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E-CLIP Briefer: it’s all about money, money

in Countercurrent

The Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) took off from the Comprehensive Local and Integration Program (CLIP) of the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) and the PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan-Peaceful and Resilient communities) program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The two programs were centralized under the Task Force Balik Loob, through Administrative Order 10 issued on April 3, 2018 by President Duterte. The consolidated program was renamed (how else?) E-CLIP.

On May 31, 2018, the Defense Department released a seven-paged Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR). It was jointly signed by DND chief Delfin Lorenzana, National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr., then OPAPP head Jesus Dureza, and retired police general Nelson Estarez of Office of the President (OP).

Heading the Task Force Balik-Loob is DND Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu. Aside from the DND, among the lead agencies are the DILG, OPAPP, OP, and the NHA, with the rest of the Executive departments as members.

The Task Force claims it shall pursue a “comprehensive, integrated, community-based national program” that will be implemented in the local areas to address twin objectives: secure the legal status and security of former rebels; and take care of the former rebels’ economic and social needs and psychological rehabilitation.

These objectives, according to the IRR, shall be carried out through the CLIP and PAMANA programs. E-CLIP committees shall be organized in the provinces and highly urbanized cities.

Before the two programs were integrated, the CLIP under the DILG claimed to have spent Php 101.67 million as of January 2017 to assist 1,573 “former rebels” (or Php 65,000 per “rebel returnee”). The Php 65,000 is broken down into: Php 15,000 for immediate assistance while the “former rebel’s” enrollment to CLIP is processed, and Php 50,000 livelihood assistance once enrolled.

This does not include, the DILG said, rewards for surrendered guns, if there are any. In Davao City the president’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, gave away an initial Php 20,000 and Php 50,000 for every low-powered firearm and high-powered firearm, respectively.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) unit or the local government unit that processes said enrollment receives Php 7,000 assistance, supposedly for the “board and lodging” of the “surrenderees”. Based on the 1,573 “former rebels” processed as of January 2017, at least some Php11 million of the budget went to the PNP and/or the local government unit.

Numbers don’t add up

Noticeably, under the Enhanced CLIP, the increase in the budget allocation went to the PNP and/or the local government unit handling the “rebel returnees’s” board and lodging. From Php 7,000, it was raised to Php 21,000 per police unit or LGU. The Php 65,000 budget per “surrenderee” remains the same.

In several news reports, DILG chief Gen. Eduardo Año boasted that in 2018 some Php 488 million have been downloaded nationwide to build halfway houses for the “rebel returnees”, to build the capacity of agencies involved in the program, and to support military and police units handling the “returnees”. The NHA was also said to have spent Php 450,000 for the construction of settlement houses of the “returnees”.

For 2019, Año said he would allocate another Php 250 million for the E-CLIP, “in anticipation of the “influx” of NPA members who presumably would want to surrender.

If approved in the bicameral conference committee deliberating the 2019 budget, the DND would get a separate allocation of Php 48.766 billion also for E-CLIP and the Task Force Balik-Loob.

For its part, the OPAPP has been seeking an increased budget for the PAMANA program since 2016: from Php 700 million in 2016 to Php 8 billion for 2017. And the Php 5.8-billion actual allocation in 2018 is planned to zoom to Php 30.216 billion for 2019.

The PAMANA project, according to the OPAPP website, “aims to extend development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach, conflict-affected communities.” This would be done through road projects and delivery of social services that would be carried out by various government line agencies.

That the OPAPP had been involved in various corruption issues even during the time of Pres. Noynoy Aquino has recently been exposed. At that time, OPAPP got more than Php 2 billion from the corruption-reeking Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza resigned in November 2018 after President Duterte fired the OPPAP undersecretary for support services and PAMANA national program manager, Ronald Flores, and his assistant secretary for support services and PAMANA concerns, Yeshtern Baccay. Both officials were accused of corruption, and Dureza assumed command responsibility for their misdeeds.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education has raised concern that the Php 36-billion cut in its 2019 budget, initiated by the House of Representatives, would affect its scholarship programs, including those offered to the children of “rebel returnees”. While the government kept drumbeating state support and services for the “surrenderees” in 2018, the scholarship program was not implemented simply because there was no budgetary allocation.

Indeed, the campaign to lure rebels “into the fold of the law” and the mock “influx” of alleged surrenderees are designed to fatten the bureaucrats’ pocket. What gives away the money-making scheme is this: the government’s actual spending and the reported number of “surrenderees” don’t add up.

Duterte’s “surrender” program is a scam

in Countercurrent
by Iliya Makalipay

Alde “Butsoy” Salusad is a leader of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)-backed paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR). He is a murderer—the killer of anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon—with two warrants of arrests on him that remain unserved by the Bukidnon Philippine National Police because he has been coddled by the AFP since 2012.

In August 11, 2017, five years after he killed Liguyon, Salusad was presented by the AFP as “NPA surrenderee” and was awarded Php100,000 in cash. Then in March 2018, the military included Salusad in the list of more than 600 names and aliases of alleged members of the CPP and the NPA in a petition for proscription filed at a Manila regional trial court.

Filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in compliance with the Human Security Act of 2007 (the Philippine anti-terrorism law), the petition seeks to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. The court initially ordered the names of four individuals, who had challenged their inclusion in the petition, excluded for lack of evidence that they were officers or members of the CPP and the NPA. After others similarly questioned their inclusion, the DoJ revised the petition by dropping the long list.

The charade about Alde Salusad is among the many ways the Duterte regime tries to cover up its failure to defeat the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), through vicious military operations launched in areas they consider as NPA guerrilla fronts.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, where martial law has been imposed for two years now, farmers and indigenous people—individually or collectively—have become targets of the fake/forced surrender campaign of the AFP. The trend is also noticeable in other parts of the country as the AFP keeps resetting its target date for “neutralizing” the armed revolutionary forces.

Will the real NPA surrenderees stand up?

Interviewed by Liberation, Julieta, a woman community leader from Bukidnon, revealed that one AFP battalion commander had summoned community leaders listed as “NPA terrorist supporters” from 31 barangays for a three-day “peace building seminar”. Each barangay had 10 names on the list. Julieta and her husband were among those listed from their village.

While her husband attended the event, she refused to go, declaring: “I am not a terrorist. I am a leader who defends our ancestral territory. We organize to protect our lands, we attend rallies so our voice could be heard, and to seek justice for those who were killed by the military and paramilitary groups.”

She quoted those who attended the seminar as complaining that “the military refused to answer our questions on how to protect our ancestral lands from the land grabbers.” Instead, they said, the military offered the more than 1,000 suspected “NPA terrorist sypathizers” seed money to grow mushrooms, ginger, coconut, and coffee trees. The seminar was in May 2018. As of October, not one of those who attended was given any seed money.

What alarmed the participants during those three days were the individual “interviews” conducted among them, which largely dealt with why they supported the NPA. At the end of the seminar, the participants were made to sign a document stating they would no longer participate in rallies. Ironically, they were herded to a rally immediately after the signing, and ordered to carry anti-NPA placards.

In the community, the soldiers have continued to convince the youth to join the military service, “so you will earn money.” They also egged on the community members, especially the youth, to search for firearms and turn them over to the military in exchange for money. Julieta said pictures of guns were distributed among them with corresponding price tags: AK-47 for Php 75,000 and handguns, Php 35,000. There were other guns priced at Php 65,000 and Php 45,000, but Julieta could not remember what sort of firearms they were. “They are teaching us to lie,” said Julieta, obviously irked by the military’s modus operandi.

There was a time when goons of the plantation owner who occupy their ancestral lands harassed them. Julieta said these belonged to the group of goons that killed a tribe member. The community reported the incident to the soldiers deployed in the area. Six goons were “arrested” but were brought to the military headquarters instead of the police station. Later, the six men were presented as “NPA surrenderees”.

For a few months after the “seminar”, fear and apprehension reigned among the community members. The specter of the Lianga massacre, where two indigenous leaders and one school executive were killed, always came back into their minds. After four months, however, they were again joining rallies.

“We are insulted by how the military treats us,” declared Julieta. “The military arbitrarily stops children to ask them if there are armed men in the community. When children pointed to the goons and security guards of the plantation, the soldiers would tell them ‘gahi na kaayo ka’ (you have been toughened).”

Similar stories have been recorded and made public by an international fact-finding mission held in Mindanao early last year. Likewise, the human rights alliance Karapatan reported more than 600 cases of forced/fake surrender since the start of the Duterte administration in July 2016 to March 2018.

