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Steeled by Decades of Struggle, the Negrenses Keep the Revolutionary Fire Ablaze

in Mainstream
by Iliya Makalipay

Tears were shed copiously. There was mourning all around as the number of dead bodies in Negros Island continued to rise. And there was justified rage—because these were not mere numbers or bodies.

They were peasants, local government executives, educators, human rights defenders, lawyers. There was even a one-year-old baby. All of them were victims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Duterte Death Squads (DDS).

Stupid as it has shown up itself to be, the tyrannical regime wasted no time in accusing the New People’s Army (NPA) of killing those whom it had tagged as NPA members and sympathizers.

Peasant advocate groups have reported 87 killed from 2017 to mid-August 2019. Forty of the victims were mercilessly slain after Duterte’s Memorandum Circular 32 took effect on November 22, 2018: it ordered more troop deployments in Negros, in the Samar provinces, and in the Bicol region purportedly to “suppress lawless violence.” A month after, in consonance with Memo Circular 32, state security forces launched Oplan Sauron in Negros Island.

Currently, at least 11 regular and special battalions of the AFP and PNP operate in the island, supported by paramilitary groups such as the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) and the RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade). At the height of the killings in July-August 2019, the PNP deployed 300 more members of its Special Forces, further escalating the tension and the abuses.

To justify the massive deployment and brutal military campaign, Col. Benedict Arevalo admitted to media that what was initially passed off as tokhang (“drug war”) operations were actually counterinsurgency actions.

The AFP assumes that the central part of Negros, where most of the killings happened, is used by the NPA as “highway” to easily reach both sides of Negros Island—Occidental and Oriental.

“The rebels are trying to create a base somewhere in the boundaries because it’s very important for them to connect and control both islands. It’s like grabbing Negros by the neck,” a news report quoted Arevalo, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army.

In July 30, the Provincial Task Force to end local communist armed conflict was formed in Negros Oriental following Malacanang’s issuance of Executive Order 70, which created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), headed by President Duterte himself. The move is part of the “whole-of-nation approach” the regime is using to create public perception that its counterinsurgency operations involve the participation of the entire government, civil society, and the civilian population.

Still and all, the victims of these police and military operations in Negros were unarmed civilians.

PERENNIAL MILITARY TARGET

This is not the first time state forces deployed hundreds of troops in the island— intended to decimate the NPA and “wipe out” its revolutionary base there. In fact, every president—from Marcos to Duterte—has invariably aimed, by the end of his/her term, to defeat the New People’s Army and destroy its revolutionary mass base.

During the Marcos dictatorship, Negros was depicted as a “social volcano” waiting to explode. Almost 40 years later, it has remained so because there was never any palpable change in the economic system and the deplorable lives of the poor people. As feudal and semifeudal relations in the haciendas remain and exploitation is stepped up, so is the validity of sustained armed struggle upheld.

In the last few months of the dictatorship, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pointed out Marcos’s inability to address the sugar crisis and its consequent labor unrest and the military’s failure to contain the rebellion that has swept the island because of extreme poverty. The CIA report, dated May 1985, had been declassified and sanitized and was approved for release in 2011.

The report said: “We judge that later this year (1985), Negros may become, after Mindanao, the second politically important island in the archipelago where Communist control rivals that of the government.”

It added: “Despite the trouble looming on Negros, President Marcos shows no inclination to improve the counterinsurgency effort by bolstering the military or dismantling the sugar-marketing empire of his political ally, Roberto Benedicto. … Government efforts that are taken to ease the plight of the sugar workers are largely cosmetic.”

The “fall of Negros”, the report concluded, “would provide an important psychological defeat for the government and further depress morale in the armed forces. It would also confirm to the Communist Party that its long-term strategy is on the mark.”

Now under the sixth post-Marcos president, feudal relations, the centuries-old hacienda system, landlessness, and agrarian unrest are still prevalent. Adding to these social and economic ills are large-scale mining companies that prey on the island’s mineral resources and degrade its environment.

More than half of the country’s sugar mill and plantation workers are in Negros, earning an average daily income of Php 50-67, a far cry from the mandated minimum wage of Php 300. The glaring reality is farmers go hungry every day, both before and after the much-dreaded tiempo muerto, the idle period between sugarcane harvests.

There is widespread landlessness despite the so-called agrarian reform programs implemented by past administrations. Negros has still at least 600,000 hectares of lands that have escaped distribution under the largely-failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) started by the Cory Aquino government in 1988.

Continued exploitation and oppression and non-implementation of genuine agrarian reform and rural development have been surefire stimuli for resistance—both armed and unarmed. It is for this reason that all attempts by the successive governments to defeat the revolutionary forces have ended in failure.

The Philippine government may have somehow identified the causes of the protracted armed conflict, but it has persistently pursued the wrong solution—the militarist solution of trying to eradicate the symptom—instead of seeking to resolve the root causes.

SERIES OF FAILED ‘COUNTERINSURGENCY’ OPLANS

Interviews with several villagers in Negros Oriental revealed two military operational plans (Oplans) etched deeply in their collective memory: Oplan Thunderbolt under the Cory Aquino regime and Oplan Bantay Laya of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Decades from now, they would remember too the brutality of the military operations under the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan/Kapanatagan.

Despite or because of martial law, Marcos failed. And what the Marcos dictatorship failed to attain, the succeeding “restoration-of-democracy” government of Cory Aquino tried to finish—by using the very same corrupt and abusive state security forces that Marcos had fully harnessed and coddled.

As Cory Aquino wielded her “sword of war” through Oplan Lambat-Bitag I and II, Negros became a “pilot area”. A fact-finding report in 1988, titled “Mountain Tempest”, quoted the government as claiming that “the deployment of more troops and the use of more sophisticated weapons…can wipe out insurgency by 1992.” Essentially, Cory Aquino’s counterinsurgency program was derived from America’s “low-intensity-conflict” strategy which, at the time, was also being implemented in Latin America, with incalculable consequences in terms of countless killings and massive-scale human rights violations.

Rev. Romeo Empestan, in his book “From the Struggles of the People and the Church of the Poor in Negros in the 70s to 90s,” recalled that there were four simultaneous localized Oplans implemented during this period: Thunderbolt, Kahilwayan (freedom), Habagat (south winds), and Amihan (north winds). Oplan Thunderbolt would become the most notorious of the four.

Oplan Thunderbolt resulted in more than 30,000 (some reports cited as high as 100,000) evacuees in seven relocation sites. Most of the evacuees were from the now-familiar town of Sta. Catalina and Guihulngan City, in Negros Oriental, where the spate of killings under Duterte is happening. The late outspoken and courageous Bishop of Bacolod City, Antonio Fortich, said the mass dislocation of civilians at the time was “the biggest evacuation in one place in the country since World War II.”

Aside from the regular companies of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), units of the Scout Rangers, Airborne, were used in the counterinsurgency campaigns, along with vigilante groups such as Pulahan (red), Ituman (black), Putian (white), Way Sapatos (literally, no shoes) and the notorious Alsa Masa (Rise up, masses) that arose in Davao City. Private armies of landlords, hiding under the cloak of Philippine Constabulary Forward Command (PCFC) were also employed in military operations.

Upland farmers in Sta. Catalina town recalled seeing tora-tora planes used in bombing their communities, forest areas, and rivers suspected as NPA encampments. Fr. Empestan also mentioned bombings using helicopter gunships, F5 jet fighters, and howitzers. The communities were eventually declared “no man’s land”, a common practice in those days where anyone on sight was shot at by soldiers. At least seven incidents of massacre were recorded. There were burning of houses and parish churches, arrests, ‘salvaging’ (a term used to refer to what is now known as extrajudicial killings), and disappearances.

In a September 1, 2018 statement, Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA Regional Command, described the current military operations in Negros since early 2018 as reminiscent of Oplan Thunderbolt in the late 80’s—the evacuations, bombings, and the destruction of Negros’ virgin forests.

Cory Aquino’s term ended in 1992 with the revolutionary movement surviving the military assaults. Thus, her successor Fidel Ramos—also the engineer behind her two Oplans—only had to continue the same counterinsurgency program Oplan Lambat Bitag III and IV. Oplan Flush Out was its localized version in Negros. It was during Ramos’ term, however, when the government first recognized the need to combine a “non-militarist” solution to the armed conflict—the pursuance of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, which produced positive results.

A decade later, in 2008, a Negros version of Gloria Arroyo’s nationwide Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I and II, the Oplan Cut Wedge, attempted yet again to “cut/stop the ability of the NPA to hop from one island to another.” The objective was the same; the mode of military operation was similar.

At least four infantry battalions of the Philippine Army were deployed in Negros, plus a battalion of the Special Elite forces of the Scout Ranger, two division-level reconnaissance companies, plus two companies supervising more than 2,000 CAFGU paramilitary recruits. The fanatic groups such as Pulahan, Ituman, etc. were replaced by two platoons of RPA-ABB (Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Buncayao Brigade). A breakaway group from the NPA in the 1990s, the RPA-ABB (Tabara-Paduano group) has morphed into a paramilitary group, recently “demobilized” but has vowed to fully cooperate with the Duterte regime. At the start, it posed itself as a revolutionary group.

Simultaneous deployment of military units in a community, akin to Oplan Sauron, was already employed during OBL’s implementation.

In Barangay Guihulngan for example, almost two battalions of Philippine Army were deployed. In another village, some 130 troops were stationed for six months, with a division-level reconnaissance unit on standby in a nearby town.

People were interrogated, threatened and charged with trumped-up cases, the latter as part of the “legal offensive” of the Arroyo regime against its perceived enemies. There was massive recruitment of people to join the Barangay Defense System (BDS). Parallel formations were created in an attempt to draw in those who were members of progressive organizations.

Arroyo’s OBL was patterned after the U.S. 2009 Counterinsurgency Guide that has formally included the “whole-of-nation, whole-of-people” strategy purportedly to complement combat operations. The “whole-of-nation” approach would become the thread in the subsequent Oplans up to the Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan (Peace)/ Kapanatagan (peace/tranquility).

A similar counterinsurgency operation was in place when B.S. Aquino III assumed the presidency in 2010. As it was still patterned after the US Guide, massive troop deployment was again employed in the island. The revolutionary forces counted up to 30 combat companies in Negros.

But while Aquino continued OBL, the regime highlighted the “shift” to “whole-of-nation” approach to conjure an image of a nation united to battle “insurgency”, even calling it Oplan Bayanihan (a collective endeavor Filipinos are known for) and complemented it with a task force composed of so-called civil society stakeholders.

Nada. What was fervently targeted has never been achieved by any of these Oplans. Obviously, every Oplan has only brought more killings and numerous human rights violations.

Still, the current government insists on the same strategy that has failed over five decades under a dictatorship and five successive presidents.

THE MASSES PROPEL THE REVOLUTION

The Philippine government chose to remain blind and deaf through time, ignoring the fact that the strength of the revolutionary forces in Negros, and elsewhere in the country, comes from the exploited and oppressed poor, especially the peasants and workers. It is their best interest that the national democratic revolution— the key democratic content of which is agrarian revolution— uppermost fights for.

It is thus not surprising that the “poor but struggling masses of Negros” propels the revolution.

The masses played a vital role in the recovery and rebuilding of the CPP and the NPA in Negros in the 1990s. “(They) did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” recalled Frank Fernandez, detained peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDFP). In an article published by Kodao productions on July 8, 2019, Fernandez recalled, “There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994.”

The reason was not because the government’s counterinsurgency’program suceeded but because of the internal weaknesses of the CPP-NPA leadership in the area at the time. Fernandez explained that the movement diverted from the correct line and strategy in the conduct of the people’s war.

(That period of disorientation resulted in the breakaway of former members and led to the formation of the RPA-ABB. In 2000 said group engaged in pseudo-peace talks and signed a peace agreement with the Estrada government in exchange for a hefty amount of money. It continued to deteriorate into a paramilitary group, having been involved in numerous cases of extrajudicial killings, victimizing farmers. It has recently signed another ‘peace agreement’ with the Duterte regime and got another Php 500 million purportedly for social services programs.)

