March 31, 2006

To rebel is justified

Now that GMA has declared she would deal with the rebellious military officers and men with an iron hand, the AFP and PNP commanders are caught in the horns of a dilemma. How to contain if not exterminate the eadly “virus” of rebellion before it spreads uncontrollably without having to sacrifice some of the brightest and the best among the young and middle-level officer corps and the elite units that appear to be

How to differentiate the hard core from those who were merely duped or got carried away. How to give vent to small, manageable, legitimate grievances that do not undermine the system. Where to draw the line?

Is the withdrawal of support from the Commander-in-chief, to the point of breaking the chain of command, an aberration in an otherwise sterling military record? Is this is still a case of misplaced idealism taken advantage of by the anti-GMA opposition and the communists or plain incorrigible recidivism encouraged by lenient treatment?

The propensity of outstanding officers to mutiny is simplistically being attributed to unprofessionalism when it is becoming more evident that the opposite is true.

Let us recall the Oakwood mutineers and other junior and middle level officers recently implicated many of whom have outstanding academic and service records and/or feats of bravery that have earned them medals and citations.

Recall the late Captain Rene Jarque, a brilliant army officer with a promising career, who was forced out of military service because he could not keep quiet about the rot in the military establishment and persisted in calling for wide-ranging reforms.

All this leads one to conclude that those who take their military oath seriously, if perhaps a bit naively, and do their jobs well and by the book, eventually start to question and protest the military’s role, if not end up in open mutiny or rebellion.

Why is this so? Many a young officer learns soon enough the yawning gap between the ideals that he learned in the military or police academy courage, integrity, loyalty ­ and the reality of military and police establishments that have succumbed to the rot of corruption, dishonesty, favoritism and organized criminal activity with the generals knowingly and firmly in command.

While patronage politics has always extended to the military and police with politicians from town mayors to governors and even legislators cultivating the loyalties of particular police and military officials, an advantage especially handy during elections, the Marcos dictatorship gave the generals a taste of unprecedented power and pelf during martial rule.

Unfortunately, the overthrow of the dictatorship by a popular uprising combined with the withdrawal of military support by the chain of command served to cover up the sins of the past. These included the sordid human rights record of the AFP and the then Philippine Constabulary and the involvement of military and police officialdom in the wholesale looting of the treasury and the lucrative criminal syndicates that were operating under their protection. No real reform took place within the AFP and

The return of the trappings of democracy failed to rein in the overweening role of the military and the police in the life of the nation, particularly in the survival of ruling regimes. One government after another since Marcos has barely been able to institute political stability, limping from one economic crisis to the next. Until the Estrada administration that saw the exacerbation of the country’s chronic woes that led to another people’s uprising that was again backed up the defection of the military chain of command.

Once more the corrupt and fascist generals were given their chance to bail out of a sinking ship and get into the bandwagon of a new regime with their loot intact, their crimes against the people whitewashed and with new positions of power from which to continue their nefarious ways.

So the lesson for Mrs. Arroyo and her clique is that the chain of command must be given the right amount of incentive to maintain loyalty to her as President. Including the right amount of rhetoric regarding professionalism and duty to the country.

The bad precedent set by the Marcos dictatorship that loyalty to the Republic, defense of the Constitution and protection of the people and the State means blind loyalty, defense and protection of those in power persists.

Today it is invoked by the Arroyo administration to justify the reduction of the military and police to being its tools for perpetrating massive electoral fraud, going after its political enemies and in short propping up its tottering regime in the face of its rejection by a majority of the people.

Mrs. Arroyo was recently quoted as telling the new graduates of the PNP Academy that theirs is “not to question why; theirs is but to do or die.” A bit trite but to the point.

Fortunately, the conformist ideas that have pervaded the military and the police about their proper role in society, as the maintainers of the unjust status quo and suppressers of legitimate dissent and the people’s resistance to oppression, have been eroded over time.

The remaining idealistic, reform-minded , basically honest and upright among the younger officer corps have begun to see through the thin veil of lies, deception and cooptation with which the Arroyo regime wishes to fool them and keep them as loyal praetorian guards.

They have learned that in the face of oppression to rebel is justified. No amount of suppression can suffice to keep these men and women in uniform from making the correct decision and the correct moves in due time.#

March 24, 2006

Unholy alliance?

