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National Democratic Front of the Philippines

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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On Culture and Fascism under the Duterte Regime

in Arts & Literature/Countercurrent
by Alejo Nicolas

President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime can now appropriately be described as a looming fascist dictatorship: one wherein mechanisms, operations, and systems are being put in place towards a full-blown resurrection of the Marcos authoritarian rule, which in 1986 was ousted by the people’s collective action.

The term “fascism”, first used to denote ultranationalist and right-wing governments in Europe, is understood in the Philippine context as rooted in bureaucrat capitalism. In Philippine Society and Revolution, Amado Guerrero discusses how the country’s political landscape changed from direct colonial occupation under Spain, Japan, and the United States to a neocolonial republic ruled by a succession of Filipino puppet regimes since 1946.

Led by bureaucrat capitalists, these regimes continue to protect imperialist and feudal interests by maintaining a deceptive bourgeois democracy supported by the entire state machinery of the military, police, courts, penal system and cultural institutions. However, such a regime can revert to outright authoritarian rule when the people’s resistance threatens the existing order, as shown by Ferdinand Marcos’s imposition of Martial Law in 1972.

Fascism and Philippine culture

The past two-and-a-half years under President Duterte were marked by the regime’s increasing use of deception, threat/intimidation, coercion, and armed violence against the people.

Its campaign, through police brutality and reckless killings, against the proliferation of illegal drugs and its counterinsurgency plan of deception and “all-out war” against the advance of revolutionary and progressive forces have left tens of thousands dead or displaced. The breakdown in the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was followed by crackdowns: illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, and false charges against hundreds of civilians. Martial Law in Mindanao was declared in May 2017 during the armed conflict in Marawi. It has been extended three times until the end of December 2019.

In October 2018, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fanned the false alarm of a “Red October” destabilization plot as a pretext for expanding such repression to the rest of the country. Although the faked destabilization plot has been thoroughly exposed, the security forces have continued to sustain it as a reference point for its expanded counterinsurgency operations.

The Philippines is witnessing the turn towards fascism across different fronts. It is crucial to consider this rising state of tyranny not only in the military and political spheres, but also in the field of culture which is part of the arena of class struggle. Culture encompasses all spheres of social behavior while art distills, reflects, and refracts human and social experience. How is state violence reinforced, reflected, diffused or deployed by cultural institutions? How does it appear across everyday discourse, popular culture, mass and social media, the visual arts, film, literature, architecture, and more? And lastly, how is the people’s anti-fascist struggle conveyed across culture and the arts?

Signs of tyranny

Fascist rule in the Philippines is reinforced in the way the state wields culture and art to, first, openly suppress and demonize the people’s struggle through censorship and harassment. On the other hand, it also selectively patronizes and supports initiatives that whitewash and sanitize the repression of the regime. Over the past two and a half years, the following developments can be noted:

2015: The President as populist but anti-people personality. Since the start of the presidential electoral campaign in 2016, Duterte’s outrageous conduct, language, and gestures have generated controversy and aghast. His years in power, however, have been marked by more vile, sexist, misogynistic, anti-religious, and anti-people statements.

Since assuming office, he has threatened and began to slaughter suspected drug addicts, to bomb Lumad schools. He told a United Nations rapporteur on human rights to go to hell, denigrated the International Criminal Court prosecutor for being black, and ordered troops to shoot woman rebels in the vagina. Recently, he urged street idlers to rob and even to kill bishops critical of his war on drugs and EJKs, and described rape against overseas Filipino workers—whom he referred to as those “working as slaves [overseas]”—as “com(ing) with the territory, ‘kasali sa kultura (it’s part of the culture).”

These can not be dismissed as simple rhetoric, as they reflect and symbolically justify actual states of violence happening everyday. As a key political figure—the head of state no less— Duterte’s every word and action is covered and amplified by mass and social media, reaching and influencing millions of people inside and outside the Philippines and enabling public acceptance of fascist rule.

A succession of spokespersons for the regime’s propaganda machinery, each worse than the previous one, adds to the circus of disinformation and lies. These messages, many of which express the disregard for human rights, feed a populist cult of personality which breeds blind obedience to the President, fueled by a paid social media army of trolls.

2016: Memorializing a tyrant and reinstating fascist figures. Among the first nationally-condemned acts of Duterte as President was to enable the family of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos to bury his remains with military honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in September 2016, with the backing of the Supreme Court. The occasion also gave the Marcoses air time to sanitize and whitewash their family’s history of bloody fascist rule.

Allowing the dictator’s remains to rest in the country’s supposed memorial cemetery for heroes sends a strong symbolic message to the Filipino people: that a deposed and dead dictator can be valorized, honored, and restored to state power. It is an insult and assault to past and present generations who resisted Martial Rule.

This enabling and restoring of proven fascist figures was again unabashedly shown in July 2018, when former President Glora Macapagal-Arroyo, questionably acquitted of plunder by the state courts in 2016, crawled back into the halls of power and installed herself as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She has since engineered the passage by the House of a joint resolution of both legislative chambers calling for changes in the 1987 constitution that, among others, removes the ban on political dynasties and term limits to all elective officials, and insidiously aims to cancel the May mid-term elections to prolong her and other incumbent officials’ terms until 2022.

