June 25, 2009

Revolutionary option

AFP Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado recently admitted that the military is having difficulty meeting the deadline imposed by de facto Commander-in-chief Mrs. Gloria Arroyo three years ago, to end the decades-old communist insurgency in 2010. (Philippine Star, 22 June 09) This was after he and his predecessors had repeatedly boasted that the military was on track in achieving the defeat of the New People’s Army (NPA). The lame excuse is that the armed guerillas “are just crisscrossing borders and transferring to another guerilla front” even when the AFP had already allegedly “dismantled” the political and military infrastructures of numerous rebel fronts.

One need not be an expert on military strategy and tactics to know that guerillas by nature employ flexibility and shifting tactics. This is a guerilla movement’s way of dealing with the overwhelming superiority, in terms of numbers and weapons, of the state’s armed forces at any given point. Instead, it makes use of the favorable physical and social terrain in the countryside, i.e. the rugged mountains and remaining forested areas as well as the support of the rural populace, to conduct their type of revolutionary warfare.

Time and again ruling regimes announce the impending demise of armed revolutionary movements in much the same vein and for the same reasons that they belittle the democratic protest movement. The aim is to conjure strength and stability, to foist the illusion of popular acceptance if not support, because government is supposedly undertaking reforms that address the causes of armed conflict and mass protest actions.

Deceptive propaganda works up to a certain point given government resources and numerous levers to manipulate, if not control, the mass media. But reality always catches up and the truth becomes so glaring that the regime’s minions are compelled to eat their words and offer the lamest of excuses or persist in the most egregious of lies.

In the early 70’s, President Ferdinand Marcos declared that the NPA had been “nipped in the bud” after AFP troops seized more than a dozen high-power rifles in a Tarlac raid. But the NPA raided the Philippine Military Academy armory at the end of the year, carting away much more than what was lost in Tarlac.

In the 80’s, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and the Regional Unified Command Commanding General Romeo Gatan vowed to rid Cagayan Valley of the NPA in a year’s time. Thereafter they complained that the NPA refused to come out and engage the AFP in conventional battles.

In the 90’s, AFP Chief Gen. Abadia declared Oplan Lambat Bitag a success and concluded that the NPA would be wiped out by 1995. His successor, Gen. Enrile, declared “decisive victory” over the NPA but candidly admitted that the latter is like a grapevine that could lose its leaves and fruit but would continue to thrive as long as it still has roots.

Then came the current counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya, notorious the world over for the deliberate and brutal targeting of suspected civilian supporters, including unarmed activists, for “neutralization”. The latter is military lingo for summary execution, abduction, illegal arrest and detention on trumped-up charges and other tactics to terrorize entire communities and keep them from giving aid and succor to the so-called “enemy”. The AFP documentary “Knowing the Enemy” justified such state terror tactics as the missing crucial piece in the AFP strategy in order to explain away its previous failures.

Frustration and desperation within the AFP leadership was expressed by a ranking general known to be a proponent of extra-judicial killings who reportedly said, “If this doesn’t work, nothing will.” These are the same words of a US Central Intelligence Agency officer in defending “Oplan Phoenix” versus civilian targets.

What the Arroyo regime refuses to acknowledge is the real reason why its “all-out war” policy can never defeat the communist-led armed revolutionary movement. Mrs. Arroyo, her generals (both those in active duty and those recycled into powerful civilian posts) and other Cabinet right-wingers cannot accept that it is precisely the vastly unequal, extremely oppressive and exploitative and, ultimately repressive prevailing social system that is fuelling armed conflict and social unrest. And that no amount of military might nor strategy and tactics can wipe out the people’s legitimate struggles, armed or unarmed.

They deny the reality and refuse to accept the truth even when such is staring them in the face because their own interests are so tied-up with defending and preserving the status quo apart from advancing the Arroyo clique’s particular selfish interests.

Too bad for the reactionaries there exists a homegrown revolutionary movement that presents a clear-sighted, historical analysis of the problems of Philippine society and a matching program to overhaul it.

