This May election may prove to be a decisive turning point both for Arroyo and the anti-imperialist united front. Either Arroyo will cheat and entrench her authoritarian rule, or the popular resistance will unseat her in a series of flanking moves and direct confrontations hitherto unforeseen.
BY E. SAN JUAN, JR.
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 12 April 29-May 5, 2007
In memory of Benjaline Hernandez, Alyce Claver, Rei Mon Guran and countless other victims of political extrajudicial killings
A fortuitous conjuncture of recent events seems to augur the inexorable downfall of the Arroyo presidency. With the defiant manifesto of “Nanay Ude” (Lourdes Rubrico) of Umaga (Ugnayan ng Maralita Para sa Gawa at Adhikain) Federation and the attempted killing of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) officer Jose Ely Garchico and the abduction of Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado (Selda, Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya) and Nilo Arado (Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or New Patriotic Alliance), we confront the desperate panic of the regime side by side with the implacable resistance of the popular forces. Oppression always begets resistance, as the adage goes. And with more oppression goes certain retribution.
The inertia of tyranny at first seemed impervious to humanitarian blandishment. Arroyo may shed crocodile tears, but her cabal of generals and security advisers doesn’t care and seems addicted to the opium of violence. Despite Alston’s exposure in the Human Rights Council of the “Order of Battle” blueprint of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) I and II, Arroyo’s minions continue to ratchet up the score of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. Despite the judgment of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) and rigorous condemnation by Amnesty International, National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and others, of the obscene platform of “impunity” for operatives linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the political murders show no signs of abating. In an unprecedented “overkill,”AFP troops have saturated urban poor communities in Metro Manila and elsewhere to openly harass and intimidate citizens inclined to Bayan Muna (People First) and other progressive party-list candidates in the weeks before the May elections. What more atrocities are being hatched in Malacanang in step with Bush’s global war of terror?
Before the May 14 elections, the Arroyo clique may be gearing to “clean up its act” by public-relations magic. In a belated response to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s and the U.S. Department of State’s concern over U.S. aid being used for the vilification and summary executions of activists, the Arroyo -AFP’s show of a “state of denial” can be gleaned from the bureaucratic maneuvers of creating so-called special courts to try human rights cases. This comes after UN (United Nations) Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s witnesses were killed, betraying the tendentious character of such reforms. Could this cover up or compensate for the utter insipidity of Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission? It would be wishful thinking to believe in a sudden reversal of entrenched policy.
Unless her U.S. sponsors demand more concrete measures to stop the killings, the Arroyo clique will cheat—as Kontra Daya and others have predicted based on plans already hatched with premeditated care—and cheat massively in the May elections. It is only proceeding with “business as usual,” in the time-honored tradition of elections since 1946. The regime will then quickly proceed to implement the Human Security Law that will finally legalize the “de facto martial law” which, for Sen. Jamby Madrigal (speaking at the PPT at The Hague in March), already prevails. But legitimacy cannot be earned by legislative fiat. Last April 18, the University of the Philippines (UP) University Council passed a resolution condemning Arroyo’s curtailment of civil liberties, a mild show of protest from a fraction of the salaried intelligentsia. However, that is still symptomatic of the fact that Arroyo lacks that essential element of hegemonic consensus needed for any ruling bloc to survive. Violence may soon become the only weapon available, a sign of total moral and political bankruptcy of that “elite democracy” so beloved by former “left-wing” friends who hailed “the democratic space” of Cory Aquino as she was about to massacre the Mendiola peasant protesters, a class penchant proved again in the Hacienda Luisita massacre of Nov. 16, 2004.
Urgent questions interpose themselves between local and international developments. Amid unceasing U.S. political-military intervention, can the realization of martial law de jure be stopped? Can the killings and abductions be deterred if not halted? Can the national-democratic opposition initiate a wider, more in-depth realignment of all anti-imperialist forces throughout the country? Can we establish a more radical discursive and organizational framework to build the united front for nationwide insurrection, rallying the middle strata beyond what has already been accomplished so far?
As of now, Bayan and Bayan Muna by themselves alone cannot mount a sustainable challenge to the terrorist Minotaur without either getting the support of other non-leftist anti-Arroyo forces, or neutralizing them. What other sectors can be mobilized to strengthen the democratic forces and unleash emancipatory energies that have been stifled by authoritarian habits and practices grounded in the comprador-feudal structures of our society? What historic openings for liberation might be seized from this coming electoral exercise that can precipitate immediate change? Or if not that, at least, catalyze a regrouping of forces that can ultimately prove pivotal not just for the collapse of the Arroyo regime but also for the continued growth of participatory democracy centered on worker-peasant protagonism? What theoretical and practical breakthroughs may be read from the signs of micropolitical resistance in the city and countryside, as well as in the turmoil of the recalcitrant Filipino diaspora worldwide?
