The Communist Party of the Philippines was founded in 1968 by Jose Maria Sison, a young university lecturer, and a small group of followers. Its armed wing, the New People's Army was created the next year. Mr. Sison and his colleagues, disciples of Mao Tse-tung, planned to use Mao's political and military doctrines in their struggle to overthrow the government of President Ferdinand Marcos. They were scornful of the already-existing Moscow-oriented Philippine Communist Party, which had faded into inactivity by the late-1960s.
Although the newer party has moved somewhat away from its original Maoist line, it remains essentially pro-Chinese, and party cadres reportedly still use Mao's writings in their political education work.
Sison quickly developed a following among students and youth, but when Marcos declared martial law in September 1972 his party was still militarily weak. Over the next five years it gradually consolidated and expanded beyond its original base in the main northern island of Luzon.
In 1977 Sison was captured, and a series of collective leaderships followed. The party is now headed by a three-man politburo: Party Chaiman Rodolfo Salas, a former university lecturer; Party Secretary-General Rafael Baylosis, another former academic; and Tony Zumel, a one-time journalist and brother of one of the youngest generals in the Philippine military.
The three men -- known in their party as the troika -- are backed by two alternate politburo members and a central committee of approximately 30 members.
The party claims 30,000 members. The New People's Army says it has 32,000 fighters -- 12,000 regulars and 20,000 local guerrillas. Independent sources believe these figures are essentially correct. The party and its armed wing claim to be operating in 58 of the country's 73 provinces and say they directly control 5 million people.
Guerrillas now operate in some major cities as well as the countryside, although their armed operations in Manila have suffered a number of setbacks recently. They also claim to have doubled the pace of military operations to about 12 actions a week nationwide. In 1984, party cadres claim, guerrillas inflicted damage worth $16 million in pro-government business interests.