November 04, 2005

Getting away with murder

One never gets used to these things. Political killings of activists, trade union and peasant leaders, human rights lawyers and advocates, the plain masa whose only crime is that their oppressors suspect they are growing wise to their oppression and may soon learn the ways of rebellion.

One never gets used to the anguish or even the quiet grieving of the widows and orphans: it is they, more then anyone else, who will have to bear with the sudden void in their lives left by a slain spouse, parent, son or daughter, often the sole breadwinner and guiding light of the family.

No matter that political experience has taught you that the struggle against exploitation and oppression invariably exacts its price; that the exploiters and oppressors will fight back with all the ruthlessness, cunning and brutality at their disposal to keep their pelf and privilege and eliminate those who would dare challenge the status quo.

Many more will pay that price before the dawn of freedom, justice, peace and prosperity can reign in this seemingly god-forsaken country.

In fact there is nothing new in the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of progressive leaders, activists and even their hapless sympathizers. The long list includes labor lawyer Hermon Lagman, Redemptorist priest Rudy Romano, medical doctor Bobby de la Paz, Igorot leader Macliing Dulag, student leaders Edgar Jopson and Lorena Barros, and opposition leader Ninoy Aquino -- along with tens of thousands of nameless and faceless farmers, striking workers, urban poor slum dwellers, church people, students and even professionals killed during the martial law years.

Most of them were suspected or held by government to be rebels/communists/dissident terrorists; the perpetrators were known or widely believed to be military/police/para-military, in other words, armed agents of the state.

The killings did not stop after the overthrow of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship and the formal trappings of so-called democracy were restored. Again the list grows longer: Bayan and Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson Rolando Olalia, Bayan Secretary-General Lean Alejandro and a host of human rights lawyers, who stood up to the almighty power of the state and sought justice for their clients, only to be cut down themselves by the assassins’ bullet.

There is nothing new either in the wave of extrajudicial killings under the GMA regime. There is nothing new with the fact that perpetrators are getting away with cold-blooded murder. Impunity is the name of the game in this country where government likes to pretend the rule of law prevails.

What is most alarming and appalling, however, is the intensity and frequency of such brazen murders, five of them in 24 hours in the most recent cases in Central Luzon, as well as the pattern of deliberate targeting of unarmed activists and people’s leaders after a campaign of demonification by the military and other right-wing forces has set them up for the kill.

The silence and inaction of the regime of Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo -- unlike previous regimes including that of the Marcos fascist dictatorship that at least feigned concern as much as professed innocence -- is not just a sign of callousness but a signal of approval.

The state continues to give the unmistakable green light to its forces that they can continue hitting government critics, especially those who have been branded as “communist terrorists” under the pretext of “counterterrorism”, “counter-destabilization” and that oft-repeated phrase now bereft of any meaning – “rule of law”.

Indeed the state is laying the ground for increasing repression, specifically pushing for the immediate enactment of an anti-terrorism law. This is the law that the Arroyo regime claims will provide the state with the means to go after purported terrorists but is raising the hackles of some of its erstwhile authors in Congress for being vague, overbroad and draconian in its measures that it can easily be used against legitimate opposition and dissent.

Especially with the sullied track record of the police and military institutions, the abuse of authority and trampling of the people’s democratic rights is bound to follow the enactment of the GMA anti-terrorism bill.

How is it possible that despite the legacy of the people’s struggle against fascist tyranny, despite the blood of so many heroes and martyrs spilled in the fight against unspeakable oppression, the GMA regime is emboldened and expects to get away with its policy of state terrorism?

We venture to say that the anti-terrorist hysteria stirred up by the 9-11 bombings and the subsequent US “war on terror” coupled with the anti-terrorist hype stirred in turn by the GMA regime and aided immeasurably by bombings in Mindanao and Metro-Manila (allegedly the handiwork of shadowy groups remarkable for their amoeba-like ability to multiply despite all-out campaigns of suppression by government) have a lot to do with it.

Another key factor is the intensity of current red-baiting. This includes everything from publications to power-point presentations to anti-communist slogans sprayed in red paint on any available blank space in the streets; where progressive groups and specific individuals have been vilified and listed as “enemies of the state”.

Soldiers, police, paramilitary units are especially brainwashed with this anti-communist propaganda that has the added twist of deliberately obscuring the distinction of combatants from non-combatants, legal from illegal and armed from unarmed targets of punitive operations by state forces.

As explained by the notorious anti-communist headhunter, Gen. Jovito Palparan, activists inevitably transform into guerillas of the New People’s Army, so may as well “neutralize” and “eliminate” them before that happens. Just like the Marcos years, the Arroyo regime is not lacking in heartless butchers ready and willing to carry out even criminal acts in its anti-insurgency, aka anti-terrorism, campaigns.

It is Mrs. Arroyo’s well-grounded fear of suffering the same fate as her predecessor, Joseph Estrada -- of being overthrown, jailed and haled to court -- that is driving her and her equally spooked toadies and henchmen to resort to murder and mayhem in a systematic fashion.

The GMA regime is also shamelessly aping the Bush regime, its mentor and chief backer in utilizing “counter-terrorism” as pretext for fascist measures. The Bush regime has used the “war on terror” to instill fear in the hearts of American people. It has succeeded in papering over the issue of legitimacy raised against it in the aftermath of proven electoral fraud, especially in Florida, and of shoring up and securing bipartisan support.

The GMA regime is attempting to do the same trick with little success.

US President Bush himself is fast losing his political support with the US public quickly realizing how his regime screwed them on Iraq, was next to useless in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster and is leading them to economic ruin in the wake of its disastrous domestic and foreign policies.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should pay heed.

Business World
4-5 Nov 2005


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