Here we take cognizance of the economic and social facts already rehearsed in the March 29, 2007, CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) Central Committee Message on the New People’s Army (NPA)’s accomplishments, as well as numerous IBON analyses of the sharp polarization of social classes in the last six years. On another occasion, we hope to explore the problem of why the strategy of people’s war predicated chiefly on military action deviates from the principle of class struggle as a political resolution of historic contradictions by a combination of diverse means/modes, not just by violent means. Any physical combat in the social realm is, as Clausewitz once observed, always an extension of politics by other means. Yes, “el pueblo unido seran jamas vencido.” But it is still a long way to go in uniting “el pueblo,” ridden as it is with sharp divisions across the multiple axes of gender, ethnicity, religion, locality, and other cultural/ideological determinants that underlie the structural class cleavage. The U.S.-imposed neocolonial “social contract” may show signs of unraveling; the point is not just to interpret but to hasten its complete breakdown.
We demur from the triumphalism of our comrades, notwithstanding the heroic advances that have already been registered in the ejection of U.S. bases in 1991 and the Subic rape case in 2006 (to cite only two examples). The dogmatic hubris of vanguardism cannot let us forget the regression to militarism/urban adventurism committed by those who were targeted by the Second Great Rectification Movement. Such left and right tendencies will always exist in a neocolony severely ravaged everyday by capitalist alienation, commodification, anomie, as well as the destructive effects of archaic, feudal practices (such as sexist-masculinist abuses, clientelism, religious skullduggery, etc.). Neither pessimism of reason nor optimism of the will can help, I think, but a consistent regimen of criticism-self-criticism of political calculation can assist us in learning from mistakes of the past and thus forge a less wasteful path of social transformation.
We seek to broach here a more heuristic and self-reflexive line of cognitive mapping of the sociopolitical arena. We hope to advance the anti-imperialist struggle within the framework of what is feasible in the short-term compass of Arroyo’s moribund tenure. “Realize the impossible!” – this slogan rests on grasping what is possible, just as freedom rests on comprehending necessity. To be sure, the people’s cause of social justice and true independence will emerge victorious in the end, via an orchestration of all means of struggle attuned to the dynamic changes in the political consciousness of various sectors. Vanguardism cannot preempt the slow hard labor of mass political education, organizing, and critique. The basic question is: how can we move out of this morass of impunity and relative disarray of anti-Arroyo forces? After all, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran is still detained by the military, and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo still faces an uphill legal battle, and all anti-imperialist militants face threats of prison or “neutralization” every moment of the day.
Here we will concentrate on the specific contradictions faced by the ruling bloc and its ramifications. This positing of problems faced by the enemy is offered as a way of revitalizing the project of communal democracy so necessary to advance the national-democratic program as a stage of socialist reconstruction, within the framework of an uninterrupted revolutionary process. Of course, unpredictable events and new players/actors may intervene that could gradually, or by leaps and bounds, change the parallelogram of forces and require a new theoretical calibration of class trajectories. However, we need to always pursue the principle of historical-materialist analysis in order to unfold the inner laws of motion from the surface of everyday circumstances whose bizarre oscillation may seduce us into easy consolations and premature celebrations of victories. True, you need to break eggs to make an omelette; but there is no guarantee that the omelette will be edible or savory at all. The categorical imperative for the wretched of the earth is still: Makibaka, huwag matakot! (Fight, be not afraid!)
Needless to say, the propositional form of this intervention invites further scientific inquiry and practicable exchange, with the resulting hypotheses to be tried in concrete praxis in the historical arena. What is necessary is to agree on the purpose and goal of the national-democratic project of replacing the Arroyo regime, not only illegitimate but politically and ideologically bankrupt, with one reflecting the liberatory aspirations of the exploited classes and all sectors committed to egalitarian democracy and genuine national independence. Here the desideratum of “the mass line,” its ripeness, signifies everything.
