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Kabataan Partylist

DUTERTE REGIME: A propaganda war with dire consequences

in Countercurrent
by Erika Hernandez

Neophyte Senator Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa, the controversial Philippine National Police chief of the Duterte government, recently led a public inquiry in the Senate and instantly spurred controversy and criticisms. He attempted to link progressive youth organizations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

He presented two witnesses who claimed they were “students by day and NPA by night”—a giveaway phrase as to where it came from: the military. That he sought to turn a public inquiry, purportedly in aid of legislation, into a witch hunt immediately became obvious.

The frontman in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” also presented parents of youth activists, who apparently had been goaded to vilify leaders of Anakbayan and Kabataan Partylist as “kidnappers who brainwash their members.” Bato’s witch hunt came with memes on social media showing NPA martyrs from the youth sector and victims of state-perpetrated enforced disappearances with a theme, “Sayang ang buhay ng kabataan (Youth lives just wasted).”

Military officers, who had been invited as resource persons, called for a review of an agreement between a youth leader and then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile, prohibiting the presence of state security forces in the universities and colleges. They gave lame excuses, such as to prevent “front organizations” from recruiting students to join the NPA; avert the proliferation of drugs in schools; and give the military an equal opportunity to explain government programs.

Following the Senate inquiry, members of the PNP attempted to conduct “mandatory” drug testing on students at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). Courageous PUP scholars who knew their rights valiantly resisted, driving away the cops from the university premises.

Bato couldn’t wait to use the Senate as platform for pushing the propaganda line against the CPP-NPA of the Duterte regime in its bid to defeat the revolutionary movement before the end of its term.

By striving to directly link the progressive youth organizations with the CPP-NPA and the armed struggle against the reactionary state, the fascist regime aims to justify its red-tagging, harassment, abductions, and killings of youth leaders and activists. The regime blurs—if not totally removes—the distinction between the armed revolutionary movement and the legal, above-ground democratic mass movement fighting for the people’s legitimate demands. It regards the open democratic mass movement as the propaganda component of the armed revolutionary movement.

Thus in the following weeks, the Duterte regime’s red-tagging spree, branding almost all legal organizations as “fronts” of the CPP-NPA, was raised a notch higher. Duterte’s rabid pro-US defense chief urged the illegalization of these organizations by reviving the Anti-Subversion Act of 1957 (the cold war-era legislation that illegalized the CPP; it was repealed under the Ramos government in 1992 as it entered into peace negotiations with the NDFP).

Myth-making through red tags and incessant lies

Red tagging and vilification of people’s organizations is a key facet of the “strategic communication” thrust under the “whole of nation approach (WNA)” of the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program. Under this overarching WNA concept—applied unsuccessfully by the US in its unending wars of intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 and 2002—the regime seeks to “create a movement of and crusade against communist ideology starting with the youth.” It also aims to “assess and conduct counter measures on the current tri-media and social media being infiltrated and targeted by the “CNN [CPP-NPA-NDFP)” through inter-agency collaboration to counter and contain the spread of extremism and revolution.”

What the regime is trying to portray is a supposed state inter-agency collaboration with civil society collaboration against the Left revolutionary movement. While Bato exploits the Senate as platform, Congress is poised to enact repressive measures such as the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law, amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 (the anti-terrorism law), mandatory military training in schools, among others. The Anti-Subversion Law and Human Security Act amendments portray critics and activists as “terrorists,” to justify unrelenting unarmed and armed attacks against them.

Red-tagging and vilification have preceded many cases of extrajudicial killing, torture, arrest and detention and other human rights abuses against farmers, workers, environmentalists, Church people, lawyers, human rights defenders and other sectors.

The Duterte regime’s propaganda machinery involves both the military and civilian bureaucracy, with the former taking the lead role. The composition of the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), formed through Executive Order No. 70 and headed by President Duterte, shows how civilian agencies are being mobilized for counterinsurgency operations.

The NTF has been busy in its efforts to red tag and vilify the legal and progressive mass organizations critical of the Duterte regime and its continuing subservience to US imperialism and obeisance to China as the rising imperialist power.

