By CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
The Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (New Zealand) put President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on the spot when they raised questions about his administration’s human rights record and the continuing reign of impunity for human rights violations (HRV) under the government’s counterinsurgency programs, including that during the time of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom Mr. Aquino had lambasted precisely on this score, when he was running for president.
Instead of squarely addressing the issue, Mr. Aquino chose to berate and denigrate the credibility of human rights advocates by branding them as “extreme left” and ridiculing the candidates they support.
It was a tactic his allies in Akbayan had resorted to recently, after the Anakbayan youth group questioned their qualification to run in the Party List elections, but it was completely unexpected, because entirely unbecoming, for an incumbent President to do so. On the other hand, Mr. Aquino did say, a few months ago, that he and Akbayan are like-minded.
Mr. Aquino’s reply reveals several things: first, his refusal to acknowledge that impunity reigns under his own administration and what this implies, that he will do nothing about it.
Second, that Mr. Aquino’s rabid anti-communism aggravates his cultivated ignorance of what is really going on in the country with regard to violations of human rights. Worse, it justifies his rationalization that such reported violations are not to be taken seriously because these are only coming from his political enemies who he avers have nothing good to say about his government in the first place.
Yet a third revelation, that those forces he pejoratively refers to as on the “extreme Left” of the political spectrum (excluding the apparently not “extreme Left” such the party list Akbayan) are hurting Mr. Aquino’s administration where it is most vulnerable: on the issues of human rights, land reform, living wage for working people, rising prices of prime commodities and the privatization of public goods and services like hospitals under the overarching program of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
So much so that the Aquino regime, including Akbayan, resorts to low blows such as red baiting and red bashing to get back at Malacañang’s critics and opponents.
Unfortunately for Mr. Aquino, he and his spokespersons only succeeded in providing the senatorial candidate of the Lefist coalition, Makabayan, Rep. Teddy Casino, the platform to fire back, first on the question of popularity and what it truly signifies. And then back to HRVs that Mr. Aquino and his spokespersons simply cannot sweep under the rug because there are the undeniable victims of extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, massacre and displacement, torture, and illegal arrest and detention crying out for justice.
Suffice it to say that Mr. Aquino and his rah-rah boys fallaciously argue that 1) survey ratings of candidates are an accurate gauge of the public’s acceptance of a political party’s stand on issues; 2) popularity in surveys is the most important gauge of the correctness of one’s stand; and 3) survey results are impervious to the advantages in media projection and resources available to incumbent high government officials, members of political dynasties, the moneyed and otherwise well-connected in society.
Now all this is happening as the debate on the disqualification of the party list Akbayan heats up. Was it just coincidence that Mr. Aquino attempted to cover up his dismal HR record by raising the red “extreme left” herring shortly after the Akbayan had similarly accused the “extreme left” of attempting to eliminate them physically as defense against the charge that being part of the regime in power, they do not and could not possible represent the marginalized?
Akbayan had basked in pride and self-gratification when, in their May 2012 Congress, Mr. Aquino had unqualifiedly exclaimed that “I and members of Akbayan think alike…” Belatedly, apparently as a result of the public backlash to its attempts to muddle the issues by red baiting, the Akbayan has started to take pains in pointing out that they differ with Mr. Aquino on some important issues.
But these only raise more questions than they answer, and suck Akbayan deeper into the quagmire. For if they differ with Mr Aquino on many important issues that affect the marginalized, why do they still continue to support and serve it?
They agonize at digging up their so-called history of standing with and for the marginalized sectors, even announcing their delusion that the “extreme left” envy them and hold them as legend. But even assuming, for the sake of argument that they had indeed stood by the marginalized sectors in the past, that doesn’t disprove their being in power and no longer representing the marginalized now that they are among the closest allies of Mr Aquino. On the contrary, it only shows what they claim they were able to do when they were still not in power.
To be more specific, concrete and to the point, one must look at Akbayan’s current record and posture to see where they really stand in relation to the issues of the marginalized.
Instead of fighting to eradicate the roots of poverty, they are the champions and one of the prime implementers of the World Bank-funded Conditional Cash Transfer and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), palliative band-aid schemes to assuage the public in general and the poor in particular and divert them from fighting for more fundamental social reforms.
The National Anti-Poverty Commission itself, which a high-ranking Akbayan official heads, is now being questioned by the Commission on Audit for apparently favoring a few score formerly “marginalized” members and friends by hiring them as consultants with hefty salaries meant for programs for the genuinely poor.
Instead of fighting to break the shackles and ending the domination of foreign capital on our economy, they support and help implement the neoliberal economic policies, including now the PPP.
It is not surprising that Mr. Aquino could not claim any progress in upholding human rights, with an Akbayan Commission on Human Rights Chair who habitually issues findings that absolve the military on one hand, and who has been instrumental in depriving bona-fide martial law human rights victims of their rightful and much-needed indemnification, and allowing the diversion of these funds to the undeserving. This is on top of adopting a so-called Internal Peace and Security Plan lifted from the US Counterinsurgency Manual, using “peace and human rights” as a sugar-coating over the same old policy and practice of impunity in perpetrating HR violations.
The point is, Akbayan’s being a coalition partner of the Aquino regime is prima facie evidence that it is – no ifs and buts – a pro-administration party committed to supporting the regime’s anti-people and anti-national policies, programs and stand on major issues. Ergo, Akbayan inevitably rises to the defense of the Aquino administration when it is questioned and hit on such issues, not least of which is, human rights.
Akbayan cannot claim to be representing the marginalized so long as it collaborates with a regime that is the highest honcho of the local landed elite and big business interests, serving and colluding with foreign monopoly capital in exploiting and oppressing the truly marginalized sectors.
Akbayan pays lip service to working for fundamental change in the social, political and economic system, but in fact entrenches the status quo with all its inequities by deceiving our people with minute, temporary and illusory changes.
In return it enjoys the perks and privileges and enviable access to the corridors of power. How then can Akbayan Chair Risa Hontiveros turn things on its head and translate this to Akbayan being a part of the “marginalized” and to “representing the interests of the marginalized”?