Sometimes the truth comes out quietly in a most unexpected manner. What could be more ironic than it should now come out straight from the horse’s mouth albeit quite unintended.

After months of repeatedly telling the public that the military chain of command is intact, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is solid in upholding the constitution (and, presumably, the Arroyo regime because the official line is that it is still the duly constituted authority), the AFP Chief of Staff now admits matter-of-factly that we should expect more coup attempts in the near future.

General Generoso Senga, in a recent speech before the Philippine Constitution Association acknowledged that “the alliance between the military and the leftist rebels to oust Mrs. Arroyo has been deepening for over two years now and will not be uprooted in a single stroke.”

Notice that the good general used the words “alliance” and “deepening” to describe the relationship between what should be two diametrically opposed forces. These two are generally understood to be “sworn enemies” by ideological, political and military orientation and further hammered in by decades of unceasing armed conflict.

A curious, if not critical mind, may ask: Is this alliance really about an agreement to jointly undertake a much trumpeted “left-right coup plot” or is there more than meets the eye?

No less than General Senga describes it as “deepening”. Does this mean that the growing alliance stems from some kind of meeting of the minds regarding not just the overthrow of the Arroyo regime but why this is necessary, desirable and justified enough for the two heretofore opposing forces to suddenly become attracted to one another?

The political grapevine is rife with speculation that this dialogue has gotten to the point of discussing not just tactical matters regarding who or what will take over after Mrs. Arroyo has been booted out but more strategic concerns such as what basic political and socio-economic reforms shall be forthcoming under the new dispensation.

Especially in the light of the fact that on one side, there is the CPP/NPA/NDF that has been waging an armed and unarmed struggle to realize its comprehensive political program and has even entered the risky arena of peace negotiations without abandoning its revolutionary principles and struggle.

On the other, there are the military rebels coming from the experience of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement/Soldiers of the Filipino People/Young officers Union (RAM/SFP/YOU) who figured in the first EDSA uprising and the Magdalo group who made their presence felt in the Oakwood mutiny of 2003. In both cases, these military rebel groups have called for some measure of reform both within the AFP and the government as a whole.

So is the motivation simply to grab power as Malacañang and the top brass would make as believe? Are there no legitimate grievances within and outside the military establishment that is riling the men and women in uniform and causing them not just to mutiny but to enter into what is deemed by Malacañang as an unholy alliance with the dreaded CPP/NPA?

It has been said that majority of the soldiers and even young officers come from the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder of our society, experience the travails of the poor and barely surviving masses and thus have the seeds of rebellion planted in their beings.

While true, such rebellious impetus still requires awakening and nurturing. Could it be the case that the undeniable rot coming from systemic corruption, syndicated crime, barefaced utilization by vested political interests for partisan ends and the brutal counter-insurgency campaigns is now wreaking havoc on the AFP, causing it to break apart and for the rank and file and young officers to become susceptible to more radical alternatives?

The official propaganda line is that the poor, idealistic military rebels, who presumably lack the capacity for independent thinking, have merely been conned by opportunist politicians or some such cabal of civilian backers and financiers. Lately it is the CPP/NPA that is supposedly singing the siren song of rebellion to government troops.

The claim is that these forces are the ones who are “politicizing” the AFP and that this is anathema to a “professional armed forces”.

The solution therefore is to immediately contain the virus of rebellion by punishing suspect military rebels more harshly this time around and run after their civilian backers.

Thereafter the troops must be immunized from the evil importuning coming from outside the AFP by conducting seminars on “Knowing Thy Enemy”, a virulently undemocratic indoctrination material produced by the AFP that labels all critics of the Arroyo administration as “communist” and therefore fair game for the death squads run by the General Palparans of the AFP and the Department of National Defense.

Deliberately beclouded is the long tradition of the AFP as the armed defender of an elite-ruled and oppressive status quo presided over by a series of governments, including the Marcos dictatorship and the current Arroyo regime, that have repeatedly failed to address the underlying causes of social conflict in this country but chose rather to deal with them using deception and the muzzle of the gun.

If that is not being “politicized” of the highest order, we wonder what is.#

March 16, 2006

Political persecution

It would be hilarious if it were not deadly serious. A hooded witness who gives his name as Jaime B. Fuentes claims to be an ex-communist cadre and accuses several individuals known to be progressive, or Leftist, in the traditional political nomenclature, of conspiring to commit rebellion. The Department of Justice swallows his suspicious testimony hook, line and sinker.