A victim of forced surrender in Northern Mindanao recounted, “From morning, noon, until night, the 29th Infantry Division [went] around the community forcing us to surrender. I did not go with them because I am not an NPA. That night they strafed our house.” Other communities were threatened with bombing or were actually bombed.

Worn-out tactics of deception and coercion

In early 2018, the AFP claimed about 4,000 people to be “NPA surrenderees.” By the end of the year, the number “surrenderees” varied, from a total of almost 8,000 to 11,000. The AFP cited those numbers, whereas it had previously claimed that the NPA had already been reduced to 3,000. Embarassed, the AFP has interchangeably called the “surrenderees” as NPA members, sympathizers, mass base or militia members.

It matters not for the military whether the line between unarmed civilians and NPA red fighters is blurred. In fact, they have arbitrarily removed the distinction. The point, for them, is to picture to the public a weakening revolutionary movement. But, one thing is certain—almost all of the so-called surrenderees who were herded in public venues and presented to the media were victims of threat, coercion, and deception. Most often, the “surrenderees” are later forced into joining paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and other similar armed auxiliary groups.

As practiced in the past regimes, the military conduct “house-to-house visits” and “surveys”. They circulate a “wanted list” of people in the community and summon them to military headquarters to “clear their names”. During interrogation, the military try to sow disunity among the community members by telling the “accused” person that his neighbor had ratted on him. But many times, people were simply rounded-up and forced to attend “surrender ceremonies”. At the end of each ceremony or event, all those who attended were tricked to sign blank documents that would later be presented as “proofs of surrender”.

Government agencies are also used to deceive other victims. In Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, some 60 farmers were supposed to attend a gathering called by the Department of Agrarian Reform to discuss land distribution but were later presented as NPA surrenderees. Others were compelled to “cooperate” because of threats of arrests, detention, or cancellation of their benefits from the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

Aside from the unarmed civilians, the AFP also hunts down former commanders and members of the NPA who had returned to civilian life. They too were coerced to “surrender”.

And there are the posers. Alde Salusad is a poser. And so were the 16 members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group of Calpit Egua that was responsible for the massacre of school principal Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur in 2015. Like Salusad’s NIPAR, the Magahat-Bagani group is backed by the AFP, in this case the 4th Infantry Division.

The AFP used these posers for propaganda against the revolutionary movement and also in the AFP’s psywar cum money-making venture called E-CLIP or the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

There’s money in (psy)war

The E-CLIP now embodies the Duterte regime’s campaign to induce the members of the NPA to surrender—and one of the identified core projects in the “12 pillars of the whole-of-nation” approach to end the “communist insurgency”.

See Editorial

Along with the “localized peace talks”, the government pushes E-CLIP as part of the psywar operations to deodorize the government’s bloody “counterinsurgency” program which, since the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been patterned after the 2009 United State’s Counterinsurgency (COIN). The COIN follows the the triad operations combining psywar and intelligence gathering with combat operations.

As the AFP launches sustained brutal military operations, the E-CLIP, supposedly one of the civilian components of the operation, complements the campaign against the NPA. It aims to coopt NPA members into surrender. Thus, the offer of livelihood programs, medical insurance coverage for one year through the PhilHealth, housing, safety and security, and other “amenities”. A portion of the budget is used to give gifts and bribes to the families of NPA members so they may, in turn, convince the NPA member in their family to surrender. Each “NPA surrenderee” supposedly gets Php 65,000 cash for assistance.

See E-CLIP Briefer

Granting there had been 8,000 to 11,000 “surrenderees” by the end of 2018, the government would have spent a total of Php 520 million to Php 715 million. Since there has never been many real surrenderees as the military would want the public to believe, the budget allocation for the program logically ends up in the pockets of military officers and their cohorts.

Getting nowhere

Assuming the E-CLIP and other psywar tactics succeed in attracting members of the revolutionary movement to surrender, this, in all certainty, is but temporary. Why? Because it does not get into the root causes of the armed conflict.

Oppression, exploitation, and social injustices breed revolutionaries who will pursue a free and democratic society. Thus, there will always be one, or two, a hundred, and then thousands and hundreds of thousands who will surely take up arms for their national and democratic interests. Until then, the reactionary government and its killing machine will just have to content themselves with unsustainable cheap gimmicks that are only meant to please their egos—their fascist egos.