Whether one sympathizes with it or not, the fact is this revolutionary movement is present and exerts significant political influence. It continues to challenge the ruling system and regime in power at every turn and raises the possibility of overturning the crisis-ridden system one day and introducing a radically different alternative, with an entirely new set of political ideals, principles, values and work ethic not to mention socio-economic program.

Both the promise of profound, sweeping change and the growing actual strength of this movement is what continue to rile the Arroyo regime and unsettle the entire ruling elite.

And should the Arroyo clique, faced with a constitutional limit to Mrs. Arroyo’s continuation in power beyond 2010, resort to outright, wholesale perversion of the remaining vestiges of democratic rule by manipulating Congress and the Supreme Court and by declaring emergency rule, there remains a wide countryside that can provide sanctuary as well as a fighting terrain while hitherto legal, democratic rights and processes are severely constrained.

Senate President Ponce Enrile warns of revolution should the 2010 elections not push through because of failure of the automated electoral system being set up by the Commission on Elections. Mr. Enrile is being facetious because he, as one of the architects of martial rule under the dictator Marcos, knows quite well that a revolution has been and is even now raging nationwide. It finds expression in armed forms in the countryside while seething in the cities and towns in the various forms of protests and mass actions demanding pro-people and democratic reforms. In a society in permanent crisis such as the Philippines, the revolutionary movement is an inevitable and, to many sectors, a welcome offshoot.

Perhaps what Senator Enrile means is that the deceptive trappings of elite democracy in this country will be sundered rapidly, dramatically and irreparably should the electoral circus slated for 2010 be completely disrupted for one reason or another. Revolution then will be more than a theoretical option to many more Filipinos. #

June 14, 2009

“Con-Ass” and the people’s wrath

The anti-Charter change (Chacha) and anti-Arroyo forces had barely a week to mount the muscle-flexing protest action yesterday in Ayala Avenue, Makati City and in major urban centers nationwide. They achieved a big measure of success by gathering thousands in Makati and thousands more in various cities and big towns nationwide. They displayed broad participation by the organizations of the basic sectors among the working people, the civic, professional and artist groups, the Catholic religious congregations and some bishops, the protestant churches, the opposition leaders and parties, and government officials and military/police officers critical of the Arroyo regime.

Earlier mini-protests erupted in various parts of Metro Manila and “viral” protest spread as well in the virtual world of the internet giving a foretaste of what could lie ahead for the Arroyo clique as it schemes, manipulates and buys its ways to staying in power beyond 2010, the Constitutionally-mandated end of GMA’s term in office.

There is no denying that a vast majority of the people have had enough of Mrs.Arroyo and her ilk. The crimes of her regime just keep mounting despite the many times that she has been caught red-handed. She has willfully ignored calls for accountability by the people, by the political opposition, religious and business leaders and even by the international community appalled at rampant human rights violations.

Shamelessly, Mrs. Arroyo has clung to power; she has refused to resign. She has used emergency rule and various other draconian measures including extrajudicial killings, militarization of rural and urban poor communities, illegal arrest and detention and the filing of trumped-up criminal charges against her perceived enemies, to prevent her ouster through popular uprising.

Mrs. Arroyo and her clique have come up against Constitutional term limits that makes her stepping down from power a given. She could appoint a loyal and pliant presidential candidate for the national elections in 2010 and utilize all the dirty tricks in the books (and some she has invented) to make that candidate “win” in order to buy political insurance for herself and her cohorts. The same way she preempted every impeachment move by buying off the “honorable” members of the HOR; the way she squelched every investigation into anomalies of her administration by appointing a subservient Ombudsman; and the way she stopped every attempt to pry open inquiry into the most scandalous of corrupt government deals by her hold on the Supreme Court, majority of whom are her appointees.