The incredible witness unwittingly undermines his own testimony by wearing an improvised device to hide his identity. He is widely perceived as a latter-day “Makapili” (a paid spy of the Japanese Occupation whose hallmark was to point an accusing finger against fellow Filipinos while wearing a bayong over his head).

The point is starkly made: under the Arroyo administration, the accused are prevented from confronting their accuser even though this is guaranteed under due process and this injustice is abetted by no less than government prosecutors.

Fuentes thus gets away with his mission of red-baiting and besmirching the reputations of the six progressive party-list representatives and many other leaders of various legitimate and aboveground organizations who have all along espoused unabashedly Leftist politics.

This latest travesty on the rights of illegally detained Representative Crispin Beltran, much respected trade unionist, democrat and nationalist who survived Marcos’ martial law, and the “Batasan 5” party-list congresspersons as well as fellow activist leaders is happening in the midst of unabated extrajudicial killings among their ranks. The latest to fall is Malolos Bayan leader, Ka Santi Teodoro, gunned down once more by what are feared to be this regime’s death squads.

The squid and red scare tactics are standard in the government’s bag of counter-insurgency tricks but they assume a new purpose: to justify intensified and unrelenting attacks on the Left as well as rally support behind the hugely unpopular President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the tyrannical use of martial law powers to suppress the people; more specifically, the broad array of anti-GMA political forces calling on her to step down.

Part and parcel of the latest red scare tactics is the hype about the so-called alliance between the Communist Party of the Philippines and rebellious sections of the AFP and PNP that has resulted in an elaborate plan to launch a coup d’etat, overthrow the Arroyo regime and set up a military or civilian-military junta in its place.

This latest Malacañang tall tale deserves a separate discussion all together but at this point an immediate retort is in order: how can the national democratic movement in this country countenance a military or civilian-military junta when its progressive and militant leaders, members and allies would be the first targets for attack by such an undemocratic form of government? This is not speculation; it is historical fact, not just in the Philippine experience but the world over.

Another patent falsehood and one that only a rabidly anti-communist and fascist mind set can concoct and purvey is that the legal and openly functioning Left parties and organizations are actually engaged in rebellion by virtue of their having the same or similar political analysis and program as the CPP/NPA or what is generically termed the “underground” Left.

There is the deliberate refusal to acknowledge that the legal or “aboveground” Left does not engage in nor espouse armed revolution and can therefore not be liable for either rebellion or sedition under the law.

Corollary to this is the obfuscation of the fact that with the repeal of RA 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992, former or even current members of the CPP are not engaged in any criminal act as long as they do not carry arms themselves or call on others to do the same to overthrow the duly-constituted government (which many pundits say does not apply to the Arroyo administration).

Of course the follow-up line is that the legal Left maintains links with the armed revolutionary movement and its organizations should also therefore be proscribed, its leaders and members arrested and prosecuted.

Specific to the progressive party lists like Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party and Anakpawis, the innuendo by rabid anti-communist groups like Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ Philippine Democratic Socialist Party is that the former channel their countryside development funds to the NPA and NPA-controlled areas. They have failed, time and again, to prove this preposterous charge and merely resort to black propaganda such as government-produced “documentaries” to keep repeating the lie until, like Goebbels, they hope it sticks.

May we just point out that the direct persecutors of the legal Left in this country are the police and military forces who stand accused of extrajudicial killings, massacres, torture and other grievous human rights abuses as well as their cover-up; who are useless when it comes to running after the likes of COMELEC Commissioner Garcillano and Agriculture Department Undersecretary “Jocjoc” Bolante, both widely believed to be involved in egregious crimes but are super efficient and gung-ho when it comes to running after activists; and who are cited by the government’s own Commission on Human Rights as the most notorious human rights violators, are subject of Congressional investigations for their involvement in rampant jueteng and smuggling not to mention wholesale electoral fraud.#

March 15, 2006

Up close and personal

In all things there is a silver lining. One offshoot of Presidential
Proclamation 1017 that is a constant source of comfort are the
spontaneous expressions of concern from people, even strangers, who somehow know of my being a social and political activist and are worried about my safety and liberty.

They invariably wish me well, under the circumstances of the current government crack down on its critics and dissenters in general. Oftentimes they offer assistance of one kind or another.

No one has ever told me to stop criticizing or dissenting; several have
actually said we should hurry up and kick out the illegal tenant of
Malacañang so people can have some normalcy restored in their lives.

In due time, we will acknowledge and thank all the courageous Filipinos
who have given succor and sanctuary to progressives and activists, in these critical times, but for obvious reasons will have to remain anonymous
for now.

How are progressives and activists faring in the post PP 1017 climate?
Has the threat of arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and trumped-up
charges brought the fear of Justice Secretary Gonzales, Police Director Lomibao and GMA’s favorite General Esperon into our hearts? Have we gone into
hiding? Have our offices closed down?

Those of us who have experienced life under the Marcos fascist
dictatorship know that the Arroyo regime’s PP 1017 (and subsequent remakes to follow after its supposed lifting) is tantamount to martial law.

The fate of illegally detained Rep. Crispin Beltran and five other
progressive party list legislators, who have so far avoided warrant-less
arrest by asserting their right to due process and are being given
refuge by the House of Representatives, underscores the point.

Speaker Jose de Venecia is itching to turn over the “Batasan 5” to the
police, not unlike throwing hapless prey to a pack of wolves, to be rid
of them and the media coverage their plight has afforded them.

In so doing he makes clear that Leftists, no matter how lofty the
government positions they have earned through the ballot, are still
fair game to a regime under siege, willing to break the so-called “rule of
law” to eliminate its opponents and preserve its tenuous hold on power.

Human rights lawyers defending those unjustly accused of conspiring to
mount a coup d'etat or open rebellion against the Arroyo government are being subjected to heavy surveillance and other forms of harassment by
the police and military.

The mass media are threatened with law suits and cancellation of their
license to operate should they persist in covering alleged terrorists,
rebels and all who the authorities label as “destabilizers” including
leaders and members of legal and legitimate political parties and
people’s organizations.

These groups’ offices are under constant surveillance by
menacing-looking men, not in uniform, but obviously under orders from police and/or
military authorities to step up their harassment of personnel
and visitors. Activist groups are keenly aware of the constant danger
of police raiding their offices, conducting searches without benefit of
court-issued search warrants and even planting incriminating evidence.

To top it all, Mrs. Arroyo ‘s hatchet men armed with the precedent of
PP 1017 and General Order 5 as a means of bludgeoning her known and perceived enemies have drawn up various lists of people to be charged with conspiracy to commit rebellion or some such non-bailable offenses. The Arroyo government is deliberately including unnamed John and Jane Does in those lists so that leaders and members of activist and even opposition groups can be added as the need arises. Or as the Arroyo regime’s paranoia increases.

Thus, one never knows when your name has shown up in some government
list of “left” and “right rebels” and assorted “destabilizers.” The sword
of Damocles thus is clearly hanging over everyone’s heads; we may continue our commitment and advocacies on pain of being future Ka Bels, Liza Mazas, Satur Ocampos and so on.

Meanwhile the extra judicial killings have not stopped in the provinces. Police and military-directed death squads operate with impunity because Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo continues to turn a blind eye to reports of rampant human rights violations perpetrated by her men in the AFP and PNP. Moreover, police raids and/or lagrant break-ins of offices of human rights and people’s organizations are alarmingly increasing in number. Despite all these we continue to do our thing ­ that is, fight for truth, freedom and justice.

While we do so under the constant threat of “pre-emption” and
retaliation by a politically isolated and fascist regime, we are made steadfast and fearless by the knowledge that right will eventually triumph over might.

We are confident that our people will rise up and overcome the new
tyranny and blasphemy masquerading as the “best leadership” that God, no less, has ordained upon us.#

March 03, 2006

Virtual martial law

The marked change for the worse in the posture of three Gloria minions tasked by Malacañang to implement Proclamation 1017 -- Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, Police Chief Arturo Lomibao and the Armed Forces Chief-in-Waiting General Hermogenes Esperon -- say it all. On public display are the cockiness and conceit of officials given extraordinary powers; the hatchet men’s propensity to dish out half truths, outright lies and not-so-veiled threats; and the unmistakable swagger of bullies.

