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Winning or losing… the flower of our youth

By Soliman M. Santos, Jr.

It is with particular sadness to note that a young lady lawyer, a compañera, Atty. Hannah Jay Cesista, who just passed the “best bar ever” in 2022, was among those killed in hostilities between the New People’s Army (NPA)-Bohol that she was part of and combined police-military units on 23 February 2024 in remote barangay Campagao, Bilar, Bohol. Whether it was a “legitimate encounter” or a “massacre,” depending on which side is saying so, is still under the usual and proverbial fog of war and propaganda of both sides. Let whatever honest, impartial, competent, timely and credible investigation sort out the truth as the basis for accountability and justice as warranted. But there are other questions to sort out.

Hannah was “Ka Maya” in that NPA-Bohol group of five, led by Domingo “Ka Silong” Compoc said to be the secretary (head) of NPA-Bohol and the subject of several arrest warrants. All five of them, referred to as the “Bilar 5,” were slain in that incident, as was one police officer aside from another one wounded. All lives matter of course, but the circumstances of Hannah’s young purposeful life and untimely death are particular cause for pause, including again on that famous question, “What is happening to our country, General?”

The underground Kabataang Makabayan (KM)-Negros Island, in giving a “Red salute” to Hannah, said: “We particularly raise our fists to our fellow youth, Hannah Jay “Ka Maya” Cesista, whose revolutionary martyrdom serves as inspiration in expressing our militancy through joining the ranks of the NPA. Her pursuit of championing human rights took her to the difficult path of armed struggle after witnessing state fascism and terrorism and, by extension reactionary law, as but utilities of the ruling class to exploit and oppress the people…. Ka Maya offered her expertise and intellect to strengthen the revolutionary ranks of the NPA in Bohol, serving the people wholeheartedly… she has proven, along with the thousands of martyred Red fighters, that the revolution continues through the ceaseless flow of new blood from the youth who are radicalized in the cities and the countryside, eager for genuine national democracy and lasting peace.”

The aboveground National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)-Cebu Chapter hailed Hannah as “Lawyer, Revolutionary, Martyr of the People.” They say she earned her political science degree from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Cebu before taking law at the University of San Carlos (USC).“NUPL-Cebu members can attest to Hannah’s unwavering dedication and active involvement in the chapter’s activities in providing legal services to marginalized communities.” There appears to be no mention of any security threat on her. Could she not have stayed or been convinced to stay in NUPL as a much needed rare lawyer for the people?

Why did she shortly join the ranks of the NPA in Bohol, “to the difficult path of armed struggle”? The above-quoted KM-Negros statement has its own answer to that question that may reflect Hannah’s own answer. If that indeed is her own answer, it is of course to be respected as her free choice as a young intelligent person. But does it really have to be that way or to come to that for all concerned Filipino youth, especially young lawyers, even in the face of “state fascism and terrorism and, by extension reactionary law”? And must there be the spilling of “the ceaseless flow of new blood from the youth”?

All that for winning the insurgency campaign or for winning the revolution? Who is really winning this war when we, our country and people, are losing the flower of our youth? Are they necessary or unnecessary sacrifices in the altars of revolution and counter-revolution? Please take pause, take stock, more than five decades already into this. What ever happened to your promising Joint Statement of 23 November 2023 where you “agree[d] to a principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict”?


SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR. is retired RTC Judge of Naga City; a long-time human rights and international humanitarian lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer on both the Communist and Moro fronts of war and peace; author of a number of books, including How do you solve a problem like the GRP-NDFP peace process? Part 2 (Sulong Peace, 2022) and the recently released TIGAON 1969: Untold Stories of the CPP-NPA, KM and SDK (Ateneo Press, 2023).


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