On the ground, for every defeat of an AFP unit inflicted by the NPA, the AFP gets back at the civilians. Every time they can’t find the NPA members, they vent their ire on the civilians. An eight-year old Lumad child who was witness to military abuses and atrocities in their community described the soldiers as “pula ang nawong sa kasuko kung mga Lumad ang kaatubang pero luspad na kung makakita na ug NPA (their faces turn red in anger when in front of the Lumad but become ashen pale when they face the NPA).”

The regime continues to be on the losing end as it opts to engage in its useless war against the revolutionary movement and the masses, resorts to dirty tactics, and evades peace negotiations that would tackle the issues of why, in the first place, there is an ongoing war in the Philippines.

 

OF COMMUNISTS AND PLOTS: Does the military know what it’s talking about?

in Countercurrent
by Vida Gracias

“Communists do not conceal their aims,” the Communist Manifesto has put it. Yet the Communists have always been demonized and malicious lies are woven about them. It is for this reason that Marx and Engels always made public their views, aims and tendencies as stated in the Communist Manifesto.

And so it is with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which on December 26 marked its 50th year of leading the national democratic revolution in the Philippines. Called the longest-running revolution in Asia, if not in the entire world, the CPP-led revolutionary movement has been consistent in calling for the overthrow of the landlord-comprador state in the country and from its ruins set up a people’s democratic state.

Since its founding, the CPP has stuck to its basic strategy of waging a protracted people’s war, building up a people’s army and revolutionary bases in the countryside, and seizing political power, wave upon wave, from the countryside to the cities. It is a strategy that every revolutionary adheres to in this semi-colonial and semifeudal country.

Armed uprisings in the cities, particularly in the national capital region, will occur in the final offensive, when the revolutionary forces shall have already smashed reactionary power in the countrysides and all that is needed is the capture of the capital.

The CPP has stated that, at this time, it is still far from winning total victory. But tactically a regime change, an ouster, is possible. And the CPP has never concealed the fact that it is calling for the ouster of Duterte. It is out there in public—never secret, never conspiratorial—hence, what plot?

The “Red October Plot” was supposedly to roll until December to become the “White December Plot”. Then another name, “Operation Talsik”, was added to it. This only shows that communist hysteria is an old trick and those who rely on it are lacking in ideas or out of touch with reality.

No need for plot

The CPP is a revolutionary group of long standing. It has no need for plots that distort its aims and sow confusion in its ranks. It does not dabble in conspiracies, much less belittle the movement of the masses as the primary movers of history.

The people decide the fate of a regime. This is no more true than the people power uprising that overthrew the hated dictatorship of Marcos in 1986 and the corrupt regime of Estrada in 2002. Even as the past regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo belittled people power as merely a “mob” or “political noise,” the mass movement had succeeded in thwarting Arroyo’s scheme towards charter change and stopped her from extending her term.

Meanwhile, all the economic and social conditions are ripe for the overthrow of the Duterte regime. The CPP’s role is to point out to the masses where to head in that direction, urging them to hone their tactics and expand their strength, and will not take credit for the regime’s overthrow because the victory belongs to the people. You can read and debate about the need for Duterte’s ouster even in the internet. That is hardly a plot.

That the Duterte regime keeps harping on a “plot” by the CPP bespeaks of either two things: one, on how low in intelligence his political and military advisers have become, not excluding Duterte himself; or, two, the lies and distortions are intended to break up the broadening united front against the regime’s growing tyranny and dictatorship, where even noncommunists are calling for his ouster.

Critical mass

All this red-tagging is meant to put the national democratic mass movement on the defensive, isolate and demobilize it, knowing that the national democrats are at the core of the critical mass that can oust the Duterte regime. The regime’s greatest fear is for this critical mass to resonate in the military, whose rank and file are not immune to the sufferings of the masses and can move them to withdraw support from the regime.

Throughout several regimes, the national democratic mass organizations have persevered, built, expanded and maintained their strength from among the workers, peasants, urban poor and students. They have forged alliances with the middle forces and various political groups. They have worked within Moro and indigenous communities. They are in the forefront of the mass struggles for better living and working conditions, human rights, and a host of other issues. They have flexed their muscles not just in the parliament of the streets but also inside Congress, in international fora, and, across the peace negotiating table for meaningful reforms.