But obviously that isn’t enough to ensure protection from being haled to court once she loses her presidential immunity. Similarly, she cannot predict where the political winds may blow once out of power; political debts can be easily forgotten or overtaken by the pressing concerns of the new administration whose own interests may no longer coincide with that of Mrs. Arroyo.

This is the real reason for the desperate, despicable and brazenly unconstitutional move called “Con-Ass”, recently railroaded by Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in the House of Representatives (HOR), by the mere expedient of a majority vote on House Resolution 1109 sponsored by no less than Speaker Prospero Nograles. H.R. 1109 empowers Congress to convene as a constituent assembly in order to revise the Philippine Constitution by two thirds of all congressmen and senators voting jointly. And since the more than 200 members of the Lower House vastly outnumber the 24 members of the Senate, this bogus Constituent Assembly can be convened and make revisions in the Charter even without a single senator participating.

The illegal and fake Constituent Assembly, packed by Arroyo allies whose compliance to her marching orders are ensured by millions-worth of incentives, will undertake the shift to a parliamentary system from the current presidential system. In this way, Mrs. Arroyo can run as a representative in her congressional district and manipulate her way into becoming prime minister later on by simply buying off the majority of members of parliament.

Time and so many legal impediments seem to make this scenario untenable. Still, all the moves of Mrs. Arroyo and her allies constitute an undeniable trail of deception, lies, maneuvers, buy-offs and quid-pro-quos that point the way to this as the major ploy of the Arroyo clique.

Despite Mrs. Arroyo’s posturing that the merger of the two political parties loyal to her, the Lakas-CMD and Kampi, is proof positive that the 2010 presidential elections are pushing through as scheduled, the truth is such a merger party is precisely what Mrs. Arroyo will use to bamboozle the opposition once she moves to get the prime minister position in a new Parliament.

For someone supposedly so focused on the business of running the country, Mrs. Arroyo has noticeably gone on frequent sorties into her hometown and adjoining towns, part of the Congressional district in Pampanga where she will likely run for congressperson. Now why should a former president of the country be interested in running for the lowly post of a congressperson if this isn’t the stepping stone to the most powerful post in a parliamentary form of government?

Will the fear of the people’s wrath give pause to Mrs. Arroyo and her evil cabal of plotters? At this point it is clear that this hardly is the case. The Arroyo clique has taken an important lesson from the Marcos Dictatorship on what are crucial to achieve their Machiavellian designs. First is to secure the backing of the United States government (it will give the “democratic” imprimatur to the recycled Arroyo regime via Con-Ass and shift to parliamentary system). Then ensure the loyalty of the military and police generals; the blessings of enough voices among the church hierarchy and big business community; and the chorus of servile “ayes” from so-called parliamentarians and local government officials fattened by pork barrel and other perks.

The Arroyo clique is betting that the elite classes who rule this country and the lone Super Power, the US of A, can be enticed to see things its way; that is, the Arroyo clique’s narrow interests as key to protecting and upholding their own immediate and strategic interests. For example, apart from changing the Charter in order to make possible Mrs. Arroyo’s continuing hold on the reigns of power in this country, Mrs. Arroyo uses as bait constitutional amendments that will allow foreign investors to acquire ownership and control over all natural resources and economic enterprises to the extent of 100 per cent and to sell out the economic sovereignty and national patrimony of the Filipino people.

US and other foreign military forces are to be allowed unrestricted stay and operations in the Philippines not just by means of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) but by Constitutional fiat. Many of the constitutional provisions against the basing of foreign military forces and nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction on Philippine soil are under threat of being excised from the basic law of the land. The Arroyo regime also wants to remove the constitutional restraints on martial law, emergency rule and violations of human rights. It seeks to undermine formal guarantees of civil and political liberties in the bill of rights achieved in the wake of the people’s victory over the US- backed Marcos dictatorship.

One lesson that the Arroyo clique has obviously failed to learn is that the inevitable ending for dictators and would-be dictators in this country and elsewhere in the world is the dust-bin of history. The people’s wrath and courageous, persistent mass struggles will definitely see to that. #