctrine although the re-
quirements of the first phase of insurgency had been accom-
plished. The CPP was well into the second phase (Classic
Guerrilla Warfare) and rapidly attaining the capability to
engage the AFP in conventional warfare. Although an armed struggle
was the decided means to accomplish their goals, their strategy
also included the parliamentary struggle method. This method was
to infiltrate sensitive and key government positions, legitimate
social and labor organizations and to destroy their vitality as
political forces.
   Huk supremo Luis Taruc understood the principle that the momen-
tum of the insurgency movement had to be maintained. However the
concern for the total preparedness of the HMB and the mass base
inhibited increased military activities. With their failure of
government infiltration in the 1949 elections, the CPP decided
that it was time for guerrilla warfare. The year 1949 also wit-
nessed the successes of Mao Tse Tung in China and Ho Chi Minh
in Indo-China and with these victories, the HMB changed the
whole character of the struggle. They launched a general offen-
sive, not only attacking government troops and outposts but
entire civilian communities where they looted, killed and burned.
   In Pampanga on August 26, 1949, in observance of National
Heroes Day, the Huks entered the town of Arayat, disarmed the
police force, burned the townhall and looted the town. A simi-
lar raid took place in the adjoining Tarlac town where the civil
guard detachment was massacred. The year 1950 witnessed HMB
bolder operations with the capture of provincial capitals and
attacks on army and police installations as their objectives.
Although their raids were successful, the HMB normally used
hit and run tactics to conserve their forces and keep the AFP
off-balanced and demoralized in fruitless pursuits.
   Luis Taruc called the period from March to August 1950 as
the "Dress Rehearsal."10 In a secret interview with an American
correspondent, he admitted that the movement was communistic
and it had relations with the communist parties of Red China
and the Soviet Union. He further stated that the HMB has 25,000
well-armed guerrillas and that his mass base supporters numbered
about two million. On the other hand, the AFP estimated that at
the height of the Huk uprising, there were only 17,500 guerrillas
and a mass base of 100,000 supporters. Taruc in his book written
many years later admitted that his 1950 strength was only 15,000
armed guerrillas and that he could have mustered only 4,000 men
for the attack in the city of Manila.
   The Secretariat issued new instructions in a document enti-
tled, "Strategic, Political and Military Guidances" which de-
fined the final phase of the revolution. This memerandum gave
detailed instructions to all Regional Commands on how to conduct
the offensive, to supervise the liberated areas, and to treat
and utilize enemy soldiers either captured or surrendered.
   According to Taruc, the HMB successes became their downfall
because the reality and gravity of the situation was now recog-
nized by the governments of the Philippines and the United States.
Both governments took the necessary actions to counteract the
rapidly spreading revolution.
   In the words of General Jesus Vargas, AFP Chief of Staff,11
"About the only redeeming aspect of the situation was the reali-
zation by the officials of the government of the Philippines
that the solution of the problem was well beyond the reach of
normal police action and that a more integrated national effort
had to be exerted."
             III. Armed Forces of the Philippines
   The Government considered the Huk problem a police affair
and unfortunately the AFP had the same opinion. In the conduct
of their anti-Huk campaign, the military merely saturated the
Huk-infested areas with combat troops and suppressed the tumul-
tous situations with force. They were unsuccessful and further
complicated the problem with numerous abuses which destroyed
the respect and confidence of the people for the men in uniform.
The people left with no security in the rural areas migrated to
the relatively secured urban areas. The mass abandonment of the
agricultural fields adversely affected the national economy and
created the squatter problem which obviously is still present.12
   By mid-1950, the Huk attacks increased in unbelievable pro-
portions and the military reacted ruthlessly. In Maliwalu, Pam-
panga, with the belief that the people there were active Huk
supporters, constabulary troopers plundered the town and killed
several of the menfolk. The military inadequacies also reflected
in their lack of knowledge of the basic military skills. The
AFP did not have the EEI's about the enemy---who he was, how
he operated, what his objectives were, and most importantly,
how he gained the support of the people.
   The Huks, called the agrarian reformers by their propaganda
section somehow concealed the true nature of their movement
and this contributed to their initial success. Basic information
collection in the field was negligible and the evaluation of
any information acquired was haphazardly done. The AFP ignored
the political aspects of the Huks, especially the propaganda
portion which could have been a vital source of information.