Clearly these top officials of the Arroyo administration are acting as if the President had declared martial law and therefore government has a wide latitude to suppress rallies, arrest people without warrants, and take over media facilities. At the same time they keep up the pretense that Presidential Proclamation 1017 is only a declaration of a “state of national emergency” and is a calibrated response to what they paint as a serious threat to the survival of the state which they make equivalent to the Arroyo administration.

People are confused. The legal experts say that PP 1017 does not grant any additional powers to the President than what is already contained in the Constitution. They assure us that there can be no abridgement of the Bill of Rights, i.e. the fundamental freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly, right to free association, etc. That the courts of law and both houses of Congress can continue to operate. That there can be no clamp down on the mass media.

But the fact is the Arroyo regime is using PP 1017 and General Order No. 5 to cripple, if not incapacitate, its main political enemies. Obviously it is out to get the leadership of the legal Left, such as the congresspersons from the progressive party lists like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party and the mass leaders of the multisectoral nationalist and democratic alliances and people’s organizations such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Gabriela, to name a few.

It does this by concocting outrageous and unfounded charges that these individuals (who are, by the way, legal personalities despite the fact that some of them may have earlier gone underground to fight the Marcos fascist dictatorship) conspired to commit rebellion and help military rebels like 1LT Lawrence San Juan to stage a coup d’etat.

The Arroyo government undertakes warrant less arrests as if these Left leaders were fugitives and not legislators or heads of open, legal organizations and offices who are accessible to the media, the public and to the civilian and military agencies of government.

They would deny basic due process by means of trumped up charges of rebellion, invoking highly questionable jurisprudence that rebellion is a “continuing” crime and ergo, suspected rebels can be arrested anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

Their obvious purpose is to drive legal activist organizations underground in the same way Marcos’ martial law did in 1972.

Indeed, there was a time when government did everything to entice revolutionaries, especially New People’s Army (NPA) commanders and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) cadres, to bring their struggle into the legal arena. The propaganda line was that Philippine democracy had enough space for those espousing a communist ideology and a radical political program so long as this was not done through armed means. The Anti-subversion Law making membership in the CPP a crime was even repealed.

The reactionaries thought that when revolutionaries are in the legal arena, they could more easily be bought, co-opted or somehow rendered harmless. When this did not happen and the national democrats of the Left were able to use the parliamentary arena to gain strength and widen their influence, the propaganda line changed. Now the preposterous claim of the militarists and the die-hard anti-communists is that the CPP-NPA has successfully infiltrated the interstices of government and are leading the armed revolution vicariously from the comfortable environs of Congress.

The Arroyo regime has a slightly different tack when it comes to military officers, especially bemedaled ones. While they repeatedly broadcast the existence of a coup plot codenamed “OPLAN: Hackle” and in fact cite General Danny Lim, Col Ariel Querubin and PNP Supt. Marcelino Franco as ringleaders, curiously they have not been in a hurry to haul them to court or arrest and detain them. Merely a case of double standard or a pragmatic recognition that the rebellion in the military and police ranks is far from over and there is a need to avoid any further aggravation of the already explosive situation?

Those who experienced martial law, especially the first days, weeks and months, are convinced that Marcos’ ML was essentially a palace coup, the seizure of absolute power by Marcos and his co-conspirators through the suppression of all actual and potential sources of dissent and resistance. It constituted a monopoly of power; it was systematically carried out; it caught majority of the people flatfooted. And while coercion was the main form, deception including psychological warfare, was not too far behind.

GMA’s version of virtual martial law may pale in comparison but not as a result of the regime’s lack of desire and intent, but a question of capability.

Firstly, there are the constitutional constraints that were put in place to check presidential exercise of martial law powers in the wake of the experience of the Marcos dictatorship.
Secondly, there is the fact that the Arroyo regime is extremely isolated politically and pushed to fighting for its survival by using a divided military and police forces against its opponents and the people.

Thirdly, the economy is in such a precarious state that it will not withstand further indeterminate political turmoil and uncertainty that Mrs. Arroyo’s PP 1017 has unleashed.

Fourthly, there is a strong mass movement and a broad array of forces who will not back down and will provide the leadership to fight GMA’s tyranny.

Bishops and other church people decry PP 1017. Legislators, members of the academe, professionals and various molders of public opinion denounce it. Mass media practitioners, progressives and militants defy it.

In the end, the Filipino people will defeat PP 1017 and Mrs. Arroyo’s regime will inevitably fall.

3-4 March 2006