348. Intelligence Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

No. 0631/67


The resurgence of the Hukbong Magpapalaya Sa Bayan—commonly known as the Huks—could cause President Marcos serious [Page 771]political difficulties, although so far the resurgence poses no major threat to his government. He has made eradication of the Huk movement, mainly based in Central Luzon, a major goal of his administration.2
During the past 20 months, both the strength and the activities of the Huks have shown a marked increase. The number of armed cadre has grown from an estimated 37 to possibly 300–400, and the US Embassy in Manila estimates that the mass base support has increased by five to eight percent to about 28–29,000 persons, roughly one percent of the population in the affected provinces. The number of assassinations and kidnappings jumped abruptly from a total of 17 in 1965 to 71 in the first eight months of 1966. Although later figures are not available, the higher level of activity appears to be continuing. The most flagrant act of terror was the murder in July 1966 of Mayor Anastasio Gallardo of Candaba, chairman of the anti-Huk Mayors’ League of Pampanga, while he was on his way to a meeting with President Marcos. The league has since become dormant, its members fearing Huk reprisals.
Originally the paramilitary arm of the illegal Philippine Communist Party (PKP), the Huks over the years have taken on the appearance of marauding bandits and extortionists, rather than of revolutionaries motivated by Communist ideology. Although there have been recent indications that recruits are again receiving Marxist indoctrination, among the peasantry the Huks maintain a “Robin Hood” image of assisting the poor. In fact, the Huks’ separate system of justice in the area they influence, chiefly in the rice-producing provinces of Central Luzon, appears to be more efficient than the government’s slow-moving and often corrupt judicial system. The Huks’ decisions, which do not always favor the peasant, seem to be accepted by many landlords as well.
The Huks’ present ties with the PKP are vague and contradictory. The terrorism that sustains Huk power is not in keeping with the party’s purported abandonment of terror for the “parliamentary struggle.” Links between the leadership of the two groups appear tenuous. Pedro Taruc, until recently the Huk chieftain, is one of a three-man committee that reportedly has taken over the functions of [Page 772]imprisoned PKP secretary general Jesus Lava. According to a recent report, however, Taruc has relinquished Huk leadership to Faustino del Mundo, whose Communist leanings are believed none too firm. Other reports suggest that the imprisoned former party leaders may retain control through intermediaries of both the party and the Huks.
Marcos moved quickly to meet the revived Huk threat. Last June he launched Operation Central Luzon, later renamed the Central Luzon Development Program. The immediate mission of this plan was to implement the land reform code in critical areas of eastern Pampanga Province, Central Luzon, and eventually to construct roads, schools, and irrigation projects, and to improve agricultural methods. So far, results have been modest. To improve security conditions, Marcos has requested funds in the FY-1968 budget to expand and improve the Philippine constabulary.
A major stumbling block to reducing Huk influence is the continuing collaboration of local politicians seeking the votes the Huks can deliver. With the approach of off-year elections this November, there appears to have been an increase in this collaboration. In Pampanga, the Huks seem to enjoy the support of the governor. More critical, however, is the evident acquiescence of much of the peasantry. This attitude can be expected to continue as long as local landlords block reform efforts, as corruption by officials diverts funds from development projects, and as legal redress remains slow and one-sided.
A manifest failure by Marcos to reduce Huk influence could contribute to his future defeat at the polls. Over the long run, if not effectively dealt with, the Huk movement could again develop into a major insurgent threat.
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Philippines, Vol. III, Cables, 7/66–7/67 [2 of 2]. Secret. This memorandum was prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated with the Office of National Estimates. Rostow sent this memorandum to the President under cover of a note of April 19 which stated: “I had this CIA evaluation of the Huk resurgence in the Philippines especially prepared. It shows a modest increase in Huk capabilities; grave political weakness in Central Luzon political life; promising political and security counter-measures, inadequately followed through.” There is an indication on the note that the President saw Rostow’s note and presumably the attached memorandum.
  2. In a Special Report Weekly Review, SC No. 00758/67A, February 24, the CIA concluded that during his 14 months in office, “Marcos has broadened the Philippines involvement in Far Eastern international problems, while showing little more than good intentions on the domestic front.” Such a concentration “has tended to leave relatively untouched the deep-seated social, economic, and political problems.” The report noted that there was “widespread discontent with pervasive rural poverty and rising urban unemployment has contributed to a rise in crime and violence as well as a resurgence of leftist activities” including the revival of a modest threat from the Huks. (Ibid.) The President apparently did not see this report.