What is the New People's Army?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The New People's Army (NPA) is a paramilitary organization based in the Philippines. Many governments around the world classify the NPA as a terrorist organization, since it advocates a period of prolonged “people's war” which is designed to undermine the government of the Philippines. At its height, over 25,000 people were members of the NPA, although reforms in the 1980s drastically reduced the size and activity level of the organization until the late 1990s, when NPA activities flared up again in some regions of the Philippines.

The New People's Army's aim is to undermine the Philippine government.
The New People's Army's aim is to undermine the Philippine government.

This organization was founded in 1969 to act as the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Evidence suggests that the New People's Army received substantial financial support from China well through the 1970s, reflecting its status as a Maoist Communist organization. The organization uses guerrilla tactics to advance its goal of overthrowing the government, relying on highly mobile operatives to accomplish various operations.

The NPA rose to prominence when Imelda Marcos was first lady of the Philippines.
The NPA rose to prominence when Imelda Marcos was first lady of the Philippines.

Like many paramilitary organizations which are attempting to overthrow national governments from the inside, the NPA focuses its efforts on politicians, informers, people who are socially prominent, and foreign advisers. The New People's Army has launched several attacks against American servicemembers in the Philippines, for example, with the goal of trying to destabilize the national government by driving Americans out of the region.

New People's Army members tend to be most active in rural areas of the Philippines, where controlling them is extremely difficult. Foreign visitors to the region are often advised to stay out of these regions to avoid entanglements with the NPA, which has been known to commit human rights violations and atrocities in the advancement of its goals.

While armed struggle may be a valid mode of resistance against a government, some people feel that the New People's Army may have confused its ideals and goals. For example, in addition to engaging in guerrilla warfare, the NPA has also been involved in cases of extortion, kidnapping, and rioting which involved innocent individuals and had no clear purpose. This led to the decision to classify the NPA as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2002, with the European Union following suit several years later.

The government of the Philippines has also issued several invitations to peace talks to the NPA, and several such talks have been held. Despite these talks, the NPA continues to be active, although many people hope that a resolution can be reached.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


The NPA is based among the rural peasantry. It also has a presence in major cities. Perhaps 40 percent of population suffer exploitation, intimidation and oppression on a daily basis. And a corrupt central government has no intention of ever changing this situation. It has merely become an instrument channeling wealth (via government contracts) into the hands of a largely historical ruling elite.

As the demands of a global economy accelerates this process, the poverty deepens. The role of the Philippines in the global economy is to export huge volumes of food, minerals, timber and labor. Much of this revenue is channeled for the exclusive use of the ruling elite.

The NPA have had no choice but to challenge this situation. It has certainly been a cruel and dangerous campaign, for both sides, since 1969. All attempts at peaceful opposition have been violently crushed by the Government's security forces both officially and unofficially ( via extra-judicial killings ). Through highs and lows the NPA still exists (against massive odds ) and will continue to do so until the Regime falls.


@SauteePan - I agree and wanted to add that I am a little biased because my family is from Cuba and they left Cuba because they could not live in the Communist society which is really why a lot of Cubans left.

The NPA sounds a lot like the militia groups that Castro used to overthrow the Batista government that was in place at the time. This communist movement in Cuba parallels the NPA because many of the people that followed this movement wanted change in the government and relief for the poor.

Castro promised that sweeping changes that would benefit the poor the most, and it did. For example, their housing bills and electricity bills would be a fraction of what they were. He also seized private property from the wealthy Cubans and business owners and made it government property. He also made sure that all citizens worked in the camps to aid in the farming industry and eliminated the hard currency which made the Cuban money worthless outside of the island.

He substantially lowered the incomes of all of the professions because he felt that since the government substantially lowered the household bills by about 75%, most people did not need much money. These changes redistributed the wealth from the rich to the poor and made everyone somewhat even which sounds great until you realize that you are dependent on the government for everything and do not have the ability to protest or to express your free speech when you don’t agree with what the government is doing.


I have to say personally that any movement that resorts to human violations and violence really does not advance their political cause in the minds of the general public because you really lose credibility when you resort to violence.

Whether you believe in a communist government or a democratic one is really not the point, if you have to hurt people in order to get your point across then there is probably something wrong with the message itself.

I think that peaceful protest can be helpful to a cause because it draws more attention to it, but doing things by force is really not the answer.


I read that the New People's Army, along with the Communist party want to overthrow the government so that they can replace it with a national democratic government. I don't really understand that. Why don't they aim to replace it with a Communist government? Isn't that their ideology?

And how is the relationship between the NPA and the Communist party? Does the Communist party decide what the NPA's role or activity will be or does the NPA function on its own?


@turkay1-- I think there may be many reasons why people join the NPA. I'm sure that poor government services is one of them, it is a resistance to government after all.

As far as I know, the NPA is most active in the area called Bicol in Philippines. It is a very poor region; only a few people/families hold the wealth. Public services are poor and there is corruption too.

At the same time though, corruption happens all across the country and Philippines is not a very rich country in general. So there might be some other reasons why the NPA is very active and successful there.

Does anyone else know about this and want to pitch in?


We learned in class that guerrilla groups tend to organize in very poor regions where there is lack of food and services available. Is this the case with the New People's Army?

Since the NPA is mainly in rural areas, how are the government services and average income of people there? Do you think rural areas of Philippines join NPA or support them because of poverty?

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