The birth of Nakasaka

Among the anti-insurgency groups that fought the communist movement in Davao region in the 1980s, the Nagkahiusang Katawhan Alang sa Kalinaw (Nakasaka), or United People for Peace, next to Alsa Masa (Revolt of the Masses), only surfaced after the People’s Revolt of 1986.

The birth of Nakasaka was a matter of urgency. With the rebels already present in eleven of the fifteen towns of Davao del Sur, it was not hard to infer that without a firmer grip from the authorities, the province would in no time become a communist stronghold.

A joint initiative of Douglas Ra. Cagas, then OIC-governor of Davao del Sur, and Lt. Col. Jesus Magno, then PC-INP provincial commander, the anti-communist group, unlike the more popular Alsa Masa, supported peaceful means in containing the spread of insurgency.

In concept, the Nakasaka adopted the viewpoint that “if Communism seemed to succeed, it was because of civilian support.” In just a short period, the unarmed movement was able to recruit and organize operational units in twelve towns.

The grassroots-based group used five strategies: launch a massive instructive campaign explaining the evils of Communism and the benefits of democracy; create vigilante squads in sub-barangay and district levels; use indigenous implements as monitor, alarm and communications tools; inspire the use of indigenous weapons against the enemy if needed; and encourage the surrender of rebels and their sympathizers.

A vital aspect of the movement was rebel rehabilitation and amnesty, which were offered to those who returned to the fold of law. According to estimates, over 2,000 rebels had already rejoined mainstream society by February 1987, a tenth of them members of the armed militias.

A report by Media Mindanao News Service on April 3-9, 1987 told about a New People’s Army Sparrow, a rebel liquidation squad member, who “was driven off [Sinawilan, Digos City] by residents with the use of stones.” In another story, “two rebels were apprehended [in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur] after Nakasaka vigilantes tipped the military on their whereabouts.”

But the movement had its share of issues. Gov. Cagas admitted that sustaining the momentum of the group was a challenge; he even called on the State and the private sector “to lend material and spiritual support.”
But the rise in popularity of Nakasaka did not appease the leaders of the Davao City-based Alsa Masa who accused it of violating human rights due to its supposed forcible recruitment and for riding on the popularity of the Alsa Masa. Then the biggest anti-communist movement in southern Mindanao, three of Alsa Masa’s acknowledged leaders were Col. Franco Calida, later general; radioman Juan Porras Pala; and Rex Sardinia.

This apprehension could have been an offshoot of an earlier declaration made by Lt. Col. Magno, who warned the enemies of the state of annihilation if they did not surrender:

“Your place will be declared No Man’s Land (free-fire zones). We will conduct aerial and ground operations. All living things—animals or human beings—[are] considered enemies of the state. Crops will be destroyed.

Houses suspected to shelter rebels will be burned. You will have no choice but to abandon your farms and houses. I’m sorry but that’s our job.”

Even the Commission on Elections expressed concerned the group would be used by politicians as private armies with intent to terrorize the polls.

According to Mindanao Human Rights Monitor, Nakasaka and Alsa Masa were only two of the anti-communist organizations in Davao region in 1987. The other groups were Alimaong (Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur; under Apolinario Gumera, a Higaonon tribal leader); Bantay Bayan (Digos City, Davao del Sur); Bolo Battalion (Davao del Sur countryside); Kampilan (Davao del Sur); Kalihukan Laban sa Komunista (Movement Against the Communist), Davao del Sur);

Kusog sa Katawhan alang sa Kalinaw or People Power for Peace (San Miguel, Mankilam and Pagsabangan in Tagum City, Davao del Norte); Malcom (Davao Oriental); Mindahila-KKK (Davao del Sur); Serbisyong Katilingbanon alang sa Demokrasya (San Isidro, Davao Oriental); Tabak (Sulop, Davao del Sur); Tadtad (Sagrado Corazon Señor), Davao del Sur; and Rock Christ (parts of Davao del Sur); and Pulahan (Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental).

Three decades after the insurgency was forced to flee the urban centers and relocate to remote countryside areas, the ‘red menace’, as it was also known, became an outdated ideology following the collapse of many socialist states and communist regimes. With the global spread of capitalism, many countries have turned to democracy and its numerous variations.