Reaffirming the correct ideological, political and organizational line, the CPP-NPA in Negros has since then fully recovered, with the unstinting support of the masses.

As Frank Fernandez said, “It’s time to repay the masses”.

PEASANT WAR, PEASANT ARMY

Repaying the masses comes in three main forms—implementing agrarian revolution, establishing local organs of political power, and pushing forward the armed struggle.

Juanito Magbanua, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command spokesperson, cited the successful 17 armed actions of the NPA in Negros in the first eight months of 2018 as proofs of the “NPA’s increasing capability in launching armed struggle that is integrated with agrarian revolution and base building.”

As early as 2016, the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka (PKM or the National Federation of Peasants) revealed that the revolutionary movement in Negros and Central Visayas have confiscated some 2,000 hectares of land, which benefitted at least a thousand farmers. The confiscation and distribution of lands, mostly idle and abandoned, are part of the agrarian revolution being implemented by the NPA with the PKM.

Comprehensive military-politico training of red commanders and fighters were launched to improve their “fighting skill, political capability, combat discipline, and revolutionary militance,” according to Magbanua. Majority of the trainees were peasants while 15 percent came from the petty-bourgeoisie.

Recognizing the importance of Negros island in the overall development of people’s war, Magbanua said the armed revolutionary movement in Negros must “overcome its weaknesses and rectify its errors in order to help frustrate the US-Duterte regime’s Oplan Kapayapaan and contribute in the national development of the strategic defensive of the people’s war towards a new and higher stage.”

The last time the island command conducted a training was in 2008 when the AFP implemented Oplan Bantay Laya 2 and shortly after, Oplan Bayanihan.

“The people’s army in the island had to make do with politico-military crash courses in the face of sustained search-and-destroy operations of the enemy until 2013, while prioritizing rebuilding work of the revolutionary mass base thereafter,” Magbanua explained.

At the same time, he added, punitive actions against abusive state forces and criminal elements have been meted out.

In the last six months of 2018, the NPA punished 14 landgrabbers, criminal elements, and intelligence assets of the 303rd Brigade responsible for human rights abuses against peasants, including the killing of activists in the legal organizations. These punitive actions have reduced the AFP/PNP’s capability to “inflict further harm upon the people’s lives, rights, and livelihood within and outside the guerrilla areas in the island,” Magbanua said.

Meantime, Dionesio Magbuelas, spokesperson of the NPA Central Negros-Mt. Cansermon Command, reported that Red fighter burned down some 120 million-peso worth of heavy equipment owned by a mining company. The action, he said, was a punishment meted on the firm for the destruction it had caused on the environment and sources of the people’s livelihood in Ayungon, Negros Oriental.

At the height of the attacks against the masses in Negros, the CPP-NPA central leadership issued a call for the NPA to defend the people of Negros. Magbanua claimed the punitive actions were “long overdue” because killings of unarmed civilians continued to escalate.

The CPP has denounced the spate of killings and numerous human rights abuses against civilians as acts of cowardice. State security forces, it noted, turned their guns against unarmed civilians in retaliation and to cover up for their failure to eliminate the revolutionary forces in the region.

Tempered in fighting one armed counter-revolutionary campaign after another—from the Marcos-era martial rule, through Operation Thunderbolt, and the more recent Oplan Bayanihan that deployed at least 30 combat companies in the island—the NPA in Negros has vowed unwaveringly to defend the masses against the intensifying militarization and fascist attacks of the Duterte regime. ###

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Solving the Drug Problem (Part 3 of 3)

in Mainstream

The New People’s Army  fight vs Drugs

by Pat Gambao

Aware of the disastrous consequences on people, the society and the revolution, the revolutionary movement from its inception has been fighting the drug menace—long before Duterte started his own “drug war”.

The organs of political power in the guerrilla zones have impressed on the masses the dangers of addictive drugs. In conjunction with this, they helped the masses cope with the prevailing conditions that forced them to turn to drugs either for the money to beat the debilitating poverty or to escape from its reality. People were organized and they joined hands to increase production and income. They were initiated to meaningful activities. They were trained for tasks on health care and education to fill in the vacuum left in the far-flung barrios by the reactionary government. The youth were drawn to sports and cultural activities that challenge their vibrant energy and creativity.

Through political education the masses have been enlightened and have fully understood the root cause of their problems and the solution that is in their very hands. Their awakening has instilled in them a sense of purpose for being. With these the scourge of addictive drugs was eventually licked as they imbibed the revolutionary discipline.

In 2015 for example, the revolutionary youth movement, Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) in Central Luzon launched various activities in their respective barrios to draw the youth, as well as adults, away from marijuana and shabu. The KM conducted forums on the youth situation and how the decadent system has engendered the problems of drugs and criminality. It led meetings with the barrio youth to plan on productive activities with them. They formed a basketball league and held tournaments lasting for one and a half months. Some 50 youth participated in the tournaments initially. The number swelled later.

Simultaneous with these activities, the New People’s Army (NPA) in coordination with the Party branches issued series of warnings to pushers and users in the barrios of Central Luzon. The NPA, in coordination with the KM, widely disseminated the policy of the revolutionary movement and the people’s democratic government on the trafficking and use of drugs, be it in small or huge volume.

Meantime, drug traffickers, their activities, networks and laboratories in the guerrilla fronts of Panay were banned. The Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command of the NPA uprooted the marijuana plantations in Barangay Buloc, Tubungan town a few years back. Two years ago, a known drug dealer was arrested, disarmed and driven out of the NPA front after bringing in drugs in a town in Capiz. In April 2016, the Napoleon Tumagtang Command, also based in Panay Island, launched a campaign against illegal drugs in barangays surrounding the town of Tubungan. The drug production facilities of drug lord Edwin Odicta in the NPA area and the entry of the Richard Provendido’s drug syndicate in San Joaquin, Iloilo has been subject of NPA’s surveillance. Odicta was shot by an unidentified man on his way back home from Manila while Provendido was killed in a police operation.

In 2016, the revolutionary movement in Northern Samar investigated illegal drug trafficking that implicated high officials of the province.

In the Southern Mindanao Region, the NPA has launched tactical offensives to dismantle the network of operation of drug syndicates. A police chief here once said that criminality and drug addiction is practically absent in areas where the NPA is strong. In the Central Mindanao Region, the NPA burned marijuana plantations run by the killer paramilitary group Alamara.

Aware of the NPA’s fight against drugs, Duterte has once called on them to run after drug lords. However, seeing that the Duterte regime’s war on drugs is clearly anti-democratic and anti-people, having become a frenzied campaign of extrajudicial killings and vigilante murders perpetrated by the police and police-linked criminal syndicates, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) withdrew its support to the regime’s drug campaign.

The revolutionary movement recognizes that the drug plague is rooted in the basic problems confronting the Filipino people—the historic imperialist dominance perpetuating the feudal and bureaucrat capitalist conditions in the country. The NPA will continue its anti-drug campaign but will adhere to its policy of differentiating poor drug users and victims of drug abuse from the rabid perpetrators of the drug trade. The NPA will continue to intensify its campaign to arrest and disarm drug trade operators and protectors in its territory.

The revolutionary movement has its own criminal justice system and offenders are given due process as well as due punishment. Meanwhile poor drug victims will be rescued and rehabilitated through political education and meaningful activities.

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 1 of 3):
Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 2 of 3):
China’s Experience Under Mao

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 2 of 3)

in Mainstream

China’s Experience Under Mao

by Pat Gambao

In the years prior to the victory of the Chinese revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong, China was mired in the quagmire of addictive drugs. Profiting immensely from the drug trade, foreign capitalists in cohort with the local ruling class dope the populace. Some 70 million Chinese, including children were hooked on drugs. Despondent about their miserable conditions, the poor found escape in the fleeting comfort of the illicit substance. The consequences were dismal and despicable. To finance their addiction, women resorted to prostitution, parents sold their children, money for food went to drugs.

Upon victory of the revolution, the new people’s republic launched a mass campaign against addictive drugs not by the power of the gun but through the people’s movement. Since the addicts among the poor were mere victims of a depraved system, they were not treated like common criminals nor human thrash but were helped to lick their addiction. The revolutionaries organized the masses in the communities to help educate and convince their neighbors and kin who were hooked into drugs to kick the bad habit. Community members burned drugs to emphasize their abhorrence of these. They also stopped the supplies of addictive drugs by busting drug trade networks. In support of the drug campaign, radios and newspapers carried news and stories on the ill effects of drugs and its detrimental impact to the development of the new socialist society. The revolutionaries relied on the organized masses from the cities to the countryside to end the manufacture, trafficking and their use.

Class distinction was made between the poor junkies, who were victims of the system, and the filthy rich drug dealers, who nurtured the system to their advantage. The poor victims needed help while the big drug dealers were considered enemies of the people. The victims trusted the new people’s republic that they had no fear in seeking help. They were rehabilitated and assisted in the withdrawal process. They were praised for their efforts to get clean from drug addiction. They were organized, re-educated and trained for meaningful jobs that the new socialist society provided. They police themselves through criticism and self-criticism. They were helped to restore their self-dignity. The new socialist society ensured the eradication of poverty that drove people into addiction and drug trade.

Small-time drug dealers who pledged to get out of and helped wipe out the drug trade were not considered enemies. The Mao government offered a one-time-only deal to buy out all the products of the small dealers and opium growers to be destroyed. Opium growers were requested to plant rice or wheat instead. Those who refused were arrested and put under surveillance or jailed for re-education.

Liberated from the drug scourge, they were encouraged to join the struggle against drugs and the building of the new socialist society.

Unrepentant big-time drug dealers who enriched themselves off the suffering of the people were classified as enemies of the people. They were sentenced to life imprisonment or execution depending on the gravity of the offense.
According to the New China News Agency (Xinhua) the drug problem In Northern China which had been liberated first was “fundamentally wiped out” by end of 1951. That of Southern China, where opium grew profusely, followed suit after about a year. For over 20 years thereafter, China had almost no drug addiction.

However, after the death of Mao in 1976 and the restoration of capitalism in China ushered in the resurgence of drug trade and addiction. In 2015, over 14 million Chinese were addicted to drugs, as related to Xinhua by the vice president of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission.#

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 1 of 3):
Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 3 of 3):
The New People’s Army Fight vs Drugs

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 1 of 3)

in Countercurrent

Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement

by Pat Gambao

The death toll on President Duterte’s “war on drugs” has risen to astronomic proportions that it has astounded and shaken the nation. Even the capitalist world, cloaking its hyprocrisy on human rights, has raised alarm over the extrajudicial killings.

More than 12,000 have been killed both in police operations and vigilante handiwork — only 3,811 cases were grudgingly attributed to the police. Photos of cadavers have been shown, strewn beside each a gun, sachets of shabu (crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, the poor man’s cocaine) and in some cases paper bills to portray a buy-bust operation. In vigilante killings, the victims’ bodies were invariably hogtied, heads covered with packaging tapes with warnings that read “Pusher ako, huwag tularan” (I am a pusher, don’t emulate me).

The horrendous killings, occurring mostly in urban poor communities, have raised alarm and outrage, nationally and internationally. Most infuriating is the way the government and police authorities have been dismissing the deaths of apparently innocent poor civilians as mere “collateral damage”.

Most sickening is the story about a mother suspected of being a pusher-user. She was breastfeeding her baby in their humble abode when the executioners came. After taking the baby away from her and handing it to her 11-year child, they mercilessly shot the mother to death.

Many such ruthless extrajudicial killings of merely suspected addicts or pushers among the poor have piled up. Duterte’s war on drugs has been shown up as a war against the poor, whereas so many identified drug lords have been given a chance to defend themselves or to flee.

Due to public sympathy and the clear evidence, the killing of a 17-year old student, Kian de los Santos, created uproar that the authorities were hard put to dismiss. Son of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) employed as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, the boy had not seen his mother for three years. The police’s claim that he had a gun and fired at them was belied by the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and neighborhood witnesses.

Kian’s case substantiated, if not reinforced, the long-held public belief that “planting of evidence” is a standard operating procedure (SOP) among state security forces to pin down and physically exterminate their victims with impunity.