One of the most glaring incidents of red-tagging happened during the May 2019 elections. PNP men and women in uniform were caught on camera in the act of distributing a PNP newsletter linking Makabayan Coalition-affiliated partylist groups to the underground revolutionary movement.

In other areas such as Panay, Negros, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, leaflets containing a list of persons alleged to be communists were distributed by state agents. In the list are human rights activists, lawyers, members of the religious, journalists, and academics.

Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, AFP deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations, is one of the most vociferous in publicly labeling human rights organizations and sectoral groups as “CPP-NPA fronts” and in peddling the lie that these organizations are involved in “terroristic” activities.

The regime also takes advantage of social media to vilify its the most vocal critics. The Philippine News Agency (PNA) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) makes use of fake photos, fake statements, and incredible claims against leaders of the people’s organizations.

The regime has spent tremendous amounts of taxpayers’ money in disseminating its propaganda against the progressive movement to the international community. The NTF-ELCAC went as far as dispatching a team that visited officials of European Union (EU) member states to red-tag Karapatan, Ibon International, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Gabriela, among others. The task force urged these EU countries to cut funding for organizations serving the most neglected rural communities in the Philippines.

The NTF-ELCAC sent a delegation to the United Nations Working Group on Involuntary Disappearances in Bosnia-Herzegovina and egregiously urged that body to delist 625 cases of enforced disappearances in the Philippines, mostly attributed to state security forces. NTF members also furiously lobbied against the passage of a resolution filed by Iceland in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), urging the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the spate of extrajudicial killings and make a written comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Their lobbying failed; the UNHRC adopted the resolution.

Even the academe, hospitals and other civilian agencies are not spared from the witch hunt. Policemen did rounds in schools, government hospitals and other offices, profiling the members and officers of employees’ unions.

The AFP and PNP have been spreading outright lies. They claim to have succeeded in ending the “insurgency” in some provinces—claims that have repeatedly been belied since the Ramos government first declared, in 1994, that it had strategically defeated the NPA (which it admitted to be untrue several months later). They present to the media fake surrenderers, mostly farmers they either coerced, deceived, or bribed—through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)—into admitting they were NPA members. They churn out these falsehoods to conjure the illusion that they are winning against the revolutionaries.

But when their most heinous crimes are exposed, they readily put the blame on the CPP- NPA. This has been shown in the case of the extrajudicial killings in Negros Oriental. Braving threats and the pain of repeatedly recalling the tragic massacres, families of the victims have testified how their loved ones were killed in cold blood during the joint AFP-PNP’s Oplan Sauron operations.

When members and other paid elements of the AFP and the PNP get killed in legitimate armed encounters, they try hide their defeats, or worse, misrepresent these incidents as violations by the NPA of international humanitarian law.

Criminalizing dissent: the biggest lie

Through the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), the AFP and the PNP jointly try to use the judiciary as a weapon against critics of Duterte and his corrupt and bungling regime. The following are just some examples showing how this administration is criminalizing dissent: the perjury charges filed by Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, the president’s national security adviser, against Karapatan, the RMP, and Gabriela; the sedition and cyberlibel cases filed against Vice President Leni Robredo, political opposition candidates in the May senatorial elections, and some Catholic bishops; and, the kidnapping charges against youth leaders and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

A similar ridiculous and malicious kidnapping and child abuse charges were earlier filed against Bayan Muna President Satur Ocampo and Representative France Castro of Act-Teachers partylist in late 2018, when they helped rescue Lumad students who had been forced out of their school that was shut down by the military.

A number of activists, service providers of progressive NGOs and organizers or campaigners of legal progressive organizations, have also been arrested based on patently made-up accusations including illegal possession of firearms and explosives. In most cases the arresting teams have planted the “evidence” in the activists’ bags they seized, in vehicles or residences as in the case of labor organizer Maoj Maga, long-time peace advocate and NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre, and NDFP peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adel Silva, and recently Esterlita Suaybaguio.

Professional “witnesses” or “surrenderers” dragooned as witnesses are used from one case to another to churn out false testimonies, almost always bordering on the ridiculous. The use of arrest warrants against “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” have become the norm to justify the illegal arrests of any targeted person.

The “multiple murder” case involving, as supposedly prime evidence, “travelling skeletons”—first allegedly dug up from a mass grave in Baybay, Leyte then years later supposedly dugged up again in Inopacan, Leyte—has been discredited and should have been laid to rest long ago.

But, no! The biggest legal fiction of Gloria Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG)—the filing of trumped-up murder charges in 2007 against Ocampo (then Bayan Muna congressman) and several others was questioned before the Supreme Court, which granted Ocampo bail. However, the case awaited action by the highest tribunal for seven years. Only in 2014 did the SC, mostly with new justices sitting, referred the case for trial to a regional trial court. Then after hearings held over about five years, the prosecutors recently asked the court to issue warrants of arrest against 38 of the co-accused, including NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison. The court issued the warrants.

In another case, the Court of Appeals recently junked both the petition for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data filed by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and a similar petition filed by Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela (the NUPL is the groups’ legal counsel). The parallel rulings indicate the sway of military influence on the judiciary. The rulings, issued by different CA divisions, practically denied the human rights defenders the legal remedies sought for their protection against political persecution and threats to their personal security and their lives.

Silencing the media

As part of its “strategic communication” strategy, the Duterte regime has been discrediting the journalism profession in an apparent bid to drown out the truth in media reporting and spread more lies. By calling journalists as bayaran, “press-titute”, and other derogatory labels, Duterte wants the Filipino people to doubt and reject the media’s role as watchdogs in society.

  1. The Duterte regime is trying to intimidate the more critical journalists using some of these methods: Producing fabricated matrices that link to a conjured ouster plot against Duterte the media organizations—the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Vera Files, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)—and individual journalists such as Inday Espina-Varona and Danilo Arao.
  2. Threatening non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise, a virtual Damocles sword on the broadcasting giant.
  3. Filing a string of charges against online news site Rappler and twice trying to detain its CEO.
  4. Conducting “background checks” on journalists. Members of the Philippine National Police Press Corps have reported police visits and interrogations.
  5. Visiting media outfits in the pretext of “getting fair stories” regarding the bloody war on drugs, such as in the case of two media outfits in the Visayas. Some journalists have been included in the drug watch list even though there is no evidence on the alleged use or trade in illegal drugs.
  6. Red-tagging of the NUJP, the largest organization of journalists in the country, for being vocal in its defense of press freedom. Individual members of the NUJP have also been red-tagged.
  7. Utilizing trolls to harass critical journalists. Some of these include, among others, death threats and threats of raping women journalists.
  8. Launching systematic cyber attacks against alternative media websites Bulatlat, Kodao, Altermidya, Pinoy Weekly and NUJP. The cyber attacks have also targeted the websites of Bayan, Karapatan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Ibon and scores of other organizations, including the CPP’s Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC). Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation’s forensic report on the cyber attacks revealed that the attacks were launched on websites which are based in the Philippines.

The escalation of cyber attacks and vilification of media outfits, critical think tanks, progressive service-oriented NGOs and people’s organizations are also part of the Duterte regime’s “strategic communication” plan. The AFP first announced its creation of a cyber workforce in 2017. Since then until 2019, the AFP, the PNP and the Philippine Coast Guard have yearly held a Cybersecurity Summit.

Early this year, the Duterte regime launched a national cybersecurity plan. It created a cybersecurity management system “to monitor cyber threats,” headed by the Integrated Computer Systems (ICS) and the Israeli surveillance company Verint, with an initial licensing period of three years. Verint is a billion-dollar company with a global interception and surveillance empires.

The Duterte regime’s dirty propaganda tactics are coupled with heightening repression.

Labeling activists interchangeably as “terrorists,” “suspected drug addicts,” “kidnappers,” and the like aims to demonize and criminalize dissent and justify their killing and other human rights violations against them.

All these latest misuse of new technology to spread lies, combined with the age-old armed repression, are like carpetbombs seeking to harm not only the armed revolutionaries. Mostly targeted are citizens critical of the regime, the activists, the Church, the media and any other supporter of human rights and the struggle for genuine democracy.

The intended victims of this campaign are unarmed, visible and easy targets. The Duterte regime is fighting a truly dirty war. But the more it lies and kills even non-combatants, the more it reveals the bankruptcy of any promised good inuring to the people that it trots out to justify this dirty and costly war.

