Seven Theses on the Crisis and Disintegration of the Arroyo Terrorist State

Thesis 4: The Moro insurgency remains an integral part of our national-democratic struggle. The Moro people have suffered the most since the Marcos dictatorship: hundreds of thousands killed, with more than half of the four million internal refugees coming from the Moro villages and towns. They have also rallied the largest armed combatants in the country and inflicted severe blows on the AFP. The unrelenting resistance of the Moro community (represented currently by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and sections of the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF) cannot be assuaged, or fully pacified, by Arroyo’s diplomacy and cooptation. Nor can the AFP/PNP, even with the help of U.S. Special Forces, ever succeed in eliminating the Abu Sayyaf or the conditions that reproduce such a phenomenon. Not because the Abu Sayyaf is a parasitic and coeval creature of the CIA and its military/civilian patrons, which remains the case—Bush’s War on Terror subsists on the continuing existence of this bandit group—but because this is tied with the whole turbulent milieu of the Islamic world (Indonesia, Malaysia, parts of Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.) and the internal decay of its structures and ethos. Note that a large part of the combat-ready AFP troops are tied with the fighting in Mindanao and Sulu, thus enabling breathing space (exchanging space for time) for building up the liberated zones and pursuing a war of attrition and encirclement.

Here, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is a crucial international body whose ideological shifts will certainly affect the capacity of Moro separatism to grow or diminish. What is imperative is for the radical assemblage to incorporate the Islamic resistance much more adequately than it has done so far. A wider anti-imperialist united front cannot be realized without the substantive participation of the Moro movement for autonomy. Luis Jalandoni’s affirmation of the Moro (and other national minorities’) right to self-determination, emphasized in his March 23 presentation to the PPT, is a salutary move in the right direction.

Thesis 5: Aside from the Bangsa Moro people, the indigenous communities (Lumads, Igorots, etc.) need special inducements for their inclusion in the united front against the Arroyo clique. So far, this has not been done, despite advances in the Cordillera front. We need to pay closer attention to indigenous practices of solidarity and coalitional work, esp. in the mines, remote villages, and plantations. Perhaps the nationalist appeal for liberation needs to be modified to promote the local demands for livelihood, preservation of ancestral lands, and fostering of local religious customs, including prophetic millenarianism. The same goes for the utopian experiments of artists, anarchists, and other marginalized sectors. Christian chauvinism remains the main obstacle here as well as dogmatic scientism and other “orientalist” prejudices. Can our Postmodern babaylans (priestesses) stir up the slumbering chthonic energies of Mother Filipinas?

Thesis 6: The religious front requires special analysis in the light of unrelenting U.S.-influenced evangelization. While the theology of liberation may have been eclipsed by actual practices of progressive “fundamentalist” sects, this aspect of the underground movement during the Marcos era may still be reconfigured to draw quietistic and conservative believers to a more dynamic worldly thrust that will dovetail with emergent programs of industrialization, sustainable development, and the building of a self-reliant economy. Given the attacks on the Philippine Independent Church (PIC), and reformist church officials of the Protestant denominations, there exist great opportunities to channel anti-statist sentiments in a more decolonizing political direction. This has been done with women, gays, and unorthodox intellectuals with their utopian dreams, so why can we not appeal to the messianic/salvific impulse and direct it to secular ends (material well-being, health, care for the environment)? Fr. Ed de la Torre’s incarnational politics awaits vindication in a revitalized theology of national liberation disabused of petit-bourgeois reformist illusions.

Thesis 7: The public support of the U.S. is probably the only driftwood the Arroyo bloc still clings to. But there is no certainty in permanent U.S. patronage that is always based on the prior claims of U.S. racial “manifest destiny,” that is, global hegemony. What is bound to snap the U.S-Arroyo linkage is this: Arroyo cannot pacify the internecine fighting of oligarchic factions, which may push Washington to opt for a substitute among the contending elite politicians. A carnage-prone state that cannot reconcile the internal feuds within elite ranks, much less conciliate the dispossessed, cannot defeat the popular challenge.

