December 10, 2009

Frankenstein begets Frankenstein

The declaration of martial law in Maguindanao is not the answer to the cry for justice for the victims of the November 23 massacre allegedly perpetrated by top local government officials allied to the Arroyo regime -- all members of the warlord Ampatuan clan – utilizing soldiers, police and paramilitary forces under their command. It is in fact a grand cover-up for the complicity and criminal culpability of the ruling Arroyo-Ermita-Gonzalez clique in this horrendous crime.

At first Malacañang tried to distance itself from the Maguindanao massacre by decrying it as an “act of inhumanity” and vowing that the perpetrators would not escape justice. But its initial slow response in collaring the main suspects, disarming the local security forces cum private armies of the Ampatuans and kid gloves treatment of its erstwhile most reliable political allies in Muslim Mindanao raised a howl of protest amid fears of an impending whitewash.

A coalition of media organizations, the November 23 Movement, including mainstream groups that ordinarily would be apolitical if not pro-government by default, issued a strikingly censorious statement that ended with a call for the Arroyo government to step down if it is incapable of rendering justice in this unspeakable crime.

Internationally, the Arroyo regime was put on the spot to prove its capacity and determination to impose the rule of law in a province where the members of the Ampatuan political dynasty have been a law unto themselves. The Ampatuans have been aided and abetted by a regime that looked the other way as the warlords raided the public coffers, engaged in illicit activities like gun-running and drugs-dealing, armed themselves to-the-teeth and ruled with an iron hand keeping themselves in power year after year while physically eliminating all they considered a threat to their dominion over the province and outlying areas.

The local overlords in Maguindanao had become a Frankenstein out of control.

The credibility of the central government already in tatters and public opinion running high, the Arroyo regime had to demonstrate it would run after the Ampatuans and their armed followers hammer and thongs and bring them to heel. Thus, Mrs. Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao.

It didn’t matter that the Ampatuan horde could by no stretch of the imagination be passed off as “rebels”. The Arroyo regime is capitalizing on the near universal demand for the perpetrators to be caught and punished in order to justify its flagrant flouting of the law.

The framers of the 1987 post-Marcos Dictatorship Constitution had placed safeguards to prevent another would-be tyrant from manufacturing a scenario of “imminent rebellion” to declare martial law. Thus only the existence of an actual rebellion or invasion could merit such a presidential declaration.

Not a few have pointed out that the two bona fide “rebellions” currently existing – that led by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army and the other by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – have not merited the imposition of martial rule, not even in their acknowledged strongholds.

And while government has been charging NPA fighters –and now, unarmed activists -- with all sorts of common crimes instead of political crimes like sedition or rebellion thereby criminalizing political offenses, the Arroyo regime is now doing the opposite with the Ampatuans, politicizing patently heinous crimes such as mass murder.

One need not be a legal or constitutional expert to see that this is first and foremost a scheme to let the Ampatuans-- and the Arroyo gang -- off the hook. Instead of prosecuting the Ampatuans with premeditated mass murder, rape, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and who knows what other horrific crimes would be uncovered by an honest-to-goodness investigation, the culprits will now be charged and in all likelihood acquitted for the lesser crime of rebellion.

What many cannot comprehend is where the Arroyo clique gets the gall to think it can get away with this gross disregard for, perversion and even trampling of the laws of the land, not to mention all norms of decency and morality.

It was the Marcos dictatorship that first institutionalized the culture of impunity and the twisting of laws to suit one's drive for unbridled power and wealth. After all, justice has yet to be rendered to human rights victims under the Marcos regime. For one, the masterminds behind the Aquino assassination were never identified, much less prosecuted and punished; the Aquino government only got the small fry and the fall guys.

Subsequent regimes with their trappings of democracy likewise committed human rights violations especially against progressives and other perceived critics, threats and members of the opposition. But not in the scale and intensity which we now experience under the nine-year rule of Mrs. Arroyo.

And throughout this succession of regimes, the government of the United States of America has been more than a silent and acquiescent observer. The fact is that the US has been fully supportive of these so-called democratic regimes’ use of bloody counter-insurgency programs and heightened political repression to stamp out the people’s resistance so long as these serve its economic and geopolitical interests. From colonial times, the US has systematically built and nurtured a political infrastructure it could dominate and control, and most specially, a police and armed force dependent on it for training, logistics, intelligence, orientation and direction.

Indeed it is from the US that the Arroyo clique gets its cues on how much mayhem it can inflict on the people without fearing reprisals or reprimands from its principal backer. The US, while posturing as a champion of human rights and international law, does not think twice about violating the same when it comes to pursuing its Superpower agenda. The so-called war on terror brought its dismal record to unprecedented depths, with the US imposing its military might to provide its forces the license to violate international law and human rights with impunity.

Thus, Filipinos cannot look to the US to prevail on the Arroyo clique to render real justice to victims of the Maguindanao massacre, to restrain its use of draconian measures such as martial law, and much less move to ensure Mrs. Arroyo does not perpetuate herself in power.

