August 13, 2004

Baseless and unjust

The "terrorist" listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA) has just been renewed. Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman at the US State department, said Secretary of State Colin Powell has renewed the designation of the CPP/NPA as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" under the US Immigration and Nationality Act. It is likely that CPP founding Chair Jose Ma. Sison, who was tagged as a "foreign terrorist" two years ago, will likewise be relisted.

The Arroyo government welcomed the listings and would want the European Union to follow the US line.

Initially, the US-led "war on terror" had the semblance of being on a moral high ground, and the Arroyo government could justify its joining the anti-terrorist war.

But this "war" has since been exposed for what it really is - a terrorist war. It has devastated millions of innocent civilian lives in Afghanistan and Iraq without having anything to show for its avowed aim of curbing international terrorism. Condemnation of this war is snowballing, especially after the exposes of US military atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Indeed, so isolated now is the George W. Bush administration that Dubya cannot claim solid support for his war even from his own political party.

With that, the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government would do well to take a good second look at its position on the "terrorist" listing of the CPP-NPA and Mr. Sison. For its own good, this government must now ask itself if it should continue to ride on the heels of a war that is increasingly turning out to be indefensible from both the moral and the legal perspectives.

The interfaith and multi-sectoral alliance of peace advocates, Pilgrims for Peace, asserts that "the listing(s)... disregard... Protocols I and II of the Geneva Convention and UN resolutions that distinguish national liberation movements from terrorist groups."

Moreover, "while purportedly in line with the US-led 'war against terrorism,' (these) listing(s) (are) baseless and unjust, and contravene all previous agreements between the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) and GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) that obligate both parties to uphold the national sovereignty of the Filipino people and respect the rights of participants in the peace negotiations to safety and immunity guarantees."

In brief, the "terrorist" listing intrudes into the internal affairs of the Philippines, violating its sovereignty, jeopardizing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, and violating the democratic rights of Mr. Sison.

It is also being used as a leverage to force the NDFP to sign a "final peace agreement." This agreement amounts to nothing but a surrender pact that does not in any manner take into account the social and political roots of the armed conflict. That tactic has proven to be a miserable failure.

For all these reasons, the Arroyo government must do a thorough reexamination of its line on the "terrorist" listings. It must, in pursuing the peace negotiations with the NDFP, uphold national sovereignty and build goodwill measures to inspire confidence in the prospect of attaining a just and lasting peace. Correcting its course as regards the "terrorist" listings would be a leap in that direction.

"If this is the price to pay for being Filipino, so be it." These were fighting words from President Arroyo, said last week in response to a statement by Richard Boucher, spokesman of the US State department, that the Philippines was, "at this point," not part of the so-called Coalition of the Willing, following its decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq ahead of schedule to save the life of Angelo de la Cruz.

It is not too late for the Arroyo government to act with the same spirit with which it saw fit to heed public opinion and choose to save the life of an innocent Filipino over maintaining troops in support of a condemnable war.

Many say that spirit wasn't borne out of genuine nationalism, but more likely arose from a desire of the beleaguered Arroyo administration for self-preservation.

If the government misses this opportunity to set things, it will be left with no choice but to go against the tide of public opinion. Our people have repeatedly shown that they are for peace - a lasting peace based on justice.

Aug. 13, 2004


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