November 16, 2007


Like Caesar's wife, we must be above suspicion and we must see to it that morality, transparency and commitment will be supreme, always and everywhere. -- - Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The bomb attack at the House of Representatives (HOR) has been roundly condemned by all. No one who can be taken seriously has claimed responsibility for it. The knee jerk reaction is to blame so-called terrorists; the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) immediately comes to the public's mind since they are generally perceived to favor this sort of modus operandi.

Certain quarters would certainly not mind this angle as it could constitute a perverse kind of lobby for jittery members of Congress to amend the new Anti-terrorism Law, making it easier to use the draconian law in going after the supposed enemies of the state. But the National Security Adviser, who is usually quick to cry "Terrorist!" every time a bomb explodes, is uncharacteristically coy. Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo preferred to initially lump the blast with the usual "political noise", although with a far deadlier ring, that is meant to distract her from her administration's priority economic programs.

House Speaker de Venecia has not minced words that the powerful blast that killed four, including a controversial Moro representative from battle-scarred Muslim Mindanao, and injured several others including a solon from the Leftist party list group, Gabriela Women's Party, was an "attack on the House of Representatives". Did he mean this in the general sense that the choice of the Batasan Pambansa, a national seat of power, as a venue to launch such an attack is a clear affront against Parliament? Or is he considering this as a not too subtle message for someone whom GMA loyalists suspect to be plotting the downfall of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo despite the recent smiles, handshakes and protestations of steadfastness amongst party mates Mrs. Arroyo, Mr. de Venecia and former President Gen. Fidel Ramos.

Police Generals Razon and Barias are clearly in favor of the theory that the bomb was meant for Basilan Representative Wahab Akbar, a former rebel turned successful politician-warlord who does not lack for enemies, political and otherwise. Ironically, Mr. Akbar was also courted by Malacanang, Philippine and US military officials and even Moro rebel groups as a useful ally even as rumors of his continuing ties with the ASG persisted.

But the hasty conclusions and quick pronouncements of police investigators is counter-productive and even suspect. Why are they in a rush to pin the blame on Mr. Akbar’s enemies when there are still many other possibilities not least of which is that the target could be the Left party list groups currently hit hard by scores of political assassinations widely believed to be the handiwork of government-sponsored death squads.

As a stinging rebuke to the Arroyo presidency and the downright vile reputation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, there are not-unfounded speculations that the HOR blast may be part of a dastardly scheme to lay the ground once more for the declaration of some form of emergency rule, if not martial law. Filipinos have not forgotten that way before bombings attributed to "Islamic extremists" and similar "terrorist" groups became the buzzwords in official and media circles, these were used to justify the imposition of martial rule by the Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Not a few historians, political analysts and activists have pointed to the dangerous similarities between the premartial law conditions in the early seventies and today: a corrupt and brutal presidency seeking impunity for criminal acts by maintaining its hold on power; a military and police establishment run by corrupt, abusive and fascist generals; a Superpower who will back the Devil if its suits its strategic geo-political interests; and unmanageable armed resistance and unarmed dissidence from a citizenry restive over economic hardship, corrupt and repressive governance, social degradation and moral decay.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the nationwide alliance of nationalist and democratic people's organizations, immediately condemned the Batasan blast that also killed one of the progressive movement's own, Marcial Taldo, a grassroots activist who served as driver to Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan, herself injured in the blast. Bayan pointed out, "The bombing happens at a time when intense political crisis is besieging the Arroyo administration. The incident happened hours before a Senate probe on bribery allegations involving Malacañang as well as Congress hearings on the impeachment case against the President."

Bayan called for "an independent and thorough probe on the incident" as it demanded justice for the victims. "We do not want the investigation to turn into another Glorietta probe wherein the results lack credibility. There should be no cover up. Even as the Philippine National Police is popularizing the theory that Mr. Akbar was the target of the killers, it should not immediately and conveniently disregard other political angles that may be the reasons for the blast."

It said, "The PNP has the duty to determine whether or not the blast was also aimed at the Gabriela Women's Party, whose leaders are known Arroyo critics, or if the blast was some form of diversionary tactic to cover up the impeachment issue and the Senate bribery probe. All angles, even the highly political, must be looked into for the probe to be credible and acceptable to the public."

Police investigators turn a blind eye to what is staring them in the face: whoever was behind the Batasan blast may well have meant to deliver a political message or achieve some sinister political ends. The choice of the House of Representatives as a venue to kill, maim and create mayhem can not be dismissed as inconsequential or irrelevant to the objectives of the crime. To do so would be the height of political naivete and investigative incompetence or even part of another crude cover-up which the public will not buy. It would be, as well, an open invitation to bloodier and highly destructive incidents when the masterminds are not brought to justice.

For one thing, if the intention is to cow the broad opposition to the illegitimate and immoral rule of Mrs. Arroyo and to terrorize the people in general from undertaking exposes & protest actions, it will not work. Every time the current discredited and isolated regime uses political repression to squelch dissent and resistance, the more it reaps the whirlwind. This time around, should the Arroyo cabal be proven to be resorting to the bombing of innocent civilians for its political survival, the backlash will be indescribable.

Whoever the perpetrators are and whatever their motives, incidents like these only serve to weaken the whole iniquitous and moribund ruling system and inflame the people to take matters into their own hands. ###

*Published in Business World

16-17 November 2007


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