Notwithstanding Duterte’s unilateral termination of the peace talks with the NDFP in November 2017, the latter has put forward its substantive agenda for social, economic and political reforms. The Duterte regime was readily exposed as a false pretender and not desirous of solving the decades-old armed conflict in the Philippines.

Also, instead of weakening their ranks and crumbling under fear of Duterte’s killing spree and red tagging, the mass organizations within Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) in Mindanao launched on October 23 simultaneous rallies in the cities of Davao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos. Some 15,000 marched to call for an end to martial law in Mindanao and the ouster of the US-Duterte regime.

A barrage of protests against Duterte was also held in 14 regions last September 21, on the 46th anniversary of Marcos’s martial law declaration. In Manila, flags of various colors flew in Luneta as thousands warned of a creeping dictatorship—“another dictator to rise or an old one to return.”

Overseas, where there are Filipinos and solidarity allies, the protests have been brought to the courts of public opinion. In August the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) in Brussels judged President Duterte guilty of crimes against humanity. An indictment against Duterte (also including US President Donald Trump, the International Monetary Fund [IMF], World Bank [WB], and World Trade Organization [WTO]) was led by Bayan and its allied organizations for violations of the Filipinos civil and political rights, social and economic rights, and right to self-determination. The IPT verdict was then submitted to the Parliament of the European Union and the International Criminal Court.

Granting that communists may have joined these organizations, why freak out? This is the age of the millennia. Anything and everything you wanted to know about communism is one google away. People are learning more about national democracy. People’s organizations are bound by their charter and whoever subscribes to it is free to join, whether communist or not.

The Cold War era is past. The Anti-Subversion Law has been repealed where membership in the Communist Party is no longer illegal. Even the government talks to communists of all stripes, whether local or foreign, whether in power or out of it, whether revolutionary, revisionist or collaborationist. No one can be arrested for just being a communist.

That is why the reactionary state plays foul. It has associated “terrorism” to communism because by ideology one cannot be faulted for being a communist. It has criminalized political actions—whether led or not by communists—through trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Truth is, the anti-communist hysteria no longer sticks. It’s been 50 years of revolutionary war in the Philippines and the reactionary state is still up to its old tricks. It is the fear of fascism, not communism, that makes people rise up in anger.

Regime backtracks

Duterte’s military brass simply allowed itself to become the laughing stock of the nation. In no short time it backtracked from what founding CPP chair Jose Maria Sison called a “fairy tale” as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza admitted “there is no more Red October plot”.

But Chief Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo would not let the issue die. While he nailed it when he said “the threat to oust Presid9ent Rodrigo Duterte is always possible”, one can expect more ridiculous tales to surface.

As always, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) cannot win the propaganda war because it sees monsters where there are none. The monsters come from within the state it serves. The AFP is blindsided by its loyalty to Duterte and to the counter-insurgency plan of the US, in fact just all self-serving.

An advice to the men and women of the military: get real. Look at the true conditions of the people that you are sworn to serve and you will know why Duterte must go.

In the Bog of Fascist Reaction

in Countercurrent
by Angel Balen

Into his third year in office, Rodrigo R. Duterte increasingly finds himself and his government getting mired deeper and deeper in the bog of fascist reaction, stumbling into one misstep after another.

A year ago he discarded his publicly declared wish to be the first “Left” president of the Philippines (the truth may be that he never had the political will to fulfill that wish). With misplaced hubris, the self-proclaimed erstwhile “socialist” unraveled himself as a fascist, and plunged his administration into this bog—disdaining to entertain the thought it would turn out this way.

Now he is confronted with multiple problems he can’t effectively tackle and properly resolve, no matter the means he employs, before his term ends in 2022. To begin with, many of the problems have sprung from his impetuous, little-thought-out and crudely-crafted policies and decisions.

