U.S.-Arroyo State Terrorism and the Crisis of Comprador-Oligarchic Governance

Clive Thomas argues that neocolonial underdevelopment in general restricts “the practice of ‘bourgeois’ ideas of legality and equality…among the population at large, particularly since these are founded on the ‘equality’ of all individuals in the marketplace” (1984, 85; compare the analysis of Macpherson 1962), so that political and legal relations have not been democratically transformed along bourgeois lines. This may apply to the large social domain where patriarchal, quasi-feudal, clientelist relations still prevail, including the authoritarian space of the military and technocratic bureaucracy inhabited by the likes of Arroyo, General Palparan, and their ilk. But surely not to the collective, dynamic spaces of proletarian struggle, indigenous community actions, women’s mobilization, artist’s nomadic organizations, civil society activism, and the liberated guerilla zones (San Juan 2002).

U.S. imperialism then fashioned the technocratic scheme of “low-intensity warfare” to deal with upheavals in the post-Vietnam period. Its military field manuals endorsed tactical tools of unconventional warfare: psychological warfare, forced mass evacuations or “hamletting,” imprisonment of whole communities in military garrisons, militarization of villages, selective assassinations, disappearances, mass executions, etc. Tried in IndoChina, Korea, Central America, it continues to be implemented in Colombia, Iraq, and the Philippines. But contrary to Walden Bello’s (1989) view that U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine relied chiefly on a political-ideological offensive, the truth is the opposite. For example, Aquino’s “Yellow Revolution” would not have survived without overt and covert U.S. military support of the so-called “NAFP” (New Armed Forces of the Philippines) against coup attempts and insurgent assaults, especially from intransigent Moro partisans. With U.S. help, the AFP mobilized vigilante and paramilitary death squads with license to kill revolutionary militants, immune from prosecution. U.S. military force midwifed the restoration of U.S.-backed oligarchic oppression of the Filipino masses. Even granting its moral “high ground” over the Marcos dictatorship, the political bankruptcy of the Aquino dispensation, including those of her successors Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo, cannot distract us from the barbarism of neoliberal globalization in the “New World Order’ with which they connived and in which they flourished (Falk 1993).

Beginning in 2002, the Arroyo government and the AFP implemented OBL, an “end-game strategy” to defeat the Communist Party and the NPA in two years. Arroyo even boasted of her one-billion peso funding of the combined military-police offensive against the NPA. Revised as the “Enhanced National Internal Security Plan,” OBL combines elements of the U.S. doctrine of “low intensity warfare” with more draconian tactics of the post-9/11“War against Terrorism.” Apart from psywar black propaganda, OBL synthesizes combat, intelligence and civil-military operations to attack the “critical vulnerabilities” and “support systems” of the enemy. In this case, the enemy refers to all progressive, nationalist Filipinos critical of Arroyo and U.S. aggression. OBL has targeted legitimate political parties such as Bayan Muna, whose representatives were elected to Congress, and other cause-oriented groups. Its aim is to “neutralize” (that is, physically eliminate) the “terrorists,” which includes not only the Abu Sayyaf, but mainly the “communists” in alleged sectoral fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

A few provisional observations so far may be made here. In effect, Arroyo state terrorism is designed to 1) insure regime survival and reproduction of its personnel; 2) protect the privileges of the elite and the capital accumulation of a class fraction of the ruling bloc; and 3) promote neoliberal/U.S. hegemonic supremacy in Asia and the world, given its historic dependency on the former colonizers. Specifically, state terrorism deployed by the AFP attacks civilians to force them to abandon their support of the revolutionary and progressive forces. It uses military-police violence and its bureaucratic machinery to put the public in fear for specific political ends, such as those listed above. In such a climate of widespread fear, danger and dismay, in which violence strikes the hapless victims as something arbitrary and random, the consequence of unleashing methodical systematic force, namely, obedience to those wielding power and monopolizing resources, seems assured. This appears to be the logic of the Arroyo brand of state terrorism.

Homegrown fascism

This logic is in turn rationalized with shoddy ideological platitudes. Since anti-communism has always been conflated with anti-terrorism from the start, it is easy to justify the killing of suspected terrorist “enemies of the state.” This may explain why the AFP continues to pursue a fanatical anti-communist program today even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capitalist reversal in China and in Eastern Europe. Its Christian chauvinist orientation militates against any pluralist outlook or even multiculturalist sympathy for the plight of the Bangsa Moro people and other indigenous communities (Igorots, Lumad) who have organized and armed themselves to fight for justice and dignity, for regaining their ancestral habitats.

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