As such, the Duterte regime and its dirty war will not likely last long. With every attack it reveals its true face, the face of a rotting government that is puppet to foreign interests and seeking to maintain a crumbling status quo. It only highlights the correctness of waging and advancing the now 50-year national democratic revolution.

To break the cycle of lies and killings being perpetrated by this fascist regime, the people here and abroad should harness the courage and will power to expose and denounce its lies, and call for ever-broadening people’s resistance.###

#DuterTerorista
#FightTyranny
#DefendPressFreedom
#MakibakaWagMatakot

—–
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Have we got the government we deserved?

in Editorial

The midterm elections of 2019 have come and passed, as in previous ones, tainted with doubts over the results and assumptions of machinations by those in power.

As cynically expected, the Duterte regime emerged “victorious”. Almost all of its candidates were declared winners, with its most loyal vassals – the omnipresent presidential assistant Bong Go and the comedian former Philipppine National Police (PNP) Director Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa – making it to the top-6 circle in the senatorial race.

Now the President has got the supermajority in the Senate, aided by the comebacking election of scions of political dynasties, the daughter of a deposed dictator, a known plunderer, and a celebrity wannabe.

The opposition Liberal Party has been crippled, as the Otso Diretso senatorial slate did not win a single seat. And progressive candidate Neri Colmenares – who notably consistently engaged the administration on timely and popularly-supported issues throughout the campaign period – saw his votes in the 2016 elections shaved by 1.7 million votes. “Duterte magic?” asked a skeptical election analyst.

Having retained a clear majority in the House of Representatives, Duterte has openly dictated a term-sharing scheme for the Speakership in the 17th Congress: the first 15 months on the rostrum for Representative Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig, and the remaining 21 months for Representative Lord Velasco of Marinduque. Before this arrangement, Duterte’s son Paulo (elected Davao City congressman) and daughter Sara (reelected Davao City mayor) unabashedly displayed their own power-tripping by forming a “Duterte Coalition” in the House to back up comebacking Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab for Speaker.

The sole positive aspect of this election was the tenacity and resiliency with which the progressive partylists belonging to the Makabayan Coalition defiantly withstood and prevailed against the sustained, vicious, nationwide attacks and deceptions used against them by the military-bureacratic machine of the Duterte regime.

To a considerable extent, the voters rejected the regime’s open campaign of “zero votes for the Makabayan partylists,” aimed at dislodging the progressives from their congressional seats held since 2001. Bayan Muna won the three maximum seats allowed by the law, while Gabriela Women’s Party, Act Teachers, and Kabataan Party won a seat each. Only Anakpawis fell short in attaining the number of votes for one seat. The Makabayan bloc, the real consistent opposition in the House, remains intact.

The state machinery was slyly at work before, during, and after the elections. Its most brutal attacks were aimed at progressive candidates and partylists – ranging from killings, arrests and trumped-up charges, harassments and threats, to interminable red-tagging. Brazenly disregarding the clear prohibition by the Constitution, the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines openly engaged in electioneering, campaigning against the progressives even on election day. Vote buying was more massive and rampant than ever. And the much-assailed automated election system (AES), used for the fourth time, recorded the worst incidences of malfunctions that appeared to have been intentional, not accidental (as one IT expert remarked).

Nevertheless, the elections are over and as the winners claim, “The people have spoken.”

Really?

WHAT FALLACY

The elections are meant to be a democratic exercise. The exercise is said to be a great equalizer – rich or poor, everyone is entitled to only one vote. But that is the fallacy of the ballot-box equality. In a class society like the Philippines, the machinery of the state is lodged in the hands of a few, of the rich and the powerful. The great majority is, in reality, represented only in name in these processes and has no real say in the turnout of the elections.

In truth, elections only make it possible for the ruling class to use democratic institutions in furthering their own interests. They have the economic, political, and armed means to use power practically at their whim. This is no democracy at all.

The much-touted “free, fair and honest elections” aphorism is an illusion. Practically anyone who is of age and has the mental capacity can run for public office, but only the moneyed elite can successfully run a campaign, or simply resort to vote buying. The people can choose their representatives, but again only from among the moneyed and the elite. Even if asked to vote wisely, many people are bribed, fooled, hoodwinked, cheated, or forced to vote even for the most undesirable of their oppressors. People want a peaceful election, but threats, intimidation, and violence abound.

