NDFP Tribute to Nila “Comrade Edna” Montes
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas condoles with the family and friends of our dear Nila “Comrade Edna” Montes, who died of illness last August 15, 2014 while under the custody of the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
She served the people for more than 30 years as a proletarian revolutionary cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), and had last served as the deputy secretary for education of the Party’ s Southeast Samar Committee. Although she was diagnosed and being treated for a serious illness since 2012, she never wavered in her love for the people and in her determination to carry out her revolutionary tasks.
Comrade Edna was arrested by the military of the GPH on trumped-up charges in Guiuan, Eastern Samar last July 4, 2013. Although she was already very sick and needed hospital confinement, she was denied the humanitarian consideration her legal counsel appealed for. This is also guaranteed by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the NDFP and GPH. Instead, she was detained in unhealthy and shabby prisons in Oras and Dolores towns in Eastern Samar, far away from the medical care she needed. She suffered like other political prisoners under the US-Aquino regime, whose high officials and their accomplices currently accused of corruption and plunder, on the other hand, enjoy special treatment under luxurious “hospital arrest.” The reason she was rushed to but died on the way to the hospital in Tacloban City on August 15 was that her previous treatment had been left unfinished because her GPH military custodians demanded her return to detention, against the protests of her legal counsel and doctors.
But to the very end, in the face of enemy persecution, Comrade Edna held her head high, refusing to bow to the enemy’s persecution and remaining steadfast in her revolutionary commitment. Despite her fatal ailment, she never collaborated with the enemy and betrayed the comrades and the masses. She raised the prestige of the revolutionary movement and set an example by her selflessness, dedication and self-sacrifice.
Comrade Edna came from a relatively well-off petty-bourgeois family in Samar, but had been orphaned at a young age. She was studying in college in Manila when she was first organized as a mass activist in the youth and students movement in the anti-dictatorship struggle against Marcos in the 1970s. She was recruited into the Party and was collectivized in the regional support group in Manila. Up to the early 1980s, she did liaison work, linking the Party in the region and in Manila. Afterwards, she was in the staff of the Visayas Commission, where she was discontented with the decadent lifestyle of the counterrevolutionary traitor Arturo Tabara.
The mid-1980s came with major challenges for Comrade Edna, at the time when the revolutionary movement was following the wrong line of premature regularization and military adventurism. Comrade Edna returned to Eastern Visayas with her husband, Comrade Paulo. She was assigned to the Political Department of the then regional battalion of the NPA in Samar. Comrade Paulo served as a member of the Battalion Party Committee and a political officer of a company in the battalion. The other comrades in the battalion praised Comrade Edna for serving as a model for the “Red Detachment of Women” in the people’s army in her remoulding, self-sacrifice and problem-solving.
But Comrade Paulo was martyred not long after their deployment in a guerrilla offensive in San Jorge, Samar. Comrade Edna was also wounded in an incident and suffered from personal crisis while convalescing. But after a time, Comrade Edna recovered her morale and revolutionary optimism, wholeheartedly dedicating herself to the masses and to the revolutionary struggle.
Comrade Edna did regional propaganda and education work in the early 1990s. She was one of the anchors in the revolutionary VHF radio program Radyo Katalwasan. When the Second Great Rectification Movement began in Eastern Visayas, she was one of those who ensured the reproduction of education materials to guide the comrades. As a comrade recalls of that time, she would be busy all day typing, as well as smeared all over with ink from running the mimeograph machine. The rectification movement reinvigorated the comrades including Comrade Edna, and they strived to once again strengthen the Party in ideology, politics and organization.
In 1996, Comrade Edna was deployed to Southern Leyte to help in the recovery work there after the setbacks during the time of the wrong line. A Red commander who was also her comrade in the collective said the conditions at the start were very difficult. There were only seven comrades when they started. They traveled long distances to organize the peasant masses in far-flung barrios. They subsisted on root crops and could only eat rice once a month, if there were any. The Red commander relates you would never think Comrade Edna came from the petty bourgeoisie, as she never once complained at the hardships, but sharing weal and woe with other comrades and the peasant masses. She lived up to being a proletarian revolutionary fighter of the CPP-NPA in political work as well as joining guerrilla offensives in the armed struggle. She proved to be a good leader in territorial work and the people’s army grew from a handful to being an undersized company in due time. Because of her exemplary work, she was raised to the Party’s Leyte Island Committee in 2003.
Comrade Edna also remarried during this time to a peasant comrade and they had one daughter. But they encountered irreconcilable differences in the marriage and were divorced in 2005. During the same year, she was deployed to Eastern Samar as a member of the provincial Party committee. But she did not let her personal problems get in the way of her political work.
In 2010, when the provincial Party committees were reorganized to better carry out comprehensive work, Comrade Edna began serving as the deputy secretary for education of the Southeast Samar Committee. A staff member of the committee recalls that the enemy attacked during the plenum and the comrades had to withdraw to a distant barrio. During the retreat, even the younger comrades were left exhausted by the forced march. But they marveled that Comrade Edna was one of the few comrades who could still call on a peasant household and happily converse despite her own tiredness. She showed enthusiasm in dealing with the comrades and masses of all ages. She was sharp and direct in speech in striving for the correct line, never tiring of educating other comrades, and showing humility and selflessness.
Comrade Edna also persevered in striving to build a revolutionary family. She was a communist mother who faced the challenge of being far from her children because of her revolutionary tasks. She remained steadfast in the face of loneliness, distance and the disappointments from time to time of her children. Comrade Edna understood that the poverty and neediness of her children were the same as that felt by the masses of the people. She had no doubt and overcame her family problems as part of her sacrifices as a revolutionary.
Even when Comrade Edna was arrested in 2013, she still rose above her circumstances and proved herself as a proletarian revolutionary cadre. Because of her prestige, friends of the revolutionary movement sent her food, cooking utensils and other forms of support even while she was in detention. She never minded sharing what she received, and befriended as well her fellow detainees and the jailguards.
Comrade Edna knew the US-Aquino regime was corrupt and rotten to the core, and thus persecuting her because she was on the side of the people’s resistance. Despite being under duress, despite suffering from a fatal illness, her revolutionary determination remained firm and unshakeable in the face of the enemy. When her treatment was stopped and she was being taken away from the hospital by the military guards of the GPH, her last message to the comrades was: “Padayon kita!” (Let us persevere!)
Let us avenge Comrade Edna, not by the simple act of killing the enemy in battle but by defeating the class enemies and overthrowing the rotten reactionary system. Let us emulate her example of selflessness, self-sacrifice, simple living and diligent struggle. Let us salute and continue her legacy as a proletarian cadre, a woman, a fighter for the revolutionary cause!
Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter