Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 27      August 13 - 19, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Macapagal-Arroyo’s ‘Silent War’ Vs the Left
What Drives Macapagal-Arroyo’s “Silent War”?
Last of three parts

The issue of political murders is tied to the issue of regime survival.


The recent directive of Macapagal-Arroyo to the justice department and Philippine National Police (PNP) to solve at least 10 political killings in 10 weeks is obviously just for show. The PNP is not only involved in counter-insurgency itself but its own Task Force Usig, which is charged with investigating the political crimes, according to a recent international fact-finding mission of Dutch and Belgian judges and lawyers, “has not proven to be an independent body…the PNP has a poor record as far as the effective investigation of the killings is concerned and is mistrusted by the Philippine people.”

Macapagal-Arroyo condemned “in the harshest possible terms” political killings but only after praising Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has been accused by human rights and militant groups of masterminding political killings in regions where he was assigned.  She also has taken no heed to clamors for the formation of an impartial truth commission to look into the political murders. A highly independent probe will likely unearth the whole truth and the trail of blood might yet be traced to the doors of the presidency itself. This is a danger zone for the regime.

All these, meanwhile, continue to give the Macapagal-Arroyo regime the latitude to keep the counter-insurgency-terrorism campaign on track that could also mean continued political killings and a culture of impunity.

Macapagal-Arroyo’s “end game strategy” – now cut to two years – is expected to fail to wipe out the Leftist rebellion for not even she or her generals know the answer on how to solve this 37-year-long “lingering problem.” Assuming that death squads are the main instrument for ending the armed rebellion, then the spate of killings will need to be at a high level targeting the tens of thousands of activists and a claimed mass constituency of millions. The armed Left has sustained 37 years of guerrilla war and survived repression campaigns equal to – if not more atrocious than – that mounted by Macapagal-Arroyo’s security forces today.

Pragmatic rulers, including Ramos, have admitted that it will take more than military solutions to solve it and this means perhaps having the political will to pursue meaningful socio-economic reforms. Presidents are not actually driven by long-term visions: They exist simply based on short-term goals – or narrow political interests.

This paper shares the theory that the graft-ridden AFP in particular its top hierarchy is motivated by the need to justify its whopping budget which includes its “modernization” program and for this it needs to keep its membership in combat mode. Career generals need to show a record of performance for promotion and post-retirement benefits. An active counter-insurgency, especially if it is integrated with the global “war on terror”, will continue to draw full U.S. and other foreign military assistance.

Political leverage

However, Macapagal-Arroyo’s short-term military approach is apparently tied to a political leverage. Former government chief peace negotiator, Silvestre Bello III, recently spilled the beans somewhat when he said that the current internal security plan aims to force the NDFP back to the negotiating table where the GRP panel can talk “from a position of strength.” It is likely therefore that the “terror” tack of the AFP’s end-game strategy (specifically the killing of civilians, as alleged) could escalate further in two years assuming that it can be used as a political blackmail to force the NDFP forces to capitulate.

This dirty ploy addresses the U.S. opposition to negotiating with the Left and its preference for keeping the military ante in order to force the NDFP to surrender. This is likely the reason why the Macapagal-Arroyo government conspired with the U.S. to include the CPP-NPA and the NDFP’s senior political consultant, Jose Maria Sison, in the state department’s list of “foreign terrorist organizations” even as diplomatic efforts were also made with European and other governments to do the same. Thereafter, the government panel pressed the NDFP side to accept a fast-track formula for the talks, which was essentially a blueprint for surrender. Both tactics provoked the NDFP to protest leading eventually to the collapse of the peace talks in Oslo. The government responded with the unilateral suspension of JASIG followed, coincidentally, by the escalation of political killings.

In the end, whether the Macapagal-Arroyo regime can indeed force the Left to surrender is not the end-result she’s eyeing. What matters is that the present hard-line strategy against the Left – and the role that the AFP takes – will go a long way toward ensuring continued U.S. support that can be coursed through an AFP that remains on the side of its commander-in-chief. Macapagal-Arroyo has pledged fatter budgets for the graft-ridden AFP and even fatter salaries for its generals.

For that, after all, is what matters most for Macapagal-Arroyo at the moment. Having lost the constitutional legitimacy to govern, and faced with continuing prospects of impeachment, coup threats and a worsening political crisis – not to mention the total breakdown of law under her rule - the presumptive president must hang on to the apron of the U.S., and its powerbroker in the Philippines, the AFP. Just like in the Marcos years, constitutional illegitimacy and the weakening of political institutions have led to the worsening of human rights violations.

Indeed, the issue of political murders is tied to the survival of the regime. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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