Among these problems are:

  • the continued implementation of martial law in Mindanao and his threat to impose it nationwide;
  • his unilateral cancellation/termination of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GRP-NDFP) peace talks. He stopped just when these were promising to produce substantive agreements on social and economic reforms of immediate benefits to the Filipino people. He shifted to “localized” peace talks and unable to find any party willing to participate because the framework is “negotiate to surrender”;
  • his proclamation of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist organizations” and filing before a regional trial court, through the justice department, a petition for proscription that listed names and “aliases” of over 600 individuals presuming them to be “terrorist suspects” sans any vetting, as admitted by his current justice secretary. (Four of such individuals—including Satur Ocampo and Rafael Baylosis, independent cooperator and NDFP consultant, respectively, in the GRP-NDFP peace talks—have succeeded, through written replies to the summons served to them, to get the court to exclude their names from the list);
  • the continually rising incidence of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, particulary among the peasants and
  • indigenous people, due to the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’s (AFP) counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapan;
  • the unrelenting pursuit of the “war on drugs” (with 25,000 people so far estimated to have been killed) and the prospect—which Duterte dreads—that the International Criminal Court would decide to investigate and judicially proceed against him for committing crimes against humanity;
  • the campaign to eradicate graft and corruption, over which Duterte recently expressed having become tired and exasperated and threatened to step down from the presidency as he says his regime will rise or fall on the issue of corruption; and
  • Duterte’s shift-to-federalism project (aimed at giving him excessive powers during the interim or transition period), currently snagged in Congress. His own neoliberal economic team says its funding requirement threatens to upend state financing and disrupt the regime’s economic development program. His minions at the Department of Interior and Local Government attempt to push a flagging “RevGov” plan calling for an extra-constitutional “People’s Council” (a parody of “people power”) that would keep Duterte in power until a new form of government would have been installed.

Aside from these problems, pressing for more immediate and long-term solution are the current crisis of sharply rising inflation, the recurrent shortage of rice supply and soaring prices of food and other basic necessities; and the economy’s slowing growth rate. His regime performed poorly in 2017 towards achieving the 257 economic and social development targets for 14 sectors under the Duterte Philippine Development Plan. Here are the figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority: high likelihood of achieving only 111 targets; medium prospect of attaining 29 others; and low probability of fulfilling 117 targets. Also the tracking of various indicators, by research outfits and economists, show the Philippines ranking last (“kulelat,” says economist Cielito Habito) among developing nations of Southeast Asia.

DUTERTE’S MARTIAL LAW IN MINDANAO

The declared basis for Martial Law (which Duterte and his military and security advisers chose to take while on an official visit to Moscow) was to enable the state security forces to contain and crush a so-called attempt by the Islamic State (IS/ISIS)-inspired, represented by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf “extremist”. This groups had an initial estimated force of 300 fighters, to establish an IS “province” in Marawi by mounting a siege on the only Islamic city in the country.

Originally intended to last five months, the declaration was first extended to end of 2017 (even as its objective was supposedly already attained in October, with the seiging armed groups wiped out and Marawi City devastated). Yet Duterte further extended it till end of 2018, claiming martial law is still needed to complete the suppression/eradication of the violently extremist groups, now tagged as “terrorists”, and to safeguard the security of the civilian population.

In declaring and extending ML, he got the concurrence of a pliant Congress in joint session and the approval of a lenient Supreme Court.

But how is the situation in Mindanao today, almost a year after ending the so-called Marawi siege?

Thousands of displaced Marawi residents, with inadequate supply of their daily needs, remain in crowded evacuation centers in Iligan City and nearby areas or stay in the similarly crowded residences of relatives or friends. The rehabilitation of the devastated city lacks funding to get started. Much of the reconstruction work is to be given to Chinese contractors, which the Marawi residents disapprove of, primarily because they have been excluded from the planning and rebuilding process that they say doesn’t take into account their culture, religious belief and practices. The people of Marawi also resent and protest the construction of a new military camp in the city center and the refurbishing of the previously existing one.

As regards the suppression/eradication of the remaining “terrorist” groups and safeguarding the security of civilians, the martial law extension hasn’t been effective. Just within a month, three bombing incidents occurred in public places (in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31; in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on August 28 and September 1). All together the bombings killed 16 people and wounded 50 others. None of the perpetrators have been arrested.

State security officials have attributed the Lamitan bombing to the IS/Maute-Abu Sayyaf group, and alleged that six foreign IS members allegedly operating in Mindanao have yet to be accounted for.

On the other hand, the same officials blamed the Isulan bombings on elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), who are opposing the passage and prospective implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL, formerly the Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL). They concede that the BOL will not bring about the long-sought peace among the Bangsamoro in the immediate future—a peace that Duterte has repeatedly promised to his Muslim kin (he says his mother has Maranao blood).

