The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) has confirmed that the majority of human rights violations have been committed by the AFP, the Philippine National Police, and the CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit). And this could not have occurred without the tacit or covert approval of Arroyo and her advisers. As the Promotion of Church People’s Response put it in their Feb. 24 Statement: “GMA cheated her way to victory in the May 2004 elections, using public funds to secure votes in her favor and rig the election results….GMA’s record of political killings and violations of civil liberties, especially with her Calibrated Preemptive Response scheme, is now the worst since the downfall of Marcos… President Arroyo’s Proclamation 1017 constitutes a flagrant violation of the Philippine Constitution via the pretext of a “National Emergency.”
In truth, it is Arroyo’s emergency. Arroyo’s suppression of civil liberties and constitutional rights carried out by the military and police opens the way to militarist brutal dictatorship reminiscent of Marcos’ authoritarian rule. Unlike Marcos, however, Arroyo does not have the full support of the comprador and landlord oligarchy; Ramos, Estrada, Aquino and other factions of the ruling class that they represent have demanded her resignation. Clearly these groups, with obvious support from the U.S., would prefer “business as usual”—a managed transition to a legitimate administration elected by the majority, with a program of economic and political reforms to solve rampant graft and corruption, endemic unemployment, deepening poverty and hopelessness of the masses. Can such a transition be peacefully administered by the traditional politicians (such as De Venecia) with U.S. patronage?
Evidently, Arroyo’s “National Emergency” decree arrogated to a clique or fraction of the ruling class the use of the coercive State apparatus (courts, police, jails, all public offices and funds) to promote the interest of a few families and their extended retinues (see Sheila Coronel, Inside PCIJ, Feb. 27, 2006). Some politicians asked Arroyo to explain her decree. Was it meant to guarantee “peace for national development,” as OBL purports to be? Since taking power in 2001, Arroyo has never explained the role of the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) in the killing or brutalization of thousands of peasants, workers, women, professionals, Moros, Lumads, and youth. No explanation has been given for the lack of decent jobs for thousands who leave everyday—over 100,000 nurses and doctors left in the last decade. No explanation for the collapse of the nation’s health care system. No explanation for the violence against women, for the pollution of habitats, the neglect of OFWs raped and beaten and killed. No explanation for the hunger, diseases, and misery afflicting millions of Filipinos.
Devoid of any “check-and-balance’ restraint from Congress or Court, Arroyo’s administrative hubris has been unleashed chiefly on the progressive and nationalist sectors of the citizenry. Should we expect a massacre of Indonesian or Chilean proportions? Marcos tried to do it, but he had to compromise in the end. Clearly, today, the hand of the U.S. and its agents has been exposed in directing this selective dragnet, even as the U.S. Embassy continues to assert sovereignty over four American soldiers charged by the Philippine Court with rape. Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. Special Forces and their mighty warships are standing by, just in case. A recent news item about the U.S. holding secret negotiations (with the approval of local officials) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to establish a new military base in MILF-held territory in Mindanao confirms the U.S. stranglehold on the Arroyo regime (Scarpello 2006).
The failure of the inept, corrupt regimes of Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo is also evidenced by the continuing Bangsa Moro insurgency led by militants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). In this context, the breakdown of the MNLF-Misuari accommodation also proves how fragile is the peace won by Malacañang bribery, coercion, and promises. Hence the need of the U.S. after the 9/11 attack to stigmatize the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines as terrorist organizations, capitalizing on the repulsive acts of the Abu Sayyaf and the pervasive climate of fear following the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, and elsewhere. In this context, OBL serves as an instrument for advancing U.S. global hegemony. This will not stop the disintegration of the neocolonial order and the defeat of the U.S. salvaging of its Frankenstein monster.
United States patronage
One of the first signs of the vulnerability of Arroyo’s position may be found in her yielding to the massive popular demand for withdrawal of Filipino troops in Iraq following the Angelo de la Cruz kidnapping. Of course, she tried to exploit its “nationalist” potential. But her continuing servility to Bush’s imperialist aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, together with her obedience to the WTO neoliberal program of privatization and deregulation, continues to reinforce her utter dependency on global forces that only serve to undermine her presumptive authority, her claim to represent the Filipino nation as President of the Republic.
After the 9/11 disaster, Arroyo was the first to embrace Bush’s pre-emptive war against anti-imperialist forces. She invited thousands of U.S. Special Forces to engage in police actions together with the AFP, thus violating an explicit Constitutional provision against the intervention of foreign troops in local affairs. She followed Fidel Ramos in implementing the Visiting Forces Agreement, together with other onerous treaties, thus maintaining U.S. control of the Philippine military via training of officers, logistics, and dictation of punitive measures against the Moro insurgents as well as the New People’s Army guerillas. The Philippines became the “second front in the war on terror,” with Bush visiting the Philippines in October 2003 and citing the neocolony as a model for the rebuilding of devastated Iraq (for the character of the new U.S. imperialism, see Foster and McChesney 2004).
National sovereignty has been offered by Arroyo as a fungible commodity in the world market. Between 2000 and 2003, U.S. military assistance to Arroyo jumped by an impressive 1,776 percent. The Philippines is already number one in Asia and fourth in the world as the largest beneficiary of US military aid. From $65 million in 2004, U.S. military aid increased to $80 million chiefly to serve counter-terrorism schemes like OBL (Philippine Aidwatch Network 2005). Aside from the May 2006 agreement regularizing the annual Joint U.S.-Philippines Special Operations Task Force military exercises that extend to “non-traditional security concerns,” what is more alarming is the thrust of the U.S. AID ‘s “2003 Conflict Vulnerability Assessment,” its strategy for 2004-2009 which addresses “conflicts outside Mindanao where poverty and social injustice can help to create fertile ground for organized violence and terrorism” (Tuazon 2006). Shades of Magsaysay/Lansdale clones engaged in counter-revolutionary plotting!