Thesis 1: After the Garci exposure and the failed impeachment attempts, the Arroyo bloc has definitively lost any shred of legitimacy it may have putatively enjoyed after People Power 2. While bribes and other inducements offered to Batasan trapos have practically made the impeachment route counterproductive, the educational-propaganda value of the impeachment case, as well as the obscenity of extrajudicial killings, has not been fully exhausted. Other venues have to be found. A preponderant number of Filipinos in the U.S., for example, doesn’t know the details, much less the implications, of the Garci fraud. Like other migrants, they still cling to the belief that the incumbent (like the Marcos regime in the seventies) should be allowed to run the government and preserve law and order for everyone.
The task then is to engage in a wide-ranging pedagogical, “conscientizing” effort of propagating the merits of the impeachment brief to as wide a constituency as possible, appealing to the traditional sense of fair play, clean elections, honesty, and so on. This will reach otherwise conservative, pro-U.S. sectors of the population in the country and abroad, and also energize liberal fractions of the “national bourgeoisie” (now reduced to rentier and comprador pursuits). This is not to endorse parliamentary cretinism; rather, it is to maximize what is still legally allowed in a republican framework of class conflict and use it as a point of departure for accelerating political education and organizing toward insurrectionary readiness. This is to engage the bulk of civil society still adhering to the old maxim, Salus rei publicae suprema lex, bearing in mind that this current rei publicae exists to reproduce class inequality and imperialist domination.
Thesis 2: The nearly absolute reliance of the Arroyo clique on AFP/PNP counterinsurgency tactics, including extrajudicial killings and selective persecution (Beltran, Ocampo) of progressive dissenters, is a clear symptom of weakness due to the loss of suasive power. A militarized bureaucracy (entrenched since the Marcos period) has no political intelligence at all, tied to a technocratic ethos. Its tactics are reactive, hence their agents fall prey to conventional guerrilla maneuvers even with the help of sophisticated techniques given by Pentagon/U.S. advisers. Without genuine popular support, the regime’s days are numbered.
Aside from private armies of thugs and assorted mercenaries, the main coercive agency of the ruling bloc is the U.S-trained and U.S.-indoctrinated military and police apparatus. Such limitation of agency cannot be remedied by more bribery of politicians, or by expedient compromises with other fractions of the oligarchy: the Marcoses, Joker Arroyo-type vacillating “libertarians,” etc. Arroyo and her Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COCIS), however, are bedeviled by three ineluctable determinants: 1) internal dissension within the military ranks due to the politicized nature of promotions, division of the loot, etc.; 2) limited internal resources, including decimation of ranks through desertion, casualties, intractable clandestine activities, etc.; and 3) utter dependence on the Pentagon and Washington for logistics, training, etc., which may suffer the vicissitudes of political shifts in the metropole. Aside from clientelism and opportunism, the military-police bureaucracy is riddled with vicious in-fighting and personality cults that cause inefficiency, paralysis, etc. Moreover, as in any uneven, dependent formation, there exist in the ranks honest elements who may be won over in the course of the struggle, hence the key lies in commonalities of political aims, not ideological standardization.
Thesis 3: A wholly new condition has emerged since the Marcos dictatorship: the phenomenal increase of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). About 3,000 leave everyday, a million every year, adding to the nearly 10 million Filipinos abroad. As already established, the temporary stability of the economy hinges on the ability to pay the foreign debt, which in turn depends on the continuing growth of remittance of dollars from OFWs, a large part of which comes from the Middle East and North America. Foreign investments have declined considerably, though transnational corporations can still exert some influence (as in the Walmart-Gap criticism of Arroyo policies handicapping union struggle for work-place rights). What is more valuable for the corrupt Establishment is the huge reservoir of taxes and fees extorted from OFWs through the OWWA Omnibus Policies amounting to at least P17 billion so far, which will surely be raided again for this May exercise. If the migrant community becomes fully mobilized in fighting for social, cultural and political rights, this can deliver the heaviest blows on the ability of the regime to deliver on its debts in time, satisfying the IMF (International Monetary Fund)/World Bank and the greedy appetite of finance capital.
Given the precarious nature of overseas hiring (consider recent Saudi Arabia’s restrictions, Taiwan’s prohibitions, etc.) tied to the geopolitical prospect of heightened conflicts in the Middle East, as well as periodic tremors in the Asian region (affecting Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong—the largest employers of OFWs), the Arroyo regime is vulnerable to such reverberations. Any explosion of conflict in those regions is bound to produce dire repercussions on the local political economy. This is where Migrante International and other formations oriented to OFW concerns are bound to play a key and possibly decisive role in precipitating a crisis of failure to pay both internal and external debts fatal to the ruling bloc.