[OPINION] McCarthyism and Murphy’s Law

Sen. Joseph McCarthy conducted the infamous U.S. Senate anti-Communist inquiries in the 1950s that besmirched the reputation of many prominent Americans, particularly those in show business and the labor sector, among them, Hollywood legends Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles and composer Leonard Bernstein.

It took an official censure by the Senate, following a stinging rebuke by lawyer, Joseph Welch (“Have you no sense of decency?”) to put McCarthy in his place. “McCarthyism” has since become a synonym for “Red-baiting” and “Communist witch hunt.”

Fears of McCarthyism appears to have swept across the major academic institutions in the Philippines in the wake of a social media posting containing a list of former University of the Philippines students who had allegedly joined the Communist New People’s Army. The list was posted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Office of Civil-Military Relations.

Following howls of protests from the academic community, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana quickly announced that the AFP would issue an apology.

A guarded apology has since been issued, as follows: “We sincerely apologize for those who were inadvertently affected by inconsistencies regarding the List of Students who joined the NPA (Died or Captured) that was posted in the AFP Information Exchange Facebook account.”

Does that settle the issue and should those who were “inadvertently” included in the list now breathe a sigh of relief?

To the extent that Secretary Lorenzana is apparently not a McCarthyist, they can feel reassured. However, there is such a thing as Murphy’s Law which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Plus another saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The AFP maintains a list of persons who could pose a security risk to the country. It would be remiss if it did not do so. The government considers the Communist New People’s Army a serious threat. Thus compiling and maintaining a list of members — or suspected members — of the NPA is not at all surprising.

In sum, such a list exists because of “good intentions.” The trouble is that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The AFP list, in spite of the “inconsistencies” and inaccuracies, could become a “shit list — or worse, a “hit list” — and those in it could become casualties of Murphy’s Law.

It is a fact that authoritarian regimes throughout the world have been known to include in their “shit lists-cum-hit lists” the names of persons considered “disagreeable” or just plain pains-in-the-neck. Many of these are students or media practitioners, as well as political rivals.

During the regime of President Ferdinand Marcos, there were similar lists. Many of them joined the ranks of the disaparecido or “the missing.”

It is also a fact that sinister anti-government groups consider university campuses a rich source for recruiting disgruntled or adventurous youth for their cadres.

This is not to say that every young person with activist leanings will end up on the wrong side of the law. Yet, that was how Jose Rizal, the Luna brothers, and the Los Indios Bravos were perceived — they who now occupy our pantheon heroes.

Indeed, it takes an enlightened perspective and a great amount of wisdom and understanding to properly deal with the youth. They are, after all, the hope of the Motherland. Wouldn’t we rather have them become active and involved rather than passive and uncaring?

Of course, exposure to campus activism can also lead to radicalism. People with noble intentions can be led astray. Recruiters can be very persuasive, especially for restless and idealistic youth.

I am reminded of an article that I wrote way back in 1957, as a teenage journalist, entitled, “11 Years Behind the Talahib Curtain.” It was a first-person account of Fely Cruz of Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija, and how he was recruited by the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), the forerunner of the NPA. Allow me to share an excerpt from that article:
”Although I had been a courier of the Kapulungan ng mga Magsasaka (a farmer’s union with evident communist leanings in Bantug Licab, Nueva Ecija, way back in 1931, under my brother Major Paredes), I joined the active movement only in early 1942, when the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon was organized.

“On December 8, 1941, the Japanese forces stormed Nueva Ecija and spread terror in the countryside. At this, the outraged residents, particularly adventurous young men, went to the hills in small bands and stung the invading army from all points – raiding, looting and ambushing whenever they had a chance.

“The resistance did not bother the Japanese much however. For every Nippon infantryman killed, several civilian heads rolled. It was then that a group of dynamic leaders (which I found out later was the nucleus of the Red movement in Central Luzon), headed in Nueva Ecija by a man known only as Ka Piro from Quezon, Col. Dimasalang de Leon from Aliaga, Tandang Tisiong del Rosario from Talavera, and Col. Briones, a leader of Squadron 4 who later joined the USAFFE, called a meeting of all the scattered rebel forces on the 29th of March 1942, in a barrio in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija at the foot of Mt Arayat.

“Being a farmer in Mamburao, Quezon, I went along with Ka Piro to the meet, together with two others, Mangilit and Vibora. All the while I thought that Ka Piro and the three Nuevo Ecijano leaders would run the confab. I was surprised, however, when throughout the three-day meet, a lean, khaki-clad man, surrounded by some husky orderlies, arranged the agenda and made final decisions on such problems as ammunition, civilian protection, organization and strategy. His confident gait and slow well-modulated manner of speaking interested me.

“I asked one of my companions who he was. ‘That is Supremo Luis Taruc,’ I was told. ‘He is the overall head of the movement.’

“The decisions made by the officers were not bared to us, except one, which was to be the aim of the movement: the v was strictly an anti-Japanese organization aimed at the upliftment of Freedom and Democracy.

“There was not the slightest indication that, in the following years, our aims would undergo a radical twist: the destruction of Freedom and Democracy.”

Cruz, a ranking officer of the Huk movement, was already living the quiet and peaceful life of a former insurgent when I interviewed him. He said he felt fortunate to be alive. Many of his comrades were not as lucky.

I think our youth are also fortunate to have a DND chief who does not subscribe to McCarthyism, as well as military officers who are willing to apologize for their “inadvertence.”

However, while there should be no reason to doubt the sincerity of their apology, I can’t help recalling a newspaper headline that read: “Half of the people in Congress are crooks!
Like the AFP’s social media posting, this headline raised a howl of protests and demands for a retraction and an apology.

The next day, the newspaper ran the headline: “Half of the people in Congress are not crooks!

That didn’t seem like much of an apology.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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