When Otso Diretso lost to Duterte, some sectors started calling the voters “bobotante”. The system, not the people, is the culprit. Elections in a semifeudal and semicolonial society are a hoax and fraud is a common occurrence.
Democratic laws and institutions are ample in this Republic claiming to be a democratic state – but only in form, not for real. Human rights are enshrined in the Constitution but state officials are the first to violate, dismiss or disregard the laws. Duterte is a prime example. There are three branches of government for check and balance. But the ruling regime regards all the key posts within the president’s appointing authority as juicy positions to reward its loyalists and supporters.

The minority rules and the majority suffer. That is the meaning of democracy in a semifeudal and semicolonial country.

Despite this rude reality, it is important for the people to participate in the elections as a way to experience and develop their consciousness about how rotten the system is, and what fundamental changes need to be done. The elections become a training ground for the development of revolutionary consciousness. It makes people realize that democracy is lip-service and that the voice of the people can be suppressed or manipulated at any time.

Even elected officials whom the people may initially have felt were true to their promises can turn out to be corrupt, or worse, to be tyrants as in the case of Duterte. The ancient Greeks invented the term tyrant to mean agents of the people who became dictators.

In some cases, progressives and reformers are able to gain power or concessions but only in a limited or temporary sense, and as generally defined, may be tolerated or allowed by the ruling system. Again, this is more an exception than the rule; and exceptions do not make the rule. Once the ruling regime unleashes its full terror, there is no more room for democratic pretensions and all arenas for open people’s participation are deemed closed.

PURSUING DEMOCRACY

Be that as it may, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has even more reason to pursue democracy not just in form but in substance. Its significance – the rule of the majority – is aimed not just in politics but more so in the economic sphere.

In the Philippine context, this means liberating the most numerous, yet also the most oppressed, class – specifically the farmers and agricultural workers who comprise 70% of the population – from oppression and exploitation by a privileged minority.

Hence to stand its ground democracy must be rooted in the economy, which means satisfying the demand for land reform of the landless majority. This means addressing their economic and social problems to effect changes in their class position in Philippine society. This means liberating the country’s productive forces to define their own existence towards justice and prosperity. For too long, widespread landlessness has engendered gross poverty and inequality not just for the peasantry but also for other oppressed classes.

Hence in waging the people’s democratic revolution, the struggle for land takes precedence over all other demands of the people. This is basically an agrarian war. The peasants, in alliance with the working class, have to wrest control of the land from the ruling elite as a means to end poverty and inequality. This is a struggle that may be bloody, because the most reactionary class, the landlords, will not take this sitting down when their land monopoly is challenged, or private property is subdivided and distributed among the tillers of the land.

In due time, as the revolution advances the will of the majority shall find expression not just in the economy but in politics as well. One who holds economic power wields political power. Hence the dominant position of the great majority must be secured for the flowering of true democracy.

Revolutionaries are aware that the quest for democracy does not stop with the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution but shall be carried on to the next stage, the socialist revolution. Ultimately the working class becomes the majority of the population, and the dominant class as well. The leadership of this class will find expression in a proletarian state until such time that the people can govern their own lives with no more need for classes or states.

As Lenin put it, it is not the bourgeoisie but the proletariat who can make democracy happen.

True enough, in the Philippines and through the leadership of the proletarian party, the CPP, changes are becoming more visible in many guerrilla fronts in the country.

Emboldened by the revolution, the peasants in the countryside are not just taking up arms to fight for their rights; they are building their own organizations and setting up organs of political power. Elections are called in a truly free, fair and honest manner; the ballot is treated as sacred; representatives are selected from their own ranks and are subject to recall when they err.

Group meetings, mass assemblies, education sessions, deliberations, consultations have become as common as farming. The people are involved in governance as well as in policy-making. Even matters related to production is no longer just an individual or family decision but is addressed by the entire community.

Once the majority of the people gains the power over their own lives – that will be democracy. And that is what the ruling class fears most: an awakened citizenry schooled in the ways of democracy.#

—–
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