Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 40               November 10 - 16,  2002            Quezon City, Philippines

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Justifying Suppression Amid Troubled Times

That we live in troubled times is an understatement if one considers that the social crisis besetting the country is made worse by the open declaration of war against all those who oppose the administration.


For the powers-that-be, the current all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is an integral part of their war against terrorism.

That the European Union (EU) agreed with the United States' labeling of the CPP as a foreign terrorist organization, according to the Philippine government, should force the revolutionary leaders to go back to the negotiating table.

The CPP predictably junked the idea of resuming peace talks within the framework of capitulation and surrender, and instead vowed to continue the armed struggle. The group remains open, however, to negotiations, provided that previous agreements are honored like the 1992 Hague Declaration that defined the framework of the peace talks.

CPP Spokesperson Gregorio Rosal, in a Nov. 5 statement, stressed that the armed struggle will continue as long as the basic problems of the country remain. He dismissed the proposed amnesty program as deceptive and simply part of the government's ploy to quell the armed struggle without addressing the roots of the problem.

In the eyes of government

Indeed, the appreciation of the national situation differs depending on where one stands.

The Arroyo administration recognizes the crisis besetting the country but at the same time insists that this is only temporary. All that is needed, according to government officials, is for the people to support the government and give it a chance.

Development is already in the offing, says the powers-that-be, but there are elements who are against it and are moving heaven and earth to deny the people the fruits of the administration's hard work.

In the eyes of the Arroyo administration, those who are against the government are "social termites" and terrorists who must be pursued and destroyed.

Not surprisingly, the administration declared all-out war against its enemies both real and imagined. For the administration, the so-called enemies of the state are responsible for the spate of bombings in Manila and Zamboanga and that these are meant to embarrass and destabilize the current administration.

In reaction to this, security has been tightened in areas like shopping malls and airports. There are plans to pilot test the National ID system in Baguio and Cebu. The National Security Council (NSC) is also considering the issuance of firearms to barangay tanods (community guards) and making them members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). According to the NSC, this will help in the surveillance of suspected terrorists.

At the same time, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine National Association of School Services Organizations tagged as "high-risk areas" of terrorist attacks five universities in Metro Manila --- the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa, University of Santo Tomas (UST), Far Eastern University (FEU) at University of the East (UE) in Recto. The authorities admit that these are considered "high-risk areas" due to the presence of "militant groups," particularly student organizations.

Troubled times

Indeed, the administration is conditioning the minds of people that the suppression of rights of perceived enemies is necessary to achieve development.

This is no different from, say, the deregulation of the oil industry and privatization of the power sector where people, particularly those with low purchasing power, are told to make sacrifices for now since low prices and better services will happen eventually.

The powers-that-be see the need to quell social unrest and consequently use the terms "terrorist," "communist," among others, in an attempt to remove the credibility and legitimacy of the struggle for social change. In doing so, the administration eventually promotes a culture of conformity and blind obedience.

In this context, the resurrection of policies that were junked in the recent past does not come as a surprise -- the National ID system; "total war" policy and the use of paramilitary groups like CAFGU; and even the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) which is no different from the controversial Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) in 1997.

Indeed, the much-ballyhooed "strong republic" of the Arroyo administration only results in the further violation of human rights. This makes the crisis besetting the country even more unbearable for the poor.

At the same time, however, the current state of affairs provides the social condition for strengthening the people's resolve to join in the struggle for social change.

As the polarization of social forces continues and the administration fails to heed legitimate demands like decent living conditions, the people begin to understand the context of the struggle and the contradiction that exists within society. Bulatlat.com

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