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Republic of the Philippines, The Hukbalahap Insurgency

In addition to economic problems, the Philippines faced growing tensions between landowners and the rural poor. During the war the Hukbalahap had become a powerful guerrilla force with strong rural-based support. The organization was associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) but was mostly composed of a radicalized peasantry who held many grievances against agrarian landlords. The authority of Philippine landlords had been disrupted during the wartime occupation, and after the war they tried to reimpose their authority. The leadership of the Hukbalahap, which was renamed the People’s Liberation Army in 1946, demanded the collective ownership of farmland and abolition of tenant farming. Widespread fighting broke out as the Philippine police and landlord militias battled Huk guerrillas and their supporters. In February 1948 Roxas, who had played a role in the Japanese-sponsored wartime government, resolved a raging controversy over collaboration by pardoning all those who had served the Japanese. The following month, Roxas declared the Hukbalahap to be an illegal organization and stepped up counterinsurgency measures.

Roxas died in April 1948 and was succeeded by Vice President Quirino, who then won the presidency in 1949 in an election marred by corruption. When the Huk insurgency intensified to the point of threatening the stability of the Philippine government, Quirino appointed Ramon Magsaysay secretary of national defense. Magsaysay had gained visibility as an able guerrilla leader during World War II and then served two terms in the Philippine legislature. He enthusiastically took on the mission to crush Huk resistance, using solutions such as tenancy reform to erode the rural support base of the Huks. His initiative to improve the training of the Philippine armed forces won help from the United States, which considered the Huks to be a Communist threat to the stability of the Philippines. In 1950 police forces captured the core of the Huk leadership. Huks who surrendered were offered amnesty. The insurgency effectively ended in May 1954 with the surrender of Huk leader Luis Taruc.

 

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