“We cannot bear another year of tragedy under Aquino.”
By DEE AYROSO
The Alliance for Concerned Teachers (Act) and the Congress of Teachers/Educators for National Democracy (Contend) have joined growing calls for President Aquino’s removal from office, whether by his own resignation, impeachment or ouster.
“Aquino is guilty of treason and of betrayal of our national sovereignty,” said Prof. Sarah Raymundo of Act, in a Feb. 11 press conference at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Raymundo pointed out Aquino’s support to the US War on terror, which, she said, had endangered lives of the people in Mindanao.
“We cannot bear another year of tragedy under Aquino,” she said.
The teachers’ groups made the call in the aftermath of the Jan. 25 bloody encounter in Mamasapano Maguindanao, resulting in the deaths of 44 men of the elite Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), 18 men of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and at least two civilians.
Various groups have blamed Aquino for the deaths resulting from “Oplan Exodus,” which targeted terror suspects Malaysian Zilkufli bin Hir and Filipino Basit Usman, who are long wanted by the US government.
“This is his second big strike,” Raymundo said, citing the first one as the corruption exposed under Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), or “presidential pork barrel.”
The group also called for a “transitional council,” which, they said would assume the void in the position.
“We hold President Aquino directly responsible for the botched operation for being a loyal puppet of the US-led War on Terror,” said Act national chair Benjie Valbuena.
Calling Aquino a “criminal and active agent of the US War on terror,” he added that “there should be no impunity on Purisima and Aquino.”
Valbuena said Aquino’s a close friend, resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima, was a focal person in the Mamasapano operations, in spite of his being suspended on graft charges.
He cited testimonies by former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas who said that President Aquino had known of the operations, and how the President relied on Purisima to coordinate “Oplan Exodus.” Purisima also texted Napeñas asking about the final details of the operation, said Valbuena.
Napeñas was sacked because of the encounter, while Purisima resigned last week, following public outrage on his role in the operation.
“We are recommending a transitional council, which will manage and take care of our government when Aquino is ousted. This will set up a truth commission, and will prepare for the 2016 elections,” Contend chair Dr. Gerry Lanuza said.
The teachers said the transitional council is an “extra-constitutional body” that will “evolve” out of the broad movement that will mobilize and push for Aquino’s removal from presidency.
“Binay (Vice President Jejomar Binay) may be part of this, but he will not be allowed to lead it to ensure that there will be check and balance,” Lanuza said.
Binay, who is the constitutional successor to the president, is eyeing the presidency in the 2016 elections. He is facing various charges of corruption.
Aquino should also be made accountable, Lanuza said. “We will not just oust him, he must be charged and indicted in court, national or international, because of his crimes and abuses.”
Raymundo said that in the past two years since the Dap and pork barrel scandal, a broad movement has been formed composed of peasants, workers, the middle forces and “even patriotic government officials and businessmen.”
“This is a force to reckon with by this regime,” she said.
Valbuena said the transitional council will ensure representation and “empowerment” of all basic sectors of society. “This will empower the people, unlike in the present set-up where those in power abuse their position to connive with foreign powers and the elite few.
Raymundo pointed out the “US role in the botched operation” in Mamasapano. “The US continues its War on Terror using Filipino police and soldiers, while American soldiers stay safe,” she said.
Raymundo said the War on Terror “is a big threat to the Moro civilians in Mindanao.” Government has not even looked into the civilians killed in Mamasapano, including five-year-old Sarah Panangalon, she added.
Since 2002, joint military training exercises under the Visiting Forces Agreement “really target Mindanao, looking for targets in Mindanao,” she said. Raymundo also cited the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines which started basing in Camp Navarro in 2002, “to fight terrorism.”
“We condemn US Imperialism as a global bully, which claims to be a superpower that exports peace around the world,” she said.
“US imperialism blurs the definition of terror, and equates it to Islam. The US War on Terror creates a pan racial enemy out of Islam, while it hides is interest in Mindanao.
“Terrorism was not born out of Islam, it was born out of the US War on terror. President Aquino is subservient and supportive of this,” said Raymundo.
Raymundo said the President even tries to absolve himself of accountability in the tragic encounter, as he turns the blame on the MILF. Aquino reportedly ordered the Justice Department to file charges against the MILF.
“This is about fighting the system,” said Lanuza. “We want Aquino out because he happens to be the head, the driver of the system which pushes our country over the ravine of poverty.”
Lanuza cited the continuing landlessness, unemployment, and recent increases in MRT-LRT fares, power and water rates. “There are three bases for this system, and that is bureaucrat capitalism, feudalism and imperialism,” he said.
Lanuza said that Aquino’s “friends” have been allowed to stay in government positions in spite of charges of corruption.
“They are abusing government and he is not doing anything
about it. That is incompetence.”
Raymundo said that they will pursue all venues “that will lead to the truth” and Aquino’s ouster, whether legislative or parliamentary.
She said that the fourth impeachment complaint against Aquino was filed by teachers’ groups, but it was turned down based on a technicality. They may be filing another complaint, she said.
Prof. Danny Arao of Contend said that the results of the People’s Fact-finding mission held in Mamasapano on Feb. 9 may be included as evidence in the impeachment complaint.