REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS
Interim Executive Director
Solidarity Message of the Movement Against Tyranny
to the National Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in the Philippines
April 6 – 8, 2019, Washington D.C.
On behalf of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) — the coming together of prominent individuals and groups in the Philippines opposed to rising tyranny in the country — I salute your historic National Summit for Human Rights and Democracy in the Philippines.
Your summit comes at a most perilous and therefore much needed time. Last March 30, 14 farmers in the poverty-stricken island of Negros were summarily executed by police backed by military forces in an early morning series of raids in Canlaon City, and Sta Catalina and Manjuyod towns. Fifteen others have been arrested including local GABRIELA as well as ANAKPAWIS party lists leaders. The provincial governor has demanded an explanation as to why these deaths occurred as the combined police/military operations were supposedly only conducting searches for loose firearms in line with the electoral gun ban. The facile reply of the police is that those killed “resisted” (“nanlaban” in Filipino), a claim that witnesses, including horrified relatives, vehemently dispute. Subsequently the police admitted that they were after members and supporters of the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA), as if this obvious attempt to demonize and vilify their victims would justify their summary killing.
This incident comes on the heels of the EJKs of five farmers also in outlying barrios of Guihulngan City, Negros Occidental in December last year and the warrantless arrests of 50 unarmed civilians under Oplan Sauron, a supposedly “one-time-big-time” Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) against illegal drugs and loose firearms in the Central VIsayas region. What we are seeing here is OPLAN TOKHANG replicated, that abominable campaign of EJKs against suspected illegal drug users and pushers in urban poor communities, where victims supposedly engaged in a gun battle with police on a mission to round up those in a purported “drug watchlist”; this time as part of the ratcheting up of the state’s counterinsurgency campaign.
Recall the unresolved Sagay Massacre last October, also in Negros Occidental where 9 landless farmers belonging to the National Federation of Sugar Workers, including 4 women and 2 children, were mercilessly gunned down with 3 also burnt together with their meager belongings. The police immediately attributed this massacre to the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA) even as they admitted that the farmers belong to a peasant organization that the authorities claim to be a “front” organization of the CPP-NPA.
What the Filipino people are up against is indeed a rapid descent into fascist tyranny with the unravelling of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte — from a self-declared “socialist”, who would end decades of armed conflict by restarting peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP to a frothing-in-the-mouth fascist and warmonger; from a chest-thumping patriot who promised an independent foreign policy to a stable-if-temperamental US puppet who has left US socio-economic, political and military domination of the Philippines undisturbed while conceding the country’s maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea to China’s military incursions, entering into onerous debt agreements and offering the country to become China’s province “as a joke”; from unleashing a “war on drugs” that has resulted in a spree of EJKs numbering into tens of thousands and counting while announcing an ever enlarging drug menace to justify more killings though no big syndicates have been busted; from a hardline anti-crime posture to the unprecedented rise in murders and homicides where state security forces as well as paramilitaries are implicated alongside shadowy groups of vigilantes; from a vociferous anti-corruption stance to cornering corrupt deals by his relatives and cronies over illicit drugs and other lucrative criminal activities, the raiding of the public coffers and the grant of multi-billion peso government projects as well as guaranteed protection for wrongdoers; from a populist demagogue to the consolidation of power over executive agencies, Congress, the Supreme Court and lower courts, and local government units via a system of pay-offs, appointment of loyalists and unrelenting attacks against Duterte’s favorite whipping boys; among them, the political Opposition, the mass media, Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, non-government and people’s organizations in particular human rights defenders, social activists advocating land reform, national industrialization, democratic rights and liberation from foreign domination and intervention.
Just the other day Duterte theatened to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and have his critics arrested over a senator’s comment on his order to review all state contracts. He said he would arrest all his opponents and declare a “revolutionary war”. Hyperbole, joke, boast or unadulterated threat, such statements cannot but be taken seriously and condemned.
NDFP Chief Political Consultant, Prof. Jose Maria SIson, in a retort, cuts to the quick by pointing out that “Duterte cannot engage in a revolutionary war because he is a counterrevolutionary agent of foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and big landlords. He is a bureaucrat capitalist of the worst kind.
The full force of martial law (ML) in Mindanao is being felt by the poorest of the poor — lumad (indigenous people), Moro people, peasants, workers and others in precarious work and living conditions — who are fighting for their rights. But now also in the crosshairs of the military are their advocates and supporters such as local government officials, rural missionaries, religious leaders and members, lawyers and other professionals, human rights defenders, student and youth activists, and a slew of social and political reformers.
By virtue of an obscure declaration of state of national emergency in Davao City, ML-like conditions are now being imposed on Negros Island, Samar, Cagayan Valley, Southern Tagalog and Bicol where EJKs are happening not just one by one (as under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime) but by scores amounting to mass murders undertaken by police and military in the guise of anti-drugs and “anti-lawless violence” campaigns. The Oplan Tokhang pattern has been extended to any person, group or community red- and terrorist-tagged to justify illegal raids and searches, summary executions, trumped-up charges and planting of evidence to illegally arrest and detain indefinitely peace consultants, trade unionists, peasant leaders, community organizers, cultural workers, and many others. To further embolden state security forces, impunity is promised loudly by their Commander-in-Chief.