Comrades during the Marcos dictatorship failed to predict the dispensability of the dictator for the U.S., thus withdrawing from the electoral struggle in 1986. As the case of the Subic rapist Daniel Smith has recently shown, the U.S. always tests any administration in the crucible of subservience, whether by bribes (more military aid) or coercive pronouncements (suspension of the Balikatan exercises). And no group of subaltern functionaries is indispensable, as withdrawal of support for the Marcos dictatorship has shown if what is at stake is the preservation of the subordinate social relations of capital accumulation and its governability. If Arroyo proves totally discredited, and the impasse of her corrupt, fraudulent rule jeopardizes U.S. control and precipitates the entry of the National Democratic Front (NDF) into the scene, then the U.S. will immediately abandon Arroyo and substitute the next compromise elite fraction. Thus the fight against U.S. political and military intervention remains central to the articulation of all the demands and goals of the national-democratic assemblage.

In sum, the U.S.-Arroyo terrorist state is plagued with incoherence, vulnerabilities, and intrinsic inadequacies characteristic of the authoritarian state in the periphery (an earlier treatise on this, Clive Thomas, The Rise of the Authoritarian State in Peripheral Societies, 1984, may be useful; obviously, the “global war on terror” and U.S. unilateral hegemonism have changed the historical context, thus the need for new analysis). The Arroyo state is neither a populist nor a classically fascist (European) state. It has neither vast popular cross-class support nor does it promote a messianic leader to channel middle-class frustrations, a racialized savior who promises redemption, or even to make “the nation great again” (as Marcos tried to do with the help of shoddy pundits like Blas Ople and other hirelings). Its use of violence is narrowly instrumentalist, not mystical or primordialist. (The old debate among Ernesto Laclau, Ralph Miliband, and Nicos Poulantzas on fascism and populism in the European and Latin American context may be instructive here.) Of course, even if the Arroyo regime is saddled with multiple problems sketched earlier, it will not fall by itself (barbarism exceeding yesterday’s carnage is always an option)—the popular forces have to dismantle it gradually, or by leaps and bounds.

This May election may prove to be a decisive turning point both for Arroyo and the anti-imperialist united front. It will certainly narrow the paths open to all contending forces. 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. We are in that interregnum where the people can no longer accept the status quo and the ruling elite can no longer implement phony democracy in the old style—an in-between phase of the struggle replete with morbid symptoms; hence, either the old system crumbles, or its agonizing death-pangs are prolonged at the expense of the intolerable suffering of millions from globalized market profiteers and their local henchmen.

Let us repeat what seems to be commonplace now, though inflected in a more dialectical stance. Arroyo’s makeshift combination of trapos and militarists, Cold War ideologues, and petit-bourgeois propagandists, betokens an expedient mechanism for narrow get-rich-quick schemes by manipulation of the State apparatus and raiding the public treasury. Except for its disproportionate use of the military and police in extrajudicial killings, regional counterinsurgency drives, massacres and tortures, the Arroyo state is a conjunctural result of several intertwined contingencies: electoral fraud, advanced disintegration of the oligarchic bloc of comparators-landlords-bureaucrat capitalists (their productive base has considerably diminished and their ideological control over peasants and workers has been countered by increased underground agitation and labor-union organizing); and, sad to say, the still divided mass of workers, peasants and middle elements who have not yet been effectively interpellated and fused into a revolutionary counterhegemonic bloc. In short, the objective conditions have ripened, but the subjective forces have not yet fully matured to take over state power, or articulate a new consensus, a new “common sense.” The alibi or escape route of OFWs still beckons. Nonetheless, the process of maturation can occur rapidly, depending on a sudden turn of circumstances that cannot be predicted despite our claim to know “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production.

Our neocolonial condition has always been a permanent state of emergency. But it is not one imposed by Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, but by the vicious operation of sustained colonial oppression and imperialist havoc. The treason of the technocrats that Alejandro Lichauco (see his Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal, 2005) bewails is only a symptom of the general crisis of a minor neocolony that has been sharpening since 1946. No doubt, mass hunger has worsened. But everyone knows that poverty and suffering do not translate automatically into a fight for justice and equality. There are 25 million hungry Filipinos (roughly 3.4 million households) who are desperately hungry, but not all are marching for food and the overthrow of the iniquitous order.

Customary traditional beliefs, together with subaltern mentalities and habits, offer outlets of anger and grief; emigration and charity drives another. In After Postcolonialism: Remappping Philippines-United States Confrontations (Rowman 2000) and also in U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philipppines (Palgrave 2007), I tried to analyze the institutionalized ideological mechanisms that perpetuate subalternity. No appeal to neoliberal “free market fundamentalism,” nor pluralist governance (how can the Batasan or the courts perform check-and-balance procedures when a culture of corruption and opportunism prevails?) will enable the reform of the Comelec (Commission on Elections), the trial of Gen. Jovito Palparan and his ilk, or the successful investigation of corruption and electoral fraud by the courts or the Ombudsman of the current regime. Arroyo, however, cannot institutionalize anxiety and fear for a classic fascist mobilization since she has no genuine mass movement to deploy. Nor is there any affective identification with a leader who can channel persecutory anxiety against “communist fronts” (as Franz Neumann noted in The Democratic and the Authoritarian State, 1964). Her gambit hinges on the passivity of an electorate that can, however, be volatilized and reoriented by critical popular interventions in a revolutionary direction.

Only two final points can be made here due to space limitations. As an emergency measure to undercut the “climate of impunity,” a tactical move of armed self-defense by local communities may be adopted. This can be done through exemplary arrest, trial and punishment of publicly known assassins, torturers, and abusive police and military officers. People’s justice needs no special juridical or moral justification. We don’t have to wait for these criminals to leave the country and be put on trial years from now in a European State which recognizes the International Court of Justice. We need only invoke the provisions of the CARHRIHL (the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) that the Philippine government signed together with the NDF, which in turn draws its force from the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other ratified international laws.

The question is: who has the power to implement it?

Celebrating the PPT’s “guilty” verdict against the U.S.-Arroyo collusion, Mrs. Evangeline Hernandez, the mother of Benjaline Hernandez, one of the over 800 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo dispensation (close to 400 of them belong to activist or progressive sectors), announced in a public rally last March 27: “We who have lost our loved ones, who have been violated, will not allow Arroyo to prolong her stay in Malacañang… The Filipino people will make this government pay for its blood debt.”

This cry of people’s justice will also signal the advent of a proactive grass-roots initiative that will begin to Filipinize the so-called “Maoist” insurgency that the U.S. Department of State exploits to stigmatize the insurgency as “terrorist.” Why “Maoist” when People’s China has long become thoroughly capitalist? Notwithstanding the now jejune RA-RJ (Reaffirmist-Rejectionist) squabble, why indeed can we not move beyond parroting the Red Book and invent our own national-liberation philosophy and methodology from the raw materials provided by our own rich history of anticolonial revolts combined with the world treasury of liberatory ideas (from the European Enlightenment that Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini up to Amado V. Hernandez and Renato Constantino have incorporated in their praxis)? We have a massive durable history of revolutionary experiences, from Soliman to the Katipunan, the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), the First Quarter Storm, the generation of Maria Lorena Barros and Lean Alejandro, and the present legal and extra-legal resistance.

In the wake of past defeats of peasant and worker revolts, the indigenous culture of Filipino nationalism constantly renews its redemptive emancipatory voice by mobilizing new forces (women, church workers, ethnic minorities, gays, etc.) and utilizing all means possible in an all-encompassing radical democratic movement of all the oppressed and exploited millions. This struggle is organically embedded in local and regional social movements whose origin recalls the fight for national sovereignty and social justice in the tradition of third-world struggles (Mahatma Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, etc.), but are in practice identical with the local insurgencies of diverse communities against continued U.S. domination.

The Philippines, prosperous and sovereign, is still a project in the making. Our nation may be conceived as an “imagined” and actually lived/experienced ensemble of communities and civic formations—not just families or clans, but desiring-machines producing and reproducing the paramount Desire called Becoming-Filipino. Filipinas/Pilipinas, universal and singular, is in the process of being constructed and nourished through the many-faceted social and political resistance of Filipinos everywhere, in the homeland and abroad, against predatory corporate globalization and its brutalizing commodity-fetishism. The embodied spirit of the nation, its ecumenical body germinal in the progressive groups and in the thousands of martyrs of the national liberation struggle, is creatively fashioning an appropriate culture of subversion, humanist solidarity, and self-empowerment worthy of its own people’s history, its collective vision and sacrifices, for freedom, material well-being, and human dignity. Becoming-Filipino, an invincible power born from the ruins of the terrorist U.S.-Arroyo state—Mabuhay ang sambayanang lumalaban! Contributed to Bulatlat

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