Eradicating drug trafficking and addiction was Duterte’s campaign promise when he ran for the presidency in May 2016. He set a six-month timetable. But he reneged on his promise after seeing the four million people in a supposedly narco-list handed to him by his cohorts. He admitted that six months wouldn’t be enough to end the drug plague, not even his full six-year term as president. After the police force in Bulacan killed 32 drug suspects in a day, however, Duterte nonchalantly mused that if 32 would be the daily death toll for drug offenders, then maybe the war on drugs could rid the country of “what ails it.”

Duterte should stop dreaming and open his eyes to what really ails this country. The drug menace is systemic. It is a natural consequence of a debased system where the accumulation of wealth is the greatest motivation and that “jungle law” is the rule; wherein the struggle between the powerful forces and the weak and disadvantaged, between the exploiter and the exploited thrives. It is the greed of the exploiter versus the impoverishment of the exploited. In this sense, the fight against drugs can be deemed a class struggle.

Weapon for colonization and imperialist hegemony

The drug menace is a global social illness dating from the era of colonialism and capitalist trade. The Opium War of 1839 broke out due to the British trading of opium into China to earn more silver for its colonization of islands in Asia. The drug had doped a large number of the populace and corrupted Chinese officials who were bribed to give way to the smuggling of the drug. China lost in that war and Hong Kong was annexed to Britain.

Since that victorious war of Britain, narcotic drugs have been conveniently used to dope people and subjugate them. Capitalism up to its highest stage of imperialism has immensely profited from plying the trade. It has facilitated the creation of puppet officials, promoted bureaucratic capitalism through bribery, patronage or intimidation. It was used to quell resistance, conquer nations and control and enslave peoples using narcotic drugs as one of their subtle, secret weapons.

The production and trafficking of addictive dr

ugs is a multi-million-dollar business of big-time capitalists who have ties throughout the US government, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and state security forces. Huge amount of foreign aid, purportedly to fight drugs, actually goes to quashing people’s rebellion and has been provided to groups, usually state security forces which themselves are involved in large-scale drug trafficking.

In exchange for Panama president General Manuel Noriega’s covert anti-insurgency work in Nicaragua and Latin America, the US imperialists provided him with hundreds of thousands of dollars while tolerating his drug trafficking activities. When this leaked out and Noriega became a liability to the US, the Drug Enforcement Administration finally indicted him. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and his government was overthrown.

In the 1960s, the CIA bribed oppressed communities with heroine to pay for the US secret war in Laos.

The $3-Billion Merida Initiative Aid to Mexican security forces, with the pretext of fighting drug cartels, is used to suppress the Mexican people’s resistance against the plunder of their lands and resources by US business interests.

The Planned Colombia Program of the US government provided hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the war on drugs that actually went into fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Corrupt members of the Colombian army themselves have been accused of engaging in drug trafficking. The Colombian President Cesar Gaviria’s unsolicited advice to Duterte that the drug war is “unwinnable” and “disastrous”stems from his own failed war on drugs. For after the drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed by the police and the Medellin Cartel’s activities were ended, the cocaine industry in Colombia and the world persisted and prospered as a new drug cartel that has “more money, power and wider reach” took over.

The 2011 report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy gave this attestation: “The global war on drugs failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Bureaucrat capitalism

People in government take advantage of their positions to enrich themselves. The rotten system breeds greed. Thus it is not surprising that there are governors, mayors, legislators down to barangay officials who are either engaged in drug trafficking or stand as protectors. Generals, policemen, drug law enforcers, soldiers likewise instigate and protect the widespread proliferation of the drugs. No wonder the drug problem isn’t being solved.

Supply also seems to be inexhaustible. It is common knowledge that seized drugs get back into circulation as fast as, or even faster than the dying of the embers of the supposedly alum-substituted shabu crystals being incinerated for photo opportunities. According to reports, nine shabu laboratories have been raided and disabled to cut on the supply.

But, at the customs bureau, 650 kilos of shabu shipment worth Php 6.4 billion have passed scrutiny, landed in the agency’s “green” lane. Had there not been a tip from China, the source itself, the shipment could not have been apprehended. The actual volume that has slipped in to the “green” lane eluding inspection and reached the dope market is still undetermined.