The knee-jerk reaction of Malacanang to the bombing incidents, suggesting further extension of martial law in Mindanao, only fueled the Mindanaoans’ cynicism over the government’s promise of a “mantle of security” under martial law.
An oblique rebuke to the martial law proponent-implementors came recently from a US State Department key official, who categorically answered a question of visiting Filipino journalists at the East-West Center in Hawaii: Was martial law effective in combating terrorism in Mindanao? “No. That is the short answer,” replied Irfan Saeed, director of State Department’s Office of Countering Violent Extremism.

“The response to terrorism and our efforts in countering violent extremism,” Saeed added, “cannot be an excuse for an overly aggressive law enforcement approach.” (He referred to martial law as an “overly aggressive” step). He hit the nail on the head when he said that “suppression of basic human rights [a key element of martial law] is a potential driver of terrorism… (because) you’re actually bringing a greater ability to recruit people to violent extremism.”
Saeed apparently spoke out of American experience: the formation of the Islamic State began among the Iraqi political detainees, led by Bhagdadi, who had been held captive, tortured, humiliated and deprived of their rights by the US military in Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq.

DUTERTE’S ABANDONMENT OF THE GRP-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Duterte’s chief peace negotiator, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and his peace adviser, Jesus Dureza, have repeatedly lamented—in the many instances when Duterte hemmed and hawed on the matter—that their principal (the President) was letting slip away the opportunity to leave a “lasting legacy of peace” to the Filipino people.

The failure of the two, who are both Duterte’s bosom friends, to prevail on him to hold fast on his promise to pursue and complete the peace negotiations, would be casting away the precious time and efforts they had invested in the peace negotiations since the mid-1990s. As Duterte lets go the chance to leave a lasting legacy to the people, they too would miss the opportunity to earn popular approbation and prestige as peacemakers. Bello and Dureza would end up as “collateral damage” of Duterte’s abandoning an honorable peace and falling back to wage a dishonorable and unwinnable war.

DUTERTE’S WAR VS. THE PEOPLE’S RESISTANCE

Recently Duterte threatened to no longer accept “surrenders” from the NPA and incited state soldiers to shoot upon sight NPA suspects and all those he considers as “enemies of the state.” Now this is unconscionably brutal, far worse than the order to the police to shoot dead drug suspects who “fight back” (“nanlaban”).

Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP peace panel chief political consultant, interpreted this to mean that Duterte’s “line of localized surrender negotiations has utterly failed and he has turned his home region into a bigger cauldron of armed conflict.”

On Duterte’s taunt that the Left revolutionary forces cannot control even a single barangay, Sison riposted:

“The local organs of political power of the People’s Democratic Government of workers and peasants are in thousands of barangays all over the country, attending to the needs and interest of the people neglected and abused by the reactionary government.”

“Best proof of this fact,” Sison added,” is that the counterrevolutionary and tyrant Duterte and his military have deployed all their 98 Army maneuver battalions as well as police brigades against so many guerrilla fronts in a futile attempt to suppress the revolutionary forces and communities with [the use of] terror and deception.”

For its part, the NDFP Public Information Office has criticized the Duterte regime’s move to proscribe as “terrorist organizations” the CPP and the NPA. It stated:

“The proscription petition… forms part of the regime’s attempt to strip the Philippine revolutionary movement of legitimacy and recognition as a national liberation movement, thereby denying it and every suspected revolutionary of their rights and protection under International Humanitarian Law and other instruments governing armed conflicts.”

Furthermore, it emphasized, the petition vainly aims “to eliminate the strongest and most consistent opposition against Duterte’s scheme to establish an open fascist rule.” Duterte’s desperation, it added, “grows as the people’s resistance mounts, not only against his tyranny but also against spiralling inflation, low wages, deteriorating social services, onerous taxes, widespread contractualization, trade union repression, landgrabbing and expansion of land monopolies, and other burdens.”

At the same time, the NDFP-PIO noted, the proscription bid is a desperate attempt by the Duterte regime to divert attention from its own human rights record. It elaborated:

“The regime wants to cloak its escalating counterrevolutionary war with the mantle of legality, to imbue with legitimacy the widespread political killings, illegal arrests and detention and the attacks against civilians and other unarmed adversaries and strip the victims of all possible means of redress.

“If to be a terrorist is to systematically use armed violence against civilians and other noncombatants,” it concluded, “then it is Duterte and his fascist forces who answer to this name.” ###

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