Metro Militarization: Part of a Bigger Plan?

The deployment of troops in Metro Manila completes the militarization of the whole countryside which has been intensifying under Arroyo. The whole blueprint smacks of a bigger plan in the offing. It is even more chilling that local executives have shown no sign of alarm over this blatant display of military supremacy over civilian rule.

By Bobby Tuazon

The Arroyo government appears to be laying the ground for an all-out war against militant cause-oriented organizations along with the progressive party-list groups. This war could even target some sections of the anti-Arroyo traditional political bloc. This calibrated strategy will likely begin after the May 14 mid-term elections, or even before it could take place.

That this scenario is building up is shown by the following indications:


Government is using the election campaign as part of its long-drawn campaign of political persecution against the Left. The AFP is taking this upperhand that not even the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can prevent the militarization of at least 27 barangays (residential villages) in Metro Manila. These are areas where the progressive party-list groups led by Bayan Muna (people first), Anakpawis (toiling masses), and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) are strong and where votes for the anti-Arroyo Genuine Opposition (GO) senatorial candidates will be cast. Metro Manila has always been consistently an opposition or anti-administration election turf;

But militarization has gone beyond the barangays as fully-armed soldiers have illegaly converged on several campuses such as the Philippine Christian University and Philippine Normal University. The soldiers asked students to assemble in what they call “educational awareness” classes and lectured them not to vote for BM and other progressive party-list groups as they along with student organizations are “communist front groups” and are “terrorists”. Military assets have been recruited from the ranks of students to spy on campus organizations;

The Arroyo government through its military, police and paramilitary forces will do every means to make sure that the progressive party-list groups – and possibly even the GO opposition ticket – will not win decisively in the May polls. After arresting and detaining Rep. Crispin Beltran early last year, Arroyo’s national security adviser, Norberto Gonzales, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the AFP and police are now after Rep. Satur Ocampo, BM president and first congressional nominee. A warrant of arrest has been served on him on trumped-up charges of having ordered the execution of leftist activists in Leyte province some 20 years ago. Together with the urban militarization, this “legal” offensive is designed to pin the party-list groups on the defensive and on the run, and keep them away from campaign sorties. This is part of a reported AFP operation plan that seeks to prevent the progressive party-list groups from gaining a seat in Congress. The military campaign appears to be integral to the Operation Bantay Laya I and II;

Contrary to Malacañang claims that the AFP has been ordered not to be involved in partisan politics, the military is definitely engaged in it – as it had in the May 2004 presidential elections. Voting trends do not favor the administration ticket, at least in the senatorial race. Latest surveys show the GO slate enjoying a secure edge over Arroyo’s “Team Unity” despite reports of massive campaign resources by Malacañang. The same surveys show BM, Anakpawis and GWP expected to garner the first three slots if the party-list elections were to be held today;

The Human Security Act of 2007 will serve as the legal teeth for an all-out attack against the Left it having been designated as “terrorist” as early as 2001. This is the “law” that Norberto Gonzales has been itching to use against the militant groups, in lieu of his failure to have the mothballed RA 1700 or the anti-subversion law reinstated. It will be used as a means of fast-tracking the timeline of the counter-insurgency program to two years.

No respite

Despite the reports of the Melo Commission and UN Special Rapporteur finding a number of generals accountable to the protracted campaign of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of nearly 840 activists and party-list organizers since 2001, there are no indications of a respite to such incidents. Although they have been put on the defensive by international pressures – including scheduled hearings in the U.S. Congress on the government’s alleged violations of human rights this week – the reported brains and chief implementers of the killings remain ensconced in their positions of power. That those named in the reports as playing a role in the reports of human rights violations have not been arrested or brought to the so-called “special courts” assigned by the Supreme Court (SC) only shows the immense power wielded by these alleged perpetrators – and the protection that they enjoy from their commander-in-chief. It is even possible that they remain useful as key players in government’s brutal repression campaigns.

Meantime, there is an apparent detour in the mode of war against the Left – whom government has accused of being “enemies of the state” that in the process have put their lives in danger. At the moment, “legal” offensives and political harassments are in the works coupled with sustained vilification campaigns portraying the Left’s supposed history of “killing fields.” This is being hyped to support the government contention that the current spate of killings is part of the Left’s bloody “internal purge.”

Apparently, the public is not biting Gonzales’ detractions. Voters generally remain sympathetic to groups tagged by the military as “terrorist,” specifically BM and its bloc of progressive party-list groups. A number of international human rights mechanisms, including the UN Human Rights Council, have been put to notice to keep an eye the human rights crisis in the Philippines.

No rethinking

This does not mean, however, that there will be a rethinking of government’s policy of political persecution. A premeditated all-out military strategy is impervious to public sentiment or international pressures precisely because it is designed, for all intents and purposes, to stifle dissent, for that matter, to contain the advocacy of genuine reform. This government has been callous to public pulse and is naïve in thinking that all it takes to defeat the Left is to wage a brutal military campaign sans a political war. The suppression of civil and political liberties even if this means spilling blood is being justified by incantations that it is an act of God, that there is a need to uphold “the rule of law” and to maintain “political stability.”

In the end, under the Arroyo government, the brutal counter-insurgency campaign and political persecution of the communists’ alleged “legal fronts” will escalate, backed no less by the Human Security Act. The deployment of troops in Metro Manila completes the militarization of the whole countryside which has been intensifying under Arroyo. The whole blueprint smacks of a bigger plan in the offing – a blueprint which, with all probability, can only come into fruition after the elections, or even before it. It is part of a bigger scheme to condition the minds of the people of a permanent military presence in Metro Manila. It is even more chilling that local governments have shown no sign of alarm over this blatant display of military supremacy over civilian rule. (

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