“Ermita actually affirmed our long-held view that the killings occur in the context of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program, which in this case is Oplan Bantay Laya. Ermita , however, also said that while the killings occur in the context of the counter-insurgency program, the main implementor of which is the AFP, the military cannot be blamed for the EJKs,” Reyes said.
The Bayan leader also said that many Wikileak cables also revealed how the US was in fact supportive of Oplan Bantay Laya.
“While total victory over the CPP/NPA in the foreseeable future remains unlikely, the new campaign could over the next couple of years contribute to improvements on the ground,” Kenney said in one cable.
Another official, defense undersecretary Ric Blancaflor commented that the killings have resulted from the “intensification of anti-insurgency and anti-terrorist drives.” The cable from Kenney also detailed how Blancaflor even tried to explain and justify the targeting of activists from partylist groups.
In the meantime, there are also cables wherein the US appears to be declaring a strong position against the EJKs.
In a February 15 2007 cable Kenney signed and sent to US congressman Steve Cabot, she said that “the US wanted to send the message that the Philippines needs to ‘control the problem’ of EJKs.”
“We press the government at every opportunity to resolve these killings, and I have discussed them with President Arroyo and key members of her cabinet, as well as the Armed Forces Chief of Staff and the Chief of the Philippine National Police. They all tell me they are as appalled as we are, but we remain insistent that they must control of this problem,” Kenney said.
Reyes is quick to point out that Kenney and the US embassy in the Philippines never did care about achieving justice for the victims or correcting the wrongs done by the AFP.
“Their concern was for the containment of a problem: avoiding international fall-out, the further degeneration of the AFP and the further complications in US involvement in Philippine counter-insurgency efforts,” he said. “Kenney’s concern on EJKs is focused on the need to take decisive action to resolve the issue of unlawful killings, which threaten to tarnish the impressive victories the AFP is winning in the field, and this she said so herself in a cable,” he said.
In March 16, 2007 cable (07MANILA863) issued by Kenney, visiting US State Department official Scot Marciel warned the Philippine government that unresolved, unlawful killings have the potential to become “a cloud in the relationship” between the two countries.
In the other cables, the US will claim to have helped resolve the issue of extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses by providing training, funding and capacity-building for Philippine institutions. The US also claims that its Philippine Defense Reform and other actions by the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) also have positive effects on the AFP.
Malacañang on Wikileaks
Media like the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Newsbreak and ABS-CBN online have already come out with stories regarding the leaked cables. Among the stories covered were on Kenney’s views on former president Corazon Aquino (“Her moral leadership, while coming at an important time for the Philippines, never fully compensated for her weak leadership style. ” ) and her report on how former foreign affairs secretary Alberto reported on the Philippine government’s coordinative efforts with the Dutch government to pin down Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and now political refugee on trumped up- charges including murder.
No reactions from Malacañang, however, have been forthcoming.
“As I see it, Malacañang is opting to maintain silence on the Wikileaks cables. But knowing the executive’s own weaknesses and tendency to be onion-skinned, it will speak out in self-defense only when Wikileaks-based stories come out bashing Aquino and his family,”Reyes said. “It will also react on stories that embarrass former officials and current allies of the ex-president Arroyo.”
But in his opinion, should Malacañang react?
“What Malacañang should do is to take action regarding the issues discussed in the cables. Many of the cables, for instance, have to do with the developments in the Philippine economy and why it’s shot to hell. But again, the Aquino administration is determined to remain on the good side of the White House; Aquino himself was the US’ anointed one during the May 2010 polls and he doesn’t want to rock the boat on Philippine-US relations, never mind that we’re at the extremely losing end of the relationship,” he said.
According to Reyes, the US embassy kept tabs on the Philippine economy because the Philippines is an important trading partner hosting many US economic interests. Many of the leaked cables discussed the impact of the global financial crisis, labor export policy, the sustainability of growth among other issues.
“The US embassy often used its position to lobby for the interests of US firms, as seen in their efforts to amend certain provisions in the Philippines Cheaper Medicines Bill authored by then senator Mar Roxas. The US felt that the bill, which sought to bring down prices of drugs, would infringe on the intellectual property rights of US pharmaceutical firms. The US reps talked with Sen. Roxas at least twice. At least three cables were dedicated to discussing these exchanges,” Reyes said.
Another cable detailed the US embassy’s support for a Texas power firm that was bidding for the concession agreement of the country’s power transmission line. The competitors in the bidding included China’ State Grid.
“These hundreds and even thousands of cables from the US embassy on Philippine economic and political affairs never for a moment can be used as proof of the US’ concern for the Philippines. What they prove is how the US is always keeping tabs on what’s happening in the country because it wants to protect the US own political, military and corporate interests here. The cables also expose US’ shamelessness in gathering information from Philippine officials and elected leaders. The US and its embassy here has done nothing but peddle US interests at ever turn regardless of the destructive effects on the lives of Filipinos and the country’s over-all welfare,” Reyes said.
Analyze, circulate, use Wikileaks cables for campaigns
To Reyes, there is no point in going over supposed ethical concerns involving the information released by Wikileaks.
“These cables are being cited by news agencies and media institutions all over the world. Wikileaks itself has imposed limitations on the cables it will release: those that could lead to the death of any individual as a result of the leaked information will not be released. And anyway, information is always power, and the public should use all this information to strengthen campaigns for justice, economic reforms and against corruption in government,” he said.
According to Reyes, patriotic bloggers, reporters and other netizens should also take it upon themselves to popularize the cables released by Wikileaks on US interference in the Philippines.
“This is our country and we should do all that we can to defend it against the exploitation of the US and its corporate and military forces. We will be able to defend the country better if we understand issues affecting it better. Sure, Wikileaks cable may not stand up in court and cannot be admitted as evidence, but they can help point us in the right direction, they can help us sharpen our views about the corruption that’s at work in Philippine society,” he said.