   Poor intelligence deprived the AFP of the Huk's tactical
capabilities and its true organizational strength. This inade-
quacy was compounded by the little effort to infiltrate known
front organizations and Huk-controlled provincial administra-
   The legal system of the Philippines provided protection to
the citizens from unjust and arbitrary arrests. A captured Huk
or a sympathizer enjoyed the same privileges as any citizen of
the country. He must be taken before a judge or a fiscal within
six hours after his arrest and formally charged with a crime
within 24 hours. If charged with a crime other than murder, a
Huk guerrilla had the right to demand release on bail. A captured
Huk in an encounter can be free and be back with his squadron
in 72 hours or less. The only legal action that could prevent
the legal release of captured Huks was the suspension of the
"Writ of Habeas Corpus." However the Quirino administrations
which won by a narrow margin in the last elections, considered
such drastic action as a political suicide.13
   Another shortcoming of the AFP was its adherence to the
organization and doctrine of the US Army model for conventional
warfare. The WWII experience failed to influence the military
leadership toward the development of an army that will protect
the Nation from external aggression and internal threat. With a
small Defense budget, the AFP can only maintain two infantry
battalions capable of sustained operations.
   The Maliwalu incident and the infamous crime committed by the
Huks---the ambush-killing of the wife of the late President
Manuel Quezon and eight others---brought increased criticism
of the government.14 President Quirino therefore issued Executive
Order number 308 which provide the complete reorganization
of the entire armed forces. He also appointed Congressman Ramon
Magsaysay of Zambales as the new Secretary of National Defense,
charged with the responsibility of restoring peace and order.
Secretary Magsaysay instilled in the military that the lost poli-
tical base of action had to be regained by an integrated military,
political, and social approach. He emphasized that every soldier
must be a public relations man, political warfare specialist,
civil administrator, and an expert in guerrilla warfare.
   Underlying his policy was the belief, "Any democratic govern-
ment is neither of necessity nor automatically better than a
communistic government in the eyes of the Common Man. The local
government must clean its own house. A status quo that has bred
virulent communism cannot remain unchanged. Communism seldom
flourishes where the people are content and prosperous basically."15
   To implement his policy, Magsaysay had these goals:
1. Unity of command in the military
2. Trust and confidence of the people in the military
3. Active civilian support in military operations
4. Friendship between the people and the military
   His first step in the reorganization was to merge the Army and
the Constabulary under one command with the latter assigned to
police duty. He was opposed by the wealthy landowners and the
powerful elite in the government because the Constabulary was for
the protection of their wealth and properties. President Quirino
reluctantly supported this actions which included the relief of
the Chief of Constabulary and the Chief of Staff of the Armed
   The Army was given the primary responsibility for the conduct
of counterinsurgency operations with the overall direction
assumed by Magsaysay and coordinated through General Headquarters.
The strength of the army was increased to 56,000 officers and
men, organized into 26 Battalion Combat Teams (BCT). A BCT con-
sisted of three rifle companies, one artillery battery, one
recon company and a headquarters and service company, a total
of 1074 officers and men. The majority of the training was in
small unit tactics with emphasis on scouting, patrolling and
night operations. The lessons learned from previous operations
indicated the need for a commando-type unit for special opera-
tions. The Army Scout Ranger Teams were organized to conduct
longer patrols, raids and ambuschades and each team was equipped
with a camera to facilitate intelligence collection and to pro-
vide proof of Huk kills.
    Secretary Magsaysay, aside from reorganizing the military
restored discipline and professionalism in the entire command.
He removed from office the inefficient, incompetent, corrupt
and the politically-motivated officers, either by court-martial
or forced retirement. He also adopted the system of giving spot-
promotions to reward the officers and men who had accomplished
exemplary deeds. He initiated the "Army Attraction Program,"
the purpose of which was to have the soldier accepted by the
people as a worthy supporter of the government.
    The Civil Affairs Office (CAO) of the DND was created to
implement this program.16 Their mission was to bring the military
closer to the people, help solve the problems of the peasants
and to conduct phychological operations. A major task was to
publicize praise worthy accomplishments of the military which
significantly impacted on the people. Medical teams accompanied
combat patrols in the rural areas to treat illness and to ins-
truct the people about hygiene and sanitation. The number of
artesian wells and schoolhouses constructed by the engineers
influenced the thinking and behaviour of the Huks whose children
were now given the chance of being educated. Another task of the
CAO was to indoctrinate the troops about the program, make them
realize the consequences of their actions, and help in the na-
tional effort to solve the Huk menace. Military personnel who
were charged with crimes and abuses were immediately tried by
court-martial or by the civilian courts. The AFP also made avai-
lable the services of the Judge Advocate General Office to the
people in the pursuit of their complaints and court cases.