The scandal opened the Pandora’s box, bringing to public scrutiny the corruption in the customs bureau that has long been kept under wraps, implicating even the president’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and son-in-law Manases Carpio, with the “Davao group”. A customs player under investigation for the drug smuggling spilled the beans on the nagging corruption in the bureau.

Worst, Duterte’s war on drugs has been used by unscrupulous policemen to further their criminal activities. Extortion, kidnapping for ransom, robbery, elimination of rival drug syndicates and assets, who may rat on them, are shrouded by the government’s anti-drug operations Tokhang (contracted term from the Visayan words toktok and hangyo meaning knock and plead) and ‘Double Barrel Reloaded’. Others, especially neophytes in the police force, do it to impress and bag promotions or awards. The ferocity of police operations springs from the orientation of the police as chief instrument for repression of an oppressive and exploitative state to preserve its power. For a corrupt law enforcement to handle the fight on drugs is indeed a travesty of options.

Drug trade and corruption at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP)

Sources at the NBP (names withheld) have stories to tell.

Confined at the NBP, the main penal facility of the national government, are big-time Chinese drug lords and their Filipino recruits to the drug trade. Recruitment is easy among inmates as the prospective returns are enticing. Incarcerated for criminal offenses other than drugs, the recruits rose to a new level that offered more money and privileges, just like what their Chinese co-inmates enjoy in prison.

From their cells, the drug lords continue to ply their lucrative business in the outside world using electronic devices such as cellphones, which they smuggled in or freely brought in for a fee. Seventy-five percent of the trade is done outside prison through accessories and henchmen who resolutely carry on the tasks of procurement, manufacture, trafficking and even eliminating rival syndicates or any other hindrance to the trade.

The inordinate corruption in the penitentiary enables the illicit trade to prosper. Some prison guards, gaters, custodial officers, escorts, sentry goals to the highest jail officials are, directly or indirectly, embroiled in the trade. The scandal in the NBP that exploded before the public’s eyes had implicated its directors and even the justice secretary.

Corruption in prison starts from pilferage of the prisoners’ food budget, supply provisions, electricity charges and graduates to the constant acceptance of enormous bribes for allowing undue privileges to inmates. Selective inspection on visitors becomes a norm. Thus, the proliferation of cell phones, kubol (literally, huts but these are spaces rented out to privileged inmates), drugs and other contrabands, including deadly weapons, is relentless. Thus drug dealers can operate freely in the confines of their cells.

Even when the NBP changed guards after the scandal broke out, the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police got involved in the entry of cigarettes, a premium commodity in jail as this cost a fortune, P15.00-P50.00 per stick.

The illicit drug trade in the NBP did not stop at all as corruption persisted. It just lied low for a while then it slithered back with small-time Chinese drug lords in jail at the helm this time around while the big drug dealers waited for the opportunity to spring back to the trade.

Duterte’s anointed grand master of his war on drugs, General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa will take over the reins at the NBP after his retirement from the Philippine National Police. We may expect tokhang inside prison or privileges for drug lords who are key witnesses against Duterte’s favorite nemesis.

The penitentiary under the existing debased system can never be a haven to rehabilitate offenders. It has only turned them worse.

Bureaucratic corruption extends to the courts where impunity is upheld. In many intances, drug offenders get away unpunished and manage to continue with their trade–for a fee. This is aside from the given flaws in the prevailing justice system. One of which is the way cases drag till kingdom come.

In sum, Duterte may succeed in killing all those drug lords, traffickers, peddlers, pushers, runners and users but that will not wipe out the plague and solve the problem. The drug menace will continue to rear its ugly head and spit out its venom to destroy human lives and society. Unless and until the roots of the problem is addressed-the abject poverty stemming from landlessness and absence of meaningful job opportunities for the toiling masses, the foreign domination and control of the economy, politics and culture of the Philippine society, the petrified corruption in the bureaucracy — President Duterte’s war on drugs will come to naught. It will fail, desperately.

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 2 of 3):
China’s Experience Under Mao
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 3 of 3):
The New People’s Army Fight vs Drugs
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