President Duterte and his cabal of fascists and warmongers are crowing that that they will end the armed revolution raging in the rural countryside because they will go full throttle on a “whole-of-nation approach”, that is, weaponizing the entire civilian bureaucracy and dovetailing its functions toward counterinsurgency. This approach is straight out of the US counterinsurgency manuals. Through Proclamation 70, Duterte created a “National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict” headed by himself as chairman and National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon as Vice Chairman. Please note that this is the same Esperon who presided over the heightened EJKs of activists during former President Arroyo’s term and who green lighted the brutal COIN campaign of convicted murderer Gen. Jovito Palparan. Appointed executive director is a certain Allen Capuyan, a retired colonel once linked to the smuggling P6.4 billion worth of shabu from China but given a clean bill of health and recycled by Duterte in various government positions since then. Capuyan was also allegedly involved in the “Hello Garci” scandal during the Arroyo administration. As chief for operations of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), Capuyan was allegedly the man behind their wiretapping operation that monitored those they believed to be part of the opposition.
Duterte has put the nail on the coffin of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the umbrella group that includes the CPP-NPA, by a series of moves: Proclamation 360 “terminating the talks”; Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as “terrorist”; the filing of a proscription case designating the CPP-NPA as a “terrorist” organization; unrelenting arrests of JASIG-protected NDFP peace talks consultants; the designation of diehard anti-communist and former AFP Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. as presidential peace adviser; the unceremonious sacking of all the members of the GRP negotiating panel (perceived by militarists as “soft” in handling the peace talks); and of course, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao; Proclamation 32 beefing up military deployments to Bicol, Negros, and Samar; and Proclamation 70 creating the national task force to end insurgency. All these are tantamount to an undeclared martial law nationwide and the triumph of anti-peace talks hardliners led by Duterte no less.
The country is in the midst of the usual electoral hoopla with midterm elections happening on May 13. We are witness to how a thoroughly perverted democratic exercise is now further mangled under fascist tyranny to ensure Duterte’s annointed will win and assure his hold over branches of government most especially the Senate. Progressive candidates under the Makabayan Coalition composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, and Kabataan Partylist as well as senatorial candidate and three-term former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares have been tarred black as “terrorists” and “CPP-NPA fronts” and caricatured in giant unsigned tarpaulins hung in public places as devils. Their mass base, i.e. communities that the military has mapped as voting for the Makabayan Coalition, are tagged as electoral hot spots apart from being highly militarized. We anticipate voters in these places will be prevented from casting their votes through various means, fair and foul, to deprive progressives a chance at being elected.
Why is a fascist dictatorship once more looming its ugly head? Just like before Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972, the chronic crisis of the tottering ruling system has not ceased but has worsened. The global crisis of capitalism is being passed on to the Philippines as a neocolonial appendage, thus fuelling and aggravating the Philippine crisis. Neoliberal policies imposed by global multilateral agencies and advanced capitalist countries are resulting in more entrenched poverty, landlessness and joblessness; in the accelerated destruction of the backward economy; in the plunder of public coffers and national patrimony; in heavier and more unjust tax burden on the vast majority eking out a living; in more precarious working conditions due to lack of a fair national minimum wage and majority of workers and employees with no job security and social security benefits. To preserve the exploitative and oppressive ruling system, the ruling elite headed by a succession of pseudo-democratic regimes post Marcos have utilized political repression and naked state violence to quell dissent and opposition to antipeople and antinational policies. Thus armed conflicts have persisted and even gained strength. Social unrest and strife are ever present.
The rise of the populist demagogue Duterte, in the guise of being an untraditional, tough-talking and guns-blazing provincial mayor, a foul-mouthed poseur promising “pagbabago” or change for the nth time, is a symptom of the extent of depravity that the Philippine political system has reached. The people, it seems, have had enough of sweet-talking, elite-educated politicians with ruling class pedigree promising change; or even of benign-looking, men-of-the-masses types that have come and gone in Malacañang.
But Duterte is a wily con man. He is a tyrant, a plunderer and mass murderer hell-bent on imposing a fascist dictatorship through charter change and bogus federalism. Despite his bluster when surrounded by his military bodyguards he is quite cowardly having had to recently resort to a bullet proof barrier in addressing a public gathering. He is also an old, sick man addicted to Fentanyl. But he wants to perpetuate himself and his ilk in power. And he wants impunity for all crimes against the people amounting to crimes against humanity.
Like the unlamented late dictator Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, it is the basic combination of social crisis and power hunger that is laying the ground for another fascist dictator. But of course, the backing of US imperialism and a rising imperialist aggressor — China — is what makes all this possible.
But there is no forever.
It is said that history doesn’t repeat itself. On the surface, it can seem like the Philippines has just come full circle. But no, despite seeming forgetfulness about the evil horror that was the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, there are enough Filipinos who remember and enough Filipinos who will resist Duterte’s brazen attempts to tread the same path. As Prof. Sison restated a proven fact of history, “If he formally proclaims the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or even martial law nationwide, he will only succeed in further enraging the people and inciting them to wage all forms of revolutionary resistance. The real revolutionary war is against his ongoing counterrevolutionary war.”
Your historic summit harks back to when the anti Marcos fascist dictatorship movement in the US began and gained strength with a vengeance as human rights violations escalated and the plunder of the nation’s economy went on unabated.
We in the Philippines are heartened and look forward to the growth and expansion of your Malaya Movement so that, together with the Filipino people, we can expose, oppose and thwart this half-crazed, tinhorn dictator. Mabuhay kayo! #