   Another program labeled, "All out Friendship or all out
Force" resulted to the defection of a Huk assassin who revealed
the organization and location of the CPP Politburo.17 In a massive
round-up, almost every important Communist in Manila was arres-
ted and their capture starkly revealed to the people that they
were not merely agrarian reformers. This mass arrest influenced
President Quirino to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for all
persons accused of rebellion and subversion. This allowed the
Army to hold known or suspected insurgent leaders for indefinite
periods of time while intelligence leads were being followed up.
   Another program initiated was the system of monetary rewards
offered for weapons surrendered and operational information
leading to the capture of key communist leaders. The appeal of
money became so enticing that by 1951, the Huks themselves had
a serious internal problem. Civilian commando units were orga-
nized in friendly barrios and were trained and led by army per-
sonnel for local area defense.
   By April of 1952, the combined military and civic-action
programs of the government had reduced the Huk threat to mana-
geable dimensions. By successive operations, the AFP had ac-
quired by capture or surrender 4,500 Huk weapons of various
calibers which were about 55 percent of their total equipments.
The Huk casualties at this time reached 35 to 40 percent of
their 1950 organizational strength.18
   Secretary Magsaysay also recognized that the land reform
program of the government had to work to counter the Huk battle
slogan of "Land for the Landless." In December 1950,President
Quirino authorized the Department of National Defense to orga-
nize the Economic Development Corporation (EDCOR) and assume
the responsibility of the resettlement of the surrendered or
captured Huks. The amount of public lands distributed and the
number of beneficiaries of the EDCOR program was small. About
one thousand families were actually resettled but the value of
the program as a counter-propaganda weapon against the Huks
cannot be over-emphasized.
   Finally the assistance of the United States government
wherein a ten-million dollar emergency loan was provided to pay
the military. The JUSMAG was also established for advisory assist-
tance and for the immediate delivery of equipments which moder-
nized the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
                    IV.  Conclusions.
   By 1952, with the successful government programs, the Huk
movement had lost the impetus to attain their ultimate goal of
establishing a People's Democracy in the Philippines. The revi-
talization of the Armed Forces and the failure of the HMB in
August of 1950 to exploit their tactical and psychological
advantages, contributed to the victory of the Government.
   Several reasons brought the decline of the Huk power and pres-
tige. The rebels became tired and exhausted of the fighting due
to the continuous military operations which kept them on the move
to elude capture. The people who sympathized with their cause
did not have the time to farm their crops which made it diffi-
cult for them to contribute to the revolution. As the villagers
became hesitant to give food and aid, the Huks began to steal
from the peasants and sometimes with the use of force. The effec-
tive utilization of reforms and promises improved the image of
the government and provided hope for the insurgents, The 1951
elections were relatively peaceful and honest , with the AFP
deputized to safeguard the sanctity of the ballot.19
   The Huks were also deprived of the opportunity to attend to
their political operations because of the relentless pursuit by
government troops. This further eroded their support in the
barrios, caused several insurgents to return to their families,
and the others to take advantage of the amnesty program. By 1954,
the Huks had suffered tremendous losses: 9,695 KIA; 1,635 WIA;
4,239 captured; and 15,866 surrendered. It was estimated that
by the end of 1954, the Huks could muster no more than 2,000
armed guerrillas.20
   In May of this year, Huk supremo Luis Taruc quit the rebellion
and surrendered to the government. After standing trial for the
crimes of rebellion and subversion, he was sentenced to spend
fifteen years in prison while the CPP denounced him for aban- 
doning the Huk cause. A few armed insurgents chose to remain
fighting because the revolution had become their only way of
   Finally, these Huk remnants began to lose confidence in
themselves and in the mass base they relied on. They were now
coercing the very people they were supposed to protect and were
alienating those they needed for support. As the tide of insur-
gency turned against them, intimidation through terrorism became
their primary means of insuring mass support. The loss of the
initiative and the momentum of a general offensive deprived the
Hukbalahap of their victory.
   At present, the HMB of the Communist Party of the Philippines
had been reduced to a few hundreds and many of them had gone
into hiding. Insurgency will exist and continue to exist as long
as there are people susceptible to communist exploitation. The
only way to defeat Insurgency is for the Government and its Armed
Forces to have the trust and confidence of the citizenry---the
Mass Base.

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