A review of the Arroyo tenure so far may provide answers.
The banality of the Trapos
Whoever expected Arroyo to be an improvement over Estrada must be a self-deluded innocent if not a Hobbesian fetishist. Since her access to government power through the flawed 2004 voting exercise, Arroyo has turned out to be a huge disappointment to those who supported her in EDSA II as an alternative to the jueteng lord. Arroyo was definitely not a Cory Aquino with the charisma of the martyred Ninoy. Arroyo’s experience in politics conformed to the routine career of a member of local oligarchic dynasties; but her clan grew rich primarily from bureaucratic and business manipulation, secondarily through landlord exploitation.
Today, underworld linkages (with U.S. connections) surround Arroyo’s clan and “tribal” cronies. This is not unusual for a traditional politician reared in clientelism (San Juan 2000). What is missing is any civic ambition or project of constructing an ideological platform to articulate the consensus of her followers, if not the organic teleology of her class allies. She has to resign herself to hackneyed anticommunist slogans refurbished for the militarist technocrats of neoliberal globalization. Arroyo might appear for some benighted Makati aristocrats to resemble Ferdinand Marcos—without the savvy and pretense to intellectual substance of the latter. Despite U.S. tutelage, Arroyo’s managerial mode of crass pragmatic opportunism demonstrates an essentially autocratic style of governance appropriately synchronized with the dictates of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, and the Washington Consensus.
Right from the beginning, Arroyo’s ascendancy was characterized by rampant human rights violations. Based on the reports of numerous fact-finding missions, Arroyo has presided over an unprecedented series of harassment, warrantless arrest, and assassination of journalists, lawyers, church people, peasant leaders, legislators, doctors, women activists, youthful students, indigenous leaders, and workers. The human rights watchdog KARAPATAN has documented the brutalization of 169,530 individual victims, 18,515 families, 71 communities and 196 households. Arroyo has been tellingly silent over the killing and abduction of countless members of opposition parties and popular organizations. Most of those killed or “disappeared” were peasant or worker activists belonging to progressive groups such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Anakbayan, Karapatan, KMU, and others (Petras and Abaya 2006). They were protesting Arroyo’s repressive taxation, collusion with foreign capital tied to oil and mining companies that destroy people’s livelihood and environment, fraudulent use of public funds, and other anti-people measures. Such groups and individuals have been tagged as “communist fronts” by Arroyo’s National Security Adviser, the military and police; the latter agencies have been implicated in perpetrating or tolerating those ruthless atrocities.
Recently, General Jovito Palparan of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division, reputedly the most notorious instigator of these outrageous brutalities, has fomented a climate of fear and impunity in Central Luzon. Sixty percent of the killings this year have occurred in his domain. Civilians who are unable to show cedulas or community tax certificates are humiliated, jailed and tortured for being NPA members, or sympathizers. His army of occupation has earned distinction as a worthy successor to the abusive Japanese Kempetei, inflicting indignity, injury and death on terrorized subjects (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 August 2006, A12).
National Emergency as state dogma
Relentless corruption, cynical divide-and-rule manipulation, and the outright lack of any concern for the people’s welfare have distinguished Arroyo’s unconscionable rule from its inception. Faced with the loss of moral and political legitimacy, Arroyo has institutionalized a pattern of terror throughout the country since taking the reins of government. Particularly with the 2001/2004 election of party-list representatives from Bayan Muna, killings, abductions and outright harassment of anyone criticizing the government have intensified. Despite having only three elected representatives in Congress and a few allies, Bayan Muna is now considered a serious threat that should be “neutralized” by police action. Without any open proof or evidence, Bayan Muna is construed by Arroyo and the AFP as a surrogate, a stand-in, for the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines.