July 06, 2007

Terrorist tag and peace

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales assures the media and the public that wiretapping, surveillance, warrant less arrest and freezing of bank deposits – among a few of the draconian measures the new anti-terror law aka the Human Security Act has in store – will not be used against anyone unless he or she is a “terrorist” to begin with. Now that’s a laugh. The law is indeed quite vague about who a “terrorist” is, so much so that it is the likes of Mr. Gonzales and other right-wingers cum militarists in the Anti-terrorism Council, who will end up saying who is and who is not, a terrorist. Small comfort, that.

Even now the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime is itching to use the anti-terror measure to outlaw the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP (the repeal of the Anti-subversion Law effectively legalized it) and to impose the onus of terrorism on its armed wing, the New People’s Army or NPA.

National Security Adviser (NSA) Norberto Gonzalez rants about the success of “communist propaganda” in placing the blame on the military and the entire GMA regime for unabated extrajudicial killings. He eagerly anticipates the HSA’s effectivity, insinuating that it will be used to bludgeon not just the communists and NPA but also their so-called front organizations and mass base meaning leaders, members and supporters of the legal national democratic movement exemplified by Bayan and its allied organizations.

When US President George W. Bush bombed the hell out of the Taliban in Afghanistan for hosting Osama bin Laden, the presumed mastermind of the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the US mainland, few could argue against the move. It seemed only right that the US government avenge the close to 3,000 civilian casualties of the Twin Towers collapse alone.

In no time, the Avenger Bush launched the borderless “war on terror” that saw the US invading and occupying Iraq on the basis of the falsehood that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction. The US spread out its military tentacles all over the Middle East as well as bolstered its presence in East Asia where the Philippines was declared as the “second front” in the fight against “terrorism”. It became increasingly clear that the US-led “war on terror” was just the convenient cover for America’s reinvigorated economic expansionism and military adventurism under the rubric of what Mr. Bush and his fellow neoconservatives called the “Project for a New American Century”.

To Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her inner circle of die-hard anticommunists, closet fascists and power-hungry bureaucrats, the US-led “war against terrorism” was heaven sent. Mrs. Arroyo’s unquestioning support for it achieved two complementary objectives: 1) maintaining US backing for her beleaguered regime and 2) justifying political repression and military attacks against her critics, most especially the Left, in the name of “anti-terrorism”.

Mrs. Arroyo, her generals and rabid anti-Left advisers like Fr. Romeo Intengan SJ and Norberto Gonzalez pushed hard for the government-touted anti-terror law, both to please her US sponsors as well as to have a powerful legal instrument to use alongside the policy of “all-out war” against the CPP-NPA, extrajudicial killings of unarmed activists and the virtual collapse of peace negotiations with the umbrella formation, the National Democratic Front or NDF.

There are a host of things to criticize and oppose in the purported anti-terror measure but oftentimes one thing is overlooked; that is, its effect on efforts to resolve the decades-old armed conflict in the country, specifically the prospect of restarting the almost collapsed peace negotiations between the government and the NDF.

The Arroyo regime, in collusion with the Bush government, used the US designation of the CPP-NPA as a “foreign terrorist organization” and CPP founding chair and NDF chief political consultant, Jose Maria Sison, as a “terrorist” to try to pressure the NDF into capitulating at the peace talks. The government threatened the NDF with all the dire consequences of being tagged as “terrorist” if it did not agree to an open-ended ceasefire and a government-dictated “final peace agreement”.

Five years later, the government is no closer to its objective of making the CPP-NPA and other revolutionary organizations of the NDF surrender by using the “terrorist” tag. In fact proscribing the CPP-NPA would cause the permanent termination of the peace negotiations, according to Mr. Sison.

In a 3 July press statement, Mr. Sison averred, “The NDFP has made clear its just and reasonable position: it is willing to resume the formal talks of the peace negotiations on the remaining issues in the substantive agenda (socio-economic and political reforms) if exploratory talks can bring about a formal written agreement on certain prejudicial questions, such as the ongoing human rights violations by the regime, the murder and kidnapping of NDFP personnel and consultants, the ‘terrorist’ listing of the CPP, NPA and NDFP by foreign governments and the indemnification of the victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime.”

The NDFP also said it was willing to enter into a ceasefire agreement under its proposed 10-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace. However, it rejected any ceasefire “which blatantly violates or runs counter to the existing agreements between the GRP and NDFP, the national and democratic principles of the NDFP and the people’s demand for the adoption of basic socio-economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict.”

Mrs. Arroyo’s handling of the terrorist labeling of Mr. Sison by the US, the European Union and others is turning out to be a gross miscalculation. The belief that such hardball tactics would work on a revolutionary movement that has survived and even flourished in the face of the worst that the Marcos fascist dictatorship could do to it is proving to be the height of political naiveté.

It is tragic that the Arroyo regime is wasting time and squandering what has been achieved so far in the peace negotiations in a bid to maintain itself illegitimately in power. After five years of using “anti-terrorism” as a trump card to pressure the NDF, the government has in fact moved farther from reaching an agreement that could bring about a truly just and lasting peace. ###


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