Tribute to Comrades Antonio Cabanatan and Florenda Yap as Patriots, Communist Cadres and Revolutionary Martyrs

By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
March 29, 2021

I share the grief and indignation of all the comrades, relatives and friends of Comrades Antonio Cabanatan and his beloved wife Florenda Yap over their kidnapping, secret detention for several months, torture and murder by strangulation by the armed minions of the tyrannical and terrorist Duterte regime who left their lifeless bodies in a deserted house in Barangay Botong, Oton, Iloilo.

The couple had retired from the revolutionary movement due to their chronic illnesses and old age. They were certified consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace negotiations with the reactionary Manila government. And they were under the protection of the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees but still they were kidnapped, tortured and strangulated to death by the fascists.

The couple are among the victims of the brutal campaign of the Duterte butcher regime to kill anyone suspected, tagged and listed as communists whenever its armed military and police agents can frame up the victim with planted evidence or ensure the absence of witnesses. The campaign of extrajudicial killings is under the regime’s policy of all-out war and state terrorism.

While secretly detained for several months, Comrades Antonio and Florenda were subjected to physical and mental torture in order to bend their will and extract information from them. But they upheld their revolutionary principles and integrity. Thus, they were ruthlessly murdered by their fascist captors.

It is understandable and just that the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the entire revolutionary movement have vowed not to rest until justice is served. They are inspired by the martyrdom of Comrades Antonio and Florenda to overcome all challenges and difficulties, to intensify all forms of struggle and to advance the people’s democratic revolution until complete victory.

Comrades Antonio and Florenda deserve the highest tribute from the entire revolutionary movement and the people for their martyrdom and for selfless, lifelong and fruitful service to the revolution. He joined the Kabataang Makabayan in Cebu in 1967 and the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan in 1969. He was a serious student of revolutionary works pertaining to Philippine society and revolution as well as the world proletarian revolution.

He was among the exemplary youth activists in carrying out the national democratic propaganda movement in Cebu, Negros Oriental, Bohol, Leyte, Samar up to Northern Mindanao as well as in organizing chapters of progressive organizations of the student-youth, workers, farmers, fisherfolk and other democratic sectors.

In 1971, he became a member of the CPP and staff member of the Regional Committee in Eastern Visayas (which temporarily covered Northern Mindanao). He led the Samar-Leyte subregion and pushed there the preparation of guerrilla zones. He established Party branches in Western Samar and Southern Samar which undertook social investigation and began to organize the peasants and fisherfolk.

I had the good fortune to meet Comrade Antonio (whom we fondly called Ka Tony Cab at the time) when he came over to Luzon for study and consultations in September 1972.  He was arrested a few days before Ferdinand Marcos proclaimed martial law in September 1972. He was already going to be bailed out but his release was overtaken by the proclamation.  And I felt very sorry for him until he was released in 1974 even if prison could be a place of further study and tempering together with other comrades.

After his release from prison, he immediately went back to the countryside in Samar and worked effectively with other comrades in leading the revolutionary armed struggle and mass work. He became secretary of the Party district committee. This established and led the first guerrilla front and initial squads of the New People’s Army in the island. As a result of his successful work and leadership, he was reappointed to the Regional Committee and its Executive Committee.

Despite his high position in the Regional Committee, he undertook lower-level tasks in order to advance the revolutionary struggle in his region.  He joined the expansion work in northeastern Samar, served as a platoon political officer and official of the operations command in the northern part of the island. Together with the late Comrade Prudencio Calubid, he led the expansion and advance of guerrilla warfare in the whole of Samar.

The NPA grew in strength as it intensified tactical offensives. The antifeudal campaigns and mass struggles spread.  Political education and prop-agit work were stepped up.  The revolutionary mass organizations, the Party branches and the organs of political power were rapidly organized.  From 1976 onwards, the armed revolution in Samar was undoubtedly the most brilliant and fruitful in the whole country and in a way, it compensated for the isolation and difficulties of the NPA in the forest region of Isabela.

As Chairman of the CPP Central Committee, I was always elated by reports of victories from Samar in various aspects of revolutionary work. Even while I was in prison from November 10, 1977, I was delighted whenever I received reports of victories in Samar. The more I was happy when I learned in 1980 that regional cadres from Samar were being promoted to the Central Committee and the battle-tested CPP cadres and NPA commanders from Samar were being redeployed to other regions in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Comrade Antonio became secretary of the Visayas Commission in 1983-1985 and deputy secretary of the Mindanao Commission from 1981 to 1983 and from 1986 to 1989; secretary of the Mindanao Commission from 1990 to 2012 during the period of big advances and victories in armed struggle, strengthening of the Party, army, revolutionary mass movement and the united front in the countryside and cities.

He became a member of the Party Central Committee from 1980 onward and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee from 1985 until his retirement in 2017. He also served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Central Committee in 1985-1986 and 2002-2016. When I went out of prison in 1986, I had again the good fortune of meeting him and other responsibles.

We had extensive discussions about major errors and problems that had conspicuously arisen in the Party, NPA and revolutionary movement from 1983 onwards and the need for a rectification movement.  Said errors and problems recurred in certain regions at various times on varying scales, resulting in large losses of mass base and loss of initiative in launching of tactical offensives. They necessitated the Second Great Rectification Movement in 1992 after a series of smaller-scale rectification campaigns.

In its official tribute to Comrade Antonio, the CPP acclaims him as an outstanding communist leader and fighter for relentlessly and firmly advancing Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the general line of the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war and for resolutely standing up for the Second Great Rectification Movement in the 1990s and leading the struggle to defeat the efforts of opportunists and renegades to sow division and their anti-Party campaigns in Visayas and Mindanao.

Comrade Antonio continuously promoted the line of extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on an ever widening and deepening mass base to foil one after another enemy campaign plans of widespread offensives and fascist terrorism. But in the process of fighting back and advancing the armed revolution, the Party has overcome errors and shortcomings, such as the purely military tendency and military adventurism, conservatism, bureaucratism and complacency in efforts to secure and strengthen the mass base in barangays and towns.

Comrade Antonio was among the most outstanding cadres of the CPP Central Committee and Mindanao who successfully carried out the Second Great Rectification Movement,  prevailed over the erroneous line and consequences of premature military regularization and Kampanyang Ahos, made the revolutionary struggle in Mindanao the most brilliant in the whole country, overcame the offensives of Oplan Bantay Laya to the present and redeployed hundreds of battle-tested CPP cadres and NPA commanders on a nationwide scale since 2017.

Comrades Antonio and Florenda have departed. But at the same time, they continue to be with us by  bequeathing to us their revolutionary example, their contributions to the advance of the revolutionary movement and their martyrdom.  They continue to inspire us to uphold the leadership of the proletariat, rely on the toiling masses of workers and peasants and carry out the people’s democratic revolution in the direction of socialism and in concert with the struggles of the people of the world for national liberation, democracy and socialism against imperialism and all reaction.

Long live the memory of Comrades Antonio Cabanatan and Florenda Yap!
Long live the Philippine revolution and the Filipino people!
Long live proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialist solidarity of all peoples!