The Hukbalahap Movement (a contraction of the Tagalog phrase "Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon" - roughly, "Army of the Country/People against the Japanese") was one of the more prominent guerilla groups during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II. "Huks", as the members of the Hukbalahap were commonly known, operated mostly in the farmlands of Central Luzon and were recruited from civilians displaced by the Japanese, or ex-military or constabulary personnel.

The formation of a guerilla organization by the Communist Party of the Philippines was planned nearly a year before the actual invasion on December 8, 1941. In an anti-Japanese manifesto issued by the CPP two days after invasion, they pledged support to the Allied war effort by organizing the Hukbalahap movement in March 1942.

Most history books credit Luis Taruc, one-time CPP military committee chairman, for organizing and leading the Huk movement throughout the war, although several Huk veterans organizations dispute this. According to these organizations, there were several Huk movements operating in concert, under Castro Alejandrino, Eusebio Aquino, Mariano Franco, and others, and Taruc was not among them. Taruc only joined the CPP later when several prominent Huk leaders were captured and executed by the Japanese.

Throughout the Occupation, the Huks were equipped with US Army weapons and good training programs, increasing an initial group of 500 men to about 20,000 regulars a year later. A major offensive by the Japanese in the province of Pampanga in March 1943 decimated the squadrons and sent them into the mountains, forcing them to rely less on military efforts and more on propaganda. Their Communist doctrine, however, brought them in conflict with the USAFFE and other American-led guerilla forces; clashes between the Huks and rival guerilla groups were not uncommon. By war's end, the Huk had accounted for over 5,000 Japanese losses, although allegations of war crimes also blamed the Huks for nearly 20,000 executions of Filipino collaborators, bandits, and other enemies.

By the time the Liberation forces landed in 1944, the Hukbalahap had gained control of the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija. In "Huklandia", they instituted their own local government structure and even appointed their own governors in the provinces of Laguna and Pampanga.

The new Philippine government, established by the US after the war, disregarded these government structures, and placed their own officials, pending the elections in April 1946. Several Huk squadrons were forcibly disarmed by the US Army, and Luis Taruc and Castro Alejandrino were arrested. These two later won seats as Congressional representatives of Huklandia, but then-president Manuel Roxas rejected the results of the election in the Huk-held provinces, vowing to "restore peace and order" in Huklandia.

The Huk movement promised land reform for its followers (who were mostly non-landowning tenant farmers), which brought them in conflict not only with the government, but with the wealthy landowners of Central Luzon, most of which fielded substantial private armies. The Roxas government charged both the CPP and the Huk movement with sedition in 1947, and started a major military campaign to take control of Huklandia. Over the next decade, the conflict between the military and paramilitary forces and the Hukbalahap would push the local civilians away from the government, as hundreds of innocent peasants were killed, imprisoned, and tortured, their properties and lands confiscated by either the government, or local warlords. The CPP changed the Hukbalahap to now mean "Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan" (HMB, roughly "Army that will free the country") to reflect its new goals.

In March 1950, the Huks launched simultaneous attacks on five provinces around Manila. Although Luis Taruc, the alleged Huk Supremo, surrendered in 1954, resistance continued long after his capture. At the height of their power in 1952, they had an estimated 170,000 armed troops, and a mass civilian base of over two million supporters.

The Huk movement succumbed to overwhelming odds by 1955, pursued by a US-backed Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary, the Huks were estimated to have nearly 10,000 men killed and another 15,000 captured by the government during this conflict, with their forces down to about 2,000 men.

One primary factor in their downfall was a massive psychological campaign waged by the USA's Central Intelligence Agency against the Hukbalahap; there are allegations that this anti-Huk warfare included atrocities against local villages carried out by disguised government operatives, meant to destroy the image and reputation of the Huk movement. Whatever the methods used, this succeeded in changing the common citizen's view of the Huk from a valiant guerilla fighter to a tulisan, or bandit.

The 1970's saw an alleged resurgence, as the call for land reform became even stronger; the "Huk problem" was a major platform for the Marcos presidential campaign, and another military campaign launched in 1969 by the then newly-elected president was declared successful in late 1970. Many critics, however, saw the new "Huk" movement as merely a bogeyman manufactured by the Marcos administration in order to increase military spending and paint the CPP and the NPA as terrorists, with gained credence as Marcos declared martial law two years later, in September 1972.

Sources:
Those interested may want to get the book The Philippines: Colonialism, Collaboration And Resistance, (New York, 1992), written by William J. Pomeroy, an American who worked closely with the Huks in the 1950s.
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition (http://www.bartleby.com/65/hu/Hukbalah.html)
"Rectifying a Historical Misconception", letter to the editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer (http://www.inq7.net/opi/2002/jan/11/letter_2-1.htm)

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