2017: Rising state impunity and EJKs. The “war” on illegal drugs was a campaign platform of Duterte. Tokhang operations, surveillance, and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of suspected drug addicts started in mid-2016 and he has vowed to continue the drive till the end of his term—without assurance of winning the “war”. The number of estimated drug suspects killed since July 2016 ranges from 4,251 to over 20,000 people.

The government continues to deny that a culture of impunity exists and to downplay the gravity of the deaths. Outside of official reports, however, the frequency, undeniability and brutality of the EJKs in the drug war is documented by media workers and reflected in the many artistic works or initiatives that represent the drug war as a theme, setting, or reference.

Examples from Philippine films of 2017, for instance, include Bubog, EJK, Neomanila, Respeto, The Right to Kill, Madilim Ang Gabi, Adik, Double Barrel, Durugin Ang Droga, Kamandag Ng Droga and Si Tokhang At Ang Tropang Buang. Some films support an anti-drug stance that does not deviate from the government’s own discourse, while others more critically reflect how the drug war has affected lives, for worse, across urban to rural communities.

Government propaganda campaigns aiming to justify this state of impunity have intensified. The Philippine National Police (PNP), for instance, stepped up initiatives such as the 1st PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Festival in July 2017. And resigned PCOO Undersecretary Mocha Uson attempted to parade fake Lumad leaders in hopes of discrediting genuine community leaders.

2018: Heightened attacks and counter-insurgency. The ever-increasing influence of the AFP is reflected in the militarization of the Duterte Cabinet and the sabotage of the peace process towards an all out war against Philippine revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the NDFP. By December 2017, issuances such as Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group set the stage for heightened assaults against both revolutionary forces and civilians critical of the regime. Since entering the second half 2018, the AFP has been fanning the flame of imagined destabilization plots and has been similarly extending the timeline of these to the end of the year.

This counter-revolutionary war against “terror” led by the AFP in the countryside continues to target and displace the broad masses from countless communities. There is nothing more fascist than the current killing spree of activists, civilians and progressives across the country. The EJKs, massacres, harassments, and arrests of activists and members of progressive organizations have risen sharply since 2017, mostly targetting farmers, lawyers, indigenous peoples, health and Church workers, media workers, union leaders, and environmentalists.

The counter-insurgency drive is also expressed in forms of harassment, such as the circulation of black propaganda and red-tagging of civilians and attacks against institutions of mass media, which attempt to paint all dissenters to the regime as “destabilizers” who must be neutralized. Individuals, schools, universities and institutions or organizations holding cultural, media or educational activities critical of the regime are now being openly red-tagged.

Art and culture for the anti-fascist struggle

The culture of impunity and fascism unleashed during the past two and a half years under Duterte underscores the looming danger to all revolutionary and progressive forces. On the other hand, it also points to the regime’s increasing desperation over the rising popular unrest fuelled by worsening socio-economic crisis in semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippines. The lingering discontent over high inflation rates, rising prices, dislocation of communities due to neoliberalization, and lack of employment and substantive development in urban and rural areas only gives rise to more expressions of collective dissent.

“This rise of fascism is not a sign of strength but in essence is show of despair and weakness,” Guerrero noted in Philippine Society and Revolution during the pre-Martial law era, adding:

“Fascism is on the rise precisely because the revolutionary mass movement is surging forward and the split among reactionaries is becoming more violent…the exposé of the violent character of the reactionaries will only teach the masses to defend themselves and assert their own power.”

These words ring as true then as in the present time. When words and gestures fail to deceive the Filipino people into submission, the state apparatus of force and repression kicks into high gear. The worsening culture of impunity, terror and fascism that has defined the Duterte regime so far reflects how the reactionary state now resorts to desperate measures. The proliferation of trolls, paid hacks, fake news, disinformation and black propaganda only emphasize how the reactionary regime is quickly mobilizing resources to discredit the recent gains of revolutionary and militant struggle by the people.

On the other hand, the threats under a fascist dictatorship have done little to deter and prevent Filipino artists, cultural and media workers, organizations and communities from expressing the anti-fascist struggle through creative and collective means. If there is anything that history and the past years under Pres. Duterte have emphasized in the field of culture, it is how art that has resisted fascism possesses great potential to mobilize and agitate diverse sectors of Philippine society to collectively act against the threat of tyranny and dictatorship.

The Filipino people’s cultural resistance against fascist rule has, across time, yielded compelling forms and practices that exposed the depravity of the state’s counter-revolutionary campaigns and the extent of human rights violations against the people.

Through such efforts, the Duterte regime, for instance, has been mocked and unmasked early on as another iron-fisted and essentially anti-people fascist puppet regime. It has been exposed as a railroader of socio-economic policies that reinforce neoliberal and feudal class interests and drag the Filipino toiling masses into more poverty and hardship.

Lastly, the people’s cultural resistance has also documented, made vivid and advanced the growth of the mass movement and the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside. As the Party observed its fifth decade of advancing the Philippine revolution, these efforts help show and testify to how struggle and optimism continues to grow amid heightened counter-insurgency by another puppet regime.

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.

 

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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