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The Hukbalahap ( ) was the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas; PKP for short), formed in 1942 to fight the Japanese Empiremarker's occupation of the Philippinesmarker during World War II. It fought a second war from 1946 to 1954 against the pro-Western leaders of their newly independent country. The term is a contraction of the Filipino term "Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon", which means "People's Army Against the Japanese." The group is commonly known as "Huks".

The Huks instigated the Hukbalahap Rebellion, a Communist insurgency that lasted from 1946 to 1954, against the Philippine government. The insurgency was finally put down through a series of reforms and military victories by Filipino President Ramon Magsaysay.


The Hukbalahap movement has deep roots in the Spanish economienda system of grants to reward soldiers who had conquered New Spain, which developed into a system of exploitation. In the nineteenth century, Filipino landlordism arose and, with it, further abuses. Only after the coming of the Americans were reforms initiated to lessen tensions between tenants and landlords. The reforms, however, did not solve the problems and, with growing political consciousness produced by education, peasants began to unite under educated but poor leaders. The most potent of these organizations was the Hukbalahap, which began as a resistance organization against the Japanese but ended as an anti-government resistance movement.

After the Japanese invasion, peasant leaders met on March 29, 1942 in a forest clearing at the junction of Tarlacmarker, Pampangamarker, and Nueva Ecijamarker provinces to form a united organization. "Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon" was chosen as the name of the organization. After the meeting, a military committee was formed with Luis Taruc (chairman), Castro Alejandrino (2nd in command), Bernardo Poblete ("Banal"), and Felepa Culala ("Dayang-Dayang" – an amazon whose unit had killed several Japanese soldiers) as members.

The strength of the Huk organization came from the mostly agrarian peasants of Central Luzon. The group's leaders, among them figure-head Luis Taruc, communist party Secretary General Jose Lava, and Commander Hizon (Benjamin Cunanan), aimed to lead the Philippines toward Marxist ideals and communist revolution. The Hukbalahap Insurrection (1946–1954) was their attempt to take over the Philippines. The Hukhbalahap's methods are often portrayed by fellow travelers as terrorist; however, the group claimed that it extended its guerrilla warfare campaign for over a decade merely in search of recognition as World War II freedom fighters and former American and Filipino allies who deserved a share of war reparations.

After its inception the group grew quickly and by late summer 1943 claimed to have 15,000 to 20,000 active men and women military fighters and 50,000 more in reserve. These fighters' weaponry was obtained primarily by stealing it from battlefields and downed planes left behind by the Japanese, Filipinos and Americans. They fought Japanese troops to rid the country of its imperialist occupation, worked to subvert the Japanese tax-collection service, intercepted food and supplies to the Japanese troops, and created a training school where they taught political theory and military tactics based on Marxist ideas. In areas that the group controlled, they set up local governments and instituted land reforms, dividing up the largest estates equally among the peasants and often killing the landlords.

When it became evident that Manuel Roxas, whom the Huks accused of having been a collaborator, would run for the presidency the Huks allied themselves with the Democratic Alliance, a new political party, and threw their support behind President Sergio Osmeña. When Roxas won the Presidency, he instituted a campaign against the Huks. The Huks, however, succeeded in electing Taruc and other members of the Democratic Alliance to Congress.. After Taruc was unseated by the Liberal Party, the Huks retreated to the jungle and began their open rebellion. Between 1946 and 1949 the indiscriminate counterinsurgency measures by President Roxas ("mailed fist" policies) strengthened Huk appeal. The Philippine Army, Philippine Constabulary, and civilian guards attacked villages seeking out subversives.

In 1949, Hukbalahap members ambushed and murdered Aurora Quezon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross and widow of the Philippines' second president, Manuel L. Quezon, as she was en route to her hometown for the dedication of the Quezon Memorial Hospital. Several others were also killed, including her eldest daughter and son-in-law. This attack brought worldwide condemnation of the Hukbalahaps, who claimed that the attack was done by "renegade" members. The continuing condemnation and new post-war causes of the movement prompted the Huk leaders to adopt a new name, the 'Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan' or the 'People's Liberation Army' in 1950.