Twenty three years ago, it was People Power that finally delivered the message that Marcos had to go. In the case of the Arroyo clique, it will also be the cry for truth, justice and an end to impunity from an enraged and united people that will finally put an end to its monstrous and hated rule. #

*Published in Business World
11-12 December 2009

December 03, 2009

Clinging to reins of power

Her term ending in June 2010, de facto president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo finally filed her candidacy as congresswoman in the second district of Pampanga, her hometown, ending all speculation that she would seek the post. The prevarication and manipulation that preceded it, the orchestrated “clamor” for her to run and the barrage of legal, religious and political justifications for a sitting president, with all the unfair and undue advantage of her office, to seek a congressional seat – all clearly point to a vile scheme to keep the Arroyo-Ermita-Gonzales clique in power beyond 2010.

The members of the Arroyo cabal have managed to escape accountability by stretching, distorting and mangling to previously unimaginable lengths not only the laws of the land but every single norm of decency, propriety and morality. They have displayed to all and sundry - at the expense of the Filipino people - what one can do with a decaying social and political system to gain, expand and preserve power, wealth and privilege.

The Arroyo clique has been close to a decade in power. It has gotten away with stealing the 2004 presidential elections; with declaring emergency rule and cracking down on the protest movement demanding Arroyo’s ouster; and with scams to amass mind-boggling wealth together with the gagging of witnesses by invoking “executive privilege” (a trick upheld by a Supreme Court packed with Arroyo appointees).

It has masterminded, through Oplan Bantay Laya, the summary executions of critics and unarmed dissidents and displaced tens of thousands of civilians in the name of countering “terrorism” and “insurgency”. It has deliberately sustained warlordism and the concomitant reign of lawless terror in the countryside in order to “multiply” the capacity of the military, police and paramilitary forces in waging a US-directed “dirty war” against the restive populace. The recent massacre perpetrated by the Ampatuans in Maguindanao is only the latest and so far worst atrocity brought about by the Arroyo culture of state-sponsored violence and impunity.

It has driven the economy and the people’s livelihood to the ground by blindly following the neoliberal “globalization” policy framework. It has persisted in implementing the debt-driven, export-oriented and foreign investment-led economic model that has consistently failed to bring about genuine development but instead worsened the grinding poverty, want and misery of the people.

Not least of its sins is that, in exchange for continued United States backing for its illegitimate rule, it allows the world’s Superpower to establish an unwarranted, illegal and downright interventionist military presence on Philippine soil. In so doing, the Arroyo regimes has undermined the rights and welfare of Filipinos in their own country especially victims of military operations and crimes committed by US forces.

The clamor to put an end to the Arroyo regime is clearly overwhelming. Most have pinned their hopes in the coming elections, believing there is no way Arroyo and her gang can hold on to the presidency beyond June 2010.

This is deja vu circa 1971-72, when the Marcos presidency was about to reach the end of its constitutional term. Ferdinand Marcos orchestrated a series of incidents, from the Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971 to the fake ambush on then Defense Secretary Enrile on the eve of the declaration of martial law, to justify the perpetuation of his rule as martial law dictator.

Recent history and current circumstances tell us that whether or not elections take place, the Arroyo clique will still be in a position to retain power. Mrs. Arroyo may appear to have "graciously stepped down" from the presidency by running for a congressional seat, but she still has sufficient de facto control and political clout to catapult herself back in power.

The administration machinery, with all the ill-gotten wealth and the military and police establishments behind it, will certainly be utilized once more to realize the electoral "victory" of Arroyo followers at all levels (congress and local government). With such notorious characters as Garci, Bolante, Abalos off the hook and living now in even greater comfort, how many more scams and millions of votes can this machinery produce for these coming "elections"?

Moreover, the Arroyo clique has the ability, resources and the strong motivation to disrupt the electoral process itself, declare a failure of elections en toto or selectively, and resort to emergency rule anytime it estimates that this is necessary to ensure its hold on power.

The apparent complacency and cavalier attitude of the COMELEC towards addressing the gargantuan and critical problems in implementing the Automated Elections System is not at all reassuring. The entire system appears to be designed to fail and is indeed headed for failure.

We cannot allow the Arroyo gang to succeed with its evil design to remain in power. We cannot wait until after the elections to unmask, resist and defeat such a horrendous plot that portends to be even worse than the palace coup that imposed fascist rule under the Marcos dictatorship.

The broad array of anti-Arroyo forces and personages must awaken to the real and malevolent threat that the Arroyo clique presents to any semblance of a democratic electoral exercise in 2010 while recognizing the basic defects in the ruling system that breeds such evil.

Despite the substantial differences and the divergent campaigns being waged by the opposition candidates for national and local offices, a way must be found to unite once more and face the menace of an Arroyo regime entrenching itself in Malacañang for years to come.

Opposing the Arroyo gang's bid to perpetuate itself in power is the necessary first step to bringing about genuine reforms in our society. #