Public sympathies for the movement had been waning due to their postwar attacks. The Huks carried out campaign of raids, holdups, robbery, ambushes, murder, rape, massacre of small villages, kidnapping and intimidation. The Huks confiscated funds and property to sustain the movement and relied on small village organizers for political and material support. The Huk movement was mainly spread in the central provinces of Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, and in Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Laguna, Bataan and Quezon.

An important movement in the campaign against the Huks was the deployment of hunter-killer counter guerilla special units. The "Nenita" unit (1946–1949) was the first of such special forces whose main mission was to eliminate the Huks. The Nenita Force was commanded by Major Napoleon Valeriano. The Nenita terror tactics which were not only committed against dissidents but also towards law-abiding people sometimes helped the Huks gain supporters as a consequence.

In July 1950, then Major Valeriano assumed command of the elite 7th Battalion Combat Team (BCT) in Bulacan. The 7th BCT would develop a reputation toward employing a more comprehensive, more unconventional counterinsurgency strategy and reduced the random brutality against the civilian population.

In June 1950, American alarm over the Huk rebellion during the cold war prompted President Truman to approve special military assistance that included military advice, sale at cost of military equipment to the Philippines and financial aid under the Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG). In September 1950, former USAFFE guerilla, Ramon Magsaysay was appointed as Minister of National Defense on American advice. With the Huk Rebellion growing in strength and the security situation in the Philippines becoming seriously threatened, Magsaysay urged President Elpidio Quirino to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for the duration of the Huk campaign.

The American assistance allowed Magsaysay to create more BCTs, bringing the total to twenty-six. By 1951, army strength had increased by 60 percent over the previous year with 1,047-man BCTs. Major military offensive campaigns against the Huks were carried out by the 7th, 16th, 17th, and 22nd BCTs.

Another major effort against the Huks was Operation "Knockout" of the Panay Task Force (composed of the 15th BCT, some elements of the 9th BCT and the Philippine Constabulary commands of Iloilo, Capiz and Antique) under the command of Colonel Alfredo M. Santos. The Operation conducted a surprise attack on Guillermo Capadocia, commander of the Huk Regional Command in the Visayas, erstwhile Secretary General and one of the founders of the PKP. Santos' masterstroke was the enlistment of Pedro Valentin, a local mountain leader who knew the people and the terrain like the back of his hand. Capadocia died of battle wounds on September 20, 1952.

In 1954, Lt. Col. Laureño Maraña, the former head of Force X of the 16th PC Company, assumed command of the 7th BCT, which had become one of the most mobile striking forces of the Philippine ground forces against the Huks, from Colonel Valeriano. Force X employed psychological warfare through combat intelligence and infiltration that relied on secrecy in planning, training, and execution of attack. The lessons learned from Force X and Nenita were combined in the 7th BCT.

With the all out anti-dissidence campaigns against the Huks, they numbered less than 2,000 by 1954 and without the protection and support of local supporters, active Huk resistance no longer presented a serious threat to Philippine security. From February to mid-September 1954, the largest anti-Huk operation, "Operation Thunder-Lightning" was conducted that resulted to the surrender of Luis Taruc on May 17. Further clean up operations of guerillas remaining lasted throughout 1955, diminishing its number to less than 1,000 by year's end.

The Hukbong Mapagpalya ng Bayan was again resurrected as Bagong Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan during the early 1960s, but the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas shifted from the use of armed struggle to parliamentary struggle. Guerrilla warfare against the government continued until its surrender along with the Party during Martial Law. The Agreement between the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas and the government lead to the recognition of the Huk Veterans with a share of war reparations and benefits.

After the Sino-Soviet split, the Maoists in the older pro-USSR PKP left in 1968 to form the new Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). In 1969, in something of a Huk revival, the splinter CPP formed the New People's Army and launched a "protracted people's war" that lasts to this day. In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos cited this terrorism as the reason for his imposition of martial law.

Popular Culture

  • The Filipino Hip hop band Hukbalahap is named after the insurgency group. They are the ones who sing the song Buhay Ng Gangsta

See also


  1. Jeff Goodwin, No Other Way Out, Cambridge University Press, 2001, p.119, ISBN 0521629489, 9780521629485


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  • – details how the Philippine Constabulary, aided by the Scout Rangers, defeated the Huk insurgency in Central Luzon.
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